It is a thoroughly biblical concept that members in the Body of Christ should expect to receive and dispense discipline in keeping with the repeated admonitions throughout scripture to build one another up in maturity. So if that is the case; Why do most church members end up leaving after one of the staff or fellow members rebukes them harshly?
Harsh rebukes are only valid in the context of an organic relationship. Most churches, however, are businesses. Its really hard not to be when you have assets, staff, bank accounts, etc.
When you are attending a church that operates as a business, characterized by a view of membership that is more limited than “the body of Christ” (which is the only type of “church membership” the Bible speaks of), it is easy to see how someone who receives a harsh rebuke would feel free to take their business elsewhere. No one sticks around at a restaurant or a department store while the employee berates them. And no one sticks around a country club (who also have memberships) when the members there rebuke them.
Right or wrong are largely immaterial as the main reason the people are assembled in such circumstances is to partake in the benefits of membership, which, in the case of most local churches is pure entertainment, be it from the pastor (the one-man show), the praise and worship team (the musical), or any other pageantry the organization deems appropriate (children’s programs, guest entertainers, err “evangelists”, etc.).
Discipline is only valid in the context of a relationship whose aim is not entertainment or cooperation in a program or business venture. Discipline is painful, its not fun, and as such it can only be tolerated if it is carried out under the umbrella of something worth being disciplined for.
In too many circumstances, “church discipline” is merely a euphemism for bringing someone into the fold. That is, ensuring their behavior conforms to the standards acceptable to the organization. In most cases, the question of whether the person’s behavior has violated any transcendent laws is never asked or considered.
Since most churches operate as businesses and not organic communities, it should come as no surprise that discipline is considered to be a cost of membership by most church members and not a vital component to maturing as a follower of Christ (the head of the singular church).
If we view church as a small club, isolated from the rest of the body of Christ, then we will view discipline by members of that club as merely their opinions. If, however, we view church as the assembly of God’s people we will view discipline/rebuke as a necessary part of building one another up in order to make the body of Christ stronger.
One view of discipline serves to promote the well being of an organization that will not last beyond this world. The other serves to produce solid citizens/soldiers for the eternal Kingdom of God.
So pastors, before you complain about people not accepting your discipline you should ask yourself: Am I disciplining them to be good complacent members in my little fiefdom or am I training them up to be warriors in a kingdom that is far bigger than my petty 501c3 nonprofit fiefdom?