What is Proper Church Discipline? by Jason Wright
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary discipline is defined as “control that is gained by requiring that rules or orders be obeyed and punishing bad behavior”. How does that definition make you feel? Do you find the concept of discipline appealing? I doubt it. We live in a postmodern, libertarian society where “discipline” is viewed negatively. There is no doubt that our cultural drift toward postmodern relativism has rendered a serious, judicious, and hardnosed evaluation of another’s alleged misbehavior into a sort of moral wrongdoing that is itself worthy of instant and judicious rejection. In moral matters libertarians claim “all things are permissible so long as no one is gets hurt”. People are quick to point out their individual rights. Personal “freedom” to do “what I want” is what postmodern society is all about.
But that’s the way the world is. The Bible sets a different standard: “A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.” (Proverbs 15:5). “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11-12). How do you feel about God’s discipline? Can you receive it – or do you reject it? Moreover, if God disciplines individuals, then what about his Church – do gatherings of Christians need discipline? If so, who administers it and to what degree? (cf. 1 Peter 4:17).
Before we delve into proper church discipline this article will explore how the Watchtower Society enforces their own. We will discover how in an attempt to control behavior the Watchtower has built a complex judicial system, which is impersonal and ruthless. We will discover that the goal of Watchtower discipline is not to protect individuals or even in glorifying God but rather to enforce Watchtower policy and maintain the status quo. Corollary to legalism and totalitarianism is the Watchtower’s wrong soteriology. When you have a wrong understanding of salvation you will invariably build a faulty theological system.
Many Christians who have experienced religious abuse are reticent about committing to a local church/fellowship. The very idea of organization smacks of control and thus fear of control can paralyze authentic fellowship. To counter such apprehension we must define what the church is and understand why commitment to a local body of believers is both biblical and advantageous. Once we understand these basics we can get to grips with what biblical discipline is and what it is not. In this way it is hoped that more Christians will embrace a local church/fellowship and live out their Christian walk in a community.
Overall it will be argued that the Watchtower has built a religious system that administers discipline in a rigid, impersonal, and legalistic manner to the detriment of its members. However, such experiences should not cause born-again believers to reject authentic fellowship or proper church discipline.
To begin we must underscore that the Watchtower Society is not simply the religious face of Jehovah’s Witnesses – the “Society” is the absolute arbitrator of Jehovah’s Witness belief and practice. As such the society dictates how discipline is to be administered within the organization. This unbending organizational structure operates in hierarchal fashion from the top down; Governing Body, Branch Committees, Circuit Overseer’s, Congregational elders, Ministerial servants and finally its members.
Within this structure congregation members are permitted to make suggestions concerning local Kingdom Hall needs, however, when it comes to organizational policy and practice no member can affect change. Instead all members defer to the Governing Body. In other words democratic process is absent. Even within the local congregation the body of elders hold full sway over the congregation, and they cannot be challenged without consequence. This is a totalitarian organization where individual freedom is extinguished.
From time to time the Watchtower attempts to appease questioning Witnesses through the publishing of various “timely” articles. For example, in the Watchtower May 2000 edition (page 11) under the heading “Show a waiting attitude” it is counseled that “If a person believes that a teaching should be adjusted or changed, he is encouraged “to be patient and wait on Jehovah for change”. Notice the person questioning policy is encouraged to wait on “Jehovah” which translates “keep quiet and wait to see if the Governing body make changes”. In this way a person is made to feel guilty for questioning policy.
You may ask why a person would submit to such control. The answer is simple. For a Jehovah’s Witness the organization is synonymous with Jehovah God. The outworking of this illusion is that to question the organization is to question Jehovah God himself. Such circular reasoning entraps the individual Witness. Under this immense pressure to “perform” many Witnesses hide their true feelings. Outwardly they display a facade of happiness and joy, while inside their mind and soul is in spiritual turmoil crying out in silence for liberation.
Thinking back to my own journey through the Watchtower, I remember how crushing the organizational structure was. For a long time I lived in a depressed state of “disquieting thoughts” – never being able to pin point what was wrong. I believe by divine revelation the Holy Spirit revealed the problem. It was the organizational structure itself. The society operates as a “big brother” robbing individual identity, self-worth and free expression, creating instead Watchtower clones. It also became abundantly clear to me that to succeed in the organization I had to toe the line and do exactly as the Watchtower instructed. Perfidious power seekers do well in the Watchtower organization. My experience was similar to former Governing Body member Raymond Franz. He wrote:
“It was not the realization that errors existed with the Watchtower organization’s teachings that most seriously affected me…it was primarily the spirit manifest that most deeply disturbed me. For I saw a “concern for authority at the expense of truth” and an accompanying “damage done to persons by workings of an impersonal and unfree system. Concern for authority clearly overshadowed concern for people.”
Once a person becomes a Jehovah’s Witness, discipline becomes a fearful weapon of control. Prior to becoming a Witness the individual can freely ask as many questions as they like, but after pledging allegiance to the society, silent service is instilled.
On the positive side the Watchtower Society does encourage abstinence from various “sinful” actions. However, while this is commendable, the society fails to direct its members to the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is the solution to sin. Instead it feeds its members a works orientated plan of salvation, i.e. follow these rules and you just might make it through Armageddon and live in Paradise on earth. This is a dismal and blasphemous message. Salvation is a gift from God based on faith in Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Titus 3:5 confirms this finished work; “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit”.
Many verses could be cited to prove eternal salvation is by faith alone (Romans 5:1, 2, 5, 8-9; Galatians 2:16). For born again believers, such verses instill a deep assurance of God’s unfailing love towards his children despite our personal failings. However, in Watchtower soteriology one “must continually work” to earn eternal life, without assurance of salvation legalism blossoms. But what happens if a Witness makes a mistake? What is the disciplinary procedure?
Discipline in the Watchtower Society
Local elders each possess a guidebook or manual on how to deal with various misdemeanors. Issued to the elders by the governing body this “secret” book is not available to general Witnesses. As a congregational problem arises the elders will consult this guidebook entitled “Pay attention to yourselves and all the flock”. On the surface such a publication may appear advantageous, after all, don’t elders need guidance? Yes they do – but scripturally such guidance comes from prayer, meditation and study of God’s word along with guidance by his Holy Spirit – not from a man-made law book.
Rest assured I am not suggesting that all JW elders are bad shepherds or bad people. Ultimately, however, elders must choose between their own feelings/conscience and organizational policy. To go against policy is to put in jeopardy one’s own position. Therefore, the sad reality is that at the heart of this elders manual is “power and authority” along with “concepts and rules” which overshadow concern for individual rights and freedom. At all costs the society protects itself. Elders are the mechanism by which the society enforces policy and controls members. Such policy enters virtually all fields of conduct placing elders under obligation to involve themselves – with or without invitation – in the lives of congregation members. In my experience even the kindest sheep-like elder can turn on a member like a ravenous wolf devoid of compassion.
Below is a summary of Watchtower congregational discipline.
Non-judicial correction: These are “situations involving actions that are considered sinful or simply regrettable but are not considered to be of sufficient gravity to necessitate a judicial committee, and cannot result in disfellowshipping from the congregation; specific action by congregation elders is not administered in such situations, but counsel (or correction) may be provided by a mature Witness in addition to self-discipline and family discipline” These situations may involve one or more of several types of discipline including:
- Local needs: This is a short talk, normally once a month, designed to address matters relevant to the congregation. These talks can be used to indirectly administer discipline to specific individuals. For example, an individual may have received prior reproof, which is followed up by a congregational talk relating to that matter but without naming the individual.
- Shepherding calls: This involves a personal visit from either two elders or an elder and ministerial servant (depending on purpose of the visit). These visits are arranged for every congregation member. They should be viewed as positive but more often than not shepherding visits entail correction and admonition to “do more” and many fear such visits.
- Withheld recommendations or assignments: Ecclesiastical progress in the congregation is open only to males. To “move up the ladder” the body of elders must agree to recommend an individual for new privileges. If the person seeking a new privilege shows signs of inconsistency – such as being regularly late for meetings or missing field service (public proselytizing) then recommendations can be withheld.
- Loss of special privileges: Elders, ministerial servants, pioneers, etc. can lose “privileges of service”. For example, an elder may be removed or choose to step aside voluntarily from his position if members of his household are not in “good standing”. After resignation or removal from an appointed position, an announcement is made during the congregation’s service meeting indicating that the person is “no longer serving”, without elaboration.
- Limited privileges of service: An active Jehovah’s Witness may have their congregational “privileges of service” limited, that is, temporarily “put on hold” until such a time as they conform to elder recommendations. For example, exclusion from participation in demonstrations at service meetings.
- Marking: Members who persist in a course considered scripturally wrong after repeated counsel by elders, but who are not guilty of something for which they could be disfellowshipped, can be “marked” (2 Thessalonians 3:14). I remember an example of this in the Sleaford congregation where two young girls were “marked” because they had continued to attend a nightclub after elders had warned them not to. Marked individuals are made to feel “shame” and are deemed “bad associates”, thus social interaction is discouraged. Marking is indicated by means of a service meeting talk, which discusses the shameful conduct, but without mentioning the individual(s) by name.
Discipline involving serious sin: Jehovah’s Witnesses consider many actions to be “serious sins” for which baptized Witnesses are subject to a judicial committee hearing. Apostates – those holding to a different theological understanding of scripture – are especially targeted, being labeled “mentally diseased” The Watchtower accuses such individuals of trying to infect loyal Witnesses with disloyal teachings.
Evidence for actions that can result in congregational discipline is obtained by voluntary confession to the elders or by Witnesses of the violation. In the case of denial a minimum of two Witnesses are required to establish guilt. Witnesses are encouraged to report serious sin and can be held accountable for not doing so.
The local body of elders investigates reports of serious sin. The elders consider confessions or credible allegations, and decide whether a judicial committee will be formed to address the matter. If formed a judicial committee usually consists of three elders. The committee arranges a formal judicial hearing to determine the circumstances of the sin, whether the accused is repentant, and whether disciplinary actions will be taken. In all cases the minutest details are requested. Such detailed analysis, especially in the case of sexual sin, is extremely disturbing.
If a judicial committee is formed the wrongdoer is invited to attend a private meeting. The accused may bring witnesses but neutral observers are not permitted. Likewise, recording devices are not permitted. If the accused fails to attend a judicial committee the meeting will proceed without them. This committee acts as judge and executioner.
The committee may determine that there was no “serious sin”, or that mitigating circumstances absolve the accused individual. The committee may then proceed with discipline such as is described for ‘non-judicial’ situations. Alternatively, the committee may decide that a serious sin was committed, in which case, the committee gives verbal admonitions and gauges the individual’s attitude and repentance. The committee then decides whether discipline will involve formal reproof or disfellowshipping.
Reproof is considered sufficient if the individual is deemed repentant. If knowledge of the serious sin is limited to a small number of people the reproof will be handled privately in the presence of those “in the know”. However, if the serious sin is common knowledge then reproof would be given at the service meeting typically under the auspices of a “local needs item”. In all cases of reproof, restrictions are imposed, typically prohibiting the individual from sharing in meeting parts, commenting during meetings, and giving group prayers. A reproved Witness cannot enroll as a pioneer or auxiliary pioneer for at least one year after reproof is given.
Disfellowshipping is similar to excommunication and as such is considered the last resort for unrepentant sin. Appeals can be made but must be submitted within seven days of the judicial meeting. However, verdicts are rarely – if ever – overturned. After disfellowshipping the congregation “shuns” the individual. This entails “cutting off” the disfellowshipped person. Active members no longer speak or interact with the person in question. In other words the disfellowshipped person is treated as if they have died. This applies to family members as well. Essentially, to “obey” the organization you must shun even your closest family member or friend if necessary. Shunning acts as a double edged sword, it rids the congregation of defilement and deters others from dissident behavior. Shunning is the ultimate rejection. One day you have friends the next you have none. The reality of being alone, cut off from one’s family, drives many to get reinstated – even if they no longer believe in the religion. While reinstatement is possible it is only after many months of proving one’s repentance and further judicial evaluation that one is accepted back.
Often, Witnesses facing disfellowshipping opt to voluntarily disassociate themselves from the organization. In this way the turmoil and shame of a judicial committee is avoided. However, under Watchtower legislation, disassociation is equivalent to disfellowshipping and thus the shunning policy is still applied even though no formal judgment has been made. In my own case I chose to disassociate. The day after the announcement my wife took our daughter to school and they were both shunned by our closest Witness friends. It was as if they were invisible. Even today, after many years, we are still being shunned. Our Witness friends opted to side with Watchtower policy makers in Brooklyn. Such shunning emphasizes the mind-control of this sect.
A perusal of the above clearly outlines that the Watchtower has fallen victim to extreme legalism and totalitarianism. In an attempt to keep the congregation “holy” and “pure” the society has become the archetypal Pharisee. These extra-biblical rules and conditions impose a heavy, depressing burden upon members. Furthermore the judicial process, due to its private and almost autonomous nature, is clearly open to abuse. In a nutshell the Watchtower wants to control its members. Any real or perceived threat is crushed with an iron fist. This is spiritual abuse at its worst.
Biblical Foundations for Discipline
Having seen how easy it is to fall into legalism we might conclude that “church discipline” is so open to abuse that it is best avoided. If you feel that way then you are not alone. After leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses I wanted nothing more to do with “religion” – for me religion equated to organization and organization smacked of control. Understandably those who have experienced similar spiritual abuse are reluctant to submit to any form of church authority or discipline. No one wants to be burnt twice.
To understand and practice proper church discipline we must first be sure we have our soteriological foundations correct. As we have seen the Watchtower enforces strict discipline because it believes only those adhering to its statutes will inherit Paradise. Contrary to this claim biblical Christianity understands salvation to be a free gift; Ephesians 2:8-9 states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
This wonderful truth confirms our position in Christ. Jesus has freed believers from the penalty of “sin” – he has forgiven us of our sins and we have been – spiritually speaking – transferred into the Kingdom of God (Colossian 1:13-14), thus our eternal inheritance is secured. Clearly salvation is not mediated through an organization nor maintained by “rules” – rather it is a one sided act of God – wherein the lost sinner is imputed righteousness (Genesis 15:16; Romans 4:5). Such a conversion experience is personal and exclusive. Indeed nothing must supersede or divert a Christian’s direct communication with Christ the head of the Church (Ephesian 5:23; Colossian 1:18). For this reason many believe that the spiritual unity of true Christians is sufficient. This unity is often expressed in terms of the “Universal Church”. However, this is really only half the story.
Think of salvation as both horizontal and vertical. On the vertical plain you have been reconciled with God. You now have a personal relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yet on the horizontal plain you have been adopted into the family of God. You have been reconciled into the “Church” or “body of Messiah”. Scripture is clear that the early Christians met regular for fellowship, edification and the breaking of bread (Acts 2:46). In other words church is a family and we have been called into fellowship with both God and the family of God. Remember God does not want a Church full of people he wants a building full of the Church.
Sadly our post-modern world exalts individualism over community. We must fight this trend within the Church and adopt a strong collectivist mindset. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that it is not normal for a Christian to live for himself alone. Instead each Christian is to exercise his/her particular gift within the faith community (1 Corinthians 12:1-28). No words can express strongly enough the risk of serious loss which dogs the steps of the Christian who has no time for a “spiritual home” in a local community of Christians. Some pride themselves on being ‘unattached’, however, we are called to live in community.
It cannot be denied that metaphorically speaking, we are all rough, sharp, stones, but in order to remove those rough edges we must be thrown into the “mixer” – which is fellowship. In such an environment we have to learn and practice Christ-like love. We cannot demonstrate love or joy or peace or patience or kindness sitting all by ourselves on an island. No, we demonstrate it when the people we have committed to loving give us good reasons not to love them, but we do anyway. Here in the midst of a bunch of redeemed sinners the true Gospel is displayed.
Hebrews 10:19-25 “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Notice the writer of Hebrews emphasizes the reasons for meeting regularly; 1) our position in Christ, 2) our thankfulness, 3) to consider and encourage one-another, 4) to await corporately for the LORD’s return. Consequently to be “born again” and remain estranged from the family of God is to ignore these Biblical directives.
Proper Church Discipline
Although born-again believers are no longer under God’s condemnation, that is, we are eternally secure, in the temporal sense we are still human and subject to our fallen sin nature. For that reason self-discipline and Church discipline are essential to personal and community growth.
Church polity (operational governance) is a complex subject and beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say some type of governance is required for a fellowship to operate and for proper discipline to be effective. Polity as the organization of the Church is a scriptural concept (cf. Acts 2:41-46; 4:4, 32-47; 5:1-11; 20:20; John 20:19, 26; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Colossians 2:5).
Although polity is biblical, let me make it clear that Christ is the head of the Church. No person or organization is above or over the Church. The Lord Jesus Christ alone is the head. If we can keep this in mind it will help to avoid the abuse of polity (Ephesians 4:15, 5:23; Colossians 1:18).
Let me briefly outline what I believe a fellowship/church needs to function properly. Firstly you need a Shepherd – a man called to lead and administer pastoral care. Second you need an evangelist who can encourage each person to fulfill the great commission. Third you need a biblically sound teacher who can preach expositionally. Rarely is one man all three yet all three are necessary to meet the needs of the congregation. Rev. Jacob Prasch illustrates this by way of a three legged stool. Take one leg away and the stool is useless. Far too many congregations rely on one man to be “everything”. When all three (or more) are in place a congregation can be disciplined and matured. Elders/deacons will naturally be raised up as the Lord wills. Such spirit led identification is essential in order to prevent egocentric persons obtaining positions of power.
Furthermore, committed Christians are responsible Christians. That means within a fellowship of believers we should each be accountable to one another. Church discipline is not the sole responsibility of one man or a body of men but is holistic in nature (1 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Peter 1:5). We should deal quickly with interpersonal strife without the need of calling on elders or leaving in a huff (Matthew 18:15-17).
The Church – that is the believers – should reflect the holy and loving character of God. There is no place in church for enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, and divisions. Paul referred to such behavior as works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). Discipline helps counteract the flesh resulting in a church that faithfully reflects Gods glorious character. We are to be a holy as God is holy, unblemished and without spot from the world (1 Peter 1:16; Ephesian 5:27). Because this is true, the church must be a community in which we constantly call one another to grow, by God’s grace, to higher and more consistent levels of conduct befitting that standard of holiness.
One major problem that crushes authentic fellowship is the size of some Churches. Once a Church grows too large the personal inter-relational aspects of “family” are lost. You can actually feel quite lonely in a big Church. Furthermore large Churches will inevitably find proper Church discipline almost impossible to implement. How can the Pastor truly know a flock numbering hundreds? If you find yourself lost in a big Church I would encourage you to think seriously about locating a smaller family orientated, biblically based fellowship, wherein proper church discipline is practiced.
Looking beyond interpersonal disputes, how does the process of discipline work within the church environment? For example, how should the pastor/elders (and congregation) respond to an act of adultery? Sadly many Churches turn a blind eye. After all, did not Jesus forbid “judging others?” (Matt 7:1). The whole idea of discipline seems harsh upon first consideration, but in truth the lack of discipline is still more devastating because by condoning the sin, which has been done in defiance to God and His Word, the whole church becomes corrupted and weak. The Lord clearly teaches us that the Church is to exercise judgment within itself. After counseling the Corinthians on their poor handling of immoral behavior and internal lawsuits, Paul – under inspiration – admonished “I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers?” (1 Corinthians 6:5). The N.T. is filled with similar language (1 Tim 1:20).
It should not surprise us that God calls us to exercise certain forms of judgment and discipline. The goal of the pastor/elders is to provide a safe environment for Christians to grow. One strategy to help maintain order/disciple is to: guard carefully the front door and open the back door. In other words, make it difficult to become part of the Church. Here sound doctrine/teaching helps separate the wheat from the chaff. Make clear as a “church” what you believe and where you stand. In our own fellowship those who wish to practice “sin” quickly move on. Not because their misdemeanors are publicized but because the Word of God convicts them of sin. When the spirit convicts the Christian has to make a personal choice. This is where Christian freedom and liberty comes in. Either the convicted Christian repents of that sin and turns around or they move on to a church that condones that sin, or worse still, they avoid Church altogether. Remember the path to life is narrow, not broad. Consequently, making inclusion hard and exclusion easy helps towards proper Church discipline. Notice that no coercion or control over individuals is necessary. A biblically based church is self-correcting. Preach the Word (exposition), allow room for the Holy Spirit and watch as God himself works in the mind and hearts of believers. Try and take control away from God and watch the congregation become dry and unproductive.
Finally we must speak about discipline administered by the pastor. As a pastor this is a last resort and a task I find extremely difficult. Pastors/elders are not meant to be spiritual policemen. They are meant to “watch over” the flock but not “control” it. That means we are not to judge others on non-salvific, non-essential matters of faith (see Romans 14-15). To all intents and purposes the pastor/elder should be a point of contact for those who need help – not a constant voice of condemnation. Therefore in carrying out discipline, our attitudes must not be vindictive, but loving, merciful and Christ-like (Jude 23). Each serious sin or problem must be dealt with on its own merit. Turning to a formulaic manual is nonsense. Rather, through prayerful, loving consideration and practical help pastors/elders can – by God’s grace – effectuate change (Romans 6:1-14; 1 John 2:13-14). The basis for counseling is always the word of God – not psychology or the latest motivational book.
There is no denying that church discipline is fraught with problems of wisdom and pastoral application. But we must remember that the whole Christian life is difficult and open to abuse. Such truths should not be an excuse to leave proper church discipline unpracticed. Therefore each local church has a responsibility to judge the life of its leaders, pastor, and members, particularly when either the Gospel is compromised or error taught. Biblical discipline is simple obedience to God and a confession to him that we need help.
Hebrews 12:11-14 “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
Here are five positive reasons for practicing corrective church discipline. It shows love for:
- The good of the disciplined individual
- Other Christians as they see the danger of sin
- The spiritual health of the whole church
- The corporate witness of the church and, therefore, non-Christians in the community
- The glory of God. Our holiness should reflect God’s holiness. (ibd.)
We have covered a huge amount of material. If you have read to this point then well done. Proper church discipline is no easy subject. Yet despite the complexities polity, along with discipline, is both scriptural and necessary for healthy church life.
We have seen how the Watchtower Society, because of its work orientated salvation, has misused polity and turned God’s word into a weapon of abuse. If you are a Jehovah’s Witness rest assured you need not live under the burden and control of the Watchtower any longer. Jesus is calling all crushed and hurting Witnesses to himself:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
For those of us whom have experienced spiritual abuse church discipline can feel oppressive. To overcome our inhibitions we must turn to our Savior. By reflecting on what he has done for us and noting our position in him we can successfully embrace the fullness of church community including proper church discipline. Furthermore, careful mediation on the Word of God will clarify sticking points.
In my own experience spiritual growth cannot be divorced from the faith community, nor can polity be avoided. Far too many ex-JW’s hide away behind computer screens, happy and thankful to be born again but isolated from the community of faith. They accept the vertical relationship – “me and Jesus” – but fail to comprehend the horizontal relationship of brotherhood. If you are one of these “lone ranger” Christians I would urge you to prayerfully consider the above information. God has given you a gift to be used for the edification of the saints. Don’t let your past bad experiences in the Watchtower rob you of authentic fellowship. A computer community is no substitute for the local Church. Remember Church is a family – your family – you are called to be part of that family both spiritually and physically (1 Corinthians 12:14-28). So what are you waiting for? Don’t delay – get involved in the family of God today!
“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28).
May the LORD richly bless you,
Hellerman, J.H., (2009). When the Church was a Family. B&H Academic.
Holden, A. (2002). Jehovah’s Witnesses – Portrait of a contemporary religious movement. Routledge.
 Perspectives on Church Discipline, Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. Volume: SBJT 04:4 (Winter 2000) page 86.
 See: https://watchtowerinvestigated.co.uk/2014/09/01/jehovahs-organisation-the-grand-illusion/
 See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organizational_structure_of_Jehovah’s_Witnesses
 Franz, Raymond. In search of Christian Freedom. Commentary Press 2007, page 313.
 “Keep Yourselves in God’s Love“, WBTS, page 142-143
 Dissfellowshipping offenses include: Abortion, adultery, apostasy, bestiality, blood transfusions, “brazen conduct” or “loose conduct”, drug abuse, drunkenness, extortion, fornication, fraud, gambling, greed, homosexual activity, idolatry, incest, interfaith activity, lying, manslaughter, murder, “perverted sex relations”, polygamy, pornography, reviling, sexual abuse, slander, spiritism, theft, and use of tobacco.
 “Will You Heed Jehovah’s Clear Warnings?“, The Watchtower, July 15, 2011, page 15. See UPFC article: https://watchtowerinvestigated.co.uk/2011/10/17/174/
 This two Witness policy has created a perfect environment for pedophile activity. See: http://www.silentlambs.org/twowitnessrule.htm
 For a detailed analysis of organizational policy, shepherding and misuse of disfellowshipping see pages 312-390 of “In search of Christian Freedom” by Raymond Franz, Commentary Press 2007.
 Hammond, T.C., (1968). In Understanding Be Men. IVP. Page 153-159
 Dever, Mark. (2007). What is a healthy Church? Crossway Books. Page 107-111
 For in-depth analysis of various traditions see “Perspectives on Church Government” B&H Academic.
 Many would add “worship leader” to this list, however, worship is both an individual and corporate experience. In my humble opinion worship leaders tend to hijack or even manipulate the work of the Holy Spirit – this is especially so in Pentecostal/charismatic and Evangelical churches. Thus, while music may be advantageous it is not a primary goal. All we need is a voice to praise God!
 “Jesus himself expected just such interpersonal accountability to occur. Consider again the oft-cited text in Matthew 7:1–6. After Jesus says what is commonly quoted (“do not judge lest you be judged”), he proceeds with instructions precisely about how properly to bring an erring brother to account. Recall that he warns to “take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (7:5). What is often missed in this is that once the log is removed, one has the obligation to then help remove the speck from his brother’s eye. In other words, Jesus expects us to be used in the lives of others to help them advance in holiness, just as they may be used likewise in our lives to help us to grow. Church discipline is, most essentially, the formal structure that grows out of a healthy practice of corporate accountability.” Perspectives on Church Discipline Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. Volume: SBJT 04:4 (Winter 2000).
 Persistent, unrepentant sin is interpreted different ways by different theologians. Personally I believe salvation is eternal and secure. I reject any notion that human works are required to maintain or obtain salvation (2 Tim 2:13). I believe truly born-again believers will produce righteous fruit according to God’s grace and mercy. However, I also acknowledge that Christians can fall into serious ongoing sin. In order to avoid living a life of constant fretting and fruit inspecting – which itself can lead to legalism, I prefer to understand a Christians temporal works – both good and bad – in terms of eternal rewards and the Bema seat Judgment. See: http://www.gotquestions.org/judgment-seat-Christ.html
 An important point to hold in tension is that our love of true believers is unconditional, however, our ongoing fellowship with true believers is dependent on “walking in the light” (1 John 1:3, 10, 16). In other words, under certain circumstances we may have to break off fellowship with a true believer, but we still love them (1 Corinthians 15:13). This is in stark contrast to the Watchtower system wherein love is conditional upon keeping rules and those falling away are deemed unworthy of ongoing brotherly love (1 John 2:9).
 For a detailed analysis of the origins of Psychology and its dangers I recommend the DVD “Counterfeit counseling” by Pastor Brad Bigney. https://answersingenesis.org/store/product/counterfeit-counseling/?sku=30-9-421
 Dever, Mark. (2007). What is a healthy Church? Crossway Books. Pages 107-111.