Doing What Is Right in the Right Way

BY JONAS ARRAIS, an associate secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association   

ome church officers are always in a hurry to discipline, forgetting to follow the steps that precede ecclesiastical discipline. One of the wisest attitudes is to wait for the right moment. The urge to resolve a situation or problem quickly may lead us to haste and imprudence. On the other hand, if we wait too long we might lose the most appropriate opportunity. How do we know the right moment?

First, we must remember not to make an important decision when we are emotionally involved. Rage, passion, hurt, pride, or 
conceit may lead us to make decisions in the heat of the moment. These decisions are usually dangerous, for we are not rational, and our ability to analyze the situation may be—and usually is—deeply affected by our emotions. Ellen G. White counseled: “Do not suffer sin upon your brother; but do not expose him, and thus increase the difficulty, making the reproof seem like a revenge. Correct him 
in the way outlined in the Word of God.”1

One time, as I was transferred to a new church, in my first meeting with the church committee members an elder raised his hand and said: “Pastor, we were expecting your arrival, for we have many matters to discuss, including a case of discipline to consider, and we cannot wait one more day.” The only question I asked was whether anyone had visited the person who was being disciplined. I could 
see that no one had visited the person, but some were eager to act and they hastened to apply the discipline. Ellen G. White affirmed: “No church officer should advise, no committee should recommend, nor should any church vote, that the name of a wrongdoer shall be removed from the church books, until the instruction given by Christ has been faithfully followed. When this has been done, the church has cleared herself before God.”2

Part of the instruction given by Christ relates to visiting the member at fault. Yet I have met people who were removed from the church roll without having received a visit or any communication about the church’s decision. That is unconscionable.

As spiritual leaders we should be careful in the way we treat the problems members face. We cannot compromise the name of the church by our thoughtless behavior and our lack of Christian ethics. We do not have the right. We are representatives of the church and of our Lord before the community. We need to represent both well.
Excerpted from the book A Positive Church in a Negative World, published in 2007 by the General Conference Ministerial Association Resource Center. Reprinted by permission.
1Gospel Workers, p. 499.
2Ibid., p. 501

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