Peter was a tall, intelligent and gregarious member of the church. He was a family man, and his family also seemed pretty interested and engaged in the life of the community. He was always there on the premises when expected, but when it came to theology he was never one for questions. He always looked interested, but never acted interested.
Things went on this way for years, and could have gone on for many more years in just the same way had it not been for his oldest daughter. When she was a junior at a state university in the next state over, it came to light that she had moved in with her boyfriend. This became an issue because the previous summer, Peter and his wife Sandra had made a special request to have their daughter’s membership in the church extended, and that request had been granted. Normally, if someone moved away, and was no longer attending regularly, they were encouraged to find a new church home, and they are dropped from the rolls. But in the case of Peter’s daughter, since it was the plan for her to return after graduation, her membership had been kept.
But because she was now living with her boyfriend, and was a member of the church still, it was natural that the process of church discipline began. And it was at this point that it became apparent that her parents had not really been paying attention to anything during all their years with the church. They had never kicked at anything, but this was because none of it had ever concerned them directly. As soon as it did concern them, they kicked plenty.
It wasn’t the fact of church discipline that concerned them, because they had seen other instances of church discipline previously, and for the same kind of unrepented behavior too. Those times had been other people’s kids. It was the fact that this time the discipline revealed that they had not ever disciplined their daughter properly, and the church discipline was consequently the first real discipline she had ever had. So when she attacked her parents angrily for what was happening to her now, they did what they had been doing for twenty years, and simply gave in to her. In this instance, giving in meant leaving the church as soon as the excommunication was complete.
Deep down, they knew the church could handle their disapproval just fine, and they absolutely knew that their daughter would refuse to handle it “just fine” if they stayed at the church. And so they left, because they would not discipline, because the church would, and because their daughter was the strictest disciplinarian of all.
All the characters and situations in this Fifty Ways series are entirely fictional. The patterns being described, however, are not entirely fictional, and will no doubt be recognized instantly by any experienced pastor.
Image from Unsplash, by Mantas Hesthaven, @mantashesthaven