Spent the morning yesterday at a Mark Dever Seminar. Two of his three talks were expositions of Habbakuk and Haggai, and were extremely edifying. He does a great job of applying the Old Testament in a Christ centred way that leaves you feeling the force of the Old Testament passages themselves. Key application points where about trusting God when you can’t understand what he’s doing (Habbukuk) and using your money to serve God’s temple – Jesus and the church (Haggai).
His third seminar was about healthy churches in general, and (as you would be familiar with if you have read his 9 Marks book), he focussed on Membership, Discipline and Eldership. I don’t agree that much stricter membership and discipline are the key shortcomings of our churches. He was coming from a situation where churches tend to have 250 members and only 70 average attendance. At our church the membership is less than the attendance, and I think that is common in many Presbyterian churches around here. I don’t think there are stacks of slack members floating around. And on top of that I don’t really want to make a second formal distinction in church beyond being a follower of Jesus or not.
Having said that, we do struggle to know exactly how to deal with those who get caught up in scandalous sin. Often they are informally isolated and drop off the radar instead of being given an opportunity to repent and be restored. The other difficulty is how to actually measure repentence, and know when it is appropriate to welcome people back and then what ongoing consequences their sin might have. So it is a tricky issue. Just not, I think, the key health issue in most churches.