Church discipline: Should there be preferential treatment
It is inevitable that human beings make mistake, as no one is perfect. While this is quite understandable, what might be seen as unacceptable is the inability or hesitation to administer necessary punishment to prevent a reoccurrence. Discipline, as a vital aspect of life, should be upheld in every area of endeavour, the spiritual and church not being an exception. These days, however, it appears some privileged members are considered sacred cows, and are, therefore, above discipline in the church. This group of believers is given preferential treatment and can never do anything wrong, no matter what. But should this be the case, especially in the House of the Lord, which should set good examples in all things? Wouldn’t this send the wrong signal to other members and the society? OMIKO AWA and ISACC TAIWO report.
‘Discipline Should Focus On Loving Correction And Reformation, Rather Than Punishment And Personality’
(Moji Solanke, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Nigeria West)
The Bible gives the Christian standard for discipline within the church. In Matthew 18:15-17, Christ Jesus outlines the different stages of conflict resolution, including clear provision for discipline within the church. This shows implicitly, that every member, regardless of their standing within secular society, is subordinate to the Church and its laws. Humanity has a tendency to make ‘sacred cows’ of their fellowman, even within the church. This is a human failing. In Nigeria, there may be a reluctance to discipline those holding positions of power, or who contribute significantly to the finances of the church – for obvious reasons. But this deviates from the basis of Christian teaching, since God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).
Most Churches have constitutions or by-laws, which form the yardstick for governance within the church, including discipline. These laws are enforced, in line with the constitution, by the church leadership, who themselves are subordinate to the constitution. For example, in the Church of Christ, Scientist, founder, Mary Baker Eddy instituted a by-law, which states that Christ Jesus’ counsel must form the basis of Church rules and its discipline. In line with this, she recommends equal rights and privileges among members and rotation in office.
All duly registered Nigerian Churches, regardless of denomination, would do well to put checks and balances in their constitutions to prevent the ‘sacred cow’ syndrome.
When church members understand that Christ is the Head of the Church and that human nature, regardless of how pious or financially powerful, is fallible, then discipline within the church shall be fair and objective, and focus on loving correction and reformation rather than on punishment and personality. After all, whether in a court of law or in the church, no one should be above the law; and, most importantly, in God’s eyes, everyone is equal.
‘There Must Be No Sacred Cows In The Church’
(Bishop Taiwo Akinola, Presiding Bishop, Rhema Christian Church & Towers (RCC&T), Sango-Ota, Ogun State)
As far as I’m concerned, everybody in church is special, because we are all God’s people. The issue of sacred cow is not something known to the scripture. Indeed, the Bible in James 2:1-4, says: “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For, if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?” In other words, there must be no sacred cow treatment for any body. If that were done, some people would be far from corrections.
Personally, I believe the Bible, which is the grund norm for the church, should be able to correct everybody in the church, and as Bishop, I should be corrected by God’s word. There must be no sacred cows in the Church; all children of God must be open to correction from His word.
I also know that in every church, there are ordained leaders and just like Jesus Christ, they are privileged chief servants. Jesus Christ said anyone that must be a leader must be a servant of all. We respect our ordained leaders, because the authority of the church is depended on them, but they are not sacred cows. There is nobody in this church that cannot be corrected or come under discipline.
‘It’s An Abomination To Have Sacred Cows In The Church’
(Apostle Alex Bamgbola is the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lagos State)
In the first instance, any church having those termed ‘sacred cows’ is operating contrary to God’s word. The Church of the Living God is a place of equality before God. No one is supposed to be greater than the other. Even the Ministers of God that are supposed to be treated very highly should see themselves as servants of God, serving the sheep in the Lord’s vineyard, whom they are privileged to oversee. The Bible says God is no respecter of persons and whenever we operate contrary to this, it brings sins.
A leader is supposed to be a servant, and serve the people. It is an abomination to have sacred cows in the Church. I have the understanding that there are some ‘churches,’ where this is practised and it is due to the fact that some rich people want to be treated as such. They do not want to be punished for any wrongdoing. Churches that practise such are not true churches of Christ. The ‘pastors’ that connive with this set of people cannot also be regarded as true ministers of God. Jesus’ injunction is that everyone in the church should be like little children, otherwise, it would be impossible to enter the kingdom of God. In some churches, members are allowed to buy certain seats, as a way of showing their status and no other person is permitted to sit on those seats. Yet, the leadership of these churches support this ungodly act. The fact is that such leaders, who are in agreement with such ungodly attitude, are missing it because, apparently, they are worshipping money and human beings.
‘Everybody Should Be Treated Equally, Without Respect Of Persons’
(Rev. Gilbert Awajimijan is of Assemblies of God Church, Port Harcourt)
These days, some churches draw a demarcating line, when it comes to discipline in the church. They have even formed the erroneous habit of practising what is termed ‘spiritual preference.’ All these are against the word of God, the Owner of the Church. These habits of having sacred cows in the Church can be responsible for our not witnessing the power of God in the Church today. In every standard Church, there should be no demarcation or discrimination. Drawing line of demarcation has led to having problems in the Church and this is very disturbing.
This practice, however, holds in churches, where ministers are keen on getting money from members by all means. A politician would ask a pastor to come and pray for him right where he is committing fornication or adultery, and such a minister, instead of condemning him outright, would be offering prayers that God would never answer. In the Church of the living God, everybody should be treated equally, without respect of persons.
‘It’s Not Part Of The Formation Of The Church Of Christ’
(Rt. Rev. Oluranti Odubogun is the retired Bishop of the Diocese of Ife, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion)
We are all one before God. We are all equal in His sight. There is no reason why some people should be treated differently. Everybody is expected to obey God and the issue of having second class does not arise in the Church of God. It is not part of the formation of the Church of Christ that some people should be regarded as sacred cows. Where anyone, because of his status in life, is pompous and refuses to obey church rules and regulation, he would soon face the wrath of God, because God is no respecter of anybody. The Church, if it wants to help him, should let him realise that there is no sacred cow in His sight and in His Church.
‘Only The Lord Jesus Christ Should Be Exalted’
(Pastor Victor Olabode is the General Overseer, Victorious Gospel of Christ, International, Lagos)
When a church begins to have sacred cows in the congregation, that church apparently begins to go against the Word of God, which is very emphatic on the fact that God is no respecter of persons. The Bible clearly states that we should treat everybody equally and God does not leave out His ministers, who are also expected to be servants and humble themselves before God. The idea, whereby a minister is entering the Church and the service has to stop to welcome him/her, is against the Word of God. Everybody is equal in the sight of God and the only one to be exalted is the Head of the Church Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ.
‘The Way To God’s Kingdom Is Narrow And Does Not Give Room For Sacred Cows’
(Pastor Alfred Femi Ajifowope is the General Overseer, Evangelical Christ Apostolic Church, Ago Okota, Lagos).
We should not treat anybody special in the Church of the living God, because we are all equal before the Lord. Whatever position we occupy, whether as ministers or whatever, is just by the grace of God.
In the Bible, Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews, came humbly to meet the Lord Jesus at night, but Jesus did not hide the fact from him, neither did He try to persuade him or tried to use a softer word to convince him. Rather, He went straight to the truth, hitting the nail on its head, as He was no respecter of persons. Jesus wants us, His children to emulate Him, and be like Him. Anybody trying to bend the truth to please anybody because he or she is a kind of ‘big’ personality has gone astray, as a minister of God.
We can examine another character in the Bible: Zacchaeus, despite his riches, humbled himself before our Lord Jesus Christ. He had to climb a tree like a young man, because he was desirous of seeing Jesus, Who must have acknowledged his humility by going to his house. However, that did not stop Jesus from telling him the truth. This is a lesson to all ministers, who are serving the true God, that there should be no sacred cow in their midst. It is a diversion, and not the true gospel.
The truth is that ministers treating some people, as sacred cows are not helping them spiritually. In fact, they are killing them spiritually, because they are not telling them the real, hard truth. If you pamper a member because of his/her wealth, you are exposing him/her to spiritual death.
Wherever we have sacred cows, the so-called ministers are treating them in such manner simply because they want their money, which would not help those they are pampering. The truth remains that the way to the Kingdom of God is narrow and does not give room for sacred cows.
‘It’s Against Scriptures To Have Sacred Cow In Churches’
(Pastor David Olalekan is the General Overseer, Radiant Life Assembly (Faith House), Lagos).
According to the scriptures, nobody should be treated preferentially, regardless of his/her status, because everybody is equal before God and there is no respect of persons, as far as He is concerned.
The five-fold ministries of Christ is replete with the teaching of humility. Jesus Himself says, “I am in the midst of you, as one that is serving.” If the Head of the Church, the God of the whole universe would stoop so low before His creatures to serve, who are you? Who am I to seek special treatment? Ministers of God should also know that they are servants.
As long as one has not given his life to Christ, he remains unrecognized, as a child of God and what kind of special treatment should be given to such, who is not born again, when we are even saying that those that are born again should be taught the virtue of humility and be like their Saviour— Jesus Christ?
Making a sinner, a sacred cow is to make him twice a candidate of hell. Treating a sinner as a sacred cow would bring problem into the Church. We have been warned not to handle the Word of God deceitfully. It is a kind of mix up to have sacred cow in the Church.
Permit me to say this: In our Church, we do not even print envelopes, whenever we are having a special event or service, so that people would not say we are looking for their favour or be flaunting themselves to the detriment of their souls. We would not be partakers in other men’s sins.
‘Such Ideas Is Message Of The End Time’
(Pastor Peter Usim is the General Overseer of Christ Glory, Egbeda, Lagos.)
We do not allow it because it’s unbiblical. Christ never gave preferential treatment to anyone, and even those considered sinners He treated them all with love and care. He never had a sacred cow. Why would any church practice such? We treat everybody equally, be you a traditional ruler or a street cleaner, be you a heavy giver or payer of tithe, we are all equal before God. However, we recognise first timers in church, and give them special seats and treatment, as newcomers. But after that first day, they are treated like any other members. After that, everybody becomes one, irrespective of their status in the society or government; everybody is regarded as one.
Though we respect them, we do not take that to the extent of treating anyone as special. Jesus never encouraged it. Even in tithing, offering and free will donation, everybody is treated the same. We respect and punish ministers, when they err, because they are not sacred cows. Encouraging the idea of having sacred cows in the church is a message of the end time.