Xenos home churches are like real churches. They carry out all the ministries a normal church would, including all the normal leadership functions. The only difference is that these leaders work under the oversight of our board of elders. Therefore, pastoral problems including those requiring discipline normally come up in the home church.
We believe it falls to these groups to initiate discipline along the lines of Matthew 18. (See The New Testament Pattern of Church Discipline.)
If a case reaches the extreme of exclusion from fellowship, the home church leaders are expected to recommend such action to the elders. The elders and oversight staff will review the case and must agree with the discipline proposed in advance, but the home church leaders will carry out the discipline.
Normally, if the first several attempts to bring change have failed, a meeting is scheduled for committed members of the home group where the errant member can be confronted and admonished by the church. Group members have to be counseled and prepared for an experience so foreign to modern individualistic society.
Leaders have to chair the meeting, making sure the tone is loving but firm. They have to make sure Xenos policy and biblical standards are followed. (See Practicing Church Discipline in Xenos Fellowship.) All of these functions require considerable maturity and good judgment on the part of home group leaders. No wonder most churches won’t delegate this sensitive area to their home group leaders, especially if their requirements for leadership are low.
Xenos Leaders are Accountable to even Higher Standards
The New Testament is clear that church leaders should lead the way in our society in the area of integrity, not claim to be the exception. Jesus taught “And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more” (Luke 12:48). The apostle James warned “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).
Most people describe discipline as a positive experience—one God used to rescue them from a destructive sin habit.
Part of becoming a leader at Xenos involves voluntarily signing the Xenos Servant Covenant, which spells out basic obligations for continued learning, conflict resolution, moral character accountability, etc.
Discipline of leaders sometimes involves removal from their position of leadership. This is true of cell group leaders, home group leaders, worship leaders, ministry team leaders, teachers and elders.
Criteria for Disciplining Leaders
Criteria for such discipline may include a wide range of failures which would tend to discredit the ministry, including:
- Failure to meet requirements for deacons or elders—especially if such failure is chronic. For instance, sexual misconduct, inability to handle family life in a godly way, lying, cheating, being a factious source of division of the local church, etc.
- Slackness, laziness, or ineffectuality stemming from wrong attitudes. Notice that for leaders, sins of omission could result in discipline,
signaling a higher level of accountability than that of members.
- Over-strictness or bossiness, including misuse of church discipline.
- Leaders also may be removed for non-disciplinary reasons—such as unwillingness to continue as a leader, inability to continue through no direct fault of their own, spiritual, emotional, or physical need for rest or decreased pressure. Therefore, we cannot conclude anyone who leaves leadership has done so because of discipline.
The Bottom Line
When home churches have to come together to discipline one of their own, everyone feels the pain. But don’t worry about your home church being messed up or losing heart because of church discipline. The opposite is usually the case.
Home groups who pay the price of love for disciplining their own members usually find themselves encouraged and built up afterward. The church usually takes on a new sense of seriousness and vision for living for God.
Those struggling with sin usually report that they were strengthened by the experience. Those being disciplined are often the ones most blessed by the experience.
Many of our leaders today, even at the highest levels in our church, point to the time when they were disciplined as the key turning point in their lives, and the event God used to rescue them from a destructive sin habit.
“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:7,11).