This book has been written to help churches see the importance of biblical church discipline and to give biblical guidance on how it should be carried out.
It begins by outlining some of the reasons why the exercise of church discipline is often resisted or ignored in our contemporary culture, before going on to show why we cannot ignore the issue.
Church discipline is necessary for the honour of God, the spiritual health of those who fall, and for the witness, health and unity of the church.
The author continues to lay the foundation by providing a biblical theology of church discipline, examining the principles and practice of discipline throughout Scripture. This is a helpful section, though at only eight pages in length the reader is left crying out for a much fuller treatment. Indeed, the brevity of the whole book means the reader is often left wanting more detail.
After a chapter on preventive discipline and steps that can be taken to anticipate and prevent sin in the church, the issue of corrective discipline is dealt with. It is at this point that churches find most difficulty and it is here that the book is at its most helpful.
The subject is dealt with in two parts, looking first at the kind of sins that ought to be disciplined and then looking at the discipline procedure itself. This is done in a clear and structured way. While we are urged to be firm in dealing with sin in the church, there is also a healthy emphasis on the need for compassion and discernment. We are reminded that our aim is always the restoration of the one who has fallen.
There is a brief discussion on whether or not discipline is required when a person has already repented of their sin (the author has no easy answer but raises a number of helpful thoughts). There is then a final chapter containing real life case studies (all names have been changed) that warn church leaders of the harm that can be caused if church discipline is handled badly.
While not everybody will go along with every detail and emphasis, this book is a very helpful and sensible contribution to a difficult subject.