Church discipline is one of those areas that is misunderstood and abused even amongst the churches. There are two views on either side, both incorrect. One view is that the church is to be the police of it’s member’s sin against God, and if a member is sinning against God, they have to be taken to task, and then shunned if there is no “repentance.” The other view is that there is no such thing as church discipline; that fellow believers have no right to speak out about sin in the congregation.
The fact is, Jesus taught about discipline, esp. here:
Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
But notice something important, it is if someone sins against you, not against God. We are to be concerned when someone does something wrong that effects us directly. So, say there is someone in the congregation that is trying to sleep with my husband. I now have a legitimate gripe and have been given the steps to take to stop it. Say one member steals from another, again, we have the steps to work through.
Elsewhere, Paul tells us not to judge another, save whether or not that person is causing another to stumble. So, what is being established is order in the physical church, not a judgment on that person’s salvation, nor their “sin” against God. Notice there should be something that has been witnessed by at least one other person. It is apparent we are establishing a case of earthly import, not a spiritual state of salvation.
In scripture we see that it is the Holy Spirit’s job of convicting and changing a person in regards to sin against God, it isn’t my job. We are humans, we are going to fight and have disagreements, church discipline is supposed to keep order and safety in the church, settling earthly disputes between believers. Another reason for this, is that we are not supposed to get the government involved when there is a disagreement between believers. I’m not supposed to sue a fellow believer, so how am I to make sure I don’t get taken advantage of by one? That is what church discipline was for.
We have to read the cases in scripture about church discipline and make sure we see the entire context. Take Paul’s admonishments in 1 Corinthians. He is talking about issues within the church itself. So, when the Corinthian believers were sinning, it involved other members of the church with whom they were either sinning with, and against.
The other very important aspect is correct teaching of the gospel. In a church, you do expect members to behave, not because of themselves, but rather because of the workings of the Holy Spirit. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God; IF the true gospel of faith and grace, and Jesus Christ is being taught, the individuals will respond to that.