Friday, March 21, 2008


The April 15 tax deadline is looming large on the calendar. Spending my formative years in a family business, one of the major tax decisions I recall being batted around in Dad's office each year was the subject of write-offs. For every custom job we would always manufacture a little more product than the customer ordered. That way, if something broke on the assembly line, or even if the customer broke a lamp in installation and wanted to order a replacement, we wouldn't be eight weeks away (or even longer for a single piece) from being able to deliver. But usually the products don't break, and those extras surely accumulate on the shelves over the course of a year. Then there's the problem of the occasional cancelled order or returned merchandise. For all of that inventory in the dusty parts of the warehouse, the question each year was what to write off.

The advantage of writing something off is that you can reduce the value of your inventory (and thereby your taxable income) by the entire cost of the product. But if you ever manage to sell it in the future, you have to declare the entire sales price as profit, without any allowance for the cost of the item (or the added difficulty in accounting). In the final analysis, writing off inventory is the same thing as abandoning all realistic hope of the merchandise ever being worth anything.

In the process of recovering biblical church discipline in churches, there is always the fear that a church will be perceived as unloving and intolerant if it exercises the Christ-commanded prerogative of disciplining its membership. The premise seems to be that churches have abandoned church discipline because we have grown to be more accepting of one another's faults—that a restoration of biblical church discipline is an abandonment of acceptance.

Perhaps a growing tolerance accounts for some small percentage of the causes for laxity in church discipline, but I think a far greater contributor is the growing ease with which we write off fellow members, not some growing acceptance of them. I have been guilty of blithely allowing members to wander into sin or abandon church fellowship with very little reaction on my part. God forgive me, but there have been times in my pastorate that I really didn't even notice until much later. And I've heard more than one dear brother in ministry say that there's nothing wrong with his church that a few funerals wouldn't correct. Do we so easily write off our brothers and abandon hope that "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it"?

The right way to restore biblical church discipline, I am convinced, is to recover a sense of mourning over brothers and sisters in sin. An absence of mourning over a wandering brother is a sign of arrogance (1 Cor 5:2). Oh, Father, grant that we might have hearts that yearn for a fellowship of faithfulness with all of our fellow congregants in Christ!

To make my point more poignantly, I give you Michael W. Smith:


Chris Bonts said...

This illustration is an excellent one. Thank you for sharing. I have filed it away for use in the future. It will no doubt communicate Luke 15's main point quite well, especially with the accountants in my fellowship.


Dave Miller said...

It might be a good point, but I can't get past the mullet.

Bart Barber said...

Thanks for stopping by, guys.

Dave, you didn't have one back then? :-)

Dave Miller said...

I can say, with great pride (which is a sin, but I feel it anyway) that I never, in my life, wore a mullet.

volfan007 said...


thankfully, i never wore a mullet, either. although, my hair did go way over my collar back in the day.

bart, thanks for reminding us that discipline is all about love for the rebellious church member. that it's about caring for that person who has gone astray, rather than self righteous condemnation. i had never heard that song by smith before. it was good.


Chris Johnson said...


Good analogy,….although your post is for everyone, it is truly aimed at the heart of the pastor. Meaning, that any pastor that really cares for his flock will recognize the immense importance of never writing anyone off, know matter how stubbornly sinful we become at times. O for the grace of our loving God, to keep us in His hand and love us to the end. I pray and hope that the members of our churches can get a glimpse of heaven and begin to understand how to have love one for another.

I believe that when the people of the church begin to believe that sin is a common and evil thing and actually understand how to go to each other in love and compassion, then the real fellowship of a church starts to happen and a real understanding of the Gospel becomes evident. We truly have been freed to stop being selfish and begin loving each other by grace!

Its kind of interesting though…..most preachers think if they spell out the law (spelling out commands or lists of things the flock should be doing) more clearly, that their flock should respond,…..when the actual remedy is the Gospel, because it helps tune the hearer’s ear to the beauty and power of the Gospel in order to recognize and hate the sin.

Good post,