(Scotty Smith asks, “How can we do church discipline differently?” In this article, he suggests signposts in the parable of the prodigal son to a “ more gospel-centered approach to church discipline.” What do you think? – Ed.)

Providence reigns, even over editorial requests. When asked to offer pastoral insights on church discipline in light of the story of the prodigal son, little did I realize where this assignment would take me both spiritually and emotionally.

Listening to the text of Luke 15 afresh left me very convicted but even more hopeful. I’m convicted because, after pastoring the same church family for twenty-six years, I wish I had a scrapbook filled with church-discipline stories that reflect the gospel-saturated beauty of Luke 15.

I wish I could tell you about all the repentant Christians who, through well-implemented church discipline, returned home to great parties thrown by humble, grace-smitten leaders, and who were then fully assimilated back into the life of our congregation. Although I have tons of great stories— grace stories of conversions and renewals— I don’t have many church-discipline stories about which I’m really excited.

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