Pastoral Malpractice

By Eric Davis - Posted at The Cripplegate:

It’s no small thing. Incorrect medicine is prescribed. Cardiac conditions are misdiagnosed. Wrong limbs are amputated. One study estimated that medical errors take the lives of about 15,000 elderly patients per month.

Sadly, medicine is not the only field in which malpractice occurs. Biblically speaking, pastoral ministry is also a field in which negligence can happen. No pastor is above it.

But there is one form of pastoral malpractice that is particularly common and serious. The more pastors I speak with, the more I am alarmed at how common it is. It is the act of harboring professing Christians in unrepentant sin and church discipline. I suppose that we could phrase it more generally by saying, “The act of failing to shepherd biblically those in unrepentant sin.”

The situation often happens like this: a professing Christian has been plugged in to a local church. That individual then begins to drift and distance themselves a bit. Either through the individual’s confession or other providences, it is discovered that they are in unrepentant sin. Other regulars at the church come alongside the individual, ask questions, express their love, share the gospel, offer to walk with them, and attempt to help them cut off their right hand and throw it from them (cf. Matt. 5:30). After multiple attempts to restore them (cf. Matt. 18:15-17), the sinning individual is no longer present in the various church gatherings. Come to find out, they are attending another church across town. To make matters worse, the leadership of that church, though they know about the individual’s sin, will not contact the previous church in order to biblically care for them. They will not call to get more info lest they answer a matter before they hear (cf. Prov. 18:13). They will not send the individual back to his/her shepherds. They may give the individual assurance of salvation and see themselves as a place of healing. Though the individual’s leadership may inform them of the situation, they continue to harbor the disciplined.