It’s What I Want to Do

My brother Paul began a series on ecclesiology – the Church. During the course of his initial post he took a necessary detour and has been writing about “Authority.” For we “Free-Church” types it is bound to eventually stir controversy. During his series he has noted James K.A. Smith’s discussion of the effects of the autonomous self on the Church. After today’s post I left the office and mused on the way home.

If we follow out the effects of the autonomous self, especially among “Free-Church” traditions, isn’t the idea of “Church Discipline” undermined? For example, since our connectedness to a local church is a matter of an autonomous decision and remaining connected to that church a continued result of one’s autonomous decision, just how could we possibly exert discipline on a autonomous self who does not see himself or herself connected to the Church by any other means, temporally, that the will of the self to participate. Further, the whimsical nature of the autonomous self makes accountability something quite mythical.


About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

5 comments on “It’s What I Want to Do

  1. Bo says:


    I love the new website design. I’ve been reading your posts through my Google Reader and haven’t yet made it to your site directly.

    Anyways, I posted by response to Paul’s question and I thought I’d share the response with you and get your opinion too. If the local church is to be tethered to other churches, which other church would that be? Given we have so many “flavors” of Christianity (certainly more than what the writers in the NT had or even those during the Reformation), who is it the churches are supposed to align with? And, if they do align, is your position an advocacy of denominationalism?

    As an aside, I just posted this extremely long post on Paul’s blog (asking the same thing) and for whatever reason, it could just have easily been scrunched to the size I post here. Crazy.


  2. Natalie says:

    Bo, when I read this post, I didn’t immediately think of it on the macro level like you did, but instead on a micro level. Churches and denominations aligning seems like a far-fetched idea, considering the in-fighting that often happens! Then there’s the issue of “unity over truth” etc etc. On a more individual level, I don’t think it gets any easier, since we are so entrenched with the idea of having our own individual rights. I think there are a lot of layers to peel off when it comes to Western influences on our thinking, which is why I like the direction of having more dialogue with the global church. Just my .02.

  3. Tim Dahl says:

    Granted, I haven’t read the book, nor your brothers posts; so let me wax ignorantly.

    Yes, it would seem from a secular standpoint that the “autonomous self” would undermine “church discipline.” We live in and extremely independent and self-sufficient culture, that seems to abhor any type of discipline. However, how can I give myself in love to Christ; if I’ve no real ability to do so. It seems that the Gospel has a lot to say about us choosing, as an autonomous self, to give ourselves away…especially to God in Christ.

    Now that I’ve spoken about something of which I know little about, feel free to correct me. 🙂


  4. Todd Littleton says:


    In the context of Paul’s post and my ruminations on it, the intent is not to work over the realities of following Christ as an act of the will.

    We are wrestling with the reality that our culture, and our evangelical free church culture, plays to the autonomous self in ways that seem to disallow any room for church discipline. In fact, I am willing to suggest the way we practice church and promote the autonomous self as opposed to something of a communitarian approach leaves us with little room to expect anything of anyone though they commit to our membership. Discipline calls for accountability. We so press the autonomous self that when we press for accountability it falls on deaf ears as accountability itself is not part of what it means to be in community for many. Accountability in such a context comes as a second order action and so for most quite optional.

    Paul (my brother that is)notes that when people were put out of the church in the New Testament it was painful for it signaled a “going it alone” in ways that today would seem wholly natural. The Apostle Paul outlines a community of mutual submission that is a first order move, or so it seems to me, and as such would call for a connection to church as an expression of the Kingdom of God in a tethered, hope-filled, constructive way.

  5. Tim Dahl says:

    I’m going to have to read your brother’s blog now. 🙂

    I agree with the conclusions you are coming to. As I understand it, the only real thing we can do is kick out a member (micro), or disassociate from our Association/Convention (macro). I think you are right. Our self-sufficient culture makes little sense (and even less use) of a real community.


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