Aftershock: What to Do When Leaders (And Others) Fail You. by Ted Kitchens. Portland: Multnomah Press, 1992. 245 pp. Paper, $9.99.
Just about every Christian can recount a tragic story about another Christian who fell into sin. Unfortunately, they can usually also recount the tragic way the offender’s church responded to the fallen believer. Kitchens’s book is an important apologetic and manual for the biblical way of dealing with moral failure in a church.
This is an excellent book, so let me get my only criticism out of the way. It’s the title. Aftershock (a metaphor for the earthquake of moral failure in the church) does not help define the book for potential readers. This is also true of the subtitle. Though special disciplinary considerations for fallen leaders are addressed at the end of the book, the subject for most of the book is simply why and how to administer church discipline to those who sin.
This subject Kitchens handles masterfully and thoroughly. All of my questions about church discipline were either answered or addressed, and relevant biblical passages were explained satisfactorily. He also explores the reasons behind the moral problems we encounter in the church, discusses the “Seven Reasons Why Christians Don’t Dare to Discipline,” and shows why biblical church discipline is the only real solution to moral failure.
Of most help to pastors, leaders, and church members will be the practical sections on how to proceed with discipline, what sins to discipline, and how to handle the accompanying problems that may arise. The final section of the book addresses the discipline of church leaders. Kitchens finds no biblical basis for the view that a fallen leader can never be reinstated to a position of leadership. He argues instead that each person must be dealt with according to his sin, the circumstances, and his repentance. However, he admits there are situations where it may not be possible to reinstate fallen leaders.
Kitchens has a realistic view of the reality of sin in believers. He does not simply dodge the problem of sin by arguing that the offender must not be a “genuine” believer, as some would. His solution is to seek the offender’s restoration to God and the local fellowship. He unceasingly exhorts that this be done with an attitude of grace and love.
The book reflects Kitchens’s in-depth research for his doctoral dissertation on the subject (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1989), but is written so that the average church member can follow with understanding. The reflection of Kitchens’s long and successful experience as a pastor also adds to the book’s believability and practicality.
Aftershock should be read and referenced by pastors, elders and deacons, and other leaders as regularly as Christians need to be disciplined-which is to say, read it and keep it handy!
Charles C. Bing
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Burleson Bible Church