Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Church Polity, part 2

One of the fundamental realities of church polity that must be recognized (or re-recognized) is the fact that Jesus is the head of the church--the universal church and local congregations that are expressions of the universal church. This is a truth that cannot be overstated because if Jesus is the "head" of the church, then He is the one to whom we must give account as to how we are organized, structured, and how we make decisions. Therefore, in one sense, our opinions do not matter on issues related to the church and her decision making processes. What matters is what Jesus has already said. If there are items to which the bible is either silent, it is imperative that we spend much time in prayer asking for the wisdom of God and seeking to follow principles in the scripture that speak to the subject at hand. For example, the bible says that churches ought to have deacons. However, the scripture does not say anything about "terms of service" nor does it give us an exact "job description".

We are responsible and will be held responsible for following what Jesus has said. What flows from this is the reality that Jesus has not left us to ourselves in the structuring of the church. Jesus has spoken to us in his word; therefore, if we believe that God has spoken in His word and his word is binding on us, we are obligated to follow his word if we are to be a faithful church.

One of the first places we find this in scripture is Acts 6:1-7. In Acts 6, we find an internal conflict occuring in the church at Jerusalem. A particular segment of the congregation (i.e., Greek-speaking Jewish widows) were being neglected in the daily distribution of the food. In this exchange, there is a partnership in making decisions among the congregation. The apostles came up with the plan action. Then, they involved the congregation in the carrying out of the plan. Then, they (the apostles) affirmed the input from the congregation. Then, they moved forward, which is defined in terms of v. 7--"and the word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith."

Next week, we will lay out a basic outline of church polity we glean from this passage.

What do you see in the passage? How should the church make decisions? Who has the final say--congregation, elders, deacons, committees, etc.?

Monday, October 15, 2012

On the Blogs for October 15, 2012

Talking about homosexuality (this is a really good article)

8 Terrible Church Visits (very interesting)

Pulpit Freedom Sunday (interesting)

Pillars of Ministry (pretty good especially since our church is studying spiritual gifts on Sunday nights)

Biblical Womanhood and the OT (deep discussion if you are interested)

Wishing (good encouragement for when we don't desire God)

Church Polity, part 1

Over the last several weeks we have been looking into the subject of church membership, what it means, what it does not mean. We now turn our attention to something that usually gets people’s blood pressure up--church polity. Church polity is the subject of how a local congregation is governed, how the local church makes decisions. One author entitled his book on this subject, Who Rules the Church?. His use of the word church is referring to a local congregation.

Unfortunately, much of what Americans believe about church polity is colored by the realm of politics in the United States rather than the bible. We have taken much of our American political system and imposed it upon the local church (for the record, that’s a bad idea).

In fact, in our Southern Baptist statement of faith, the Baptist Faith & Message, here’s part of the article on “The Church”, p. 13: “Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes.” While I endorse our statement of faith as a whole, I cringe a little at the second half of this statement. “Under the Lordship of Christ”---absolutely, that is to be the case---Jesus is head of the church universal and the church local (Colossians 1:15-18; Ephesians 1:22; 5:23). However, I still haven’t found “democratic processes” in the New Testament.

With that being said, what does the bible say about church structure and the decision-making of a congregation? Is the bible silent about this issue? Is the bible vague about the issue as some have stated? Who leads the church? How are decisions to be made? Can we answer any of these questions with certainty from the scriptures?

I believe we can. And, that will be our task over the next several weeks as we look at the issue of church polity and structure of the local congregation.

For further study check out these books:

  • Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
  • Who Rules the Church by Gerald Cowen
  • A Theology for the Church edited by Daniel L. Akin

Church Membership, part 8

We have spent the last several articles here in the Forerunner talking about church membership and what it means. Today, I want to share a few more thoughts.

In my limited experience, I have heard various reasons why people don’t “join” (participate with) a local congregation of believers in the Great Commission in a committed manner. Some people are afraid they will be asked to do something; some do not want to lose their cemetery plot at their “home” church; others are just shy and don’t want to walk “down front” during the last song; others still do not “join” because they refuse to be held accountable by the church for the way they live (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5).

God has so designed each of us and the church for us to belong to Christ and to each other...we are members of one another (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Church membership is for our good and designed by God for our sanctification as we journey together with other believers on mission with Jesus following him. Belonging to and being committed to a group of believers is the pattern of the New Testament for every believer (just read the book of Acts).

In our church, we want membership to mean something. We want it to matter...not for social status, not for cemetery plots (yes, I know we don’t have a cemetery...thank goodness), not for institutional management, not for tradition keeping. We want membership to matter for growing in Jesus, exercising spiritual gifts to help the body grow, and fulfilling the Great Commission.

Don’t you want to be a part of that? That’s what I want church to be about...that is what church is about.