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Church Government, or How Shall we Govern Ourselves?

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  • Church Government, or How Shall we Govern Ourselves?

    Would you please inform me about which is a more Biblical/Apostolic model of polity? As I understand it the three main forms are Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Congregational. I came to the faith in a mix of the latter two, but I do not want to blindly accept that as the "best." Please challenge my assumption of how to govern the church.
    Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? -Galatians 3:5

  • #2
    Be glad too as this is a topic I work with.

    Initial random thoughts if I wrote a church constitution:

    The pastor has to be accountable to other members of the church.

    There would be strict rules against the involvement of the pastor's relatives (besides his wife) in church leadership. Under no circumstances could any of his relatives be employees of the church. Under no circumstances would the son, son-in-law, other relative be allowed to succeed as the pastor of the church. This would probably also include the other major leader positions in the church. I am really trying hard to avoid having the church becoming the family business.

    The pastor would not be head of the legal organization (i.e. the 401(c)) that takes care of the church's earthly requirements to exist.

    I'll add as I think of items.
    "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

    "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Thoughtful Monk View Post
      Be glad too as this is a topic I work with.

      Initial random thoughts if I wrote a church constitution:

      The pastor has to be accountable to other members of the church.
      I believe he SHOULD be the same as any other Church member, but the mode of discipline should ALSO be the same, as Jesus instructed in Matt 18.

      There would be strict rules against the involvement of the pastor's relatives (besides his wife) in church leadership.
      I don't think they should be in any PAID positions, but I believe there should be exceptions. I think we get into trouble when we make 'iron clad" Church constitutions. I have a friend who has a son who is a very gifted music minister. They work together as a team -- the man preaches and pastors, and the son leads the music and does youth ministry -- they work wonderfully well together.

      Under no circumstances could any of his relatives be employees of the church.
      What if he was not directly in charge of the hiring? For example, most Churches where I have served have a "personnel committee". You would be against them hiring a relative to do the janitorial work, if it was the same pay and position they would give anybody else?

      Under no circumstances would the son, son-in-law, other relative be allowed to succeed as the pastor of the church.
      What if God leads to do so? I mean, MOST of the time, I would agree, but "under no circumstances" sure puts a limit on God.

      This would probably also include the other major leader positions in the church. I am really trying hard to avoid having the church becoming the family business.
      And I agree 100%!!! I have SEEN such. But to make a "under no circumstances" rule seems a bit much.

      The pastor would not be head of the legal organization (i.e. the 401(c)) that takes care of the church's earthly requirements to exist.
      As Pastor, I am, for all intents and purposes, the "CEO" of the Church, though I use "Business Meetings" and Church Leadership to authorize major decisions, and I NEVER EVER handle Church money.

      I'll add as I think of items.
      I would focus on things that cause the most trouble -- like sex and money. The Pastor should make sure HIMSELF that he is, for example, NEVER alone with a woman other than his wife, and he should NEVER handle the Church's finances.
      "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

      Comment


      • #4
        Uh, ok. Yes, that's a good idea. On the other hand, I might have phrased poorly my question? I want to know why Apostolic Succession is superior to the Presbyterian's "Bible-centered" model, or why either one misinterprets history or Scripture, etc.
        Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? -Galatians 3:5

        Comment


        • #5
          I like our Church's form of government....

          I lead, but I present plans to the Church Leadership Team, and we talk them through. They often have insight I didn't have, or think of things I overlooked. We then present the modified proposal to business meeting, which is a meeting of adult Church Members, and I have ALWAYS preferred a MAJOR majority rather than a "51% or better".... if I don't have the support of the BIGGER majority of the people, it's going to be hard to implement or get support for the idea or plan.
          "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Pentecost View Post
            Uh, ok. Yes, that's a good idea. On the other hand, I might have phrased poorly my question? I want to know why Apostolic Succession is superior to the Presbyterian's "Bible-centered" model, or why either one misinterprets history or Scripture, etc.
            I kinda thought you were going that direction. I think you have to take into account the culture that was operative "then", and what we have "now".
            "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
              I lead, but I present plans to the Church Leadership Team, and we talk them through. They often have insight I didn't have, or think of things I overlooked.
              A little off the main stream here, but the Church I served in as an Elder required (that is we as a group required - no written rule) all actions be unanimous. If we had any significant differences we would table the action and all go home to pray about it. No unanimity = no action.
              Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Jedidiah View Post
                A little off the main stream here, but the Church I served in as an Elder required (that is we as a group required - no written rule) all actions be unanimous. If we had any significant differences we would table the action and all go home to pray about it. No unanimity = no action.
                The VAST majority of our decisions WERE unanimous, but I hesitated from making that a "requirement" because you could always have one knucklehead gum up the works just out of spite. But, yeah, the SPIRIT of that is correct!
                "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Pentecost View Post
                  Uh, ok. Yes, that's a good idea. On the other hand, I might have phrased poorly my question? I want to know why Apostolic Succession is superior to the Presbyterian's "Bible-centered" model, or why either one misinterprets history or Scripture, etc.
                  None is superior to the other. All are man's attempt to stay faithful to God. Each has good points and weaknesses. Both may misinterpret history or Scripture. If you're looking for an answer that ends the debate - isn't going to happen.
                  "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

                  "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Hi Cow Poke,

                    I get all your points. However, I have yet to see father to son actually work. Also I'd be concerned about doing something just to please the pastor rather than following the will of God. In this case, I would rather get in trouble for not allowing exceptions.

                    I think I would also make sure was a clear plan if something suddenly and unexpectedly happened to the pastor.

                    I'd go further but since the OP has clarified the question, I'm risking
                    "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

                    "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Thoughtful Monk View Post
                      Hi Cow Poke,

                      I get all your points. However, I have yet to see father to son actually work.
                      Yeah, it would really be rare -- but I just think we put WAY too much in the "Constitution" that prohibits us from doing something "out of the box" if the Lord should so lead.

                      Also I'd be concerned about doing something just to please the pastor rather than following the will of God. In this case, I would rather get in trouble for not allowing exceptions.
                      Understood, but I have to remain firm on this -- I've seen too many churches hog-tie themselves into NOT doing something that God appeared to be leading them to do. Too many times, people put stuff in the constitution because of a prior problem, not having the courage to make tough decisions in the future.

                      I think I would also make sure was a clear plan if something suddenly and unexpectedly happened to the pastor.

                      I'd go further but since the OP has clarified the question, I'm risking
                      Yup
                      "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Pentecost View Post
                        Uh, ok. Yes, that's a good idea. On the other hand, I might have phrased poorly my question? I want to know why Apostolic Succession is superior to the Presbyterian's "Bible-centered" model, or why either one misinterprets history or Scripture, etc.
                        Apostolic Succession has the advantage of being apostolic. It also developed before the canon was formalized, so presumably those who formalized the canon didn't see any conflicts with their mode of church government. The Presbyterian and Congregational models both come from particular readings of scripture, but AFAICS they are more reactions to the monarchial episcopacy of Rome than based on history; they reflect a greater desire for independence at the congregational level than submission to imposed doctrine. Ancient people were less submissive than Protestants often seem to think; Arian bishops imposed from without in the 4th century often held services in empty churches.

                        As far as other things go, my priest deliberately does not handle the money nor know who the big givers are, because he wants to treat everybody the same. He meets regularly with the church officers to discuss issues, but typically only in an advisory capacity. He thinks of it as our parish, not his; he's just a caretaker. He gets 10% of the budget set aside to spend as he wishes (a level set by the parish, not him), but that usually goes toward charitable works.
                        Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. – St. John Chrysostom

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                        I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Thoughtful Monk View Post
                          Also I'd be concerned about doing something just to please the pastor rather than following the will of God.
                          If this is a problem I think a change in the church leadership is in order.
                          Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Pentecost View Post
                            Would you please inform me about which is a more Biblical/Apostolic model of polity? As I understand it the three main forms are Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Congregational. I came to the faith in a mix of the latter two, but I do not want to blindly accept that as the "best." Please challenge my assumption of how to govern the church.
                            It would depend a lot on the culture/sub-culture. At one extreme, in China, where there has been decades of persecution, many churches do fine without much contact with one another; often leaders are arrested and someone new has to take over and the situation is more fluid but the Church has been expanding greatly.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Pentecost, perhaps you should define the Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Congregational forms with particular attention to the differences between them.
                              The greater number of laws . . . , the more thieves . . . there will be. ---- Lao-Tzu

                              [T]he truth I’m after and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance -— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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