Church Government; August 18, 2018

Acts 6:2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.”

The whole matter of equality, democracy if you will, is a strange one in the Church. Everyone is of equal value before God, or so we insist, but there are manifestly different functions and positions within the Body of Christ. It is vital to remember Paul’s exposition of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, where he points out that functions are certainly different, but they are mutually interdependent. Before 1776, the idea of representative democracy was rare if not unheard of almost universally across the globe. The United States made a go of it, and since then most nations have adopted at least some form of it, with widely varying degrees of success. In many ways Martin Luther laid the foundation for that, emphasizing the Priesthood of the Believer, from 1 Peter 2:9 and elsewhere. Differing Protestant groups adopted that to varying degrees, and again with varying success. My Systematic Theology professor in seminary said that in a class on Church Government under Emil Brunner they discussed the problems with the different systems. At that point my professor said, “Then the Congregational system of church government is clearly best.” Dr. Brunner replied, “The problem with democratic church government is the Holy Spirit only gets one vote.” Of course, multiple people in the church should have spiritual maturity and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, but they are seldom in the majority. Of course, autocratic church government is certainly undesirable, and the list of church leaders who have been undone by a lack of accountability continues to grow. We are back to our total dependence on God for wisdom and everything else. We’ve got to remember that it’s His Church, and seek Him for how it is to operate.

It’s been many years now since I realized I couldn’t find American style democracy in the Bible. It may well have been before I studied Systematic Theology, as I mentioned. However, a form of elitism has been a real problem in my thinking, and I’ve never been very good at delegation. It is certainly hubris to think one person can do it all, but I have tried, and it hasn’t been good. Even when I have been hearing God accurately as to the direction of the church, I have failed to bring people along with me so that they owned that direction for themselves. I earnestly desire spiritual growth and maturity in all of those under my care, but just as I teach about parenting, I’ve got to trust them and the Holy Spirit and not micromanage. In this area as in so many others, I’ve got to pay attention to the truth God speaks through me!

Father, thank You for this reminder. It’s very timely, as I’ll be baptizing someone tomorrow who has little grounding in the Bible but has 65 years of life experience. Help me not presume, either positively or negatively. May I be a mentor to him to equip him and set him free to be and do all that You intend, for the sake of the Body of Christ and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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