Should churches vote on everything?

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by SmalltownPastor, Feb 26, 2014.

  1. SmalltownPastor

    SmalltownPastor
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    It seems there are a lot of churches, even in the Baptist sphere, that are moving away from a congregational model. Pastors and boards of elders are making most if not all of the decisions regarding ministries, vision, etc. While I can kind of see why they would do this, and even how it might be biblical, it seems very similar to what led to the Roman Catholic church as we know it.

    I've always believed in the priesthood of every believer. This means, at least in part, that every believer is being led by the Holy Spirit. I also believe that the congregation as a whole is the church, and that the pastor is a member of the church. The pastor is not the head of the church, and he certainly doesn't have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit, but rather we all together ought to be following the Spirit's guidance. So for one man (or one small group of men) to unilaterally decide the course of the church seems...wrong.

    But at the same time, sometimes there are members who assert their opinions and cause the church to keep from going in a direction the pastor and most of the church believes we should go. It's frustrating.

    Here's the situation that's prompting all this. I recently preached a series going through Third John on "What is a Church Member?" After the series, I tried to kind of gauge on a Sunday night the church's thoughts on what I presented as qualifications for church members (since they are fairly basic to what it means to be a Christian and member of a church). They were: 1) We're Saved, 2) We Give (cheerfully and sacrificially, as the Lord leads you), 3) We Serve, and 4) We Gather. From what I could tell, people were on board that these were important for church members. So I brought it to a vote at a business meeting that we would present these qualifications to all of our members, new and old. But I didn't realize that there were at least two members who were not at the Sunday night discussion that I had led to gauge their thoughts on these things, and when it came up at the business meeting, they were adamantly opposed to it because it would mean many of their family members who no longer attended would be taken off of the membership roles, and that this would send the message to their family members that they weren't welcome at church and that the Church did not love them. So we tabled the whole thing and didn't move forward with it. I will still encourage church members to adhere to these guidelines, but I lack any authority (at least from the church) to tell people that they need to be practicing these things in order to be a member of our church.

    It's frustrating.

    But I also believe that the unity of the church is more important than moving quickly, even if it's a direction we need to go. So I'm kind of stuck. I think the congregational model is most biblical because of the priesthood of believers, and yet this very model keeps us from becoming more biblical on the issue of church discipline. Of course, the goal isn't to exclude people as members, but to raise the bar and be clear about what church membership ought to look like. I thought these four qualifications were simple enough, non-controversial enough, and a good step in the right direction.

    Perhaps I should have pressed forward with it and called for a vote. It would have passed by the vast majority. I don't know. Perhaps these kinds of decisions are best made unilaterally by the pastor or board of elders, but I'm not really sure that would have gone over the best either. What do you think about all this?
     
  2. Salty

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    Does your church have a non-residen or inactive roll?

    Why would someone want to be considered an active member - if they do not attend?

    In fact, when I reccomended to the pastor (I am assit pastor) then we clean up the roll - he objected for the same reason your church members did. And that included removing the former pastor of the church who left 7 years ago to take another pulpit. (note: pastor left under good conditions)

    One inportant note: does your church require a quorm to conduct business? If so, that is a good reason to clean the membership.
     
  3. SmalltownPastor

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    We do have both inactive and non-resident rolls, but I don't find these things anywhere in Scripture. These distinctions have been around since before I became the pastor 4 years ago. Seems to me instead that inactive or non-resident members are not really members at all (unless they are unable to attend due to medical reasons of course).

    I think some of the members of my church and their families are confused as to what church membership means. To want them to stay on the rolls when they have no intention of coming back clearly shows this. But who am I to argue with them? This is "their church," too.

    I think we also have a few former pastors on.

    We don't require a quorum because the rolls are so over inflated that we can't possibly expect a reasonable percentage of our membership to come to a business meeting. I've only met 1/2 of our members, most of the others are missing. No one even knows where they live.

    I told a story about how I personally witnessed a church who voted out their pastor by calling up old members who came to a business meeting and voted against the pastor. I was "assured" that this would never happen...

    Although I guess I should be concerned about that kind of thing, I'm really more concerned about making disciples. I'm trying to be clear about the basics of being a member of a church and expectations that we should all fulfill with joy. I mean, like you said, if someone doesn't even want to attend, how can they possibly be considered a member?
     
  4. Revmitchell

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    Keeping an inactive roll may be a way to bridge the divide on this issue. Active or inactive rolls are not found in scripture but that does not make them wrong. Keeping peace and unity is in scripture and this could very well do that.
     
  5. gb93433

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    Some of my thought are about the quality of membership. Does a church differentiate between mature and immature members? Who should vote. The mature wil think with a godly wisdom and the immature wil think thoughts that are not always wise and godly.

    In the last church I pastored were two troublemakers. One was the son of a pastor. About two years later he wrote on his blog that god does not exist. This man had taught Sunday School for several years. When I came along I started making disciples and training others to do the same thing. I began to notice there was something wrong with this man when he tried to reach someone. It was as if he was trying to prove himself and what he did was in the flesh. He had never reached anyone in his entire life. The other troublemaker had gone to a Bible School but the more I listened and observed him the more I was convinced he was not a believer because I saw no fruit. when I began to ask some leaders if he was a believer I got the response that they had never considered that. Both of these men had preached quite a number of sermons. When I listened to some of their sermons it added to what I suspected. The sermons lacked passion and treated scripture as a book to be learned but I never heard anything about living it out.
     
  6. Salty

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    An excellent reason to cleanse the church roll


    and part of being a disciple is regular attendence at church. A person who has been put on the inactive roll - can always be put back on active - and when that happens - it may have more of a meaning to the individual.


    When I was in Germany, attending a English speaking (military) SBC church off post - we had folks who would not join because they were members of their home church back in the States - even thought they would be in Germany for 2 - 4 years - Go figure.
     
  7. Tom Butler

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    The church saturneptune and I serve speaks mainly through its budget and its by-laws.

    In one vote, it approves salaries, utilities, expenditures for Sunday School literature, transportation, kitchen expenses for fellowship meals, honorariums for guest preachers and singers, children's ministries, music ministry, allocations to associational ministries, SBC, Kentucky Baptist Convention ministries, benevolence, repairs and maintenance.

    The people who lead our ministries are free to spend the budgeted funds (determined with their input). The pastor has overall oversight. The chairman of the Finance Committee monitors the budget like a hawk. If a ministry leader needs to spend more than budgeted, the church must approve.

    Our church (and most churches, I suspect) operate most efficiently when it delegates responsibility (and commensurate authority). Bi-monthly treasurer's reports are submitted to the church business meetings reporting every expenditure.

    There's nothing wrong with a church voting on everything. This is just the way we do it.
     
  8. Tom Butler

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    One more thing. The church selects its ministry leaders and other ministry personnel, but the Nominating Committee does the legwork and recruiting and presents a recommendation to the church business meeting each fall.

    The Finance Committee prepares the budget (with input from ministry leaders, of course), and presents its recommendation to the church in the fall.

    As Minister of Music, I presented a request for funds to the Finance Committee for inclusion in the budget proposal.
     
    #8 Tom Butler, Feb 26, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 26, 2014
  9. gb93433

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    That reminds me of a conversation I had years ago with an elderly pastor who told of a time when they got ready to vote on some deacons and they took a break. During the break one of the wives told the pastor that her husband who was up for vote was having a homosexual affair with the other man up for vote. That shows how little a nominating committee may actually know.
     
  10. annsni

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    Having witnessed an almost church split over the draperies in the parlor of a local Methodist church, I say "no" - a church should not vote on everything. There are things that are worthy of votes and other things that are so totally not at all important for the congregation to be involved in. A church we attended used to have us vote for everything including the company we got toilet paper from. Who cares? Seriously!!
     
  11. SmalltownPastor

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    I see your point, Ann. You're right, and thankfully my church doesn't care about where we get our toilet paper.

    But I guess I'm more concerned with the big things. Should things like the church vision statement or the qualifications of members be things that we vote on, or should the pastor (or board of elders, if that's the case) be able to say, "This is what God has laid on our hearts as to where we should go as a church."
     
  12. annsni

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    I think that it's a little bit of both and that is where making sure we have trusted deacons in place helps a lot. Our deacons are voted into office and there are some things that we trust them to vote on.
     
  13. Ryan.Samples

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    There are two questions at play in many of our churches. The second one is less about congregational voting, but it does relate thereto in the sense that both congregational voting and the role of deacons both fall under ecclesiastical polity.

    1- Where is the NT reference to having members vote on anything other than the selection of deacons? That question assumes that the designees in Acts are deacons, which of course it does not explicitly state. Do we see any other scriptural indication that members should vote on "business" matters? The practice seems to me a strange Americanism, inserted into our religious practice because we sorta practice democracy in this country.

    2- And this one is more for deacon-run churches. Where do we find deacons charged with administering the local church? Is that not the responsibility of the elders/ overseers? Indeed, if we insist that Acts 6 refers to the appointment of deacons, why don't we also glean their duty description from the same passage?
     
  14. plain_n_simple

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    The church is set up as a democracy, with a board that hires a hireling. That is not anything like the 5 fold that God put in place. It is backwards. The sheep decide who the Shepard is and what he teaches, rather than the Holy Spirit guiding through the mouth of the leader. Your frustration comes from these errors.
     
  15. ktn4eg

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    SmalltownPastor:

    If by the term "everything" you mean having the church vote on absolutely every single minute detail of everything that a church (regardless of the size of its congregation), then I would think that this would be a pretty much a waste of time for the church's public business meetings.

    Most of the churches with which I'm familiar usually allow whoever it is who actually signs the checks for that particular church to exercise a degree of discernment concerning whether or not that church's funds needs to be expended---usually at some pre-set dollar value.

    These churches also maintain a detailed accounting of all of its expenditures, and such a list is open for any church member to examine if he or she has any questions as to why church funds were spent on that item.

    This seems to me to be a much more reasonable system than having the church membership vote on whether or not it ought to spend its funds on every single thing that comes up in the day-to-day operations of a local church.
     
  16. DHK

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    In post #7 Tom Butler explained how his church operates and how efficiently funds are dispersed and managed. It would appear that most would be faithful in attendance at a business meeting.

    In your case, as you stated, you have only met half the members and don't even know where they live. If you had a business meeting many or most would not show up. What would happen if you were to have a business meeting of great importance involving the transaction of a large amount of money. Many of these "once in a blue moon" members just happen to show up for it. They swing the vote contrary to what the core members and the pastor think it should go.
    What is happening?
    You have people that are not regular attending, not giving, not supporting the work, but directing where the funds of the church are going in some important matters. IMO, this is very wrong. If for this reason alone, I see the necessity of having a "dual membership," voting and non-voting; active and inactive; however you want to set it up. It is the faithful members that need to guide the church--not the once-a-year attenders.
     

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