The church - a democracy or a theocracy?

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by Ingo Breuer, Oct 22, 2004.

  1. Ingo Breuer

    Ingo Breuer
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    I would like to have some input from my brothers and sisters in Christ concerning proper church government. In my church I hear such statements such as "Majority rule is the Baptist way." or "The church is a pure democracy." I really don't know what to think of this because I don't see scripture to back this up. What verses do they use? I know a bunch of Scriptures to prove that majority rule is diabolic. The majority cried "Crucify Him." in Israel the majority goes after idolatry and only a remnant (minority) shall be saved. That's the way it was in Elijah's day and it will be that way again in the tribulation and the millennium.
    It is so sad when after a Sunday service the time for "business meeting" comes up and people care about "what I want" and not "what God wants". People discuss and discuss - sometimes they get irritated - but why don't they get down to an altar of prayer and seek God's will there rather than childishly playing politics. I've seen passionate discussions about how the church should pay a certain man for some service. Well, I was at the point of telling them about the danger of the hireling spirit and using Biblical illustrations. But when it's business meeting time lots of people forget their Bible. I don't see a scripture that backs up the practice of business meetings and voting. Acts 1:15-26 is not a majority vote. It's a lot. The selection was by chance. See Prov. 16:33 & 18:18. The statement "democracy is the Baptist way" is saddening. Democracy is not a Biblical principle. It comes out of the Greek and Roman culture. Some churches might have adopted this democracy practice in the time of the Greek Rennaissance. Even today there is a prideful Greek cult in America's universities.
    What the "pure democracy" Baptists have failed to explain me is Hebrews 13:7,17. The elders rule. If they don't, then the sheep are telling the shepherd which pasture they want to go. That's the problem in modern churchianity. It's a war for power. There are powerful sheep who want a gullible shepherd. They want a shepherd without rod and staff; a shepherd who will ask "What's the will of the sheep?" That's sorry. There's gotta be some Biblical leadership and ther's gotta be some faithful submissions to that Biblical leadership. But nowadays we've got these arrogant sheep who want to run off any shepherd who preaches on separation, Biblical dress, sin of long-haired men, gluttony, etc. Have you noticed that Baptists let you preach against alcohol all you want. But woe unto thee, preacher, if thou preachest against gluttony or about fasting. Knowest not thou that Baptists love to EAT? I don't think it's the Lord's will when a few unsurrendered sheep can run off the shepherd. Wouldn't it be better if the shepherd can do something about the sheep who don't want to surrender to the Bible standards?
    Please let me know some scripture on proper church government. I'm not a very churched person. I didn't grow up in a Baptist church. Therefore, some of the behaviors in a business meeting seem rather strange. Why doesn't the pastor take the lead and prayerfully and Biblically guide the church? Why should a backslidden member have the right to vote and with his vote hinder the will of God? Why do they have to have a vote when the pastor wants to spend $5 or schedule a visiting preacher? Give me some scriptures to back up this habit? When you have to respond quickly and follow what God is telling you, you can't wait till next month's business meeting? This church bureaucracy hinders the fulfillment of God's will. Why would a Christian want to get in God's way?
     
  2. Link

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    How do we see the church making decisions in the Bible? That is a good issue to discuss.

    I’m mention a few passages:

    One is the one you mentioned in Acts 1—yes the apostles cast lots. Some are quick to point out that was before the Spirit came.

    We see another big decision in Acts 6 when the Seven were chosen. The 12 suggested the choosing of the Seven, but they trusted the church as a whole to make the decision.

    Something we see in Acts is that the church was ‘in one accord.’ Paul instructed the Roman believers to be of one mind. This is an important issue to keep in mind when we talk about church government. The church is to be of one mind and one heart.

    In Acts, we see other evidence that the congregation has a role to play in church government. When the issue of whether Gentiles should be circumcised was brought up to Jerusalem, some believers who were Pharisees stood up and said they should be. Now they were wrong, but the fact that they could stand and speak says something. It implies that there was a forum for the voices of believers to be heard on such matters. Possibly, they took care of some of the smaller issues in this way.

    Ultimately, this important issue was given over to the apostles and elders to discuss. The participants took turns speaking. Finally, after listening to a lot of discussion and a concluding remark from James that summed up apostolic reasoning (and gave OT scriptural evidence for it), the apostles and elders wrote a letter. In the letter they wrote what seemed good to them and to the Holy Ghost.

    Some issues need to be settled by leaders. Some can be settled by the church. The scripture never gives us an example of one pastor making a decision like this for the whole church. In Acts, we see that elders plural made decisions. It wasn’t a one man show. Paul did serve as a judge in the case of the man who sinned as we read in I Corinthians 5. Paul had a kind of spiritual authority that derived from the fact that he introduced the Gospel to a new area, giving birth to a church through the Gospel. We read about this in I Corinthians 3 and 4 and II Corinthians 10. It is clear that Paul shared his authority with his coworkers. Even so, Paul still wanted churches to govern their affairs. He wanted the church to appoint judges, for example (I Corinthians 6) rather than have him judge everything, or run to unbelieving judges.

    In Matthew 18, Jesus taught that the one who sins and will not repent after following a certain procedure was to be brought before the church, and if he would not hear the church be treated as a heathen man and a publican. In the rare instances that a church actually takes Jesus’ and Paul teachings on church discipline seriously enough to confront sin in the midst, many churches ignore the procedure. Instead of taking the man before the church, they take him before the pastor. But Jesus said to take the man before the church. In I Corinthians 5, the man in question was to be delivered over to Satan by the church when they gathered together. Something we need to keep in mind is that the Greek ekklesia in the first century could serve as a legislative and judicial body. They heard issues and made decisions. Christ used the word ekklesia to refer to the church.

    There needs to be a balance between leadership making decisions and the body making decisions. We all need to hear the Spirit. Sometimes the Spirit’s decisions don’t come through administrative lines of church government. The Spirit wanted Philip to preach the Gospel in a certain area. A man doesn’t need a church vote or a board of elders’ vote to tell other people about Jesus. The spirit decided it and Philip obeyed. The Spirit spoke saying to send Paul and Barnabas to do a work. A certain group of brethren obeyed. These men were prophets and teachers, but there is no indication in scripture that they were the elders of the church. That church may not have had elders. There is no evidence that the whole church commissioned Paul and Barnabas in a general meeting of the Antioch church. Rather, we see that the Spirit spoke when these brethren were gathered, and they obeyed.

    This is a key element in making church decisions—determining what seems good to the Holy Ghost. This is a problem with turning the church into a pure democracy. In a democracy, the majority have the authority to overpower the minority and crush them into submission with the vote. We as Christians should be seeking the will of the Spirit, and be willing to yield our own opinions for the good of the body and to see the will of God done. Sometimes this means being willing to settle for something that isn’t your favorite decision for the sake of unity, putting more trust in the body to decide something than in your own opinions. There are times to go against the majority and be persuasive when the church is violating with will of God (e.g. going against scripture.) The goal should be to determine the will of the Spirit, and to be of one heart and one mind.

    One of the reasons I believe that a lot of churches with congregational meetings have business meetings in which they tear one another apart or make bad decisions is because people in the church just aren’t used to having Biblical church meetings. They are used to the man-made tradition of coming to church and hearing a preacher preach a sermon while they sit quietly by. But if we actually read the Bible on the issue of church meetings, we see that church meetings are supposed to involve us actually exhorting one another (Heb. 10:24-25) rather than simply possibly receiving exhortation. I Corinthians 14, and particularly verse 26, shows us that in early church meetings, regular believers took turns using their gifts to edify the body. Some were teachers. Some sang, Some got revelations and prophesied. Others spoke in tongues and interpreted. Corinth had a problem of people not using tongues in an orderly manner with interpretation that we see corrected in this passage. Paul tells the Corinthians that his instructions are commandments of the Lord and implies that they are in line with the practices of the other churches. It is clear that Paul’s instructions are for churches with mutually participatory meetings, rather than the modern sermon-focused meeting.

    If a church has biblical meetings with turn-taking, and mutual edification, then it is easier to apply the same good manners people are used to applying in using their gifts to edify one another when a business-related issue occurs. If the saints are already used to having to deal with disagreement on occasion when they teach scripture or even discuss it, then they may have a relationship strong enough to endure a disagreement on how to take care of some kind of practical issue.

    Personally, I don’t care for Robert’s Rules of Order for church meetings. A church is supposed to be a family. A highly formalized order of meeting doesn’t seem to promote this kind of atmosphere, imo. Also, the archaic yea’s and nays are a bit odd and the kids wonder why you are talking so funny.
     
  3. gb93433

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    In a democracy the majority rules. If the majority are godless they will rule.

    But from God's point of view He is the boss and therefore a theocracy.
     
  4. exscentric

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    Christ is the head of the body and leads the church, the body doesn't tell the head what to do.

    In our current climate if you have a strong board running the church with a good following congregation, I would (not Biblical, only logical) require all major expenditures/plans okayed by the congregation, just because they need to be behind any major programs.

    A strong, concise purpose statement will help in directing a church - if the board is consistantly heading where te purpose statement directs then most of the congregation will be at ease. No, don't know that there is a verse to back up having a purpose statement, only that the Bible gives us strong direction for the church :)
     
  5. Link

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    Purpose statements can get in the way of obeying God, too.

    I was involved in an international church which had a purpose statement about reaching out to the English speaking community. There were non-English speaking kids in the Sunday school coming with (sometimes unbelieving) parents. One of the board members didn't want to have any local-language work done in the classroom because of the mention of English language in the purpose statement. But these kids were real live human beings with spiritual needs. If we put a purpose statement above scripture we can get in trouble. Why do we need purpose statements if we have the Bible?
     
  6. Dr. Bob

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    You need to study Heb 13 and see what is ACTUALLY taught. It is misinterpreted from a cursory English reading into a pastor/dictator type program. That is FAR from the truth.

    Will try to look up a study I've done on it. It is one of the most misapplied passages on leadership in the NT.

    Found a related thread:
    http://www.baptistboard.com/ubb/ultimatebb.php/topic/48/523.html
     
  7. Dr. Bob

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    Heb 13:7 – Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God_
    1 Cor 11:1 – Be ye followers of me_
    Phil 3:17 – Brethren, be followers together of me_
    1 Thess 1:6 – And ye became followers of us_

    The above are not complete without the rest of the verses:

    Heb 13:7 – whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation
    1 Cor 11:1 – even as I also am of Christ
    Phil 3:17 – and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample
    1 Thess 1:6 – and of the Lord

    We are to follow them as THEY follow Christ. They are an example. We are to follow their Godly example. We are not to follow their ungodly example.

    Since they are human, we are not to follow their failings. Nothing in Scripture absolves us from our responsibility to follow Christ regardless of whether we have a pastor or not (otherwise, what are they in prison for their faith, shut off from the outside world, supposed to do?).

    Your philosophy makes the pastor a shaman, a holy man, and a witch doctor.

    [I believe this was originally by "Ransom" on the FundamentalistForums)
     
  8. Ingo Breuer

    Ingo Breuer
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    I agree with you, Dr. Bob, that the scripture in Heb. 13 has been exaggerated by some. In some theocratic churches the pastor has became the "theos". That's an open door for all kinds of abuses. What "Link" said was very helpful. We do have to see that the Holy Ghost is pleased. We do not owe the flesh. We owe the Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells within us and gives life to the church which is the body of Christ. There must be a proper balance between ruling elders and church being one mind and one heart. Otherwise the body tells the head what to do because "motion carried", "yea".
     
  9. Link

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    According to a book I read, and a conversation with a man who worked on a Bible translation that didn't make it past the publisher (because the writers didn't want to replace 'immerse' with 'baptize'), that verse in Hebrews can be translated 'Be persuaded by them who guide you."

    Paul used persuasion in his epistles to get people to obey the word from the heart. The false apostles were the 'face-slappers' trying to push everyone down and control them.
     
  10. rufus

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    The church - a democracy or a theocracy?

    A theocratic-democracy!

    Rufus
     
  11. gb93433

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    God always has the last word. Just read Rev. 2 and 3
     

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