Thoughts on Church Government…

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:  Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;  Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.  And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. ( I Peter 5:1-4) 

I am a Pastor. By that I mean, my life’s calling has been to ‘feed the flock of God’, by disseminating the Word of God. I am constantly amazed at my good fortune in being able to do so, I would never have been able to imagine my life.

From the time of my conversion, I knew to prepare myself for ministry, and submerged myself in the Word of God. My wife and I particularly baptized ourself in the teachings of 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus in the early years of our marriage. We didn’t know what the LORD had for us, we just followed our interest and for the first two years of our marriage, our interest was the biblical make-up of the Church.

We had always had Bible Studies, which were blessed and successful. One day our Pastor asked us to go and serve in a country church 30 miles away, until they found a full time Pastor. We did so with joy, holding Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon services at the little church on the edge of Anamosa, Iowa.

When the idea came to us to start a church in our home, we consulted our Pastor who verified the calling, he only asked us to be careful not to be a schismatic, avoiding splitting the church he pastored, to which we carefully agreed.

I believe that the Bible teaches various principles of church Government, such as “Presbyterian” (elder ruled), “Episcopalian”, (rule by Overseers) and an argument can even be made for ‘congregational style’ rule, of which the title makes obvious the meaning. The Scriptures do not spell it out, as to which one is the proper form, they give only general principles to apply.*

Peter tells us that He was an Elder, among Elders, to whom He addresses in his Epistle.

Our local church, Believers In Grace Fellowship, has always functioned on a combination of Episcopalian and Presbyterian leadership.**  By that I mean we have a group of Elders, tested men who meet the qualifications and share the burden for the flock of God, and the protection of that flock from wolves without and schismatics or heretics within.

I am an Elder within the circle of Elders, however I am also an overseer, or ‘Bishop’ as described in scripture. I have certain executive powers. There are very few times where such powers are ever exercised, and my inspiration in the use of such power is Paul who said that He used his Powers for the use of edifying and not tearing down.

For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: (2 Corinthians 10:8)

All true Authority is just the flip side of responsibility. I was used to pioneer the church,,(A lot of people helped of course, and prayed and sweated), I will one day answer for the church. If there is anything that comes along to hurt the church, or to disrupt the peace and fellowship of the church, or to distort the teaching of the church, I have never hesitated to use my authority as a Shepherd of God’s flock to guard it.

The reason I have been thinking about these subjects is because Schismatics have launched an attack on the legitimacy of our church’s polity (Government), and particularly my leadership .  For more than thirty years there was no problem with our Presbyterian/Episcopalian oversight.

Virtually everything we do , we have done in counsel with the board of Elders, but it has always been understood, that we work best with an Executive function. For example I don’t want to hold a vote on whether we buy office supplies. On some occasions there was a need for an instant action, rebuking a heretic, stopping someone we didnt know ‘t a service from praying for people, asking someone to step down from a position for excessive anger and unforgiveness.

When Jesus addressed the seven churches in Revelation, He addressed them via one person. To the Angel of the church in Ephesus, Laodicea etc… . He made on man responsible and answerable for what was going on in each church. The man represented the church, but He was addressed singularly and called out or commended for what was happening there. I have no doubt each church had Elders and deacons, but it was to the Angel of the church, that Jesus made his remarks.

We believe we are all accountable to the Word of God, myself, the Elders and the whole congregation.

I am not autocratic, I have accountability to elders, I answer to the Word of God, and have to explain myself and my actions as anyone else does.

One good thing about schismatics is that they force you to examine things you normally take for granted, such as church government. I am open to any thoughts on the subject…

 

  • Francis Schaeffer helped me much in His book, THE CHURCH AT THE END OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, When he outlined what He thought to be the 7 essential norms of church, the form so to speak.

1)Local congregations are to exist and should be made up of Christians. .

2) Congregations ought to meet in a special way on the first day of the week.

3) The church should have elders who have a responsibility to shepherd the flock of God.

4)  There should  be deacons responsible for the community of the church in the area of material things.

5) These elders and deacons should be qualified in accordance with the Pauline standards set forth in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.

6)   The church must engage in church discipline.

7)  a vital mark of the church is the administration of two ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

** Not to be confused with the denominations of the same name. Presbyterian comes from the Greek Word, “Presbuteros” which means “Elder”.

Episcopaliam comes from the Greek Compound Word, Epi- Scopas, “Over- Seer”.

 

 

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8 Responses to Thoughts on Church Government…

  1. Lisa says:

    Pray without ceasing…hope it all works out 🙂

  2. Rich says:

    Pastor,

    Moses had his authority questioned because he married an Ethiopian women. Miriam and Aaron thought they themselves needed to be elevated because Moses did this. They really were questioning God and He took care of the situation. Interesting that Moses pleaded to God on Miriam’s behalf.

    Paul dealt with a thorn in the flesh which was a messenger of Satan. He pleaded with God three times to remove it but God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul, being obedient, said he will gladly boast about and take pleasure “in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” If your ministry is for Christ’s sake (I believe it is), then He’ll take care of you.

    He told Paul elsewhere that “it’s hard for you to kick against the pricks.”

    If you’re in the place God has you, He will take care of the situation when there is seemingly no way out. Trust Him!!

    God bless you and your family and ministry, I’m praying for you.

    Rich

    >

  3. Dmarie says:

    Since you have asked, I very humbly submit to you what I have understood:

    In my study of ‘church’ over the past years (since we were ‘excommunicated’ from one it led me into deeper study), I have understood “shepherding” to be a “gift of God” – not a title or a paid position among the brethren, as most make it out to be. Also, Church is not something to ‘attend’ – it is the living BODY of our Lord, and there are local expressions of The Body – with which we should desire to connect in TRUE fellowship on a daily basis (living our lives together as much as possible – not just showing up at a few services). Yes, special larger gatherings are also needed to bring everyone together, but being truly connected, laying down our lives to help each other live for HIM daily is key. Otherwise, we are forsaking true ‘fellowship’ even if we attend meetings.

    Jesus is the HEAD of His Body, through Whom we function well and powerfully, if we are allowing Him to work through us, not despising the gifts of others in the Body… we all must be humbly receptive to His lead if we desire to truly be the “Church”. Yes, there is both structure and guidelines/standards written in the scriptures in order to help us ‘judge the Body’ correctly… and the Word also tells us to be mutually-submissive to one-another as we LOOK to Him for all of our Wisdom from Above.

    So many people ‘get their degree’ at a seminary, and then go on to find their ‘career’ as “pastor” with pension, health-insurance, tax-exempt status, etc. – in the end, ‘retiring’ from their ‘job’. That is according to the BUSINESS model of this world, that has nothing to do with BEING/functioning as the Body of our Lord. (I do not believe that is the case with you – just stating a sad fact.)

    Bill, you are definitely gifted through the Holy Spirit as a teacher and a shepherd, for I know you lay down your life to ‘watch over, feed, and guard’ those who have been entrusted to you!! (Even from great distances!) Your concern is for the flock of Jesus – which is VERY evident! I am SO GRATEFUL to the Lord for leading me to be taught and encouraged by you, Ray, Jamie… and others you have around you. It is such a blessing to have the ‘same mind’ and ‘same spirit’ as others who also desire to love Jesus above ALL and remain in His love.

    That all being said – I would humbly suggest to you all, that you truly hear what these other members are saying. Do not despise the gifts they have been given (IF they have proven to be genuine believers with hearts that LOVE Jesus). The LORD may have MORE for your local ‘body’ that He desires to give to you – a GREATER way that HE can function through you all there… and He may be using these brethren to encourage you in that way. Don’t be tempted to say that you don’t need them – until after you have TRULY listened and asked the LORD for His wisdom to discern if what they are saying is from HIM.
    (that is what happened to us: the leaders refused to listen to our concerns that our ‘church’ was being filled with unbelievers as a result of the Purpose-Driven, seeker sensitive business model – so they kicked us out, calling us divisive – using “touch not the Lord’s anointed” as their slogan).

    I will be in prayer for you all – “The Lord bless you and make His Face shine upon you!!”
    Seek Him, and do not doubt HIS Wisdom for a moment. Forsake ALL to obey Him – wherever He may lead 🙂

    Sincerely, and with the highest respect and honor for you ALL 🙂

  4. Dmarie says:

    I thought of a verse that applies:
    “For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.” 1 Corinthians 11:19

  5. billrandles says:

    Thanks DMARIE, I really appreciate your comments. God has no Hierarchy, just a family and gifted people to edify the family. I am not giving details of our circumstances as I am not trying to air anyone’s laundry. Suffice it to say that complaints about church givt are only the latest in a long list of grievances the schismatics have raised, some valid and some unfair. We are not stopping anyone from using their gifts as you can tell by the many gifted people that stand in out pulpit. But since the issue of church give has been raised, I thought this could be a teachable moment and an opportunity for discussion.

  6. Dmarie says:

    I was just out grocery shopping, and reviewing in my head what I had said – hoping that it didn’t come across the wrong way… if it did, I do apologize!
    Yes, we had gone through some very difficult circumstances as far as ‘church/church government’ goes, and by relaying a few small details, I did not at all mean to imply that you doing the same as our former leadership…Lord knows that if I thought that was the case, I would run far from you – not go out of my way to receive teaching from you and the others there who are gifted to teach His Word alongside of you! 🙂
    I guess my main point was to just be sure that both sides are hearing/listening – and it might come down to a needed “separation” that is God-ordained (verse above), because as we know, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”. But even for those who are found to be on the side of ‘lies’, the Lord can and does even use them, at times, to speak to us who love Truth. ALL TRUTH/authority is from Jesus, so if it lines up with His Word then it is from Him, no matter the source.
    I know you know all of these things – and I don’t have a clue to what has been happening there.
    Again, my sincere apologies if that came out wrong! We know the enemy would love to cause division among the true believers… I’m sorry if I contributed to that in any way.

    • billrandles says:

      Not a problem at all, I believe your comments are really valuable, I just don’t want to impugn anyone involved inadvertently, thanks so much for the input sister, you are a blessing!

  7. Lisa says:

    Hi Bill, was thinking of you and this post, hoping all is well with you. 🙂

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