This is the seventh post my series on church polity. (See my posts “Introduction,” “Episcopal,” “Presbyterian,” and “Congregational” for introductions to the three major types of church polity. Then, in my post, “Scriptural Evidence,” I said that there was no direct scriptural evidence explaining how the church made decisions, and in my post “The Problem,” I suggest that the main problem is limited exegesis and ignoring some data when it comes to decision making in the NT.) In this post, I’m going to suggest a way to move forward.
First, I want to point out that as a follower of Jesus Christ, I should be able to live, fellowship, and work a church who follows either of the three major types of church polity. Why? Because I (and you) should be willing to submit to others (including those who think they should have authority because of their position and including those who vote with a majority for their own decision).
There is one caveat though. If God is calling someone in a certain direction, and the church (either leader(s) or majority) decide against it, the individual must follow God. Certainly, the person should carefully consider the desires of the group. There may be wisdom in their decision. However, there are times when leader(s) or majority can choose against the will of God for an individual.
As an example, I know a few people (2 couples, actually) who desired to serve in their neighborhood. They asked their church leaders for support (prayer, encouragement, etc.). The leaders refused. The two couples spent some time deciding if they still thought this was God’s desire for them. They decided it was, so they continued, asking others for support.
However, there is another way (besides episcopal, presbyterian, or congregational polity) that churches can make decisions. As far as I can tell, this way takes into account all of the scriptural information.
A church can choose to wait until they all agree before making a decision. When there is disagreement, they can continue to pray, discuss, listen, and wait until they can all agree on the decision.
Usually, this option is not considered because it is impractical for most churches.
But, as far as I can tell, it allows the mature brothers and sisters (leaders) to take part in the decision making process, even speaking (as James did in Acts 15) and offering their “judgment.” It also takes into account the necessity – yes, necessity – of the church seeking the will of God together and seeking unity and agreement. It allows any within the church to submit to others, perhaps even choosing to “champion” the opinion of another brother or sister (even if their opinion would be different).
Finally, and most importantly, it helps the church think seriously about which decisions are really important and which decisions are not important. From what I can tell, most decisions that churches make (and argue about, and split over, and get hurt feelings because of) are decisions that don’t actually have to be made, or decisions in which either option would be equally important (or unimportant) in kingdom priorities.
I hope you (my readers) choose to interact with this option. It is not easy, and it is often impractical (in an organizational sense). What do you think? Why would it not work? Why would it work?
(In the final post of this series, I’m going to share a few experiences of waiting for unity and agreement before making a decision.)
Church Polity Series
- Scriptural Evidence
- The Problem
- Moving Forward
- From Experience