Ask not what your church can do for you…

Taken from the intimation sheet: 15 March 2015

Ballot papers for the Deacons’ election are out today. Have you ever wondered why we handle these elections in the way we do? Why do we govern Congregationally? Why self-nomination, and why ask the membership to vote? Isn’t it inefficient, divisive, unspiritual?

The first reason is the doctrine we looked at last week – all believers have access to ‘the most holy place’ through the Lord Jesus. A pastor or deacons do not have more intimate access to the Lord’s presence than any other member of the church.

I may be a pastor, but I have exactly the same bible as you, and we walk through the same door into God’s presence. This means that every member has a great weight of responsibility as well as a great opportunity to prayerfully, in accordance with the Scriptures,  be involved in the decision making process in the local church.

Make no mistake, leaders are called to lead. The New Testament has no hang-ups about people being given or exerting authority (1 Thes 5:12 for example).

Paul had no embarrassment about appealing to his authority as an apostle. Leaders must lead. Members must accept their authority. Those not willing to accept the authority of church leaders by becoming members do not get the same say in the affairs of the church. (Clearly if a leader is abusing that authority the church membership should call them to account biblically.)

Nevertheless, God’s people all have access to the Lord, and as such bear a huge responsibility for the decision making within the local church.

Furthermore, this seems to have been common practice in the early church. It was the people, not the apostles, who chose the first deacons in Acts 6 (the Apostles told them to choose, gave them the criteria, and ratified their decision.) When things went wrong in the early church, the gathered assembly – the members of the church – seem to have been given the final authority to discipline or to reinstate.

Paul appeals to the church (not just the leaders) to revoke the membership of the immoral and unrepentant man (1Cor 5:1-13).   In his second letter to the church in Corinth he describes church discipline as ‘the punishment of the majority’ (2 Cor 2:6). The gathered assembly is the final decision maker in matters of personal division (Matt 18:15-17). It is the body of the church which bears ultimate responsibility for testing teachers (Gal 1:6-9; 2 Tim 4:3).

All of this may look like a democracy – one member one vote – but really we are a ‘Christ-ocracy’. Christ is head of his Church, and our responsibility as members of a local church, as those able to enter the most holy place, is to discern the mind of Christ. And then to follow his leading.

It’s a huge responsibility, and a wonderful honour.

  • If you’re a baptised believer who’s active in the life of our church, and you respect the authority of the leaders, consider membership. Your voice will not be heard in the same way as members, and the door to the deacons’ court for you will remain closed until you do. Any of our deacons will be happy to speak with you about church membership.
  • If you are a member, remember the privilege and the responsibilities, particularly at this time with a view to electing deacons. Thoughtfully, prayerfully, biblically reflect on the nominations before voting.
  • Please pray for the Church’s deacons. And remember that every month they meet to pray for you!
  • Lastly, if you’re a member without a title or leadership responsibility, please be encouraged – your service and your prayers are absolutely indispensable. No one has greater access to God than you – the Lord is listening, pray on!

Yours in Christ’s service