September 28, 2020
One of the most crucial decisions regarding the development of a church is how things will be led … church governance. There are multiple approaches to this. When we began The Summit Church November 1, 1998, 25 men spent many months going right to the scriptures to try to answer that question. We wanted people to be able to point to their Bibles for this answer.
It seems to me that, if the Bible has a model of governance for a church, it also has great value for business, government, in fact, any other organization in society. Acts 15 is one of the key passages (although there are many more) that gives us insight on how things should be done.
A PLURALITY OF ELDERS
Throughout this passage and the New Testament there were multiple men who served together to make decisions. This plurality saves the church from the possibility of error by one man. It completes the decision-making process by adding the gifting of multiple men. Proverbs says that "in the abundance of counselors there is victory."
1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 give us the very, very clear qualifications for these men. There are 22 qualities that an elder "must be". Only one of this is a skill ("apt to teach") and the remaining 21 are all about an elder’s character. The primary qualification is a godly life. These men are going to lead God's church. Therefore, they must have the ability to connect to God and to live in harmony with each other in order to come to unified, godly decisions. They also must be men of godly character to lead the church or they will not have the platform to lead.
SOME WITH EXTRAORDINARY LEADERSHIP GIFTING
It is evident from this passage (and a study of church history) that James was clearly recognized as the lead Elder in the Jerusalem church. He had the prominent leadership and speaking gifts and is always the one mentioned when the church speaks on subjects. Paul was also a recognizable “first among equals.”
There are certain men who have been given to the church by God with these giftings. Someone has to give directional leadership and visionary development. This role in leading does not mean lordship, nor solitary leadership (it's always done in the plurality of elders), but it means gifting to initiate, to be a spokesman, etc. The remaining elders must gladly recognize this gifting in these men and give such leaders the freedom to fulfill the role their gifting dictates.
All major decisions that affect the whole church should be made by this plurality of Elders.
FREE DEBATE AND CONSISTENT UNANIMITY
These elders should always have the freedom of healthy debate, but never make a decision that is not in unanimity, led by the Holy Spirit
The elders cannot be "yes men" to a strong, overbearing leader. The goal of the elders is to hear Christ who is the head of the church and find out His mind on an issue. This means there must be the freedom for each man to add what he is seeing and hearing from the Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit
But in the end, there is ONE Head to the church! It seems obvious that if there is one Leader, and there are a group of godly men who are sincerely pursuing His will with no hidden agendas, that they should come to unity in their decisions.
The elders of The Summit have operated this way since 1998. It has been amazing. We have sharp disagreements at times and very, very lively debate, but we are committed to the Lord, to each other, and to this principle of never making a decision unless we are unified. A position will be brought to the group (usually by the elder who has the prominent visionary, directional gifting). It is debated, other positions proposed, and invariably, a third position that is the combination of the whole will rise up and we will all have the sense that it is biblically accurate and led by the Holy Spirit.
This process is not infallible, because every elder is a mere man. But we believe (and have experienced) that it is God's best plan for leadership in the church.
ENCOURAGING TO THE CHURCH
So when they were sent away, they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. When they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. (vs. 30)
God’s plan presented to God’s people who are submitted to Him is encouraging and helpful. And, since it’s His plan it leads to prosperous results.
Father, thank You for Your structure for every realm of society. Thank You for Your order in the church. May we let You lead by raising up godly men who look to You alone. And give them the courage to follow You in faith.
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