If you are like most church members, the only business meetings that seem to generate a lot of excitement for you are those that are the most controversial. When everything is going well in the church, our business meetings are sparsely attended. This truth leads me to believe that we have come to a place where we take our congregationalism for granted and that we as individual members are not investing enough careful thought and prayer into the role we have in leading the body.
If we look in the New Testament, we can see a couple different examples of how the local church functioned as it followed their leadership’s example and the guidance of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. The first example is in Acts 6 when the first lay-leaders were set apart by the church to meet the needs of the Hellenistic widows. In Acts 6:2-4, the Apostles developed a plan to address the need and presented it to the whole congregation. In Acts 6:5, it says that this “statement found approval with the whole congregation.” This text reminds us that when decisions need to be made about functional/leadership matters where no specific guidance is given in Scripture, we as the gathered “congregation” play a significant role in prayerfully applying scriptural principles and considering how God can best be glorified in such situations.
A second example is in 1 Corinthians 5:4 when the Apostle Paul was calling the church to assemble and corporately enforce his apostolic teaching by removing the incestuous man from membership. It was the congregation’s responsibility to be obedient to God’s Word and purge the sin from their midst. Once again, the assembled congregation of believers was responsible for prayerfully submitting to the Holy Spirit and God’s Word as it deliberated and followed through on specific decisions.
In both cases, human leaders, set apart by God, offered leadership to the church. This reminds us that Godly leadership can and should be offered through those God has called to such roles, and the congregation should respect the opinions and decisions of those men who lead from godly, humble hearts. The church has the dual responsibility of submitting to leaders and holding them accountable. But also realize that the most basic element of church government is still the gathered congregation. It is YOU!
We as Baptists have always boasted about the superiority of congregationalism and the local autonomous church, but rarely do we take our responsibilities seriously by investing a proper level of spiritual discernment in the process we claim to value so highly. The whole congregation cannot be involved in the minutia of what it takes to lead an entire church body or in what it takes to maintain its resources. To attempt to function in this manner would place us in perpetual congregational chaos. That’s why the church body votes to approve guidelines for functioning and finances, and why the church elects its leaders and holds them accountable for following the Word, obeying those guidelines, and protecting the interests of Christ’s church.
I lay all of this before you today because I want you to take your personal responsibilities as a member of this church more seriously. Congregational votes are not simply to be rubber stamps on whatever is presented. Once again, it is the responsibility of leadership to carefully weigh all matters according to Scripture and present the best option(s) to the church. It is likewise the congregation’s responsibility to respect and value the leadership of those in whom they have recognized God’s calling. But as I have set forth here, YOU, the members of this congregation, have the responsibility of being present, submitted to the Holy Spirit, steeped in God’s Word, and carefully evaluating what is set before you for consideration.
God is doing so many wonderful things in the life of our church, so plan now to be a part of the business meeting this Sunday night. Pray, attend, listen, and participate as we together seek to follow Christ our King. Come with a heart rightly prepared to seek God’s glory as you fulfill your role in the earthly stewardship of His church.