I am searching the scriptures for clarity concerning congregational voting on leadership and other directive issues for the life of a church as well as who the "board" is in a church. I have always been of the persuasion that elders and deacons would make up a board, but have seen sometimes this isn't true. There are some major denominations out there that support "voting" in every aspect of leadership on local, national, and international levels. Please share your opinion with me on these matters. I am a pastor seven years and this is crucial to my future in the ministry. Thank you for your website Ive been very blessed by it since Ive found it.
Again thank you
Within a local church, the elders serve as its "spiritual governance board". However, their authority is necessarily limited to the realm of judgment and expediencies. Neither they or any other man has the right to change anything in Scripture (Galatians 1:7-8; I Corinthians 14:37-38). In some sense, their authority arises from the members' submission (I Peter 2:2-3; Hebrews 13:7, 17). The instant that a member refuses the elders' will, then that member must either withdraw himself or be withdrawn from (Hebrews 13:17; II Thessalonians 3:6; Romans 16:17). Otherwise, he must comply or the elders must step down. Outside of hopeful resolution through discussion and study, there is no Scriptural authority to penalize or Bible mechanism to resolve beside withdrawal of fellowship.
There are many ways that elders can abuse their authority, thereby "lording it over the flock" (I Peter 5:2-3), but I think that is beyond the scope of your original question...
About voting ... When more than one person is involved in a decision making process, how can we finalize the decision? Obviously, all judgments should follow a discussion of all relevant Scriptures, be based on the Bible, and be rendered in complete harmony with God's revealed will. No amount of men can swell their numbers such that, even with a unanimous vote, they could overthrow the will of God (Romans 3:4; I Samuel 14:6; Matthew 22:14; Luke 13:23-24; I Peter 3:20). Unless, there is a unanimous agreement among the decision makers - elders in this case, I see no way to arrive at a final decision, except through a vote. In that, I see no harm. In fact, I see no alternative.
However, more to your point, who has the right to cast a vote?
If we accept that local churches are autonomous, then that necessarily eliminates the authority of everything beyond that: international, national, regional, synods, seminaries, the Pope, governances, assemblies, conferences, and so forth. No one has the right to cast a vote on a local church's activities outside of that church. (Please understand that I am assuming you have read the article on autonomy and agree with it. Otherwise, you might understand that the preceding was just an assertion. If you have not read the article on autonomy, please do that. Let me know if you have any questions or feedback on it.)
Elders may request the feedback of the membership. On some matters, it would be prudent to seek their input. They could even (unwisely) use the form of a vote to learn the collective desire. However, the authority rests with the elders (Acts 20:17-18, 28). If a church does not have at least 2 men qualified and appointed to serve as elders, then the leadership sadly falls on the congregation as a whole. Again, I do not see how to avoid taking votes in such cases, although the voting should be limited to members. Deliberation should be limited to men, who are local members. (Why men? Based on principles set forth from creation and elsewhere in the New Testament - I Timothy 2:11-14; I Corinthians 14:33-35.) This is much more difficult, because the weakest members have just as much voice as the most spiritually competent. Spiritual knowledge, boldness, clarity, and persuasiveness are premiums in such cases.
Regarding the history on the practice of voting: I heard one brother quote Tertullian to the effect that arguing with false teachers only produces stomach aches and headaches, so Tertullian advocated that elders who served at churches, where apostles served, should finally decide all brotherhood matters, even doctrinal. If true, this may have been one of the early advances of apostolic succession, brotherhood votes, and ultimately the Catholic superstructure. Beside this ancient, Catholic influence, I think modern churches are strongly influenced by our American business philosophy, where most everything is settled by committees and boards. Most people do not realize that the Lord already set up His design with elders, or they overlook it for some reason. I am unaware of any proposed Bible precedence for this, except maybe a perversion of Acts 15 or II Corinthians 8:23. If you find Scriptural authority for any other form of organization, please let me know.
BTW, we have articles on elders, deacons, and church organization, which may be helpful:
- http://www.insearchoftruth.org/articles ... ation.html
May God help us to have a sincere love of truth,
There is nothing in the New Testament about churches voting to solve problems or make decisions. God's plan is for each local church to be autonomous and self-governing. The organization He has outlined in the New Testament is for each church to have elders to oversee the work of each church where they serve as elders. Deacons are appointed to serve the church, but they do not have the responsibility of overseeing the work as do the elders and thus do not constitute a joint board. The elders are charged with making the decisions. Now to some scriptures.
In Acts 14:23, we see that Paul on his first missionary journey appointed elders in every church. In Acts 20:17-38 on Paul's third missionary journey, we see Paul calling for the elders serving the church at Ephesus to meet him. They were called overseers in verse 28. In first Peter 5:1-4, the elders were also called overseers.
The closest that we get to a situation where the church could have been called upon to vote is Acts 15 to solve the problem of circumcision. But, here you will see in verses 6-11 that the elders met privately with the apostles to make the decision. The whole church met in verses 4 and 12 to receive information, but the decision was made privately. Of course, we don't have specially appointed apostles today as they did, so the decisions are now left to the elders.
You will note that each church was to have a plurality of men serving as elders (Acts 14:23). Therefore, one could say the elders of a church constitute a board if they wanted to. But, it would be the eldership, board of elders, or just "the elders" who overseer the work of the local church. The qualifications for these men are listed in I Tim. 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Other designations we see in the N.T. for elders are bishops, overseers, and pastors. It depends on your translation, but they all refer to the same office.
It should be noted there is no organization in the N. T. for the universal church. These organizations that exist today that are over a lot of churches are man made organizations. There is no evidence in the Bible for such organizations. God intended for each local church to take care of its own business.
For more information, please go to our website, insearchoftruth.org, then go to the Articles section, scroll down and see the main topic "The New Testament Pattern for a Local Church." If you have questions after reading this information, please feel free to contact me and I will do my best to answer your questions with scriptural references.
May we always seek to serve God the way His work has directed us.
Thank you so much, I really appreciate the thorough response!! God bless you and your ministry and I will be in touch in the days ahead...
As soon I as sent the below email to you, I noted that may colleague who lives in another state had responded to you while I was writing my response. I guess we both immediately tried to answer when we received your second email. I don't think that has ever happened before.
In any event, you now have two perspectives about your questions. I don't believe you will see any differences in our use of the scriptures. m273p15c decided to go into more detail regarding voting among the elders and if no elders existed, which would be the case if at least two men in a local church didn't meet the qualifications outlined in the two passages I referred to.
Our offer to respond to other questions still stands, but we will try to coordinate better.
Sorry about the "double up" on the answers. Hopefully, it will help having two different perspectives. BTW, Larry is an elder, so you should find more wisdom based on his experience.