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proxy elders - interim leaders in the absence of elders

Posted: Fri Jan 14, 2011 5:01 pm
by email
I have been searching for information regarding the organization of the church when it comes to making decisions that helps or affects the church. I understand the subject on the way it should be governed or the fact that God established a guideline for elders to do so.

My question is when there is the absence of Elders what is correct or incorrect about the following two scenarios?

Scenario one: All men of the church are gathered once a month to govern the church, including havinga treasurer. I could not find scripture to back this up.

Scenario two: All men of the church are in accordance to have 9 out 35 men to lead the monthly men’s meetings to govern the church, including having a treasurer. I could not find scripture to back this up.

Personally I find that neither is scriptural but either one would benefit the church therefore neither would be incorrect, what would be a good biblical response?

elders desparately needed

Posted: Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:18 am
by email
I will offer you some thoughts, though nothing original.

1. God’s plan is for elders to lead the church and have the authority to do so. Deacons are to be appointed.

2. There is no other plan outlined to govern the church.

3. All organizations must have some way to govern the activities of that organization.

4. The principle for the church seems to be---since God has designated men to be elders and deacons when men are not qualified to fill these offices, then it would naturally follow that the men of the congregation should take the leadership. Also, men are to lead in the worship, so again it would be natural to conclude that men should take the leadership in governing the church.

5. So, we use our best judgment in how that is done. Meetings of the men on some basis would seem appropriate. I personally would have no problem with all the church meeting and including the women as long as men led the discussion. Some would cringe at this idea. But, following the principle, as long as men take the lead we are left to our judgment.

6. Regarding having a treasurer, all organizations must have a treasury. Whether the person, or persons, in charge of that pool of funds are called a treasurer or something else makes no difference. Even Jesus’ little group of 13 had a treasury and someone to take care of it, though it appears Judas was not a good choice.

7. I guess if you were trying to fit what I have said into one of the three (command, example or necessary conclusion), it would go in the necessary conclusion category.

8. His Scenario two would simply be the judgment of a local congregation which is to be autonomous. I guess he is trying to say at least 25% lead the meetings, but of course that is another judgment call. The principle says men are to lead.

What we learn when we start having this discussion is that God’s specified plan is always best and our goal should be to have qualified men to serve as elders. In my opinion, churches don’t place enough emphasis on the proper organization many times. They get comfortable with men’s meetings where they have a say in all matters, and especially so when certain ones who like to have a say are not qualified to serve as elders. I have seen this all too often and in the last three or four years have been putting a lot of emphasis on getting elders appointed in churches, where I preach. I have asked other preachers to teach on this during his annual visits. I have been gathering data, and out of 18 preachers who I know, 12 of the churches where they preach now have elders. That is up from practically zero just a few years ago. The point I am making is that it needs to be focused on.

I will look forward to your response.


book recommendations

Posted: Sat Jan 15, 2011 12:23 pm
by will
In reviewing H.E. Phillips Book, I find useful mat'l to consider on Question #45, pg 292; Scripturally Unorganized churches , etc on pg 3, 4; & Info on Pg 12. Also, M.E. Patton Q&A Pg 115-116 (Especially last Paragraph on pg 116)

God's pattern

Posted: Mon Jan 17, 2011 5:53 pm
by m273p15c
I believe your conclusion about elders is correct. Elders are God's desire and the Bible pattern for every church (Acts 14:23), and until a church appoints elders, that congregation is "lacking" in its capacity to effectively execute God's mission for the church (Titus 1:5; Ephesians 4:11-16). However, the Lord through Paul was very clear. Elders "must" satisfy certain qualifications (Titus 1:5-9; I Timothy 3:1-7). Therefore, a congregation cannot appoint men, who are unqualified. Since developing qualified men takes time, some kind of interim administration must be performed. But, who, what, and how? The Scriptures do not offer a secondary specific design, but we have been given some principles and examples, which can guide us, and since the Scriptures "furnish us completely unto every good work" (II Timothy 3:16-17), we turn to these principles:
  • Consensus in the Absence of Elders - In the very early days of the Jerusalem church, there arose a need to appoint men dedicated to distributing food to the Hellenistic widows (Acts 6:1). The apostles were to remain focused on studying, preaching, and prayer (Acts 6:2, 4); however, the church was told to "seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom" (Acts 6:3). The congregation "chose" 7 men, "whom they set before the apostles" (Acts 6:5-6). How did they do this without apostles' intervention? We can necessarily conclude that they used some kind of decision making process, because they made a decision on 7 specific men, which would authorize arriving at a consensus without elders' assistance. But, what was the nature of this process? We do not know from this passage.
  • Decently and In Order - "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. ... Let all things be done decently and in order." (I Corinthians 14:33, 40). This prescription was offered to those partaking in a special service, which was focused on the miraculous revelation of God's will through tongues and prophesy (I Corinthians 14:23, 26). However, the rule of "decency and order" is prescribed for "all things". Would that not apply to the decision making process of any group of Christians? We would be wise to observe as many of the principles outlined in this passage as possible, like speaking "one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged" (I Corinthians 14:26-32). Interrupting and other forms of domination may be neither "orderly" nor "edifying". Beyond these few exemplary applications (I Corinthians 14:23, 26) of this generic command (I Corinthians 14:40), we must use judgment, determine expediency, and leverage other principles to arrive at any one of many forms of decision making, provided it is performed "decently and in order".
  • Leadership of Men - Women are not permitted to "teach or have authority over a man, but to be in silence" (I Timothy 2:11-12). This application is made to the worship service (I Corinthians 14:34-35), but its principle is derived from the order of creation and the fall (I Timothy 2:13-14). Therefore, this general principle and application is as far reaching as the creation and the fall (I Timothy 2:12, note the absence of assembly). And, consequently, it would apply to any public meeting or decision making process of the church. Could women attend such meetings? Yes, just as women are desired at worship but are to remain silent, so women could be welcomed at "church business meetings", but they should not speak or lead in any authoritative or argumentative way.
  • Members of Each Other - Eventually, multiple people must arrive at a single decision. Voting seems like a natural and common method for producing this single decision. However, the voting process may present dangers toward violating multiple passages. For example:

    Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." (I Peter 5:5)

    Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

    Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (I Corinthians 1:10)

    But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
    (I Corinthians 12:20-27)

    Voting can quickly lead to "majority rule", where the majority runs roughshod over the minority. This can be selfish, disgraceful, and completely opposed to the unity, selflessness, and care commanded for each body of Christ. Therefore, although voting may be used to identify concerns and the status of the body's collective mind, it should not be used to disregard the concerns of the minority. Often, by allowing people to discuss matters in a calm, orderly, Scriptural manner, unanimity and consensus can be produced. Decisions should be fully discussed and understood before trying to settle a matter with a vote. Remember, wisdom is often found in the quiet voice, not the loud voice of the majority (Ecclesiastes 9:13-18).
  • Treasurer - If a church is to have a treasury (I Corinthians 16:1-2), then it must have a treasurer (Acts 4:34-35; 5:2, 4). Treasuries cannot take care of themselves. Such a person has no authority, rather he servers as a "keeper" or guardian of the funds, until the church decides to use those funds. Even then he is merely dispersing these funds according to the church's will. Even Jesus' band of apostles maintained a treasury and a treasurer (John 13:29), albeit not a very faithful treasurer (John 12:4-6). So, obviously care must be taken by the church in selecting a "keeper of the money box".
Beyond these few basic examples and generic commands, we are without specific guidance. Therefore, we must operate under the authority of "necessary inference" and "expediency". Taking these principles we could justify at least scenario one, which you mentioned. I do not understand scenario two enough to comment. Do the 9 meet exclusively? Or, are the other men permitted to participate? Do the 9 rotate, such that all may take turn, grow, and be encouraged?

I pray you find these thoughts helpful. In addition to some wise friends' advice, I have also benefited from Marshal Patton's book, "Answers for Our Hope", which has a brief article on voting (p. 115-116). And, H. E. Phillips', "Scriptural Elders and Deacons", contains some helpful passages in the early pages about "Scripturally Unorganized" churches, according to his designation (p, 3-4, 12, 115-116).

I look forward to your thoughts. If I can help in any way, please let me know.

May God help us to have a sincere love of truth,



Posted: Mon Jan 17, 2011 9:11 pm
by email
I truly appreciate you taking time to answer my question. Actually based on your answer I can see where both scenarios could be fulfilled being that I understand scenario two and did not do a good job at explaining it to you correctly. Hopefully this explanation can help you see better scenario two, sorry about that.

Basically the congregation where I meet has approximately 35 - 40male members, some had no interest in attending any men’s meeting others were novice who were given the opportunity to vote and about 15 long term consistent members of over 5 years. At one of the meetings the consensus was to elect 5 individuals of sound and mind who had the wisdom to make the right decisions for the work of the Lord and the business of the church. I previously said 9 to stage a scenario, but actually there were 5 selected. Most of what you explained fits the process of how we came up with 5 wise and humble men. We have been doing this for about 5 years, unfortunately we have a member who was not content as he was not selected his past behavior did not merit him being among the selected. Throughout the years he has caused our congregation to get a bad reputation because of how we are organized (meaning having 5 men). He has been biblically discipline and continues to worship among us but left a bad name among some of the local churches of Christ. Since we organize ourselves with the 5 leading and the congregation and working in the Lord’s work we have grown from about 100 people to about 180, we are the largest Spanish congregation in our area with approximately 180 people at our assembly including children. We have been blessed in so many ways.

Do the 9 meet exclusively? Yes, but all men are permitted to go and give their suggestions and or put it in writing if they can’t be there. The 5 do not rotate, at one point 5 more were added to the group making a total of 10 but little by little some were not interested and one left the congregation,one only showed up one time.

Proxy Elders?

Posted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 10:07 am
by m273p15c
I'm glad to hear that the answer was helpful. Thank you for explaining more about scenario two.

First, after reviewing my response, let me clarify something I said previously. Writing about women participating in business meetings, I said that women "should not speak or lead in any authoritative or argumentative way." Just to be clear, I'm not opposed to women speaking in business meetings. However, great care must be exercised by both men and women, so that the women's public suggestions, questions, or comments do not develop a quarrelsome, argumentative, take-charge disposition, which would not be submissive (I Timothy 2:11-14). Some churches avoid this problem by limiting the meeting's attendance to the congregation's men. Although there may be wisdom in that judgment for certain situations, I do not believe the Scriptures require it, based on the Scriptures I provided previously.

Second, after reading your description of the second scenario, I'm more concerned now, but please allow me to express my concern in a question. Are these 9 men performing the same function as elders, in the same capacity and authority as elders, except only they are unqualified per I Timothy 3:1-7, 11 and Titus 1:5-9? If that's the case, then I would be gravely concerned about this arrangement, because it essentially embraces the appointment of unqualified men for the work of elders.

Some man, or multiple men must assert some leadership even in calling for meetings and arranging them. However, such men should never have any more authority than any other man. Neither, should such men have special, private meetings, where they have additional access to privileged information, which eliminates the opportunity for others to even know, much less be involved. The formal selection, official recognition, exclusive meetings, and unique authorities of these 9 men could rival the office and work of elder in every way but qualification. If that is indeed the case, then we must ask, where is the Bible authority for the offices of these 9 with such congregational authority?

A church cannot force men to be involved. And, it may be that open meetings of the congregation's men may result in only the same 9 attending. That would be a shame. (These other men should not be shirking their responsibility, leaving it to the 9.) But, regardless, the invitation should be open to all men to participate with equal authority and to be equally informed. Any divisive brethren may have to be disciplined as the first order of business (Romans 16:17; Titus 3:9-11; I Corinthians 3:3; Jude 19-23).

These 9 could be unknowingly violating the Bible pattern for internal church organization. I fear they may be. However, their selection and exclusive meeting may also be deterring the growth needed from the other men to eventually appoint elders, because the others are avoiding their responsibility in leadership, even if it is just public support. My suggestion would be to openly invite at least all men to all meetings. No one man or group of men should have additional authority, unless they are an elder. Furthermore, with 180 in attendance and with the grave need for elders (Titus 1:5), immediate attention should be focused on teaching the congregation about elders, strongly encouraging men to grow so they are qualified, and then finally selecting elders as soon as 2 or more men are qualified.

Brother, I could have misunderstood God's Word on these points, so I would be glad to discuss the Bible pattern with anyone. I may still not yet understand the true nature of these 9 men's role within the church there; so maybe further explanation from you would help. But, what I have heard from you and based on what I understand from Scripture, I would encourage you to be very careful and concerned, as am I. If I can help in any way, please let me know.

May God help us have a sincere love of truth,