Other Officers of The Church.

Transcript December 15

Introduction

Weekly Bible Study Tuesday, 15th December, 2020 Topic: Other Officers of The Church. Text: 2 Cor. 8:16-19. INTRODUCTIONS As we round of our study for this year, we shall consider today other officers in the church. In many churches today, there are other offices, such as secretary, treasurer, moderator (one responsible for chairing church business meetings), or trustees (in some forms of church government, these are people who have legal accountability for the property owned by the church). Moreover, churches with more than one paid staff member may have some staff members (such as music director, education director, youth worker, etc.) who are “publicly recognized as having the right and responsibility to perform certain functions in the church,” and who thus fit our definition of church officer, and who may even be paid to perform such functions as a full-time occupation, but who may not be elders or deacons in the church. There does not seem to be any reason to say that these should not be offices in the church as well, even though all of them could probably be put in the category of either elder or deacon (most of those mentioned above could be deacons with specific responsibilities, or the moderator could also be an elder who simply moderates church business meetings). In the Baptist Church, the Pastor moderates the Church Council Meetings and the Church in Conference. Nevertheless, if some offices seem helpful for the functioning of the church, there seems to be no reason why they should not be established. But when they are established, they must not overshadow the importance of the offices specifically named in Scripture, and that they must not have any authority that is not subject to the governing authority of those officers that are clearly named in Scripture. If significant influence or authority is gained by those who have offices not named in Scripture, then it is much less likely that people in the congregation or the office holders themselves will look to Scripture and find detailed descriptions of how they should act or how they should be chosen. This would tend to diminish the effective authority of Scripture to govern the church in the area of church leadership. How Church Officers Should Be Chosen? In the history of the church, there have been two major types of process for the selection of church officers—selection by a higher authority or selection by the local congregation. The Roman Catholic Church has its officers appointed by a higher authority: the Pope appoints cardinals and bishops, and the bishops appoint priests in local parishes. This is a “hierarchy” or system of government by a priesthood that is distinct from the lay people in the church. This system claims an unbroken line of descent from Christ and the apostles, and claims that the present priesthood stands as Christ’s representatives in the church. Although the Church of England (the Episcopalian Church in the United States) does not submit to government by the Pope or have cardinals, it does have some similarities to the hierarchical system of the Roman Catholic Church, since it is governed by bishops and archbishops, and its clergy are thought of as priests. It also claims direct succession from the apostles, and priests and bishops are appointed by a higher authority outside the local parish. In distinction from this system of appointment by higher authority, we find in most other Protestant denominations, officers chosen by the local church, or by some group within the local church, even though the form of church government may vary from church to church. Since this is an area in which there is no absolutely decisive biblical text, we ought to be patient with some diversity among evangelicals on this issue. However, there are several reasons why it seems most appropriate that church officers (such as elder and deacon, and certainly including the “pastor”) should be chosen or at least affirmed or recognized in some way by the whole congregation: In the New Testament, there are several examples where church officers were apparently chosen by the whole congregation. In Acts 6:3, the apostles do not themselves pick out the seven early deacons, but say to the whole church, “Pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty.” The initial selection of these men was done by the whole congregation under the supervision of the Apostles who gave the standards of those to be chosen. When a replacement was chosen for Judas to be numbered among the apostles, the whole congregation of 120 persons (Acts 1:15) made the initial selection of two, from whom the Lord himself indicated which one he would appoint: “And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias” (Acts 1:23). At the end of the Jerusalem council, the whole church had a part with the apostles and elders in choosing representatives to convey the decisions to the other churches, for the choosing and sending was done by “the apostles and elders, with the whole church” (Acts 15:23; “in assembly,” v. 26).Moreover, when some of the churches sent an offering with Paul to be taken to the Jerusalem church, the churches also sent a representative to accompany Paul, one who, according to Paul, “has been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work.” (2 Cor. 8:19) It may be objected that Paul and Barnabas “appointed” elders in every church (Acts 14:23), and Paul also told Titus to “appoint elders in every town” (Titus 1:5). Does this not seem more like the Roman Catholic or Anglican system than a system of congregational choice? Yet even those verses need not imply that the apostles alone made the selection, but could certainly include congregational consultation and even consent before an official appointment or installation was made (as with the appointment in Acts 6:3, 6). The word appoint may also mean “install.” Another reason for congregational participation in the selection of church officers is that in the New Testament generally, final governing authority seems to rest not with any group outside the church or any group within the church, but with the church as a whole. The final step in church discipline before excommunication is to “tell it to the church” (Matt. 18:17). Excommunication, or the act of excluding someone from the fellowship of the church, is done when the whole congregation is “assembled” (1 Cor. 5:4), and is therefore apparently done by the entire congregation. One other consideration that is suggestive, but not conclusive, is the fact that the epistles that are written to churches are not sent to the elders or some other group of leaders within the churches, but are all written to entire churches, and the whole congregation is encouraged to read and expected to give heed to these epistles (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; 1 Tim. 4:13). This means that the apostles relate directly to the congregations, not to the congregations through the officers. If the entire congregation selects the officers of the church, there is more accountability to the congregation. Paul assumed some level of accountability when he provided for the fact that “two or three witnesses” could bring a charge of wrongdoing against an elder (1 Tim. 5:19). This accountability provides an additional safeguard against temptations to sin and excessive lust for power. Government works best when it has the consent of those governed. This can also be seen in the Old Testament. (Ex. 4:29–31;1 Sam. 7:5–6; 10:24; 2 Sam. 2:4; 1 Kings 1:39–40) We also need to note the mistake of Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12:1, 15). These factors combine to indicate that although Scripture does not explicitly command one specific system of choosing church officers, it would seem most wise to have a system whereby the entire church has a significant role in the selection and recognition of the officers of the church perhaps through a congregational vote, or through some other process whereby congregational recognition is required before church officers can assume office. There is room for wide variation but provisions could be made for election to limited terms of office, a requirement for a mandatory year of service (except for full-time pastoral staff members who are elders), a requirement for periodic reaffirmation of election, and a provision in the nominating process whereby nominations can be made by the members of the congregation even if most nominations come from the elders themselves. This would provide additional measures of accountability to the congregation without forfeiting any essential aspects of governing authority over the congregation once leaders are elected. These factors would also provide some arguments against a self-perpetuating group of leaders who are not subject to election or periodic reconfirmation by the congregation. Nevertheless, since there is no specific directives listed in Scripture, there is room for variation in the selection or election of leaders in the church.

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