Does it really matter how we govern our churches? Do we really need church networks and denominations? D. A. Carson and Vuyani Sindo declare it does.
Vuyani Sindo: “The difficulty I have with that question is that I am going to appeal to my Anglicanism! I don’t want to impose that in terms of church governance and church networks, but I mean… at the same time, I am part of REACH SA because I do like what we do!
Keeping the Pastor Accountable
The fact that, for example, the pastor is employed by the Council – which I think has that element of accountability. And so, I think, you do need a group of elders who are going to hold the pastor accountable on the things he does. I don’t want to prescribe though – and say that is the only model! But I find it helpful that the pastor is not the main guy who employs everyone. Who fires everyone. But that there are people that he himself is accountable to. But again I think that falls under the area of general wisdom in how God’s people should handle the affairs of the Church.
Keeping the Elders Accountable
Don Carson: “Yes. Prudential wisdom as Mark Dever likes to speak of. The principles are pretty clear. But the actual mechanics of how it works out will vary a bit from place to place. But there needs to be some possibility of holding not only an individual elder accountable. But once in a while you get a whole Council of elders going off the edge somewhere theologically or in some other way. And there’s got to be a way for the church as a whole meeting in assembly to decide what to do.
instead of hiding stuff from the church – whenever things get really, really, really tense – that’s the time to let it all hang out and tell it to the church.
The Wisdom inherent in the Church Body
“When the whole church comes together and my Spirit is with them then this is what I want you to do” Paul writes to the Corinthian assembly. So the church, the church together often has more wisdom under the Spirit than people will expect. It’s not for nothing that Jesus says in Matthew 18 “tell it to the church.” And instead of hiding stuff from the church – whenever things get really, really, really tense – that’s the time to let it all hang out and tell it to the church. And then, I think, you will often find much more Spirit driven wisdom in the body of the church than would be the case because you got 5 guys in a room somewhere trying to sort it out.
you will often find much more Spirit driven wisdom in the body of the church than would be the case because you got 5 guys in a room somewhere trying to sort it out.
Church Networks in the New Testament
The new Testament descriptors aren’t exactly the same. They clearly don’t have denominations and so on. But what you do find is apostolic communication is crossing from geographical area to geographical area. Paul can write a letter to the Collosians and say “meanwhile make sure that you read the letter that I sent to Hyanapollis and Laodicea, and this sort of thing. So that there is some inter-church play. Paul can send off some of his emissaries off to Ephesians – to Ephesus – to look after the church there. And in his letters “those from Italy greet you.” Things like that. There is clearly some cross-church fertilisation at a time when there was more transportation and communication in the Roman world that any time in the Western world until the 18th Century. Because the Roman roads were so good. They didn’t have cell phones but they did communicate! And the letter system wasn’t all that bad either.
Churches are not Meant to Operate in Isolation
So, there is clearly some sort of concern for cross-church, cross-area communication. And cross-cultural care – especially on the Jewish-Gentile front. So the churches in Macedonia and Greece are supposed to be gathering money together to help the poor in Jerusalem. So, they are not little isolated communities; hermetically sealed off. “Me and my church and my patch. And don’t bother me with anything else!” There’s supposed to be the casting of a worldwide vision. And he wants people to pray for him – for his ministry – that he can go on to Spain and plant the Gospel there. And he can tell people that he’s god a wide open door in Ephesus – that there are many adversaries and so on.
We must remember that we’re concerned for Christians from every tongue, tribe and people and nation – preparing for the glorious mix around the throne on the last day.
Paul is thinking globally. He is thinking missionally, and he is trying to pass that on to churches as well. So, however you build the structures, and to do that can vary quite a bit from place to place, you have got to try to do it. Don’t become a little hermetically sealed off community – that is really important. We must remember that we’re concerned for Christians from every tongue, tribe and people and nation – preparing for the glorious mix around the throne on the last day.