Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Authority and Church Government

God’s visible and invisible creation is upheld by His authority and law.  The same goes for His new creation, the church, with Jesus Christ as her head.  So He will direct good and wise rulership.

  1. As with the cosmic creation God delegates stewardship to His humanity, so with the church, Christ appoints ministries to govern and promote her life.
  2. Useful principles and patterns emerge from the administration of God’s people in the Old Covenant.  Early church congregations followed a structure that originated in Jewish synagogues.
  3. Church government works through three broad groups: apostolic ministries, teams of elders, and the whole body of disciples.  There’s a balance to be struck with family authority and civic responsibility, too.
  4. Apostolic ministries lead in newer church planting situations.  Elders are appointed/commissioned to establish good order and provide teaching, etc.  The whole church recognises the Holy Spirit’s activity, and by willing and intelligent obedience promotes God’s purposes.
  5. God judges independence, pride and disobedience, but blesses mutual submission, humility and obedience.  Church government necessarily includes resolving conflicts, contentions, and disorderliness.
  6. Society generally says it’s respectful about Jesus but disillusioned with the church.  We need to communicate our structures, procedures and roles in a positive light.  Hierarchy and male leadership have become negative concepts.  Although the most common words for the local church are borrowed from family life, some decision-making is best handled by a smaller group known to be equipped for the need.
 What’s this about?  The Lord is sovereign in creation and new creation.  In both He delegates responsibility to His human sons.  Throughout church history there’ve been both fruitful and unhelpful patterns of government.  Jesus Fellowship follows the radical tradition of apostolic, eldership and congregational organisation.
HEBREWS 13:7  Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.  They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.  Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.


Old Covenant pattern.  The symbol of authority for God’s people is the shepherd’s rod or staff.  God’s purpose in setting authority over us is protection and guidance even if it involves corrective discipline.  Moses had too much on, so delegated levels of responsibility.  Peter refers to each elder’s allotment (1 Peter 5:1-3).
EXODUS 18:13  The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening.  14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, "What is this you are doing for the people?  Why do you alone sit as judge,    20 Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform.  21 But select capable men from all the people -- men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain -- and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.  22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times,


Apostolic.  Foundational ministries plant new churches, and run them until men of sufficient quality and maturity arise to be called into on-going rulership responsibility.  The apostles then maintain a watching brief.
ACTS 14:23  Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.
ACTS 15:36  Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing."


Apostles and elders.  If a major issue affects the church, all the senior leaders get together to sort it out.
ACTS 15:5  Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses."  6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question.    22  Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.  They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers.    30 The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter.  31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.

Pastor Elders.  We never find elders operating on their own, to prevent pride, polarisation and overload.  They’re good examples, work hard, are targets of attack, sometimes fail, and need recognising/appointing carefully.  Elders are alternatively known as pastor/shepherds, overseers or bishops.  They qualify by their good hearts (see John ch 10). 
1 TIMOTHY 4:14  Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.    17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.    19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.  20 Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.    22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others.  Keep yourself pure.


The congregation.  The church, listening to the Holy Spirit, has a voice in important management issues.
ACTS 6:3  Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.  We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."  5 This proposal pleased the whole group.  They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.  6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.  7 So the word of God spread.


Jesus Fellowship.  Whilst all recognise the presence of the Lord in His church, He, and we, also uphold:
Natural and extended family heads: eldership qualification starts with life at home (Ephesians 5:22-6:4, etc).
Deacons of all kinds: responsible for practical matters - money, domestic affairs, premises, events, etc.
Assistant Pastors: brothers recognised with a pastoral gift and responsible for their own group of "sheep".
Household leadership team, including two pastor/elders: responsible for cell groups and all the attached members.
Senior Leaders: overseeing more than one church household (or a congregation) in a Region.
Apostolic Leaders: responsible for more than one Region; and perhaps also a Multiply main leader.
Civic authority: self-regulating institutions, including some churches, aren’t above the law (1 Peter 2:13,14).
ROMANS 5:17    how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
1 PETER 2:13  Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men:

Scripture quotes from the New International Version.
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Application.  There are no ranks in the modern Jesus army.  But Paul, with his team, wasn’t ashamed of the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, (2 Corinthians10:8).
·       Share about past bad experiences you’ve had of authority that hinder your present place in the church.
·       Are there leaders you need to honour more, or ones who need to be more honourable? What will you do?
·       Can you explain to a sceptic how Jesus Fellowship church government works, is biblical and appropriate?

Break into joy!
You mountains and you cedar trees!
Burst into praise!
Let all creation worship Him!
He is the Lord!
He is our God, the Lord Almighty,
And He has a Name above all other names!
He is the Lord, Jesus!

2. We'll shout for joy!
He has destroyed the powers of hell!
We'll sing His praise!
Oh everything He has done well!
He's King of kings!
He has all majesty, authority,
His Kingdom rule shall be without an end!
He is the Lord, Jesus!

3. We'll sing and shout!
For He has won the victory!
We'll dance about!
Oh what a mighty Lord is He!
We'll magnify the Lamb of God, the great "I am"
For He has conquered by His blood eternally!
He is the Lord, Jesus!.

4. We'll celebrate!
For He has washed us by His Blood!
Friends through the Cross!
Now we are reconciled to God!
We're joined with Him
And we now reign with Him triumphant,
Demonstrate the rule of heaven here on earth!
He is the Lord, Jesus!

5. He builds His Church!
The gates of hell shall not prevail!
He builds His Church!
Now all the powers of darkness quail!
He is the Lord!
Now unto Him be all authority, dominion, power
            and everlasting praise!
He is the Lord, Jesus!

NCCC © Jesus Fellowship Songs/CopyCare Ltd

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