Thursday: Governance of the Church

Governance means getting things done.

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This is true of general social life, and it is also true of church life. Governance also involves organization, which means the organizing of things into a functioning, coherent whole with rules, regulations, and structures designed to facilitate a task at hand. Authority is also critical to governance. At the practical level of church life, who has authority to authorize things and who can be authorized to do things? Different answers to these questions have led to different forms of church governance.

Seventh-day Adventists have a representative system of church governance. Ideally, leadership acts only as representatives, receiving delegated authority and responsibilities from the membership. It is not simply enough to show that a system of church governance is based on Scripture; the exercise of authority within the system must demonstrate sensitivity to biblical values.

Look at Acts 15:1-29. What can we learn from these verses about some key principles that are involved in church organization and governance?

Whatever we can learn from these verses about church governance, one point should be clear: church organization needs to be centered around the advancing spread of the gospel. Biblically, church governance is only as good as its promotion of mission and evangelism.

We need to remember, too, that though Christ exercises His authority through His church and its appointed officials, He has never handed over His power to them. He retains the headship of the church (Eph. 1:22). The early church was conscious of the fact that they could not exercise any authority independently of Christ and His word. In Acts 15:28 it was important to the assembly that what they decided “seemed good to the Holy Spirit” (NKJV) the true representative of Christ. Holders of offices in the church today cannot act differently.

Consider Matthew 20:24-28 and 23:8. What implication is there for the exercise of authority in the church at all levels?

How willing are you to serve others? Think deeply about your own motives and what they are in regard to what you do in the church, regardless of whatever position you might hold. What are these motives, and how can they be more in harmony with the principles revealed in the Word?



Thursday: Governance of the Church — 13 Comments

  1. In my opinion Mat 20:24-28 is the hardest lesson for leaders to learn. It has been violated many times in the past at every level of church leadership. The gerrymandering and political maneuvering that takes place in the world is not to be part of the church of God. There are times when leaders seem to think it is best to become dictators in order to move the church forward but I suspect such thinking comes from the wrong side of the controversy, from the liar and deceiver who is constantly in the business of maneuvering things so that he can have his own way.

    Unfortunately, such things still exist as can be seen in the Samoan situation where a lopsided theology was presented to the church and then told what they were going to do by a top heavy hierarchy. This is not how Jesus led His disciples. He blazed the trail and they followed voluntarily just as the good Shepherd is supposed to do (Jn 10:3-4,27). Even Paul, as authoritative as he was, said to the Thessalonians, "For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us" (2 Thess. 3:7-9 NKJV) and to the Corinthians, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1 NKJV).

    All too often what leadership becomes is a do as I say not as I do kind of a thing. Leadership is an art in that people will follow a good leader to the grave where as a bad leader usually feels compelled to drive those under him to the point that they become resentful of his authority that at times ends up in total rebellion.

    • Tyler, what do you think about church people playing politics when things are not going their way, with their purse and membership? I agree with the author in the study a few days ago, and with Ken McFarland in his book, 'The Called...the Chosen, God Has Always Had a People': Church, our church is Biblical, any other way is not an option.

      • Jaun as far as I am concerned you are right to a great degree, at least up to a point, however, we are to test what we are told (1 Thess 5:21; 1 Jn 4:1). We are even to test ourselves (2 Cor 13:5). God has not told us to blindly follow just anything that passes under our nose (Eph 4:14). Jesus took a stand; so did the disciples including Paul. If they didn't there would be no Christianity and no Seventh-day Adventist church today. There is a contemporary saying that started with one of the Rambo movies, "die for something or live for nothing." We are not to be like Hindus that except everything and reject nothing. We are to stand for what is right constantly watching, constantly guarding. We should realize that in all men as it is with me that, "in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells" (Rom. 7:18 NKJV). So we need to be on guard.

        To say that the church is without fault would make the testimony of the Bible a lie. There will always be tares in the church - always sin among us whether it is among the laity or within the ranks of administration. The question is not whether it exists but rather how to deal with it?

        I think there is a proper way to relate to problems in the church and ignoring them is not one of those ways. Nor do I think we should become chronic complainers constantly griping publically but active workers and watchmen "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15 NKJV). That means that we need to follow biblical principles when confronting error and sin.

        Jesus gave us a pattern to follow found in Mat 18:15-17, "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that `by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector" (NKJV). The steps taken will vary depending on the position of the person involved but the principles are the same; keep it as local as possible working up to wider publication of the problem if the sinner resists sound counsel.

        Our attitude in all of this should always be one of redemption - always seeking to salvage as much as can be saved. If the person in the wrong is in a position of great responsibility, if at all possible, the time and talents invested in him should not be wasted but gently corrected. Even in the scathing rebukes that Jesus gave to the leaders in Jerusalem during the last day of His freedom was done with tears in His eyes (Desire of Ages 620.1, because of the great loss that was about to happen due to their stubborn rebellion against manifested love. Never should we discipline with the attitude of revenge but always like Jesus, "A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench" (Matt. 12:20 NKJV). Jesus was using the very principles He taught to His disciples:

        In the parables which Christ had spoken, it was His purpose both to warn the rulers and to instruct the people who were willing to be taught. But there was need to speak yet more plainly. Through their reverence for tradition and their blind faith in a corrupt priesthood, the people were enslaved. These chains Christ must break. The character of the priests, rulers, and Pharisees must be more fully exposed (Desire of Ages 611.2,

        He took things in stages, first in as personal a way as He could through parables that they understood but less so with the multitude or even with His disciples, then more fully, more directly as rejection mounted and the need arose. This is the way we should correct problems in the church as gently and as personally as possible.

  2. Good governance of church is important and becomes active with the support of the church members who uphold the Great Authority of Christ and His word by the leading of the Holy Spirit. A person without the Holy Spirit of God cannot uphold Christ and His Word that makes thier service to God ineffective and cold.

  3. Let me join in the discussion and have this to say. This lesson, particularly Thursday's part is meant for the leaders of responsibility. We are all leaders in our own rights and have our share of the message, however, corporately speaking, this is for those who are elected and mandated to provide sound leadership in whatever capacity at all levels of governance and at all levels of church hierarchy. For some, at the executive level, think they have veto powers to deny properly elected leaders on the floor of session (SPD 2010 session) to take up positing. Or better still, it appears they have the benefit of direct access to God to receive specific instructions denying appointment (s). Such ill-fated action is doing inconsiderable damage and injustice to the gospel which is the centrality of the church's role and function.

    Promoting regionalism and suppressing potential leaders in making are being institutionalized. These actions are intentional and strategically crafted and executed using the administrative system to justify the action and make it look good in the view of church members. What Tyler Cluthe as alluded to in his comment in this discussion page is true in many respects and evident that, political maneuvering in the secular society is seen replicated in the church governance today.

    Should the leadership at SPD is not supportive of the GC sponsored programs like triple 7 prayer and bible reading (a chapter each day commenced on the 17th April 2012) and the reading continues until last chapter to be read in 2015 GC session, than what is the SPD leadership there for?

    What am saying really is, Satan has already made his presence felt in the church. Leaders are divided in opinion, for instance, some ministers of the gospel are ignoring EGW's writings and even preach against it. Satan is applying divide and rule tactic so that when there is discord, no progress and no gain.

    God retained the headship of the church according to Eph. 1: 22 and no one should in any form or shape claim the authority or employ an autocratic style of leadership but prayerfully in a consultative manner, emulating great patriarch and gospel champion like Paul, allow the headchip of the church to be in the lead and follow.

    What is being unraveled in the church's cycle of leadership is apparently the doing of the arch deceiver, the devil. Unbeknown, some leaders are merely to sustain the cause of Satan derailing and impeding the success of the gospel.

    It is my prayer that should God willing, we will envision a change in leadership of Paul's character with H/Spirit led and evangelistic orientated personality to lead particularly at all levels of governance at the corporate level to an unprecedented level adding souls to the church in readiness for the soon coming of the King of the universe.

  4. It is an interesting story and lesson for today, knowing willingly what as leaders of God's church we ought to to. Many leaders in offices have taken the work for which they are do as personal work in which they think without them the Church will dissolve. They wanted to be treated as kings and queens, sometimes their decisions are final and they even tend to be dictators of the church. Let every soul render his service to mankind as to God not to take pride because our reward is from above not on this earth. There is an accountability in whatever work we are rendering, let us desist from all sort of devilish attitude and lead an exemplary life for others to follow whiles we are leaders.

  5. Governance is crucial to any organization being successful and the church is no different. Heaven's governance was violated by Satan, he was given a chance to get back in line, he never did and was ejected. We all must cooperate with the governance of the church, we all should remember that the principles are listed in the Bible and that Christ is the Head of the church, not any sinful man like myself.

  6. Church governership in Kenya has become so political, esp at the conference level, it is campaign proper for the leadership positions where even fists are at times exchanged - even after elections you would hear of votes of no confidence being passed on those who are more straight in their leadership. Pray for our people and the church of God.

    • Its sad , yes very sad indeed, from Kenya central conference to south Kenya and even Nyamira conference. But my hope and even greater hope is the lesson that God or rather our Redeemer Christ never gave anyone power to control things, events, programs, and even human life as it's directed. Christ is still in our midst, will be with us always. He abides in those who are truly His. The question is are we his, are we his brothers, family members and also are we of the same church as he is (assembly, congregation)?

  7. When it comes to the issue of posts in our conferences and divisions, there is rotation of same people where as there is need for new people with new visions. Moreover, everything is being politicized especially in southern Africa, there is too much of politics. May the Lord help us not to take worldly things into church.

    • Our church today is filled up with jealous people who want their friends to fail when they are in leadership. They take yearly leaderships as competition. Some do not want the current leadership to do better than them. They want always people to listen to them always even if they are not in leadership that year. When their friends are leading they are busy decampaining them. This is the time when issues of sideward boards in our church should stop. This is the time when we need to work together for the common goal. When our leaders are erring let us approach them and talk to them nicely. The church is not the fighting ground but it is where we go and seek salvation from our lord.

      Sometimes you find even our pastors are selfish. They are acting as church elders not guides for the incumbent leadership to perform within the bounds of our church. They co-opt with the outside "retired" elders who are somehow disgruntled. God should help us. This is the snare the devil has put in our church for us to spend time quarrelling over trivial matters forgetting our mission. Please pastors and elders let us learn to follow the church principles and the Bible as we lead the church.

      Sometimes we find ourselves evangelizing but now forgetting to find ways to keep the converted souls in the church. This week's lesson teaches us to strike a balance between church fellowship and evangelism. The lesson teaches us also that all the talents in the church work together to advance the gospel of our Lord. Let us not demean others who do not have preaching talents but have, say, singing talents etc. no talent is superior to the other. Let us not push others to have talents like ours or to do as we a-ah. We are one body that augments with each other to the common success of our church.

      God bless

  8. True leadership is a "responsibility" seeking to serve and not seeking "honor" ~ Period!

    Example; Moses opting to leave Egypt to serve his fellow Israelites; Jesus choosing to wash His followers feet instead of having His washed.

  9. Church today should not concentrate much on wrongs of the leader. God himself tells that he's the power to enthrone and dethrone. Surrender all to him..


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