One thing that has often divided the church of Jesus Christ is the whole matter of church government, particularly the whole question of independency versus denominationalism. It is with some trepidation, therefore, that we approach the subject.
We do believe that independentism is not only wrong but deadly as far as the existence of the church is concerned. We see it as a most significant reason for the decline of the church in many places.
Independentism leaves both the members and officers of the church without recourse or help when problems arise. It therefore ignores the Word of God in Proverbs 24:6 and similar passages. It does not follow the pattern of Acts 15, and it fails to promote unity on any broader basis than the local church.
Nevertheless, faults are found on the other side also. All too often the church is run "from the top down" by committees and boards for which there is no Biblical warrant, so that neither the local church nor its members have any "say" in the church. Nor are the church's leaders answerable to the members (or anyone) for their conduct.
This, in Presbyterian and Reformed denominations, is heirarchicalism, a kind of popery in which assemblies and committees have the kind of power in the church that only Christ should have. This, too, we abominate.
We believe the Bible gives us an answer that avoids the problems on both sides. That answer is, first, that congregations must join in the work Christ has given them to do for mutual help and supervision (Acts 15). This is necessary to "keep the unity of the Spirit" (Eph. 4:3).
Second, the autonomy of the local church must be maintained. It is to the church, not to church assemblies or committees, that the work of preaching the gospel, administering the sacraments, and exercising Christian discipline belongs (Acts 13:1-4, I Cor. 5:4, 5). The authority Christ has given for these things resides in the local church. The church is not, therefore, run from the top down.
This means, too, that the assemblies must be carefully limited in their functions. As in Acts 15 they must be for mutual help and advice. When they make Biblical decisions on such matters as come to them those decisions must be heeded (Acts 15:23-29). But they must be heeded not because some higher authority has decreed it, but rather because the churches themselves together have decided it in harmony with God's Word.
Third, in the local church the offices must function according to the pattern laid down in Scripture, and all the officers of the church must be answerable to the church itself, that is, to the body of believers. With all the authority Christ has given them, they are not lords over the church, but servants of it (II Cor. 4:5, Col. 4:17).
These are the first steps at least in seeing to it that things are done decently and in good order in the church of Jesus Christ. Such good order is necessary for the safety and well-being of the church.
- Volume: 6
- Issue: 14
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address317 North Park St.
State or ProvinceWA