Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Cultural-ishtianity: Church Polity (Leadership)

“Polity” is a word we don’t hear used very often.  In the context of a church, it’s defined as the form of government, leadership of a religious denomination or individual church.

According to the New Testament, the Church (or individual gatherings of believers) is to be lead by, governed by, elders and deacons (see 1 Timothy 3:1-14; Titus 1:5-9).  They are to be men who are appointed (not voted on by the congregants) to leadership because they have met the qualifications that Paul specifies in 1 Timothy 3:1-14 and Titus 1:5-9.  These elders are to be considered worthy of “double honor, especially those who teach” (1 Timothy 5:17).  Yes, according to Paul, elders are to receive a stipend, especially the elder who works hard at teaching God’s Word to the congregation.  And these elders are to be protected from false accusations that could come from disgruntled members of a congregation, in the same way accusations were handled in the Old Testament, with 2 or 3 witnesses testifying as to the veracity of the charge against an elder (1 Timothy 5:19).  Otherwise, the accusation is to be ignored.

Culture has, once again, managed to seep into the Church in the area of polity/governance/leadership of the Church.  Most churches today are set up as a corporation where the lead pastor is viewed as the “CEO,” the elders/deacons are seen as the “Board of Directors” who, by the way, can dismiss the pastor/CEO whether or not he has given them a legitimate reason for doing so, simply because the “corporation” is not growing under his leadership.  The congregants are looked at as “share holders” who expect a return on their investment (i.e. their giving/donations), otherwise they grumble and complain to the Board of Directors who, in turn, threatens the pastor/CEO with dismissal if he doesn’t please the shareholders.  The "shareholders" (the members of the congregation) oftentimes vote for the elders/deacons that they want on the elder/deacon boards, as if the Church is some sort of democracy, where the majority rules.  No!  The Church of Jesus Christ is a monarchy and He, alone, is the King.

This corporate model is wrong on so many levels, the worst of which is that it completely ignores God’s instructions, as given through the Holy Spirit to the apostle Paul.  It also assumes that if the church’s numbers are growing, if there are more and more people attending a particular church, then that church is a “success,” regardless of whether or not those attending a church are growing in love and knowledge of God and His Word.

Over the years, people have asked, “How do you know if your ministry is successful?  Is it church growth? Is it the number of baptisms? Is it the number of missionaries your church supports?” and many other so-called indicators.  My answer has been, and will continue to be, “A pastor’s ministry is successful if the people whom God has given him to shepherd are more spiritually mature today than they were at this time last year because he has worked hard at explaining the Scriptures and they are growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ, whether that is a church of 20 people, 200 people or 2000 people.”

Numbers, alone, are not an indicator of “success” in the ministry of a pastor or a church.   Unfortunately, with the “corporate” model (that too many churches have adopted), far too many godly pastors, who taught God’s Word with clarity and relevance, have been dismissed because they didn’t increase the number of shareholders in the pews.

God forgive us for straying so far from His design for His Church, and help us to get back to the leadership model that’s clearly defined for the Church in the Scriptures.

By His Grace,
Gary T. Dromi, Ph.D., D.Min.