Church Government

Most Christians find anarchy as a system of government (or lack thereof) undesirable. Without restraint, society would sink into chaos and violence would be the only standard of right and wrong. They paint a bleak picture of people unbound by law.

But many of these same Christians are anarchistic in their view of Church government. They deny any form of hierarchy within the body of Christ, assuming since Protestants dispensed with the Pope, they ought to dispense with every other symbol or figure of temporal authority. This effectively leads to every man doing what is right in his own eyes, which was the deplorable situation in Israel during the days of the judges.

This doesn't even mean that everyone was doing bad things per se, but that in the absence of law man becomes his own law, good or bad. Western Protestantism with its emphasis on individuality has contributed to this kind of thinking; every Christian is expected to not only read but also interpret the Bible for themselves, and those countless interpretations have led to all sorts of practices and beliefs that may or may not be truly Biblical. This has not helped to unify the Church.

Christ Himself is head of the Church. But before He left, He appointed His apostles to shepherd the new flock. They in turn set guidelines for appointing successors to lead the Church in its earthly form. Human beings will not naturally do righ tunless there is someone to keep them accountable, and while some might claim they are accountable to Christ, that is really just a way of saying they are accountable to themselves. A congregation is a body, and every functioning body has a head. A group without leadership is not even really a group; it is a mob, and while a mob might be motivated to do good things, anything it does will be inherently disordered. God is not a God of disorder. It follows that He doesn't want His people to be disorderly.

Accepting pastors and elders as our authorities doesn't mean we've forsaken the authority of Christ. In fact, itis reinforced since He commanded us through the apostles to have leaders in the Church (Tit. 1:5-9; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Eph. 4:10-12). They are not to act as autocrats, passing down their word as law to the people, but as shepherds. Shepherds don't force or drive, they lead and guide. Pastors and elders are to be exemplary citizens in Christ's kingdom, and therefore fit to lead others. But they are also responsible to their congregations and other pastors.

Pastors, elders and deacons were not given to the Church to bind it, but to encourage and tend it. Nations need governments to keep society from falling into chaos and turmoil. The Church needs government to keep its people from slipping into unchallenged spiritual anarchy.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.


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Church Membership
9marks: Buliding Healthy Churches
by Jonathan Leeman
1st edition from Crossway Books
for Adult