True Church Government (It's Not Mere Administration!)

Yesterday I wrote about church government. But when I’m talking about government here, I’m using it in its proper sense. What I mean by that is that I'm using it in the sense of Tenet 9, as a vital aspect of the ministry of the Church and an expression of the Headship of Christ in the Body.

Lately, a usage has been beginning to creep in that would equate government with mere administration. The way we talk about it is beginning to sound like government is a terrible burden that we need to rid ourselves of. This usage has been giving the idea of church government a bad name, so let’s stop talking that way!

True church government is not an administrative bureaucracy. W.A.C. Rowe points out four elements necessary in true church government:

1. Guidance – divine government should always steer us to the Apostolic Vision of the Eternal Purpose of the Triune God in Christ. So this isn't simply a short-term guidance, or a reaction to circumstances, but something that looks far beyond present circumstances and helps us to see them in their true light.

2. Provision – church government must provide a deep spiritual ministry of the Word. In Acts 6, the apostles ordained deacons so that they could concentrate on what their role was really all about — prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). The releasing of apostleship that was called for was one of release from administration in order to feed the flock with the provision of the ministry of God's Word.

3. Leadership – church government should feed the flock, go before them, succour them, and protect them. Feeding the flock with the ministry of the Word isn't only a "maintenance" thing, but is actually how true leadership is brought. But leadership doesn't only mean leading forward, it also means protecting (which can, at times, exact a heavier toll). So that means church discipline is a vital part of this leadership role of church government.

4. Authority‘The Church must have a government which the members know to be divinely appointed and anointed to speak with conviction.’ (One Lord, One Faith, p.239) Church government doesn't work without authority. But this can't be just any old authority. It's not an authority of imposition, or one that comes from titles and positions, or from the strong character of men. No, this authority must be recognised as God's authority, so authority in church government must ultimately come from the Word of God.

By the way, just notice how the Word of God plays a vital role in each of those four elements!