Monday, September 22, 2008

The Church has to Accommodate Earthly Requirements

Last night our church had its second meeting in a few weeks, in order to recreate our bylaws to keep them up to date and adequate. At one point one of the women was grieved that we had to use such things in order to accomplish the business of the church--she would so much rather that we just do things biblically, and leave these other means to the business world (or at least, that's what I understood her to say). And ideally, I think she is right. If we were all continually living according to the biblical standards, it seems that we would never even have to consult this document of human origin. Still, there are a few reasons why we need the document.
The first is that we live in the world and the world requires (by law) that we set our church business up according to certain standards, such as how to deal with designated giving. Jesus acknowledged at least twice that we have to accommodate the world's requirements: first in Mt 17:24-27 Jesus said that the sons are exempt from taxes, but that Peter should take the coin from the mouth of the fish to pay the tax so that they would not offend the tax collectors; then when He said in Mt 22:21 to "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." I find it delightful that in finding the coin in the mouth of the fish, Peter received God's provision for the world's requirements of His people, and God provides for us in that regard as well.
For that matter, one of the elders last night pointed out that though we live in the world and not of the world, and God is our true and ultimate authority, He has established earthly authority over us: authority in government, in business, in families, and in church. These people are there entirely by His hand; He establishes leaders and deposes them (Daniel 2:21; Romans 13:1). The Scriptures tell of elders being selected, but leave out the exact method by which we are to choose them except that they fit certain qualifications. This leaves it up to the church to determine the further details, and if these details are recorded in the bylaws, then the church can continue to operate in an orderly manner and avoid strife and confusion; since God is a God of order, this is in line with His will. This is just one of the areas where the bylaws become helpful.
At one point I tried to articulate in the meeting (and I did a poor job of it; I was thankful for our elder and what he said that I related above) was that if we all were continually living according to the Scriptures, we wouldn't need bylaws for our own purposes; we would all be functioning according to God's will and everything would get done that He wanted. Not only that, it would be done well and without conflict or confusion. The fact is, we don't continually live very attuned to His will, and so we need an earthly framework to work out the details that aren't fully prescribed in the Scriptures. It isn't that we'd all be doing all the functions of the church, but God provides the giftedness that we need and ideally, we would each know what we individually need to do and would do it.
So we live in the world and not of the world; so our church, a living organism as our pastor points out, has to operate in this world as a business. We don't operate that business in worldly ways, suing and declaring bankruptcy and such, but we have a constitution and bylaws that help us to live peaceful and orderly lives and operate to the glory of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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