Church meetings on business matters

Alan Martin

Bible Study Topical Series

Lesson 11: Church meetings on business matters

1 Tim 2:8-15 (KJV)

8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

Paul gave instructions contrasting what men and women are permitted to do. In context he was talking about spiritual matters – prayer, modesty, teaching, raising children to be faithful. Men are to take the lead in praying (1 Tim 2:8), in teaching “with all authority” (Titus 2:15), and in church leadership (1 Tim 3:1-7). And women are to be quiet, modest, learners “with all subjection” (1 Tim 2:11). And they are not to teach nor “usurp authority” (KJV), “have authority” (NKJV), “exercise authority” (NASV) over the man, but to “be in silence” (1 Tim 2:12). The woman is to “learn in silence” and “be in silence” (1 Tim 2:11-12).

The term “silence” (1 Tim 2:11-12) is hesuchia, and ... denotes "quietness," 2 Thess 3:12; it is so translated in the RV of 1 Tim 2:11,12 (KJV, "silence"); in Acts 22:2, RV, "(they were the more) quiet," KJV, "(they kept the more) silence," lit., "they kept quietness the more." (Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words)

The woman’s place of subjection in the church is consistent with the woman’s place of subjection as established by God (Genesis 3:16; 1 Cor 11:3; 1 Cor 14:34-35; 1 Tim 2:13-14; 1 Peter 3:1-6).

In recent years some have been advocating that women should have equal or greater roles of authority in the home and in the church. We see the fruits of this in denominations having women ministers and women elders. Even in the church some are advocating that women take the lead in the worship service and in the leadership of the church. Instances abound. Some today are saying that the business concerning the church should be conducted with the whole church present (including women) in a “general business meeting” (as I encountered three times in California). The idea is all should have equal participation in the discussion leading to decisions and that a consensus of the membership should be reached in order for decisions to be valid. This comes from an incorrect understanding and application of certain passages (see Appendix). The consensus of the membership is not always correct (1 Cor 5:1-2).

Following are the terms used to describe the position and duties of the elders, the leaders/managers of the church:

Elder -- a term of rank or office; as such borne by … b. among Christians, those who presided over the assemblies (or churches): Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2,4,6,22 f; 16:4; 21:18; 1 Tim 5:17,19; Titus 1:5; 2 John 1; 3 John 1; 1 Peter 5:1,5 (Thayer’s Lexicon).

Bishop -- an overseer, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian, or superintendent … Specifically, the superintendent, head, or overseer of any Christian church; Vulgate: episcopus: Acts 20:28; Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:7 (Thayer’s Lexicon).

Pastor -- a herdsman, especially a shepherd … the presiding officer, manager, director, of any assembly: so of Christ the Head of the church, John 10:16; 1 Peter 2:25; Heb 13:20 … used of the overseers of the Christian assemblies (A.V., pastors), Eph 4:11 (Thayer’s Lexicon).

“Feed” the flock -- to feed, to tend a flock, keep sheep … to rule, govern … of the overseers (pastors) of the church, John 21:16; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2 (Thayer’s Lexicon). Have the “rule” over -- to lead … to be a leader; to rule, command; to have authority over … so of the overseers or leaders of Christian churches: Heb 13:7,17,24 (Thayer’s Lexicon).

Not as “lords” -- to hold in subjection, to be master of, exercise lordship over. tinos, Matt 20:25; Mark 10:42; 1 Peter 5:3 (Thayer’s Lexicon). Thayer references the Greek term used here for “lords” as being in three passages in the New Testament (Matt 20:25; Mark 10:42; I Peter 5:3), and shows a rule by force and intimidation as used by Gentile kings. Dictators exercise lordship and rule by force and intimidation. An example of one who loved to lord it over the church is found in Diotrephes (3 John 9-10). But elders are to rule as Jesus, the chief shepherd, does (1 Peter 5:1-4) – leading, guiding, feeding, overseeing, managing, watching over and protecting the flock, considering the needs of the flock, setting the proper example for the flock, and being self-sacrificing for the benefit of the flock.

Thus, elders, by definition -- are those who preside, superintend, head, oversee, manage, direct, rule, govern, lead, command, have authority over the church (congregation) among them (1 Peter 5:1-2). Jesus is the Chief Shepherd (pastor). Elders are to follow his example in leading (1 Peter 5:1-4). Elders are to rule always seeking to do Jesus’ will, and always looking out for welfare of the flock.

The elders are to set the best possible example for the flock (Heb 13:7; I Pet 5:3).

The area of rule for the elders is not legislative – they do not create laws. Jesus is the lawgiver (James 4:11-12). Elders are to tend and care for and protect the flock, and work to spread the gospel to the lost. They are to execute the will of God and make righteous decisions, within the confines of the law of Christ (1 Cor 10:23).

Their rule is to see that the will of God is carried out in the congregation with respect to evangelism, edification of the saints, and benevolence toward needy saints.

And we have the responsibility to abide by their decisions as long as these decisions are righteous decisions in harmony with the scriptures (Heb 13:17).

Among the requirements for elders, the leaders and managers of the churches, is that they are to be men (I Tim 3:2, Titus 1:6). From these passages it is manifestly evident that God intended that men -- not women -- handle the leadership/management responsibility of the congregation. Qualified men, not women, are to rule the house and the church of God (1 Tim 3:4-5; Gen 3:16).

And there is to be a plurality of elders in every church (Acts 14:23; I Pet 5:1).

And as the definitions and passages relating to the eldership indicate, they make up the leadership/management of the church.

In the absence of qualified elders, then the godly men of the congregation must step forward and do the best they can under the circumstances to conduct business. Leading the church is not to be a matter of majority rule, where babes in Christ have as much say as those mature in the faith.

When we have general business meetings, where all members are required to attend, and give their voice, and where a consensus of the membership is required to validate decisions, then we have gone beyond the intent of the Scriptures regarding the management of the church.

Meetings are not to be a vehicle for majority rule where a consensus of the brethren, men and women, is required in order to conduct business. Important. We should not place women in a position where they are required to direct concerning the affairs of the church. We place them in a precarious position inconsistent with the Lord’s desire concerning their role of submission, and concerning the makeup of the gender of the management team for the church. We have women acting in a leadership/management capacity when ultimately they can never qualify under the law of Christ to be a leader/manager (an elder).

Allan Martin

Appendix

Following is an analysis of passages sometimes used by some to justify women participating in church leadership/management meetings:

The neglect of widows in Acts 6:1-6

A problem existed in the infancy of the Jerusalem church – Grecian widows were being neglected in the daily ministration (Acts 6:1).

Word came to the Apostles (the leaders/managers of the early church) – there was complaining. The problem was identified (Acts 6:1-6). At this point we can see that the church as a whole could not arrive at a satisfactory solution to the problem. They needed guidance from those in the church who were the leaders/managers.

Did the church have a general business meeting (management meeting) with men and women present to decide what to do to solve the problem? There is no evidence of that at all. As a matter of fact, the Jerusalem church measured in the multiplied thousands (Acts 2:41-47; Acts 4:4; Acts 5:14; Acts 6:1), which would have made a “congregational” management meeting difficult to say the least.

The management solution to the problem was decided upon before there ever was the congregational meeting referred to in Acts 6:2. The apostles called this congregational meeting, not to deliberate and work out a management solution to the problem, but to present the already-arrived-at management solution.

The solution included specifics – “men” were needed, seven in number, were to be godly men, would be placed over the business of waiting on tables – and “the apostles” would have the final say over the choices as “they would do the appointing” (Acts 6:3).

The management solution concerning the “business” of insuring care of the Grecian widows was presented to the congregation, with the management instructions to implement the solution (Acts 6:3-4).

It pleased the church, and they did carry out the management solution and directions to select the men (Acts 6:5-6). A selection, election process is not a management meeting. Then the Apostles appointed them to be over this “business.”

So the process involved – a problem, an identification of the problem, a management solution, a presenting of the solution to the church, instructions by management that the church implement the solution, and finally the church acting and carrying out the solution.

The problem of certain men going out from the Jerusalem church to Antioch and teaching false doctrine (Acts 15)

A problem existed. Judaizing teachers were going from Jerusalem to Antioch teaching that circumcision and the law of Moses was binding on the Gentiles (Acts 15:1,24).

Paul and Barnabas opposed these teachers at Antioch (Acts 15:2). Paul and Barnabas had the truth on the matter – that the Gentiles did not need to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses.

The false teachers had come out of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:24). So, Paul and Barnabas and certain others took the problem back to Jerusalem where it had originated (Acts 15:2). Note carefully that the problem was not taken back to the whole congregation for resolution (numbering in the thousands), but rather “unto the apostles and elders” at Jerusalem, the leaders/managers of the church (Acts 15:2). There certain of the sect of the Pharisees persisted in arguing that Gentiles needed to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses (Acts 15:5). The errant teachers had their day in court, so to speak, weak as it was (Acts 15:5).

The apostles and elders (the management of the Jerusalem church) came together to consider the matter (Acts 15:6). The Scriptures say, that it was the apostles and elders that came together to consider the matter, not the whole church (which numbered in the thousands). Use common sense. Contextually, the “multitude” (Acts 15:12) refers to those who came together. The apostles and elders had to determine how to deal with the issue and the confusion caused by members from Jerusalem teaching error. The multitude had to keep silence to allow two individuals, Paul and Barnabas to give their testimony (Acts 15:12). Then the silence continued to allow James to give his sentence on the matter (Acts 15:13).

So, the truth was taught by the apostles, and it prevailed. That truth was that God does not require Gentiles to be circumcised and keep the law, but rather all are saved in the same way – by faith in Christ (Acts 15:7-21).

A determination was made on how to resolve the matter. The truth should be taught to the brethren at Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, and the truth would clear up the confusion. Letters would be prepared and carried to the brethren at Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia explaining to them the truth on the matter, and that the Jerusalem church didn’t send these men to teach Judaism (Acts 15:24). Rather, it would be explained that these men had acted without authority (Acts 15:6-21,24).

The management solution to send explanatory letters to the affected brethren in Antioch and surrounded areas had been made. Obviously, the brethren in the church at Jerusalem were apprised of this solution, because all concerned, the apostles and elders with the whole church were pleased with this solution (Acts 15:22). The letters were written and men were chosen (Paul, Barnabas, Judas, Silas) to send the letters, in the name of the apostles and elders and brethren, to the affected brethren (Acts 15:22-31). The solution worked, and the brethren in Antioch rejoiced (Acts 15:30-31).

So, the process involved – a problem, a referral of the problem back to its source, a deliberation and a solution of the problem arrived at by leadership/management, making known the solution to the whole church, and an implementation of the solution by the whole church (the sending of men with letters of clarification concerning justification by faith).

The handling of the fornicator in I Corinthians 5

Did the whole church meet, decide that there was a problem with a fornicator, and then hammer out a management decision on how to handle the problem? Absolutely not!! They were not even acknowledging that there was a problem (I Cor 5:1-2).

Paul, a spiritually minded apostle, identified the problem in his letter to them, and gave the solution (I Cor 5:3-13).

The church was to meet to implement the solution laid out by Paul – to withdraw from the ungodly member.

Once again this was not a management meeting by the whole church to deliberate and make management decisions on discipline.

There was no men and women’s church management meeting here.

Paul and Barnabas’ meeting with the church at Antioch to rehearse the things God had done through them (Acts 14:27)

Did the whole church meet to make management decisions on evangelism?

Or did they meet to receive Paul and Barnabas’ report of their work on their preaching journey?

Paul and Barnabas, under direction by the Holy Spirit, had been sent from Antioch to do the work by the male prophets and teachers in the church (Acts 13:1-3).

Upon their return the church met to listen to Paul and Barnabas tell about their work of the preaching of the gospel in a foreign field.

This was not a management meeting to deliberate and decide what fields to explore, who to support, etc.

There was no men and women’s management meeting there.

The home is not a democracy -- the wife’s feelings must be respected and noted, but in the final analysis the husband as the head of the family must make the decisions.

Likewise, the church is not a democracy -- and decisions are not to be made on what the majority thinks

God has ordained that godly, spiritually minded, elders oversee and manage the church

He placed stringent requirements on the eldership -- because He wanted men with the godly wisdom of age and experience in family management to be the leaders and decision makers for the flock

God’s appointments are always right -- let’s respect and abide by God’s appointments.