I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about Democracy Vs. Theocracy, church government and why we do what we do at Grace during business meetings:
First, a little Church History; the early Church in the 1st-3rd centuries was an illegal, underground church. They started out as a form of Judaism and were protected by the Roman Empire until the Emperor Nero started persecuting Christians in the mid 60s AD. There was a Jewish / Roman War from 66-70 AD culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and at that point Judaism and Christianity officially went underground. Various Emperors would order Empire wide persecutions at different points up until 311 / 312 AD when Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal. By the middle to the end of the 4th century AD, the majority of the Roman Empire was Christian and soon became the official religion of the State.
During the Middle Ages and through the Crusades up until the Renaissance and Reformation in the 1500s, there was no separation of Church and State. The Emperor and the Pope were constantly vying for power and control resulting in much corruption and hypocrisy within Christendom. The vision of St. Augustine in the 300-400s AD was that the Church and State would be one, a Theocracy like that of Israel. The word Theocracy means God (Theos) is ruling the State. So Augustine’s vision was that everyone in Western Europe (and eventually the entire world) would become Christian under the authority of God ruled by Christian Law. He believed this vision would culminate in Jesus returning (Post-Millennialism) to sit on His thrown ruling the earth.
Many Christians throughout history have shared this vision, but with variations as to how this would come about. Plus, many Christian leaders in the 1400-1500s saw hypocrisy and corruption in the Holy Roman Catholic Church and therefore decided to challenge and ultimately break away from Catholicism. William Tyndale, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Huss, and John Knox are just some of the names of leaders who broke fellowship from this corrupt Theocracy. The result? Many leaders were burned at the stake or beheaded, while others went underground and eventually came here, to America to start a new life free from persecution.
In the forming of these new groups, they were separated by miles, cultures, and language barriers; the only thing they had in common was the Scriptures. Each of these groups in forming their new “Denomination” decided to base their theology and practice on the Word of God. They each intended to “do church” like the early Christians did in the First Century. Therefore, different groups developed different forms of Church governments. For example:
– The Presbyterians established their church government around the Greek word “presbyteros”, which means elder (Titus 1:5). Hence the Presbyterians believe the church should be ruled and governed by a Council of Elders.
– The Episcopal (Anglican) Church established their form of government around the Greek word “episkopas” in 1 Timothy 3:1, which means Bishop or Overseer. Hence they believe a Bishop should oversee a region of churches with a priest appointed by the Bishop at each church.
– The Lutheran Church in Germany was still state run and therefore operated in that country in a very similar way to the Catholic Church. Same with the Anglican Church (of England).
– Free Churches began to develop in which the people did not believe that an outside entity like the State or a Pope or a Bishop from a “Denomination” should control what they did. So they formed what is known as Congregational Churches within which everyone had a voice. The challenges of this system is that it becomes a Democracy and people tend to fracture into different factions of people who agree with them resulting in church splits, etc., which is not good for unity or the name of Jesus.
In America these different kinds of churches with people from different nationalities came to our country for religious freedom from persecution, which they achieved, but a new problem arose, people started dividing over which kind of church is best. Now I want you to imagine you are a son or daughter of an immigrant and your friends in your neighborhood go to different churches with different cultural ways of doing things and with different languages, etc. You have the same basic beliefs, but perhaps the form of communion, music, or the sermons or even prayer is different, and the way decisions are made in those churches is different as well. Growing up in America we know that people have been turned off by the idea that my church is better than yours.
At Grace we realize there are people from different church backgrounds with exposure to different forms of Church Government and that they might have questions as to why we do what we do.
Democracy Vs. Theocracy – I heard a Pastor I respect once say that many churches are crumbling because they are run like a Democracy. In such a church the different branches of the church are “checks & balances” to prevent anyone from having too much control. The problem with running a church like a Democracy is it actually creates division. It causes people not to trust one another and causes leadership to fear making decisions, which results in making no decisions. Biblically, the Church is not a Democracy, but rather a Theocracy over which Jesus is the Head.
The basic bottom line for us at Grace is that Christians are supposed to be united under Jesus Christ and that He has appointed leaders (Elders / Overseers [Bishops]) to Sheppard / Pastor the flock (1 Peter 5:1-4). We recognize that the Bible says nothing about exactly how these decisions were made. Therefore, at Grace Church the reason we post the names of our potential Elders and “Deacons” three weeks in advance is so that you have time to follow the biblical guidelines of Matthew 18:15-20 if you think a person is not qualified for a leadership position. Then when we vote to affirm a person for leadership it is because we have not heard any accusations as to why such and such a person is disqualified. So what we are doing is giving people a voice (Free Church background) while doing it in a biblical way so as to affirm the decisions of our leadership in appointing leaders (Elders in Titus 1:5-6 & Deacons in Acts 6:1-7).
I hope this was informative and I hope to hear from you if you have questions.