The by-laws reflect a churches theology of government. It is imperative to protect your church and Pastor with Biblical, New Testament By-Laws. A church government that would allow the pastor to be removed by a congregational vote is totally un-biblical. God intends the Pastor to have authority, yet balanced with Biblical Accountability. Therefore, it is imperative to consider and identify true Biblical Patterns of Church Government, and write By-Laws that will allow God’s appointed and anointed leaders to lead, guard, guide, equip, disciple, discipline and love the people on a Biblical basis. Today we find basically two forms of church government and by-laws in widespread use, with many variations thereof.
Allow me to share a little about the basics, the “essence” of these two forms of government; From a Biblical perspective.
- Most denominations, as well as some other churches, have a “Congregational” form of church government where all power resides and emanates from the congregation, with the members of the Board of Directors (Deacons or Trustees) elected by popular vote. Often the Trustees are the Board members, having authority over land and building issues, with the Deacons over the spiritual affairs of the Church. They have brought the “Corporation” or secular “Democratic” form of governing from the marketplace of the ‘world,’ into the church. This is not Biblical at all.
- Some churches have been established with the pastor as the sole authority, and the Board clearly subservient to his direction. One pastor said to me, “Yes, I am a dictator, but I am a benevolent dictator.” Too often this thinking has come from a pastors negative experience of having to deal with a Board of Directors controlled by one or two influential, but spiritually immature people. When a pastor is put in the unrighteous and untenable position of being directed by, and accountable to people who often are not even taught, or discipled, and or are immature Christians, this pastor says, ‘Never again!” He then starts a church, with a pastor controlled form of government, where he has the last and final say, and that is just as un-biblical.
We can find no Biblical basis, in either the Old or New Testament, for either of these extreme forms of government. As a matter of fact, whenever the people in The Old Testament attempted to institute a “Democracy,” God intervened with harsh judgment.
Consider the following accounts:
- Exodus 32:26-28 – The people “voted” with their feet [against Moses], and 3000 died.
- Numbers 16:1-33; 41-50 – Korah’s rebellion against Moses brought instant death to 250 people when the earth opened up and swallowed them. Another 14,700 died in the plague that immediately followed. See VS. 3 “You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them … “ They refused to follow Moses, the man God had chosen for them. Unfortunately we see that same spirit, and many such “Korah’s rebellions,” occurring and wrecking great havoc in the church [worldwide even today].
There is a Biblical alternative to the above, and many great and vibrant churches have been established that have adopted By-Laws where authority rests primarily with the Pastor, and with the Board of Directors [hopefully elders], with no elections, voting, or committees.
NOTE: The key to the success of this is when the pastor has and maintains ACCOUNTABILITY to other pre-approved Ordained Ministers from outside the local church. Ideally, the church Board Members should be spiritually mature leaders (Elders) either from within the Church, or could even Ministers from outside the local congregation. Where initially there are no Biblical Elders to serve with the Pastor, some church leaders [pastors] ask a Pastor from another church to serve on the church Board of Directors until such time as local Church Elders are developed, recognized, and set into leadership. The sample Biblical church By Laws found in our “More Great Samples “ Manual, gives a great deal of latitude to the Pastor to lead, but they also require accountability of him to other previously identified/approved Ordained Ministers.
If the By-Laws are properly written, there will be sufficient checks and balances allowing the Pastor to stand in his appointed place, to lead with authority and confidence, and even be able to enjoy the Ministry. The people will be Biblically covered, and positioned to grow, to be equipped, to mature spiritually, and develop as over-comers, functioning in the sphere of ministry that God intends for them.
Consider if you will:
- Elders were Ordained in every Church. Acts 14:23
- Recognized by other Elders [observing their gifting, preparation, calling and anointing] and their task is:
- “..The equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ..,” Eph. 4:12
- “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” Heb. 13:17
Note: This is a “sheep” directed verse, which clearly says that the Pastor will one day be required to give an account for all that “occurs “on his watch.” When the Pastor knows he is accountable to God, but he is not allowed to lead because of un-biblical church government (By-Laws), and a domineering Board comprised of church members, he tends to experience great frustration, resulting in ‘soul killing stress’. We personally believe this is the greatest reason many pastors are leaving the Ministry today.
What if the Pastor falls into sin, becomes a Despot, a Dictator, or an unruly manipulative Tyrant? Who will rein him in, and if necessary remove him from the Pastorate of the Church?
Answer: It was not the church members who ordained the Pastor to the ministry. This was done by other Ministers. A Minister must never be judged by the church membership; It should fall to relational Ordained Ministry to hear any accusations of wrong doing in issues of integrity, finances, immorality or heretical teaching. The by laws must give those pre-approved Ministers the authority to judge the issue and, if he is found unfit to continue, if necessary, recommend a course of discipline; or even the revocation of his ministerial credentials, with their ‘findings’ and recommendations being binding on the Board.
Articles of War: It has been aptly said “the Church By-Laws are our Articles of War, written in a time of peace.” In writing the By-Laws, there are several thoughts to keep in mind:
- They must give sufficient authority to the leader to lead; and
- As described above, there must be provisions of accountability in place to protect the sheep in the event the pastor/leader would ever go astray;
- There must be a great deal of God’s Word [Relative to today’s societal 'hot button' issues] inserted into the By-Laws, that will enable the church to stand in Court.
- All the while – remembering that this legal entity, the corporation you are creating, may very well out-live those who are creating it. Therefore, if done Biblically, the By-Laws will work well for this generation of leaders and flock and for successive generations as well.
Include the Word of God: In the event of a lawsuit, we will NOT be able to use our Bibles in the courtroom, to justify our actions and demonstrate how we choose to govern on a Biblical basis. Rather, only our By-Laws will be examined. Having reviewed thousands of church By-Laws, I am always amazed at how there are [on the average] only 12 to 15 points listed in the “Statement of Faith” section. Some actually have nothing at all in them. Our Biblical By-Laws found in the “More Great Samples” Manual have 40 points.
So – in addition to the usual points on, The Bible, God, Jesus The Christ, The Creation of Man, how about adding sections on the relevant “Hot button” issues of the day. We believe it is imperative to include a great deal of scripture relevant to The Foundation Stones; Repentance; Faith; Justification; Water Baptism; Baptism in the Holy Spirit; The Ministry of the Holy Spirit; Healing; Grace and Sanctification; The Five Fold Ministry; Local Church Elders; Ordination and Commissioning; Non Voting Membership; Meeting in Private Homes; Determining use of the Church Property; Worship; Tithing, Offerings, and Giving; Benevolence; Biblical Definition of Marriage; Family; Homosexuality; Altering ones Sexual Identity [What do we believe in regards to, and how will we respond to the Transgender; the Transsexual; the Transvestite]; Advice; Guidance and Biblical Counsel; Deliverance; Discipline; and Prohibition of Lawsuits:
Regarding Lawsuits – Take a look at our Article By-Laws, Discipline, and Structuring for Lawsuits where we take even more care in the writing of our By-Laws to allow for Biblical discipline to be exorcized, and yet having the most protection from lawsuits.
POINT: If you have included these things in your church By-Laws, you can use them in your defense in the courtroom, and the name of The Lord Jesus Christ will be freely proclaimed. To the degree you have communicated [and given copies of] the By-Laws to the membership, and have developed legal membership – - even biblical discipline is possible when absolutely necessary.
Please keep in mind, the church government you design must be trans-generational. One that will work well for not only your generation of leaders and members, but for generations to come. Will the By-Laws you have [or are writing] protect the members from a pastor who goes off course? Who will determine his fitness to lead? Will the Pastor be protected from devouring sheep, and or church “Lay leaders,” who like Korah, might decide the Pastor doesn’t know anything?
If this discourse interests you, please take a look at our “More Great Samples” Manual, for sample Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws. This is an 11 step “Do it yourself” manual that will enable you to form your own Non-Profit Corporation with sample Articles of Incorporation, Biblical By-Laws and sample letters to the Secretary of State for name reservation etc. A CD is included with this manual, to easily enable you to develop your own By-Laws.
NOTE – All our materials carry a money back guarantee. If you don’t find this material to far exceed your expectations, just return it for your funds to be returned. Also – you may call us for further information at any time. Why? It is our ‘passion’ to see you succeed in your calling.
If you would like more information about similar issues, please consider “The Church Administration ‘How To’ Manual.” This Manual, endorsed by three CPA’s, an EA and two attorneys, was updated again in January, 2011, for the 12th time, since its original publication in 1991.
The above information is provided as a service to the Body of Christ by ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANCE
Copyright © 2003 by Administrative Assistance
- By-Laws, Discipline, and Structuring for Lawsuits
- Are By-Laws Required?