The older I get, the more I study the Bible, and the longer I stay involved in church, the more I find myself amused by statements like,
“Well, the most biblical form of church government is _____________ (insert the form you use at your church, or think should be used there), and…
“I just don’t like that approach to church government because it’s not biblical.”
I want to respond, — What do you mean, ‘biblical’? You mean there’s a verse in the bible that says how every church that must be governed? Where’s that verse?
You can find lots of references to church government in Paul’s letters, but you can also find other structures, methods, dynamics, and ways of doing things in the book of Acts, and to be very strong about this point right up front, there is not one single model that is static in the New Testament. There are just lots of examples of how early Christians got things done.
By the way, I think the central idea behind “forms” or “models” in the New Testament (if early believers even thought in such terms) was not about forms and models. It was all about mission. It was about how to process what God was doing among them in the most effective way possible. It was not about setting up an organizational structure next to some ‘Biblical’ template that they all somehow knew they were supposed to use.
If I’m right, then the most biblical way to think about church government is more like, “What structures and methods would work best for us as we keep our unique mission and challenges in mind as a congregation?” In other words, I think it is actually unbiblical to prescribe something for a congregation that doesn’t actually help them with their mission, because the Christians in the Bible structured things for their functions, and not to serve the structures themselves.
Okay, moving on – what about all those models of Church government? What are they about, how do they work, and which one do you use (or prefer to use) when thinking about how to get things done?
Consider these four typical models of church government. And by the way, you can find amazing churches doing amazing things using these models, and you can also find horrible churches using these models. At the end of the day, my suspicion is that the difference between the two is – what kind of people are using the model, and NOT what kind of model are the people using? But you can decide for yourself if you think I’m right or wrong.
After you read the four models, jump into the comments and discuss the pros and cons of each model (or the one you want to focus on).