Decision Making for the Work of the Church

question-298479_1920William J. Stewart

Each local congregation of God’s people is charged with the responsibility of engaging in the work of the Lord. There is a need for edifying teaching, effective outreach, dedicated benevolence, appropriate discipline, etc.. To properly address these and other items, there is of necessity an avenue whereby decisions can be made.

The “men’s business meeting” has become the standard practice in many churches to address these necessary decisions. Is the “men’s business meeting” a scripturally correct method to discuss and decide on the work of the local church?

Some questions to ponder regarding the “men’s business meeting”:

  • Where is an example of a “men’s business meeting” in Scripture
  • What is the difference between a “men’s business meeting” and a church council or committee?
  • What Scripture excludes women entirely from being present and participants in any part of the work of the local church? (NOTE, some may limit the nature of her participation, ie. 1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, but they do not exclude her)

Discipline (Matthew 18:15-17)
Jesus gives a 3 step process for discipline.

  • approach the offender individually (v 15)
  • take others, preferably elders, if available (v 16)
  • tell it to the church (not the elders or men) (v 17)

Local Benevolent Care (Acts 6:1-6)
Nothing contextually, nor anything grammatically would lead one to conclude that this “multitude of disciples” was exclusively male.

  • the “multitude of the disciples”, both men and women, were called together (v 2)
  • those who were called together were charged with a responsibility to select men for the position (v 3)
  • the apostles’ instruction pleased the multitude (v 5)

Doctrinal Controversy (Acts 15:1-30)
The indication is that the whole church was involved in this process, from beginning to end. Note the word “brethren” (Gr. adelphos), is generic, used of both genders. Consider that the false teachers did not just teach error in the presence of men (v 1); it was not only the men who were happy about the Gentile conversions (v 3); greetings were not only extended to the men (v 23); and Judas and Silas, when they went about, did not only exhort the men (v 32). Likewise, consider that if “brethren” were exclusive to men, the phrase “men and brethren” (v 7, 13) is redundant.

Consider the involvement of the whole church from beginning to end:

  • Paul and those with him were sent on their way by the church (v 3)
  • Paul and those with him were received by the church (v 4)
  • Discussion took place, in which even some of the troublemakers were given opportunity to speak (v 5)
  • Then, in particular, the apostles and elders took charge of the conversation over this doctrinal matter (v 6). It is evident that even in this discussion which now was limited to the apostles and elders, that the entire congregation was still present. Peter addressed,“Men and brethren…” (v 7)
  • Again, an indication that the entire congregation was present is found in verse 12, as “all the multitude kept silent” as they listened to Barnabas and Paul speak.
  • James made some comments, among them a suggestion that a letter be sent to the Gentile brethren. Verse 22 reveals that the entire congregation heard and expressed their agreement with the course of action proposed by James.
  • The letter which was then penned to the Gentile brethren was from all who were present – the whole church, to all who were in the churches among the Gentiles (v 23)
  • When Paul, Barnabas, Judas and Silas came to Antioch, the letter from the apostles, elders and brethren at Jerusalem was delivered to the whole church (v 30)

Discipline (1 Corinthians 5:1-5)
The disciples were to remove this one who was guilty of sin from fellowship. Recall, Jesus said, “tell it to the church”.

  • Paul had already determined what should be done, though he was not present (v 3)
  • He commanded them, “when you are gathered together”, to employ Biblical discipline with regard to this one (v 4-5)

Sending Messengers (1 Corinthians 16:1-4)
The church was preparing a gift to send to aid the needy disciples elsewhere. They would choose messengers to bear their gift.

  • Paul was coming through the region. Thus whomever the church at Corinth chose to send the gift with, Paul would accompany if it was desired (v 3-4)
  • In a related text, we find Paul speaking about a brother who was “chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift”. Paul does not say that he was chosen by the elders, or by the men, but by the churches (2 Corinthians 8:19)

Paul wrote, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12). The word “silence” comes from the Greek hesuchia, meaning stillness, disistance from bustle or language, quietness (Strong’s). It is the same word which is used in Acts 22:2 and 2 Thessalonians 3:12. The word does not call for absolute silence, but for a quiet, submissive disposition.

Paul wrote, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35). This word silence is from the Greek sigao, which means to keep close, secret, to hold peace(Strong’s). It is the same word which is used in Acts 15:12-13 and 1 Corinthians 14:28, 30. This word demands absolute silence. The context in which it appears addresses the use of spiritual gifts in the assembly.

Neither of these texts remotely suggest that a woman should not be present and participating in a meeting to discuss and decide upon issues dealing with the work of the local church. Nor is there any other text in Scripture which would exclude women from presence and participation in discussion about the work of the local church.

No Bible text reveals or even slightly hints of a “men’s business meeting”. This is a modern construction, another name for an exclusive committee which has taken power unto itself which God has not given. Biblical leadership belongs to the elders of the local church. In the absence of elders, we do not create a substitute structure.

The consistent pattern of the Bible is that all members of the local church of the Bible is that all members of the local church ought to be present and participants as the work of the church is under consideration. Even in the case where there are elders in the local church, the entire church was still included in the process, both men and women. Shall we not follow the direction of God with regard to His church?

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