The Forum

The Forum

This department is provided for the free and courteous discussion of biblical and spiritual problems which may be considered edifying to the people of God. Letters concerning such matters are requested.

Dear Editor:

Could the following statement taken from Bible Problems and Answers, page 135, be used to compliment an answer given by R. McC. in The Forum of the March issue in regard to substituting a general church business meeting in place of a godly oversight?

I thought the answer given by R. McC. very good and would like to see a further consideration of his thoughts.

The Question: Is it scriptural to call the whole assembly together to discuss business matters in the assembly?

The Answer: from Bible Problems and Answers, Hoste and Rodgers: “I do not know of any Scripture which would favour such a custom and judged merely by ordinary standards of common sense and business principles, I should think it very unlikely to result in good to the business or to the assembly as a whole. What profit could come from listening perhaps to differences among elder brethren? An assembly of God is not a debating society nor a democracy, in which rule is from beneath, it is a theocracy in which rule is entrusted by the Holy Spirit to those He has fitted for the work. “Take heed… .to all the flock (not your flock) over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers” Acts 20-28. Read Hebrews 13:7, 17. also 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13.

The answers which follow are from two experienced brethren, one who has spent many years on the mission field, the other who has gained considerable experience among the assemblies on this continent.

Answer (A.N.)

The local assembly in Philippi comprised Saints — all in the assembly; Bishops — overseers or elders, with spiritual responsibilities; (Phil 1:1). Deacons — serving in business matters and also, when necessary, in ministry.

The ‘Bishops’ (overseers) and ‘Deacons’ are grouped together. This is suggestive.

The ‘Oversight meeting’ is usually one that requires elders and deacons to be closely associated in conferring together on matters relating to the assembly. Such a meeting should be held regularly and there the business matters of the assembly discussed.

Special matters of a spiritual nature, involving questions of doctrine or procedure based on doctrine, or moral conduct of individual members, may wisely be entrusted to the elders (or bishops or guides), who watch for souls. Such meetings would be convened as occasions arise.

In addition to these, since all the saints give regularly to the Lord’s work and the recurring expenses of the assembly, they should be kept informed regularly of the financial position of the assembly, the expenditure and distribution of the offerings, and general proposals for larger future expenditure and additional assembly activities. For such reports and proposals, a fellowship meeting of all the saints in the assembly twice a year has often been found necessary and always profitable.

Answer (J.N.)

From such passages as Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3, it is evidently the Lord’s will that local churches should have both “bishops” (overseers, elders, pastors. See 1 Peter 5:1-4) and “deacons,” and that both should have spiritual qualifications for their work. While Scripture does not give us direct guidance as to meetings for discussion of business matters, such meetings are obviously necessary and should be convened from time to time as convenient. Elders, having a particular care for the spiritual well being of the assembly, will wish to meet to ponder the spiritual needs and problems of the believers and the work. These meetings may be regular or called for on occasions; by their nature, they should be private gatherings of the oversight. Matters for prayer and consideration will include: the spiritual progress (or lack of it) of the babes in Christ as well as more mature believers; evidence of spiritual lethargy or backsliding in any — and the appropriate steps that should be taken; visitation needs and problems, discipline, and restoration; requirements of spiritual food and ministry, etc.

Li addition, more general meetings — of both elders and deacons—to consider particularly the financial and material aspects of the work of the assembly will profitably be held at regular intervals. These should in no way replace the meetings of elders.

Bitter divisions are more than a weakness, they are a sin. The Lord prayed for us: “That they all might be one … that the world may know” and, surely, one of the saddest reasons for the failure of our evangelistic efforts is our tragic lack of unity. Paul in 1st Corinthians deplored the “Paul” and the “Apollos” and the “Cephas” parties in the church in Corinth, but his strongest reprimand was for those who actually dared to boast: I (only) am “of Christ.” Let us be exercised about fostering the unity, the Lord prayed for, lest we be “ashamed before Him at His coming.”