A reflection on what makes a church legal! Is it Christ or Man laws? There are a few basic forms of local church government in the world today. Yet there are many variations to each form and also the combination of forms.
We hear heated debates, contending on which kind of government is of God and which is not, turning the church into a political arena, giving opportunities for the enemy and self centered manipulators to gain control of the ministry.
The result – loss of zeal, diversion from God’s purpose, church splits and innocent casualties. This article attempts to diffuse the confusion of the issues, hoping that the knowledge imparted here will help God’s people to tide over some rough spots or manage some growing up pains.
Let’s first familiarize ourselves with the few basic forms of government. The key to identify the form is not who is at the pulpit, or who holds the money, but who is the real decision making power.
1. CENTRALIZED- form of church government is where a central council has much authority over the running and ordinances of the local congregation. This is typical of denominational mainline churches where the pastor is appointed and regulated by the directions and rules of the central council. This kind is usually one with a long history and has established branches.
2. PRESBYTERIAN- form of church government is where the local church is governed by a board of elders which has final authority over every aspect of the church, including the appointment and work of the pastor. The pastor may or may not be a member of this board. This kind of church may be denominational or independent.
3. CONGREGATIONAL- form is where the majority rules, the democracy style of government where the people vote to elect their pastor and the church board to administer the affairs of the church. It is usually an independent church.
4. PASTORAL- form of government is where one is in authority, with the board or elders or deacons in the advisory and co-laboring capacity. The pastor receives from and is directly accountable to God, and he runs the ministry according to his depth and knowledge in God. It is usually an independent church. The person may not be a pastor in his primary call, but it is considered as pastoral in that the pastoral function has a more dominant role and the vision is more localized, called to raise a church in a particular place and time.
5. APOSTOLIC- form of government. Apostle means “one sent out”, one with an outward thrust and a pioneering or restoration cutting edge, the edge that causes revolutionary impact and can either be of a new movement or a work of extensive scale, or even both. The leader is a commander with a mandate and an extended vision which is usually cross cultural or global, but not always. He has to be one raised and equipped for the job and for the hour.
He usually presides over a council of fellow ministers that has direct calling and anointing for the thrust, covering the 5-fold ministry in varying degrees. It is a patriarchal, theocratic and can be a physical government, where the Word of God reigns supreme, where the leadership is strong and the follower-ship intelligent, where revelations from above chart the course and the leader is directly accountable first to God. Is he also accountable to the people?
Yes, but not in the same way as he reports to his God. The spiritual authority of his leaders is derived very much from ministerial calling even though seniority is respected. Dynamism, life and drive are clearly visible in such churches. It is usually an enlargement of the pastoral government with a revolutionary mandate.
The leader is usually called the senior pastor (Apostle) with different ranks of anointed pastors and leaders working with him. The title “pastors” here may mean spiritual leaders with diverse ministries. What is the right form of church government?
The right form is the specific form that God wants them to be, at a certain point and time in its growth development and in its history, and a price for change may be needed to be on the move with God. The leadership is CALLED OUT!