A Preview of the Upcoming Weekend | December 11, 2022

Throughout the history of Christian movement, there have been 3 ways in which Jesus’ leaders have organized and governed local churches.  You should know!  The three ways are not “all the same thing.”

One form of governing the church is called EPISCOPAL governance.  “Episcopal” is a word found in the Bible, in the New Testament, meaning “overseer” or “bishop.”  Churches with this form of government are led by a bishop.  Final authority for decisions effecting a church lies with him (or her).  This is the form of governance used by the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican (or Episcopalian) Church.

A second form of governing the church is known as PRESBYTER (or “elder”) governance.  Churches with presbyterian governance agree that final authority for decisions effecting a church likes with a group of “presbyters,” or elders.  These are usually individuals selected based on qualifications outlined in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.  This form of governance is used by Presbyterian churches, as well as some Lutheran and Methodist fellowships.

A third form of governing the church is CONGREGATIONALISM.  In this form, final authority for decisions effecting the church lies with the congregational membership; that is, with those who have become members of the church as directed by the church’s by-laws.  A “congregational church” may have “overseers” and “elders” in leadership, who have a measure of decision-making authority.  But that authority is granted to them by the members as outlined in the ministry’s by-laws.

You may have at least 2 questions when you think about our church, the Free Church of Cañon City.

  • Which of these “governing forms” is what the Bible calls for?
  • Which of these do we – the Free Church – use?

If you are asking, Which church governing form is Biblical?,  it is fair to say that you can make a case for any of these forms.  Your preference will depend on what practices in the historic church you see as “prescriptive.” Also, how you interpret the importance of certain passages which speak to church organization.

Those who prefer the EPISCOPAL form see much of the early Apostles’ authority handed off to a leading priest or bishop.  Thus (they would argue), the priest or bishop should be in charge.

Those who prefer the PRESBYTERIAN form emphasize the New Testament passages where a plurality of elders in a local church appear to have been given authority to lead, with the constituency in submission to that group.

Those who prefer the CONGREGATIONAL form recognize that the Scriptures teach there are to be elder-leaders in the church.  Nonetheless examples found in the New Testament books suggest that often, elder-leaders brought pending decisions “to the entire congregation” for affirmation and implementation.  In other words, leaders took steps to ask for and secure congregational agreement.

The Free Church of Cañon City is affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church of America.  Our “free church movement” began in Europe, and came to the United States with immigrants in the 19th century.  Free Churches from the beginning adopted the CONGREGATIONAL form of church governance.  Meaning?  Free Churches recognize that, under the Lord Jesus Christ, final decision-making authority lies with the membership of the church.  
Our church is such a fellowship.  Our by-laws direct that leaders who have delegated authority from the membership must bring key decisions to the membership for consideration and approval.
All of what you’ve just read is meant to prepare our congregational members to make some important decisions in the next 45 days.
Our December 11th meeting will prepare you to prayerfully investigate
before your January 22 opportunity to vote.
  • On December 11 @ 4:30 PM, our members will gather for the presentation of a Senior Pastor candidate, to lead our staff and ministry for years to come.  Why?  Because according to our by-laws, the Free Church’s congregational members are to vote on who the Senior Pastor shall be. This meeting will prepare you to prayerfully investigate before you vote.

  • On January 10-15, from Tuesday through Sunday, our congregational members will have the chance to meet the candidate with a view to voting “yea” or “nay” on his candidacy.

  • On January 22 @ 4:30 PM, the members will vote.  According to our by-laws, the vote for someone to be our Senior Pastor must be at least 75% affirmative.

“Congregational” governance is based on the view that God’s will for a local church is indicated, by the Spirit of God, through the vote of the membership.  Bottom line?  Our congregational membership meetings are important!

Therefore!!!   Please be praying, and planning to attend this Sunday’s meeting.  And may the Lord Jesus Himself, who has final authority in His body, the church, indicate His will for our future through us.

See you Sunday!
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