Church & Ministry

Is Congregational Voting Biblical?

For most of us, voting is a common experience. Many vote for our government representatives and, if we are involved in civic groups, we may vote in them as well. Voting is a means by which we express self-determination. “We the people” have the privilege and duty to help choose our future directions.

Voting is also how most congregations make their most important decisions. In Episcopal-style churches, the congregation votes on large purchases and on who will serve in various leadership positions. In “representational” churches, such as Presbyterian and American Lutheran, the congregation vote on leadership appointments, large purchases, and other membership matters. Independent churches such as Congregational, Baptist, or Bible churches vote on budgets, leadership appointments, large purchases, committee appointments, doctrinal changes, and membership matters. Voting is a common practice in most congregations, granting members a voice in the church’s affairs and decision making.1

It is widely assumed that voting in church is biblical, or if not biblical, a matter of freedom. Many believe it provides safety for the congregation and is a good way to build consensus in the church. In fact, have you ever read anything to the contrary? I struggle to think of anything in print that calls into question a practice so commonplace in our churches. It’s not like anyone is debating the practice voting in our churches, or even our synods, assemblies, presbyteries, conventions, conferences, etc.

Just as we vote in church we also claim to follow the Bible. Our doctrinal statements and constitutions are up front about this. Most churches claim something similar to the following: Read more about Is Congregational Voting Biblical?

Who First Adopted Individual Cups as a Regular Communion Practice?

Individual Cups

On Sunday morning October 7, 1894, parishioners filled the Bedford Avenue Baptist Church of Brooklyn, New York, in anticipation of experiencing what The New York Times termed a “novelty in communion service” (October 8, 1894). Two newspapers had announced in late September that this church would implement individual cups. The September 28, 1894 issue of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle quoted Bedford’s pastor, J. H. Gunning, as saying that the cups would be used at the next communion service. However, attendees who arrived expecting the individual cups “were disappointed” to see the same old six silver goblets (The New York Times, October 8, 1894). After the service, Rev. Gunning called a business meeting during which he said he was anxious that his church be the first in Brooklyn to use individual communion cups. A majority voted, by standing, to purchase 200 three-inch tall silver cups lined with gold at a cost of thirty-five cents per communicant.

Up until the 1890s, Protestant churches throughout the world used common communion chalices. Some used just one, while others were known to use several in order to administer the fruit of the vine in a time-saving manner. However, churches using multiple chalices still had tens or perhaps hundreds of people sipping from the same cup during a communion service. In the late-nineteenth century, when outbreaks of diphtheria and tuberculosis were common, American sanitarians agitated to reform this religious practice—though no disease contraction had been linked to the use of a common communion chalice. Read more about Who First Adopted Individual Cups as a Regular Communion Practice?

Confronting Racism in the Church

Sermon preached at 2010 IL/MO state conference. Republished with permission from Baptist Bulletin Jan/Feb 2011. All rights reserved.

By Greg Randle

In 1865 General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, to declare to slaves there that they were free. The order that General Granger took to those slaves had been signed two and a half years earlier. So although the people had been pronounced free nearly three years before, they did not know it until the general came and told them. In essence they were still slaves. They thought like slaves. They talked like slaves. They even lived like they were slaves.

Already Free

We have a lot of Christians today who are still thinking like slaves, still talking like slaves, still living like slaves. Although our emancipation proclamation was signed two thousand years ago by the blood of Jesus, we still don’t know how to treat one another in the Lord. God wants us to be able to come together in the Body of Christ regardless of our racial background, regardless of our ethnicity—to come and experience unity and fellowship one with another. In fact, Galatians 2 challenges us about an issue that we’ve been dealing with since the beginning of time: racism. Racism is the institutional power used to hold down a certain race of people through injustice or other unkind means. And the last place we should see racism is in the church of Jesus Christ.

Peter, the apostle to the Jews, and Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, confronted this issue. We see Peter’s failure, and Paul’s freedom to help him overcome his failure. Read more about Confronting Racism in the Church

The Idea of a Standard of Ethics

Not long ago, I was paging through my copy of Voice magazine. The issue theme was “measuring church maturity,” and I wanted to see what the issue’s writers had to say on the topic. For whatever reason, church maturity didn’t suggest the idea of “ethics” to my mind. So I was surprised to see Ken Bickel’s article calling for renewed emphasis on pastoral ethics (posted here yesterday), and even more surprised to find two pages devoted to a two-part ethical standard for IFCA members.

I am not an IFCA member, and—believe it nor not—they haven’t hired me to recruit for them! But I have a lot of respect for these guys. I offer the ethical standard below as an example of the idea of a standard of ethics—an idea that more fundamentalist organizations should seriously consider, and an idea more fundamentalist pastors should seriously consider as well (present company included). Read more about The Idea of a Standard of Ethics

Revisit & Reaffirm Ministerial Ethics

Reprinted with permission from Voice magazine, Nov/Dec 2010.

The associate pastor of Country Bible Church is a multi-talented young man with great people skills. His senior pastor, also a highly gifted ministry servant, values and trusts his young associate. The younger adults of Country Bible are calling for some changes to be made in the worship services and children’s ministries of the church. The senior pastor pays attention to these calls for change, but inclines to move slowly, to allow the church body needed time to adjust to and embrace the changes. The reach and the rate of the initial phase of changes fall short of the younger adults’ desires and expectations. These younger adults begin to voice their complaints to the associate pastor. He commiserates with them, but expresses that he is basically powerless to move things along faster and further.

With frustration mounting several of the young adults begin to voice the idea of breaking away from the larger group, perhaps becoming their own congregation, but remaining under the umbrella of their present church’s organization. As that conversation continues over a period of weeks, the younger adults decide that even that idea would move too slowly and would probably not produce the results they desired. So, they begin to talk about breaking away completely and starting their own church. They approach the associate pastor with the idea and invite him to become their pastor. He finds the idea appealing, but cautions that the discussions of that possibility need to be kept secret until final decisions are made. Secrecy is preserved and the group moves persistently toward forming a new church, gathering more young adults to the idea as the weeks pass by. Read more about Revisit & Reaffirm Ministerial Ethics

Pages