Elders Rule! But Congregations Decide

"They understand 'ruling' to mean that elders make decisions for the congregation, and they understand 'obeying' to mean that the congregation knuckles under to those elder-made decisions. The question is whether this construal really does justice to the evidence."
Elders Rule! But Congregations Decide

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Rob Fall's picture

Ted, the population of the City and County of San Francisco is 825,111.  The communities and cities between San Francisco's southern boundary and San Francisco International Airport (Daly City, Colma, South San Francisco, San Bruno, Brisbane, Broadmoor and Pacifica) total 213,016.  This totals 1,038,127 divided up among various and sundry ethnic, linguistic, and geographic communities.

FYI, by "Biblical illiteracy" I mean folks who have no idea or conception of basic Biblical usages.  To put it simply, they don't know either Genesis or Revelation even exist.

Ted Bigelow wrote:

my immediate region could use at least 12 more good churches

OK. Now support that from Scripture (not to keep you going, but to make a point about biblical illiteracy).

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

GregH's picture

Um no Rob, Ted is referring to you as the illiterate because you don't know about his theory that there is supposed to be only one church per city. But he will call you "brother" while he calls you illiterate Wink

Rob Fall's picture

I kind of thought that's where he was going.  But with 1,038,127 (2010 census), if I divvied up the are by population at say 1 per 10,000,  that's 104 churches.  If I divvied it up geographically, the 117 neighborhoods of San Francisco would support around 17 churches.  For ethnic and linguistic reasons, you could add at least 6-7 churches.  Then there is the Northern Peninsula, again thinking  of the geography, you could add another 10 churches.

Unless of course he is positing one church for a million and change.

GregH wrote:

Um no Rob, Ted is referring to you as the illiterate because you don't know about his theory that there is supposed to be only one church per city. But he will call you "brother" while he calls you illiterate Wink

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Ted Bigelow's picture

I kind of thought that's where he was going.  But with 1,038,127 (2010 census), if I divvied up the are by population at say 1 per 10,000,  that's 104 churches

 

No disrespect intended, but when asked to justify with the Bible your reasons for more 12 churches where you live, you gave a pragmatic answer bereft of biblical teaching. Care to try again?

Rob Fall's picture

Are you positing one church for the area?  I sliced the area up so each community would have one church.  I don't believe in multi-campus churches.  Metro San Francisco's political boundaries encompass multiple communities.

Ted Bigelow wrote:

I kind of thought that's where he was going.  But with 1,038,127 (2010 census), if I divvied up the are by population at say 1 per 10,000,  that's 104 churches

 

No disrespect intended, but when asked to justify with the Bible your reasons for more 12 churches where you live, you gave a pragmatic answer bereft of biblical teaching. Care to try again?

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

TylerR's picture

Editor

Ted:

Not sure why you're being so coy about an issue you obviously feel passionate about. You purposely brought the issue up, and you're leading the readers into a ridiculous game of hide and seek. For the sake of sanity, this is from Ted's blog:

How far astray is modern Christianity? It applauds schism and mocks the idea of a single church in a single locale. Sadly, when Christians are schismed they either compete and argue with each other, or ignore each other, all the while breaking the command, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” ().

Only when all the saints in a region worship together every Sunday in the same church can they “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, and be filled up to all the fullness of God” (). Only Paul’s reformation on Crete, made real where we each live, has the power to bring us that comprehension.

So, Rob, I would say that Ted does indeed propose a single church for each city. Perhaps Ted himself could elaborate and stop paying hard to get? 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

GregH's picture

Ah the irony of accusing Rob of pragmatism. Ted has to figure out what constitutes a city does he not? That is not an easy thing to do when you figure in suburbia and such. I would love to see how he does that in an non-pragmatic way.

Rob Fall's picture

Living in an area that's been cosmopolitan and metropolitan since 1848, I tend to ignore actual city and county lines in deciding what is a community.

GregH wrote:

Ah the irony of accusing Rob of pragmatism. Ted has to figure out what constitutes a city does he not? That is not an easy thing to do when you figure in suburbia and such. I would love to see how he does that in an non-pragmatic way.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Rob Fall's picture

What you quoted works when dealing with a community.  However, for a million plus, that means a single church that dwarfs any of the mega churches we know of today.  From my perspective, most churches are best at around 350 to 500.  Some are of course smaller, HSBC's membership stands at 183 as of January 1.  Our Sunday AM service runs around 200.  That's not to say there isn't room for larger congregations.  There is.  But I think mega churches are at best an anomaly not the rule.

TylerR wrote:

Ted:

Not sure why you're being so coy about an issue you obviously feel passionate about. You purposely brought the issue up, and you're leading the readers into a ridiculous game of hide and seek. For the sake of sanity, this is from Ted's blog:

How far astray is modern Christianity? It applauds schism and mocks the idea of a single church in a single locale. Sadly, when Christians are schismed they either compete and argue with each other, or ignore each other, all the while breaking the command, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” ().

Only when all the saints in a region worship together every Sunday in the same church can they “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, and be filled up to all the fullness of God” (). Only Paul’s reformation on Crete, made real where we each live, has the power to bring us that comprehension.

So, Rob, I would say that Ted does indeed propose a single church for each city. Perhaps Ted himself could elaborate and stop paying hard to get? 

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Rob Fall's picture

I guess he hasn't met some of the American pagans we have here in SFO.  And I don't mean the Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Animists, et al. in the various Asian communities.  Then there is the heavy RCC influence with a touch of Mormonism.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

While its a warm, fuzzy idea, I don't think you can prove that cities in biblical times even held to a single church rule. MIght have, and probably did at first, but not necessarily. And, probably added churches over time for purley pragmatic reasons like travel distance. Some of the Roman cities were quite large, and, without cars or even animals to ride, travel would have been prohibitive at some point for regular meetings and daily participation in the life of the body. While it's true that Roman cities were likely more compact than the average U. S. city because of cramped, multistory housing, here are few examples of cities where I still would not want to travel by foot to a single church:

Rome-1,000,000
Alexandria-500,000
Antioch-400,000
Carthage-300,000
Pergamum-300,000
Ephesus-200,000
Athens-100,000
Jerusalem-100,000
Miletus-100,000
Smyrna-80,000

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Rob Fall's picture

how does a believer have a sense of fellowship and particapatory ministry in a single mega church.

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

While its a warm, fuzzy idea, I don't think you can prove that cities in biblical times even held to a single church rule. MIght have, and probably did at first, but not necessarily. And, probably added churches over time for purley pragmatic reasons like travel distance. Some of the Roman cities were quite large, and, without cars or even animals to ride, travel would have been prohibitive at some point for regular meetings and daily participation in the life of the body. While it's true that Roman cities were likely more compact than the average U. S. city because of cramped, multistory housing, here are few examples of cities where I still would not want to travel by foot to a single church:

Rome-1,000,000
Alexandria-500,000
Antioch-400,000
Carthage-300,000
Pergamum-300,000
Ephesus-200,000
Athens-100,000
Jerusalem-100,000
Miletus-100,000
Smyrna-80,000

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Rob Fall's picture

accepting your position of one church per city\town\village,  How do you propose to minister to a city like San Francisco with over 300K in population?

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

pvawter's picture

Rob,

I of course can't answer for Ted, but according to the article he linked to (which I admittedly didn't make it through completely), God's elect in any city cannot fail to be saved whether by many or by few. In a city such as SF, all those whom the Lord has in the city (see Acts 18:10) must come to saving knowledge of Christ, therefore the practical issues of how that will happen are irrelevant. At least that is how I understood Ted's position on that subject.

Rob Fall's picture

I am not arguing the matter of evangelizing the lost.  I'm trying to find out how the post salvation matters of discipleship and fellowship are handled.

pvawter wrote:

Rob,

I of course can't answer for Ted, but according to the article he linked to (which I admittedly didn't make it through completely), God's elect in any city cannot fail to be saved whether by many or by few. In a city such as SF, all those whom the Lord has in the city (see ) must come to saving knowledge of Christ, therefore the practical issues of how that will happen are irrelevant. At least that is how I understood Ted's position on that subject.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Rob Fall's picture

though evangelism is part of a church's foundational purpose.  Without a heart for evangelism, a church is merely a social club.  But, there is also the matter what do you do with folks once they've been saved.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

pvawter's picture

Rob,

I could not agree more. Let me say that I was not speaking in support of Ted's position, just trying to further the discussion since he hasn't responded. The church's ministry of discipleship is something that I feel very strongly about, and it cannot be done by proxy. There simply is no substitute for intimate fellowship and the breaking of bread.

Rob Fall's picture

cut bait.  Either address my concerns (discipleship and fellowship) or clearly withdraw from the discussion.

Pvawte, I thank you for clueing me in.

pvawter wrote:

Rob,

I could not agree more. Let me say that I was not speaking in support of Ted's position, just trying to further the discussion since he hasn't responded. The church's ministry of discipleship is something that I feel very strongly about, and it cannot be done by proxy. There simply is no substitute for intimate fellowship and the breaking of bread.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Rob Fall's picture

it's been two+ days since my last post.  Since you haven't posted an answer to my question or even acknowledged it, I assume you are without an answer and have withdrawn from this discussion.

Sorry, to my fellow members for sounding a bit harsh.  But, I take umbrage at being non-sequiturly called "Biblically illiterate."

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

TylerR's picture

Editor

No need to apologize. I have been faithfully checking back on this post ever since Ted's oblique references to your biblical illiteracy. I am astonished, and disappointed, that he did not see fit to (1) clearly state his position instead of beating around the bush, and further, to (2) actually defend his position when it was unveiled. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ted Bigelow's picture

Rob Fall wrote:

it's been two+ days since my last post.  Since you haven't posted an answer to my question or even acknowledged it, I assume you are without an answer and have withdrawn from this discussion.

Sorry, to my fellow members for sounding a bit harsh.  But, I take umbrage at being non-sequiturly called "Biblically illiterate."

Rob - I'm still waiting for you to engage with Scripture.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Ted Bigelow wrote:

I kind of thought that's where he was going.  But with 1,038,127 (2010 census), if I divvied up the are by population at say 1 per 10,000,  that's 104 churches

 

No disrespect intended, but when asked to justify with the Bible your reasons for more 12 churches where you live, you gave a pragmatic answer bereft of biblical teaching. Care to try again?

I'm joining late, but it looks to me like things got off track (further?) with that post. Ted, what you've done here is assume what you need to prove then challenge those who question it to disprove it--as though failure to disprove = proof. The "I'm right until you prove me wrong" line of reasoning is classic argumentum ad ignorantum. It only sounds even slightly convincing to people who have already decided.

The fundamental question is, where does the Bible teach that there may only be one church per some geographical or social unit? We can point out lack of NT evidence of multiple churches in a "city" all day and it cannot add up to a prohibition. Where is the biblical evidence that multiple churches per some arbitrary geographical boundary is not good?

TylerR's picture

Editor

Your comment . . .

Rob - I'm still waiting for you to engage with Scripture

. . . is at the kindergarten level. Please state your belief and briefly defend it, or let us know that you do not want to engage. You brought the topic up. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ted Bigelow's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

 

Ted Bigelow wrote:

 

I kind of thought that's where he was going.  But with 1,038,127 (2010 census), if I divvied up the are by population at say 1 per 10,000,  that's 104 churches

 

No disrespect intended, but when asked to justify with the Bible your reasons for more 12 churches where you live, you gave a pragmatic answer bereft of biblical teaching. Care to try again?

 

 

I'm joining late, but it looks to me like things got off track (further?) with that post. Ted, what you've done here is assume what you need to prove then challenge those who question it to disprove it--as though failure to disprove = proof. The "I'm right until you prove me wrong" line of reasoning is classic argumentum ad ignorantum. It only sounds even slightly convincing to people who have already decided.

The fundamental question is, where does the Bible teach that there may only be one church per some geographical or social unit? We can point out lack of NT evidence of multiple churches in a "city" all day and it cannot add up to a prohibition. Where is the biblical evidence that multiple churches per some arbitrary geographical boundary is not good?

 

Hi Aaron, trust you are comforted in the steadfast love of the Lord Jesus,

re: what you say above - you may be right. If so, I apologize.

But from my pov, if I've assumed anything here, it's that the Bible does teach us how many churches each locale ought to have. Apart from this thread, that one issue is rather important.

My own recollection is that prior to Rob writing "schism is the least of our worries" I had given him a link to an article on church planting and schism. His response was a semi-polite way of letting me know schism was irrelevant to the really critical things, like his region being "church poor" and "biblical illiterate."

Given that response I asked Rob to reconsider with two things - that 1 Cor. chapters 1-4 are all about dealing with the sin of schism. The implication (rightly or wrongly) was that schism does very much apply to where he lives. Second, I asked him to assess the Bible's own teachings on how many churches he believes are needed where he lives. With that, I claimed the Bible teaches a definite number and asked if he knew it. 

Rob returned his own assessment of how many (12, I think), but did not respond to my question of him on the Bible's own number, nor did he comment on 1 Cor. 1-4 being related to schism. Instead, his answer was pragmatic - it reflected the kind of solid business thinking that helps Midas dealerships and IHOP restaurants figure out how many businesses to start in a given locale. But is that the way to think about churches? So I re-challenged him several days ago.

This morning I made it back over and found no interaction with Scripture yet. So I let him know I'm still waiting for his interaction with Scripture at some level. I don't think I've intoned, "I'm right until you prove me wrong," unless someone wants to say, "the Bible does not contain the information on how many churches each locale should have." Then as far as I'm concerned, game on.

Chip's own post above is more promising - with some suggested population counts of the ancient cities. Chip, brother, if you have time, check this out even if only for Justin Marty'rs quote early on in the article. While those population counts are up for debate (esp. Ephesus and Pergamum) - they are important because the high populations will prove more forcefully the biblical case for the local body of Christ.

aaron, as for your own question, "where does the Bible teach that there may only be one church per some geographical or social unit?," here's a trail of one city's references to follow:

Corinth: Acts 18:10, 1 Cor. 1:2, 1:10, 3:6-8, 10:16-17, 11:18-20, 14:23, Romans 16:23.

Then also, kindly allow me to point you to a few articles:

An article on when the glorified Christ speaks to churches, He only speaks to the one local church in every locale.

An article on how obedience to Jesus Christ demands that His local body meet in a single church in every locale.

An article on why planting churches where the body of Christ already exists is planting schism.

An article on the Bible's own hermeneutic by which God convinces us what to believe and do as individuals and churches.

I'll be happy to discuss those articles at my web site, but I'm happy to discuss the Scripture trail on Corinth here when i can make it over.

In the Lord Jesus, 

Rob Fall's picture

because at this point it's not relevant.  First, please define "locale."  Second, I hold to a local church only interpretation of ecclesia.  So, trying to debunk the universal church to me is a waste of words.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Jay's picture

Ted, 

13 The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 When Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; 16 when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” 17 Moses' father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good.18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. 19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God,20 and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” -Exodus 18

Or

9 “At that time I said to you, ‘I am not able to bear you by myself. 10 The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven. 11 May the Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you! 12 How can I bear by myself the weight and burden of you and your strife? 13 Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ 14 And you answered me, ‘The thing that you have spoken is good for us to do.’ 15 So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes. 16 And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. 17 You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God's. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ 18 And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do. - Deuteronomy 1

I think I would argue that the reiteration / command to raise up elders in the NT church is actually foreshadowed in the OT - in Deuteronomy, to be exact.  So if Moses had to divest himself of leadership responsibilities to ensure that the civil society of Israel functioned, even down to groups of fifties and tens (v. 15), then I'm not sure why you seem to think that we only need one set of elders per city for our religious institutions.  Can you expand a little more?  I'm not buying into what you're saying here.  

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Rob Fall's picture

let me add San Francisco has multiple primary languages spoken.  At the moment, there are Spanish, English, Russian, Chinese, and Tagalog congregations. 

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

GregH's picture

I honestly don't know how you can begin to take Ted's position seriously. It might sound good but there are numerous problems starting with the simple fact that the Bible does not command it. I know he thinks it does but he is in the tiny minority.

What is a locality? The fact is that is an arbitrary thing. The only way to settle that is to have a modern-day apostle level person to define localities and rule over churches. Imagine the problems related to that little sticky issue. I am sure Ted would be willing to volunteer for that position. He might appoint himself as he admits he appointed himself at the church he is at but I don't see it working out so well.

I think the proof in the pudding is whether Ted is following his own teaching? He is in a city with lots of other churches. I am sure his church was not the first one either. Why is that? What is he doing to merge his church with others?

 

Rob Fall's picture

That's my basic question.

GregH wrote:
SNIP

What is a locality? The fact is that is an arbitrary thing.

SNIP

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

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