Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Constitution and By-Laws


I think that one of the best ideas that I have had since I came to First Baptist Church Plaquemine was to teach through the by-laws of our church during discipleship training on Sunday nights. Some of you, at the mere mention of such a study, immediately roll your eyes and start snoring. That is unfortunate. Some of the most interesting reading that you can do comes from the by-laws of your Church. I'll let you know why.

First, it is a very personal, historical document for you. Inside those by-laws is the heart and soul of your spiritual forefathers. In them, you will find how they viewed the church, salvation, authority, and you will get the heads up on what sorts of conflicts that they had to endure. Especially if you have the older copies of the by-laws to compare with the updated ones. You can see how your church rose to the occasion to overcome the new challenges set before her. It is personal to you because this is the church to which you belong. That alone should make it interesting.

Secondly, you will learn through your by-laws how you may be active in your church and where you may fit in. Many by-laws have every seperate committee listed and what their functions are, and how one comes to be appointed to said committee. You may find something in there that interests you. You may find areas of neglect that you may help rekindle. These are committees like benevolence, counting (somebody has to count the money), flower, nominating, transportation, and etc. Your church may have more or less, depending on its polity.

Thirdly, you will learn that you may not agree with everything in your by-laws. You may even find things in them that are un-biblical and that ought to be changed. You should, as a faithful member, bring these issues up to the appropriate people for discussion. You never know how this may affect the church at large.

In our study, I have found several things that need updating. That doesn't mean that they were bad; it means that they need to be revamped. The last time our Church updated the by-laws, we had no Student Minister. Basically, our current student minister has no "official" standing as far as the by-laws are concerned. We need to get a job description in there, how he is to be hired and let go, and etc. All we have policy for at the present time is a "Youth Council." Also, the last time that the church updated the by-laws, the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message had not yet been written. This will give us an opportunity to look at the updates in that and discuss why it was done.

Also, it gave me the opportunity to bring up the subject of elders in the church. Our church does not have elders, but it should. Currently, our deacons and myself function as the elders, sort of. Also, our policy on electing and maintaining trustees needs to be updated. The bottom line: It has been a wonderful opportunity for learning for myself and the church. I highly recommend that you look over the by-laws at your church; it will be a great learning experience for you, and I believe it will be an edifying one as well.

6 comments:

Daniel said...

As a charter member of our congregation - we have had to draft such documents - I much prefer looking back on the struggle than being in the midst of it ;-D

ColinM said...

Brad,

This is very timely for me. I am attempting to help a brother who is being called as a pastor to do this very thing. He has determined that the vote to vote him into the pastorate will be the last congregational vote, and he will assume the role of single-elder ruler. Question- In your church, with you as the single elder, are you moving toward a plurality of elders to rule the church, or will you maintain your current role?

Colin

Sojourner said...

Colin,

Definitely a plurality of elders. I am extremely uncomfortable with the "one man rule" form of church polity. I find it to be dangerous and unbiblical. Also, this is not something that I wish for the church to come unraveled over. The leadership, in essence, functions very close to this model now, only they do so as deacons.

Some excellent dealing with elders are:

Elders in Congregational Life
(Very easy read, and pretty short. The author is Phil Newton and the foreward is by Mark Dever.)

Another good one is "Biblical Eldership" by Alexander Strauch. It's longer and I am currently working through it while I wait for Mark Dever's "9 Marks" and "The Deliberate Church".

I'm going to do a couple of posts on how I understand the Elder/Pastoral role in the local church. It will basically be snippets from what I've learned from the Bible and these books, and why I think this is such a necessary thing for congregational churches.

Sojourner said...

Daniel,

After all that prayer, work, and trouble that went into those documents, wouldn't you find it heartbreaking if the next generations ignored them?

ColinM said...

Brad,

Great, thanks for the references. I have spent hours listening to audio in Dever's Pastor's Toolbox- very helpful. You will be encouraged to know that our President, Paige Patterson, although greatly disagreeing with Dever on certain key theological issues, had a 9-Marks packet given to every student after a chapel service last year.

Your upcoming posts will be helpful, and I will point my buddy to them, Lord willing- because the Lord knows already he won't listen to me.

Daniel said...

Brad - next generation?? People are ignoring them already! ;-)