Let Church Rule Fit Current Conditions

Let Church Rule Fit Current Conditions

Based on an excerpt from Come Quickly Dawn by George Patterson,www.wclbooks.com

This skit is recommended for mature Christians and their leaders.

POY! SKIT GUIDELINES:

  • In a small group, participants might simply read their lines, or glance at their lines to get the idea so they can speak in their own words.
  • Most POY! skits require no practice in advance.
  • Have any small children play a brief part. Most scripts have an optional part for children, listed last under Participants.
  • Most scripts have a Narrator who should read the script beforehand to see how to keep moving the story along.
  • It is not necessary to employ costumes and objects, unless the skit recommends such.
  • It is not required to have an audience watch the skit. All present may participate.
  • Scripture and paraphrases, if any, usually appear in bold.

PARTICIPANTS:

Arturo, who also serves as Narrator

Jethro (A smiling, older pastor who is mentoring Arturo)
Fretter (Frowning, until the end of the discussion)

SCRIPT:

Arturo

My name is Arturo. I’m a lawyer, and also pastor a small, struggling church.

Oh, here come my elderly mentor Jethro and Mr. Fretter, a prominent member of our church.

Fretter

I have come, Pastor Arturo, to keep you and your mentor Jethro from making rash plans for us.

Arturo

Pastor Jethro, I’m so glad you come to mentor us. Our church is floundering.

Jethro

I am glad you are willing to pastor this tiny church, Arturo. I know you are busy with your law practice. It’s generous for you to volunteer your time. Not many lawyers would do so.

Arturo

And no other pastor would come work with our church; it has too many problems.

Fretter

Do you know why we had problems? We do not get enough sound preaching of the Word.

Jethro

I don’t think so, Mr. Fretter. Lack of preaching isn’t your problem. Arturo teaches well.

Arturo

Our problem is that we are disorganized. That’s why I asked for your help, Jethro.

Jethro

Okay, let’s discuss church government. Do you know what its classic forms are?

Fretter

Of course. Church government is either episcopal, Presbyterian or congregational.

It must be one of the three. That’s what we have to decide.

Jethro

Not yet, Mr. Fretter. The three classic forms of church government all have significant strengths, but they also have significant weaknesses if used unwisely.

You can offset those flaws if you’re aware of them; if you’re unaware, you’ll suffer.

Arturo

As a lawyer, proper church government interests me, Pastor Jethro.

Which of the three forms of church government do you prefer? I need a definite rule for this.

Jethro

It’s not that simple, Arturo. The New Testament norm is for churches’ government to fit their level of maturity and field conditions.

Arturo

That is not a very definite answer.

Fretter

I should say not!

Jethro

Okay, gentlemen, I’ll give you a definite answer. But first, you must acknowledge a vital truth that many leaders refuse to consider. Are you ready? It might shake up your assumptions.

Arturo

Go ahead. I’m curious.

Fretter

As long as it’s not some new fad.

Jethro

Start with this fact. No church always follows one form of rule. Powerful individuals inside or outside of a church will, in time, control it to some degree. At times, they control in godly ways, other times in ungodly ways. At times, they use approved bylaws, other times they use hidden power structures. So eventually all three types of rule exert influence in some way.

Fretter

I don’t like where you’re going, Pastor Jethro. I like things to be black or white.

Arturo

Let him continue, Mr. Fretter. Truth is what it is, whether we like it or not.

Jethro

Let a church’s administration reflect its level of maturity, local culture, field conditions, affiliations and relationships with sister churches.

I mentor new pastors of various church backgrounds and respect the structures that they’ve inherited; otherwise, I would just create squabbles and division.

Arturo

You still have not answered my question. Which form of government is best for us?

Jethro

You’re sounding like a lawyer now, Arturo.

Please take off your lawyer’s hat for a moment, and wear your shepherd’s hat.

Arturo

Let me be a lawyer for just one more question.

From a legal point of view, church rule depends on who has legitimate authority.

Some churches ascribe authority to only one of the three categories you mentioned; authority comes from bishops, elders or A congregation. Who has the authority under Christ?

Jethro

Listen carefully! You have small children. Do you let them go out alone without supervision?

Arturo

Not in our neighborhood. There are bullies who would mistreat them.

Jethro

Right. So the tots do not leave home unless dad goes with them. Dad is their bishop, their overseer, not one of the children’s own congregation.

New churches in pioneer fields always need such supervision by an outsider, as Titus 1:5 shows, a mature overseer that’s not part of their flock ? call him Bishop, Regional Director, Superintendent, Synod Chairman or simply old Bob.

Arturo

I see. You are describing episcopal rule by a bishop.

Jethro

So far. A flaw in rule by bishops is that daddy can abuse his authority or lead his tots astray; history recounts many cases of hierarchical abuse.

Arturo

I was hoping you’d serve us as a bishop, Jethro. We need you; we’re floundering.

Fretter

You are the one that’s floundering, Arturo. You are inexperienced as a pastor.

I know exactly what we should do. The problem is with you and the other members.

Jethro

Let me continue my parable. Your children grow, Arturo, and you let them go out into town without you; their older brothers protect them; they are “elders” and part of the kids’ flock.

That is presbyterian rule; a presbyter is an elder, a mature church leader.

Arturo

I see. You make it clear, Pastor Jethro.

Jethro

The New Testament makes the word elders plural when denoting a church’s leaders.

In Acts 15, churches sent elders to Jerusalem to heal a severe schism.

A peril is that the older brothers can abuse their authority, bully weaker siblings and stifle their initiative. History has ample cases of abusive presbyters? elders.

Arturo

I try to get our elders to decide vital issues in the presbyterian way; but all they do is squabble.

Jethro

So you’re not ready for elders’ government yet.

Let’s continue the parable. Your children grow up but remain close. They respect dad’s advice but decide most issues as a group without always yielding to the older brothers.

Arturo

Aha! That’s congregational rule.

Jethro

Precisely. The Antioch church in Acts 13 had matured, and had several capable leaders. Thus, it could decide as a local body to send Paul and Barnabas as missionaries.

A flaw in self-governing is that it can become too independent; leaders lacking accountability to other shepherds can be tyrants, making a flock depend on one person, out of touch with other churches. Also, uninformed believers make silly decisions.

Fretter

I don’t see the point in all of this.

Arturo

I do. Some of our members demand congregational rule in meetings, and abuse it.

Most of our members are immature! Why do churches make such rigid laws, Jethro?

Many demand just one type of rule, regardless of a church’s level of maturity.

Arturo

They do it for legal and historical reasons. A legal cause is that churches register with the state; this lures many to take for granted an administrative system that is more secular and program-oriented than biblical and gift-oriented.

Arturo

And the historical reasons?

Arturo

Emperor Constantine absorbed churches into the Roman Empire in the 4thcentury.

Leaders took on episcopal rule paralleling the imperial hierarchy. Orthodox and Catholic churches still do, as do other denominations that date back to the Protestant Reformation.

Presbyterian government gained impetus when kings lost absolute control, and districts sent delegates to represent them in national councils or parliaments; elders began representing their believers and shepherding them locally, instead of one cleric wielding total control.

Later, congregational rule gained popularity with the growth of democracy.”

Arturo

Isn’t there a kind of congregational rule in Jesus’ promise to bind in heaven what two or three gathered in His name agree on?

Jethro

Why, yes! You’re perceptive, Arturo!

Fretter

That stuff about binding and loosing belonged to another age. It doesn’t apply now.

Jethro

It applies, Mr. Fretter. Your people will soon agree in love born of the Holy Spirit. You’ll see.

Arturo

I hope so! Our congregation cannot get agreement now to govern itself. You should have seen how they bickered in our last business meeting. It seemed to bring out the worst in people.

Jethro

I’ve seen that, too. Arturo, did I answer your query about the kind of rule your church needs?

Arturo

One thing is plain now. We need guidance from the outside. Our congregation is still in the tiny tots’ phase. Some members won’t follow any voice, pastor, elder, bishop or congregation. It’s like shepherding a flock of squirrels! Even our elders clash like fighting cocks!

Jethro

God will change this, brother. You’re on your way when you see the need to adapt your church rule to its current needs and level of maturity. What do you think now, Mr. Fretter?

Fretter

You’ve forced me to think about it, Pastor Jethro. I’m afraid I’ve been part of the problem.

I admit I have caused most of the squabbling among the elders, and I have provoked the members to argue in our meetings.

Pastor Arturo, I have resisted your leadership, and I ask your forgiveness. I welcome you as my shepherd, and the leader of our church.

Pastor Jethro, please continue your mentoring as long as Arturo feels he needs you.

DISCUSS:

What is your church’s current form of government?

Which form of government corresponds best to your church’s level of maturity?

NOTE: If you have inherited a certain form of administration, respect it, but let the other forms of leadership exert their influences in a non-official way when advisable.

Is there another form of government that would fit your culture better than the three traditional ones?

 

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