We will be laying some very boring groundwork that is essential for our study in general, and for our understanding of the Body Concept of church government. This information is needed to prevent future disasters within this local Body of Believers, and for the Biblical validity as to the existence of Manchaca Bible Fellowship.

The purpose of this church is to be obedient to the commission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, when He said,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you... Matthew 28:19-20

We will endeavor to fulfill this commission through...

We will seek to foster within our members a Biblical attitude and respect for the family and child raising, for missions at home and around the world, and for worship, including the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

We will seek to foster the Biblical concept of true spiritual worship and fellowship in contrast to ritual, dress, status and tradition.”

It is important to keep the purpose of this local Body of Believers in view when making any decision, or taking any action within the Body. Let me change that statement a little. We must make the purpose of this local Body of Believers our guiding principle when taking any action or making any decision within the Body. That should apply to all members of MBF, and any non-members who are truly interested in the well being and advancement of MBF. Any action should be overshadowed by our purpose. That includes conversations, participation in services and programs, and even actions outside of realm of the church program. Keep in mind I conditioned that statement with, those who are truly interested in the well being and advancement of MBF. Some are not truly interested in the well being and advancement of MBF. Some are only interested in their little bit of space that includes just me, mine and myself. The church, to some, is not so much an organism ordained by Christ, as it is one more gadget in their repertoire of things for the improvement of their self-image. Some would object, saying, “I’m not married to the church. Why should it have a dominate roll in my life?” That’s the attitude many have towards their marriages, also. In a marriage or the church, the fulfillment and advancement of either is dependent upon the commitment of those involved. Commitment to anything, except sin and self, seems to be a thing of the past.

This strikes at the heart of why do you go to church, and why did you choose MBF. Was that decision to attend MBF based on the desire to band together with other Believers of likemind to grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ through being discipled by means of systematic Bible study, service and outreach? Or did you decide to attend because you thought this would be a good place for your kids to receive some Bible training and discipline that they weren’t receiving at home? Or was it so you could use your pervasive powers to change this church into an organization like you envision? The purpose of MBF is not a secret, nor is it a subtle suggestion buried in the liturgy of what we believe. Any person, member or non-member, who has taken a church directory will find on the cover page, before the directory itself, our purpose stated as printed above. Any person who has asked for our doctrinal statement, or has inquired concerning membership has received a little pamphlet. On the very first page, before our doctrinal stand is ourpurpsoe stated in a little different manner.

At the beginning of our doctrinal statement it reads:

What We Are...

We are people from many walks of life and many backgrounds joined by a common purpose. We are all sinners, saved by grace, and through the new birth have been placed into a personal relationship with the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. We’re not perfect, just forgiven.

As Believers in Christ, we have joined together as a Local, Autonomous, Bible Teaching Church.

A Local Church - We are not a branch of any other church.

An Autonomous Church - We are self-governed from within this local church, independent of any outside hierarchy.

A Bible Teaching Church - We teach from the Bible. We teach about the Bible, and the Bible is our text book. We systematically teach the Bible verse by verse and subject by subject.

We believe in strong Christian families. As a result of this conviction, most of our programs and ministry are directed towards establishing and maintaining solid Christian homes.

We believe that the purpose of a local church is to:

These we endeavor to do.

We are not a church of form and fashion. We are not concerned with ritual just for the sake of ritual. We feel that an informal atmosphere is more conducive to Biblical teaching and learning. We are not concerned with the cut of the clothes or whether they are formal or casual. Our hope is that neither will hinder the teaching or the receiving of the Word of God. Our goal is to have facilities that are adequate for the teaching and ministry of the Word of God, and in line with good stewardship.

Yes, our purpose is clearly stated, and we attempt to adhere to it tenaciously. Yet, often when we point out the reason we are doing as we are doing is because of our purpose, some seem surprised. That may stem from the fact that few organizations, religious or secular, adhere to their purpose, or even know what it is. As a matter of fact, many organizations, and especially churches change their direction with every new fad that comes along, or because of pressure from someone within or outside the organization.

“But what if: we have a good suggestion, we see a change that we think would be helpful, we see a problem, do we just keep our mouth shut, and go on our merry way?” No, however, there are proper ways of doing things, and improper ways of doing things. The first will advance the program and help us adhere to our goal. The other will cause division, hinder the work and defer us from our goal. To understand how and why we can and should bring suggestions, questions and problems to the body for consideration or correction, we need to understand the governmental structure of MBF. We refer to this structure as the body concept.

There are two major operating systems used by most churches. These operating systems are known by various names, and many churches are managed by a combination of the two in some form or another. The oldest of these two forms of government is presbyterian. Please keep in mind, that this form of church government goes by many names, and is rarely found in its pure form. Nor should you confuse this form of church government with the many denominations who use the word presbyterian in their name. Many of these presbyterian denominations have some form of the presbyterian type government, but none have the pure form, as far as I know.

presbyterian = (Webster) having or characterized by a graded system of representative ecclesiastical bodies exercising legislative and judicial powers over the church bodies.

My friend Webster is usually quite clear in his definition. He has given this one accurately, but a bit cloudy as to clarity. This form of government has a central government over all local churches and organizations which are within that association. This central government oversees a system of ecclesiastical bodies, each having progressively less governing authority than the one just higher in the system. The local church has the least authority to interact and have a part in the governing of the church program in general. Remember, through the definition, we are looking at this type of church government in its pure form. Very few church denominations or associations have a totally pure form of this type of government. There is no way we can take the time to examine all or even a few church denominations to see how much of each of these forms of government are blended together. This little dissertation is to help us understand and see the difference between, or similarities to these forms of government, and the body concept.

The other form of church government, as you might expect, is just about as opposite the presbyterian form as one can get.

congregational = (Webster) A system of church government in which the local congregation has full control and final authority over church matters within its own area.

The congregational form of church government is often confused, by some, with what is called the Baptistic form of government. There are just about as many forms of Baptistic government as there are Baptist churches. Almost all Baptist churches use some form of congregational government. Although some very strong denominational Baptist churches lean towards the presbyterian form in combination with the congregational form. Now that I have left that issue perfectly clear, let’s move on to better things.

Some mistakenly feel that in the congregational form of government, the congregation, as a whole, runs the day to day operations, and each member has as much right to make policy and direct operations as any other. That is just not true in any form of congregational church government. Congregational form of government is not the so called one person one vote democratic system. Instead, the congregational form of government simply means that the local church has full and final authority over the church matters of that particular local church, and no outside body has any regulative or governmental authority over the matters of that local church. The type, extent, and manner of operating structure by which that local church chooses to administer their own affairs can, and often does differ widely, even though the congregational form of government is being used.

MBF has chosen as it basic from of government that of the congregational form. The basic congregational form of government has little to say about the type of structure a local congregation chooses to use to administer, or govern the church’s programs and affairs. If there is to be any governing of any organization, there must be some form of hierarchical structure through which responsibility, authority and accountability are assigned and overseen. Unless there is a structure in which responsibility, authority and accountability can be assigned and overseen, there is no governing. Instead, there is anarchy. Anarchy results when every man does that which is right in their own eyes.

Judges 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.
Proverbs 21:2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts.
govern = (Webster) to control and direct the making and administration of policy.

The structure MBF has chosen to administer this congregational form of government is:

The Responsibility/Authority Structure of MBF

The hierarchical structure is from within the local body of Believers. The basic structure of MBF presently consists of:

The authority to operate that structure is assigned by the local body of Believers. The Pastor is chosen by the body of Believers, and is charged with the responsibility of the spiritual well being of the church, its programs, the teaching, and the body of Believers in general. The pastor is to serve in that capacity until either the pastor or the church, as a body, feels it is time for his ministry to cease. The church Board consists of men who are members of the congregation, who have made themselves available and who have been approved by the Board. The term of service is approximately three years. The Board is charged with the operation of the church, and to assist the pastor and staff in the spiritual well being of the church. The staff is chosen by the pastor, approved by the body of Believers and appointed to their position by the board. The staff is to serve in their capacity until either the pastor, the board, the body of Believers or the staff member feels it is time to terminate that ministry.

The responsibility & acountability for this authority is to the local body of Believers. The staff is accountable to the pastor. The pastor is accountable to the Board. The Board is accountable to the pastor, and both, the Board and pastor, are accountable to the body of Believers. Most people, at this point, say, “Yea, That’s good. We need all of those checks and balances for that bunch of guys. Those guys should have to give an account to me as a church member!” I need accountability. The Board needs accountability. And it’s a sure bet that the staff needs accountability! But then comes the kicker. The willingness of the Body to also submit to that structure and authority.

The local body of Believers willingly submits to that structure and authority, including those who have been granted authority to operate the structure.

1 Corinthians 3:9 For we (Paul & Apollos the pastoral staff) are God's fellow workers; you (the Body of Believers) are God's field, you are God's building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one's work will become manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

This a very familiar passage, so we are not going to spend much time on it. I only want to stir up your pure minds (or at least your sleepy minds), as to the structure suggested here and elsewhere in the Scriptures. First notice there is the we and the you. There is a difference in administration, and service. There is definitely a structure of operation and administration.

Even though there are differences and levels of responsibility within the structure, there is no difference in the worth of those operating within the different levels.

1 Corinthians 3:5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?
1 Corinthians 3:8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

We are not all cookie cutter saints, and we do not all have the same office or ministry within the Body. One may be the master builder and another the brick layer, but neither should function separately from the other, and both should be fulfilling their office for the benefit of the whole Body. By so doing, we will receive our own reward, but if we try to do, or fill the office of another, we will not get the other’s reward.

Ephesians 4:11-16 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Notice Christ “gave some to be” one thing, and some another. There is a difference in structure, and activity, but no difference in importance. But all gifts and activities are for the edifying of the body so it will be unified in faith and knowledge, etc. We are not given a place in the Body so we can advance self, improve self, etc. We are placed in the Body for the benefit of the Body as a whole.

How I wish I could get that across! But some would say, “If I don’t look out for those who are mine and my interests, we will be stepped on and will come up on the short end of the stick.” That’s strange, if you are an active healthy member of the Body, and the Body is doing well, you, as a member, will reap the benefits of that totally well body. If you are a member of a sick body, you are sick, also. We are to first serve for the benefit of the Body. Then through that service, we will reap our own reward. If my body has the flu, all my body has the flu. I don’t just have the flu in my head, I also have the flu in my toe. Cells of the Body that are only drawing from the body for their own benefit, and are not active in helping the body, are often known as cancer cells. Don’t be one of those! Once a cell is cancerous, there is not much you can do with it, except remove it or destroy it. Thank God, the grace of God can change even that in the Body of Christ, if that person is willing to draw on God’s grace.

We don’t have time to thoroughly exegete this passage. We have been here in the past, and we will be back again. Notice, the Holy Spirit, through Paul, changes the intensity of the passage in v.13 from the Body to individual members of that Body. Among other things, He tells us how the individual member will profit from being an active participant in making the Body healthy and strong. Individually, we will gain many things by being active in the Body, and for the Body. Some of those benefits are:

Notice how we personally gain these things for our benefit, v.16 “By what every joint supplies” and as “every part does it share”.

That last phrase is so important, but through translation it looses a lot of its punch.

share(NKJ) work(NIV) measure (KJ) = (Greek) A measure, such as a limited or certain portion.

This Greek word is used only 11 times in the New Testament, and three of those times in this one chapter. Two of those times have a direct implication to the subject at hand.

Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.

Each Believer has received a measure or a portion of Christ’s gift. That gift has to do with the work and development of the Body of Christ, the church. Each Believer has received a unique portion of Christ’s gift, as brought out in many places, such as Romans 12, 1 Corintians 12-14, here in Ephesians 4 and elsewhere. That gift, or in reality a portion of Christ’s gift was given to each member for use within the Body, the church. I don’t know what measure or portion of that gift from Christ was given to you. The Holy Spirit points out, just a few verses later, that some were given as apostles, prophets, pastors, teacher, evangelists, etc. We were each given a measure of the gift and the grace needed to go with it. We are to use that gift in the ministry of the Body. If we are doing our share, and each other member is doing their share, then we will personally experience and enjoy that list of benefits that we saw earlier. If we are not doing our share, then there is something missing in the Body, and we all suffer, including the ones not doing their share. There is far more in this passage, but I hope that is enough for you to see the need, and value of operating within the structure, for the benefit of all.

Let me take you back to antiquity. About 10+ years ago, my wife and I came down to look the church over, and to have you look us over to see if there could be a blending of service & purpose. I stated at that time that my method of church development was solid systematic Bible teaching, plus nothing, and all church activities must be for the purpose of achieving that goal. Any activity that did not have as its goal solid systemic Bible teaching, should not be an activity of the church, even though it might be a fine activity. I told you, at that time, the church growth would be slow, but that it would grow and it would be solid, if that growth were built on the firm foundation of solid systematic Bible teaching. To that, all the Brethren and sisterns said, “Amen. That is just what we are looking for.”or something like that.

We have held to that course for these 10+ years, and there were times when some wondered if it would deliver as advertised. There have been times when I have had to hold on like a bulldog to his favorite rug, to keep this purpose firm. Often through these 10+ years, there has been pressure to be like “the other nations, I mean churches around us”, and to change the course of the church to a quasi country club or YMCA, or a religious entertainment center. I need not remind you that the church has grown, and continues to grow. Chalk one up for the prophet, right? No, I’m no prophet, it is just a fact of reality that solid Bible teaching produces solid growth! It is also a fact that solid Bible teaching will separate some from the church:

Now granted a Hollywood style or NFL type church will have much faster growth, if that is the type of growth we are looking for.

None of you were attracted to this church because of its style, or its social standing, or its marvelous weekly social activities, or its Gothic building structures, because there are none of the above. Of course most of you, I am sure, were attracted to this church because you wanted to be in the glowing presence of such a gifted, talented and handsome pastor, right? No! There was only one thing that could have attracted you to this church, and brought you back again and again. It was solid systematic Bible teaching, from the pulpit, to the youth, to the women and in all other aspects. Of course the piano playing doesn’t hurt. Now maybe we have out-grown our need or desire for solid systematic Bible Study. If that’s so, you need to look for a social worker to act as pastor.

With this background, let me show you how this and other things are used to bring division. The divider says to someone something like this, Boy, it would sure be nice if we could get together more often. I sure wish there were more socials at the church, don’t you?” Now with the door open just a little, the divider says something like, “I don’t think it’s right not having any more socials at the church than we do. What do you think?” It isn’t much, but it’s started. The divider hopes the other person will agree with him, and then the two will find another to join their ranks, and the division is well on its way.

The major difficulty here is not the question or the problem, but that the question or the problem was never brought to the proper person in the responsibility/authority structure, so that these things could be worked on as a Body, for the Body. (That phrase and procedure is all important.) Instead, the divider became the authority structure all on their own without the responsibility or accountability to the rest of the Body, or to the purpose of this local Body of Believers. By so doing, they tried to move a personal agenda along by means of discontent or division, and without that agenda going through the process of evaluation of the responsibility/authority structure, and without being in harmony with the purpose, and without the consent of the Body in unity.

It seems like such a little thing, but it is a church destroyer. Very possibly the divider knew what the answer would be if they had brought the problem to the proper person within the responsibility/authority structure. Because you see, social functions simply for social functions are not the purpose of this church. They should not be the purpose of any church. I have used the illustration of social needs. It could have been, “Don’t you think Pastor Trey should wear cowboy boots.” or “Do you think so-’n-so is being treated right?” or “Why are we spending all that money to send our teens to Chicago?” etc., without number. The point is, if a person is really looking for an answer or a solution to a problem, they will take it to the one in the responsibility/authority structure that can answer the question or solve the problem. If a person does other wise, they are not helping build the church, they are helping destroy the church.

Then there is that honest question, “My social needs are not being met, what is the church going to do about it?” That is a little bit like, “I don’t have a new suit and I need one, what is the government going to do about it?” The purpose of the government is not to provide you or me with new suits. Although maybe in this day and age that is what the government is supposed to do, “Please, Uncle Sam take care of all my needs!” The purpose of the church is not to provide the solution to the social needs of the people who attend. The church is not an escort service: Remember what our purpose is?

“What about my social needs? The purpose of MBF does little to meet my social needs.” The church does not provide breakfast either or free lunches. If you have social needs, why not call someone and say, “Let’s go out.” or “How about coming over for games and a snack, tonight.” Well, maybe you ought to give a little more lag time than just tonight, like a day or so. Your social and entertainment needs are your responsibility, not the responsibility of the church. When the church steps into that arena, it ceases to be a church and becomes a social club., which many churches are today. Some of you left churches like that, because your spiritual needs were not being met. The church’s responsibility is to provide you with Bible teaching, so here is one thing the Bible says on the subject of social needs.

Proverbs 18:24 A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

As a church, we do have activities that are social in nature, but they always have as their goal and purpose that of solid systematic Bible Study, designed for the benefit of the whole Body in harmony with the purpose of this church. If you have an idea for an activity, problem or question that you feel will enhance the teaching of solid systematic Bible study, bring it to the ones who are responsibility for that area. We will give it proper consideration in light of the benefit for the whole Body, and in light of our resources and our purpose. However, if you have a question, problem or suggestion and you take it to someone other than the person responsible, you are dividing the church not building it.

By bringing these things to light, it is my prayer that when these situations come to your attention, Well., I have one word for it. “Nip-it-in-the-bud” That’s a good word for the day. Say to the person, “Let’s take this to the pastor, or whoever is responsible for this area”. You’ll find out real fast if that person really wants an answer, or if they are trying to choose up sides. However, don’t wait to come to me or the responsible person until after that person and you have gained a following! That is a schism of the worst kind.

Now not all questions or comments of this nature are given with the intent of dividing, thank God! Because if they all had that intent, I would be as busy as a cat in a fish market! No, most do not have the intent of division, at all. But whether the question had that intent or not, it can still become divisive unless it is cared for properly through the responsibility/authority structure for the benefit of the whole Body. If the person really wants a solution, they will gladly bring it to the one who is responsible. If they don’t want a solution, then they are divisive. When these things are brought to the one responsible, it then can be resolved as a Body for the Body - which is the Biblical manner.

A dog cannot live very long by eating its own tail.
Nor can a church exist very long if they bite and devour one another.
© Clyde White, Austin TX, 1998