Church Government: The Appropriation Of The Church Board

By: Jose McFarland

In this paper, I wish to discuss the pros and cons of church boards. Having researched several sources and interviewed different pastors, I have come to the realization that almost everyone has a different opinion on what a church board should and shouldn’t do. Also I have made a set of guidelines to govern a board by. I will cover church government since the two subjects are intertwined.

I. The Biblical Form Of Church Government

This is one of the most highly contested issues in the church. First we must realize that the church is to be of theocratic rule. Theocracy literally means “god rule.” Throughout the Bible we can see the pattern of government that God wanted for His church. In the early church, we can see that they were totally under the control of God. Through this example, we can pattern our church government.

We can see that whenever they deviated from God’s rule they would fall into false doctrine.

Organization is a must in the church today. We can not expect the pastor to do everything on his own. Neither can the pastor refuse to delegate. The early church finally realized this when their widows were being neglected. A church board is necessary in order to see that the organization of the church is kept up.

Many churches hold to a non-biblical form of government. This is because either the pastor is not strong enough or he is a dictator. Dictatorship (which means “one man’s rule”), is a form of government that many pastors adhere to because they are afraid of losing their little kingdom. This will not work in a Holy Ghost church. Its not our kingdom, but His.

Communism, “the elders rule”, is how many of the denominational churches are ran today. This is absolutely against the Word of God. Elders are important in the church, but nowhere does God give them authority over the pastor.

Democracy, “the congregation or laity rule”, is rebellion against God’s direct authority. The sheep are to follow the shepherd, not lead him. In this concept the laity control what the preacher can preach.

The Bible says that in the last days people would heap to themselves teachers who told fables.

So with all these different forms of government that appeal to people, how do we get them to obey God? First we must understand that Jesus is the chief shepherd. He must be the director and mover of every function of the church. He is the ultimate authority in all we do. The pastor is the under shepherd, under God. He has the awesome responsibility of giving an account to God for the sheep. The organization and operation of the church pivots around him, but the allegiance, the honor and the glory of the people must be fastened upon the Lord Jesus. The pastor should also be able to preach without fear or favoritism of men. The position of the pastor should be from the people God-ward. The pastor cannot preach from the same position as that of the congregation. He must lead them, not push them. Therefore he must be in front of them, encouraging and admonishing them. Paul told the Christians to follow him as he followed Christ. The pastor should have some men that he can depend on and trust in. Often the pastor will feel alone and rejected. In times like these, he needs to have some minister friends to call on.

The pastor should appoint a church advisory board. It should be made up of an odd number of men or women appointed by the pastor and ratified by the church. The number depends upon the size of the church. A small church doesn’t always need a board. The pastor needs not only the help, but also the cooperation of his people. A good, trained church board in a large church is necessary for this. A board member must be taught in the Word and must fully understand the theocratic church government in order to be an effective helper.

The pastor should not be afraid of his board and should not feel leery about using them. His major task is to train leaders. When he has untrained saints who are available and are not being used, he is missing God’s plan. He needs to understand that both he and the church need a board.

There are three diversified reasons for a church board. First, counsel. Contrary to popular belief, the board does not counsel the pastor. Rather the pastor initiates the matter by taking counsel with the board. The church board and body never has the right to tell the pastor what to do, unless he asks them. They are called to be trusted, loyal helpers. The church board exists as a trusted body that the pastor can go to for counsel.

The second reason is for discipline. Every church will have its problems and it is up to the pastor and the board, if he so desires, to solve them. The pastor has the right to handle the problem, but he takes the risk of trouble spreading in the church from those who are misinformed or prejudice. This is the place to have a church board act instead of the pastor alone. Board action spreads the responsibility and lessens the chance of adverse reaction of offending saints against the pastor. In all of these disciple matters, the board should be prayerful and confidential. Nothing spreads quicker than a juicy rumor from a blabbing board member. Many churches have been destroyed or split because of a breech of confidence.

The third reason is harmony. When disciplinary action has been taken, a well- informed and trained board member can stop gossip, straighten out misunderstandings, explain why certain actions were taken, and keep general unity within the body. A great advantage in these areas is the fact that a board member can work with his relatives in the church in a more intimate way then the pastor. He is also alerted early to adverse conditions through the closer contact he has with church members in daily life as well as in the church services. His job is to keep the pastor informed of problems so that he can more readily handle them and pray about them. A well selected church board will bring harmony to the church by welding families more closely to the work of God.


The Bible gives six qualifications for a board member. Exodus 18:21.

1. Fear God. The fear of the Lord is the foundation for wisdom. If the leaders don’t respect God, the saints won’t either.

2. Men of Truth. They must not be afraid of the truth. They also must believe that the Word of God is the ultimate truth.

3. Hating covetousness. The tenth commandment still is a must. The board member must be unselfish, not power hungry, and humble. God never blesses arrogance.

Acts 6:3

4. Honest report. This is more than just telling the truth, it is living the truth. This also includes their past. Board members should be men of character who have an honest reputation.

5. Full of the Holy Ghost. Satan thrives on a carnal board member. Board member prayer meetings should be scheduled in order to find God’s will.

6. Full of wisdom. In order to be full of wisdom, he can’t be a new convert. Knowledge is not enough. Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge. Board members must use discretion along with knowledge.

In addition to the above, I also added a few qualification I personally felt was necessary.

1. Know the Word. A proper understanding of God and who He is, is a must. We can’t have wisdom without knowledge. Everything we do must be backed by God’s Word. This includes application also.

2. Be taught in theocratic church government. The board member must know and understand that Christ is the head of the church. Causing a division in the church is to separate his body.

3. Be vitally concerned about the local church. Each board member must have a burden for the church. This includes evangelism, upkeep, and the little things that need done. The board should make it a priority to see that the pastor isn’t mowing the grass or cleaning the church. They must be dedicated to seeing God’s will be done in their church.

The selection and term of office for the board may vary. Here is what most of the pastors I have talked to think is best.

The ideal church board is a rotating board. This board rotates its membership. Each year the man or men (women) who have been on the board the longest drop off and new members are appointed. This allows more men to be used effectively in the church. It brings new life to the board. It also is a means to replace an unwanted member.

In conclusion, I have found that most pastors depend upon their board greatly. Even those I interviewed who didn’t have “official boards”,               still had some kind of advisory committee.

(The above material was a report by Jose McFarland, Ecclesiology, 1992)

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