The Unbeatable Team : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

I just heard a lesson on church leadership that I think holds the answers to many problems churches have. Boy, have we got it wrong!

Revelation: The Kingdom of God is not a democracy. It operates on Kingdom principles, or military principles. Voting on church matters or personnel is not Biblical. What does exist is loving shepherding, order, and submission to authority. It exists at every level of the Kingdom from Heaven to the family. Where it should also exist is the church.

The ideal church board member should look like one of David's mighty men. Each was a man who all by himself was formidable. He was trained in warfare, possibly even by David himself. He was proven in battle, and loyal to David. He risked his life when David longed for a drink from the well in Bethlehem. Operating together these men became more than the sum of their parts, and combined with David they were truly mighty. Assigned as heads of the divisions of the army they were invincible.

The key was unity and submission. They did not elect David, and were not elected by the army. They were selected by David. They were not a check and balance to David, they were his support and his bodyguards. David spoke the vision, they carried it out. They worked for David, not the other way around. Though they undoubtedly offered counsel to David, they obeyed him fully once he made his decision.

How different from today's church boards. Fast forward to the New Testament and notice how these same methods were used in the early church.

Everyone knew initially who should run the church because they had walked personally with Jesus. A replacement for Judas Iscariot was appointed by lot, not election. As the church grew we see them appointing, not electing elders. Barnabus and Saul were commissioned for missions after an extended period of proving. No elections there either.

When a controversy arose they didn't vote. They brought it before the elders, who arrived at a consensus. When Peter fell into error, Paul confronted him, and Peter corrected himself. They were accountable to each other, not the larger church body.

As time passed though we see that authority slipping. We see the apostles writing letters appealing for unity and advising on how to deal with false teachers and divisive influences. We see Paul defending himself against multiple attacks. The church was showing signs of becoming a battleground as satan infiltrated his people. Only firm church discipline administered by strong leaders can deal with that.

But how can we have it when every issue is up for debate and a vote?

-- Anonymous, November 25, 2002


I am not sure what the earthly King David did for those under his rule, but I am certain that the King of Kings both gave and respected our right to choose. The African Methodist Episcopal Church has given its member the right to choose its leaders since 1816 and even before. This is not only wise but also scriptually sound. For, in the Book of Acts we read that the first act of the Christian Church was the election of a Bishop (Acts 1:26).

The term casting lots obviously has two meaning in Biblical text. One is a form of chance as we find in the Roman soldiers casting lots for Jesus' Robe. But others indicate by their scope and intent that it was a form of voting as well. The first reference occurs in Leviticus 16 and was directed by God, as the way for Aaron to know which of two goats would be the nation's first scapegoat. In Numbers 26 lots are ordered as the way Canaan was to be divided among the tribes. First Chronicles 24 determined the priests' order of service in the Temple by lots. In Jonah 1, the lot fell on Jonah when his shipmates wanted to know the object of God's anger. The Gospels record that the Temple duty of Zacharias was also determined by the casting of lots.

So the casting of Lots were both ordered by God and chosen by men when decision had to be made. Since 120 persons, women and children were present in the Upper Room it seems obvious that the casting of lots indicates they voted and that the votes were counted so that Matthias became the bishop they chose.

Thank God He has given us the "Greatest Testament Of Freedom" yet known on earth. This had its birth on July 4, 1776 and thank God that also in his Church He has given us the knowledge, the ability and the sacred right to choose.

-- Anonymous, November 26, 2002

I understand the concern of this post. We are letting much slip away. And I believe there is a difference between clergy and lay in the choosing and appointing of ministers of the Gospel.

The scripture in Acts, does mention those in the upper room along with Mary, but beginning with the 15 first there is a distinction. (I believe)

15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) 16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.

I think the key here is Men and brethren.

Some where in the scriptures is speaks of the number of those watching Jesus asend to heaven. I believe this was greater than the 120 which took part in this appointment.

Just my observation.

In Christ, Carmen

-- Anonymous, November 26, 2002

RP's analysis is essentially a case for theocracy as a form of governing and organization. Theocracy has long been the more preferred model for ecclesiastical structure because it concentrates decision-making and power in the hands of an elite few (mainly clergy). The Vatican and a long list of European Potentates have articulated and justified their rightful rule based largely on this principle. The problem with theocracy is that it can lead to abuse and misrepresentation of the people by the elite. Martin Luther's critique of the Vatican was both a theological and political manifesto. Furthermore, while the Bible doesnot mention the practice of voting or representational elections, it would be incorrect to infer that these forms of governing are "unBiblical". The church is a microcosm of social reality. The early church and ancient Israel didn't vote in the formal sense that we know it today simply because it was not a wide-spread socio-cultural practice.

But, the fact that Old Testament and New Testament evidence is lacking about voting practices it would be a non sequitur to conclude that the Bible discourages congregational input in the selection of leaders or shaping important church policy. Three Biblical cases immediately come to mind. Saul was indeed selected as Israel's 1st King but only before a groundswell of support by the people. Samuel reluctantly deferred to the masses after private conversation with Jehovah. The people of Israel were indeed influential in creating a monarchy form of government. Also, recall in Acts Chapter 6 about the "selection" of the seven deacons. The office of deacons would have never been created if there wasn't a formal complaint made by the Grecians at that time. Again, we find a response made by a congregationalist concern. Finally, the Jerusalem Council in Acts Chapter 15 outlines the rudiments of an Episcopacy where we find key church leaders representing different segments about the first theological crisis of the early church, circumcision and salvation. After much dialogue and debate a resolution was offered and the matter was settled. Isn't this precisely what we do now in our church conferences? QED

-- Anonymous, November 26, 2002

This is a most intriguing discussion. I offer this twist. Regardless of what method by which our Episcopal Leadership is selected, election or appointment, need there be the "equal among peers" hierarchy? Would we not be better served by a strong chief executive analogous to a pope or a president? Did not Bishop Allen occupy just such a position in the early church before the proliferation of our denominaion?

Otherwise stated, a pencil with a sharp point is of greater utility than one with a dull or flat point, in my experience.

Of course, that would call for a new constitution, but it may be time for that, too. This world is vastly different from that which we occupied in 1816, and likewise our relationship to it.

Peace, Larry D. Coleman, Esq.

-- Anonymous, November 26, 2002


The mechanism for more than one Bishop was always present in our church even from the beginning. Although no record of this event can be found. Persons present at the First General Convention reported that on April 9, 1816 two Bishops were elected. These were Richard Allen and Daniel Coker. Allen was away on business when this election was held. The next day when he returned, he stated that he felt one bishop was sufficient for the church at that time. Thus, they both resigned and another election was held. So on April 10 a new election was held and Allen alone was elected. He was thus consecrated on April 11 as the First and at the time the only Bishop of the church. However this only lasted eight years when the church grew so extensively that another Bishop was required. Thus, Morris Brown was elected and the title Senior Bishop (an honorary title) was first used. It was never intended that one bishop should administer a church as large as ours. Nor was it ever intended the administrative powers should rest in the hands of one person alone.

-- Anonymous, November 26, 2002

My Dear Bro. Matthews:

Thank you for your most edifying response!

The key phrase is where you say the church "grew so extensively" under one Bishop that another was required. That is precisely my point. "Too many cooks," goes the adage, "can spoil the stew." One of our great failings, presently, certain mega-churches notwithstanding, is the lack of church growth.

I am not being critical of our church. I love it, its history and its legacy. However, right now I note certain inefficiencies which may profit from scrutiny. Among these is the lack of a singular vision, a point. While I will readily concede that "in multitude of counselors there is safety," Prov. 11:14, I also recognize that "All men who strive for the mastery are temperate in all things." 1 Cor. 9:25 "Temperate" might include limiting the number of Bishops, or, failing that, selecting/electing a Head Bishop.

Of course, there are also other aspects of church structure, which may warrant strengthening, i.e., the Departments and the Commissions. So, the focus on the Bishops might be misplaced. Perhaps, if the tide, on which those big boats float, were to rise to new levels, those big boats, unless poorly moored, would have no choice, except to rise with it. This dialgoue is part of that tide.

I am blessed by your historical knowledge. Give me more!

Sincerely, Rev. Dr. Larry D. Coleman

-- Anonymous, November 26, 2002

Reverend Coleman,

I could not agree with you more. On a personal note I cannot for the life of me understand why each General Conference should have 50, 70 or more persons seeking the office of Bishop. Many of whom already know that they have no earthly chance of ever obtaining that goal. Is there not sufficient work in the field?

The early Bishops had sufficiently done the work and so they were ready and able for bigger and better things. Today I often wonder if this is so.

Additionally, let me correct a statement, which I made. Morris Brown was elected in 1828, which was 12 years after Allen, rather than eight. At that time of his election he had already planted a successful church in Charleston, been an accomplice to a Southern Civil Rights Movement--the Denmark Vesey Affair-- from which he had to flee for his very life. HE had also assisted Bishop Allen in much of his work and in the overall growth of the entire church.

"By their fruits you shall know them". Why today do I have to look so hard for the fruit? Frankly this gives me much cause for concern.

-- Anonymous, November 26, 2002

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