Monday, April 02, 2007

Ministerial Ethics and the City Church

I have previously written about my missionary experience in the region of Extremadura in southwest Spain, and about the special relationship of fellowship and unity we enjoyed with other evangelicals in the region by way of the Council of Evangelical Churches of Extremadura. The following document, which I have translated from the original Spanish, and that we accepted as a guideline for our fellowship and work together for the Lord in the region of Extremadura, is, I believe, an excellent starting point for putting into practice, in the context of the “City Church” (or “Regional Church” in areas in which there are fewer churches and believers), the unity that Christ desires for us as His followers.

There are several implications and other issues related to this that I would like to discuss and investigate further, and I hope to do so in upcoming posts. But for now, in order to get the ball rolling, and to not bog this post down with too much information all at once, I leave you with the following:

Recommended Behavioral Guidelines for Pastors, Leaders and Missionaries

  1. Pastors, leaders and missionaries working in the same city or region owe each other mutual recognition and respect. In the same way, they ought to recognize and respect the Church and the Work through which they are serving others.
  2. Cooperation in the areas of prayer, evangelism and testimony in society at large and through the communication media should be sought after and promoted.
  3. Mutual agreement in conflictive matters should be sought after, particularly in the case of brothers and sisters in Christ who go from one church to another.

We believe that, acting decently and in order, each member has the right to belong to and collaborate with the church he/she prefers.

-In cases of doctrinal disagreement, or incompatibility in personal matters or forms of worship, brothers or sisters in Christ ought to join themselves to whatever church they wish, with the agreement of the respective pastors, leaders or missionaries.

-Whenever a person or group of people leave a church, whether they are under discipline or not, they should not be received into fellowship without hearing beforehand the report of the church from which they are coming. No one should be received into fellowship without the previous consent of his/her leaders, or without having come to a point of reconciliation and restitution of any moral or material damage that may have been caused. A peaceful exit from one’s former church is of utmost importance.

-In cases of immorality, serious offenses or a persistent lack of discipline on the part of the brothers and/or sisters leaving one church for another, the leaders of the new church, upon confirming the facts, ought to take on the discipline that had been applied in the former church, provided it is deemed to be proportionate.

-Teaching should not be given nor visits made to members of churches other than one’s own without the consent of their respective leaders.

-Members of other churches, upon consulting pastors, leaders or missionaries other than those of their own church on matters of church polity, worship, doctrine or morality, should be referred to the leaders of their own church.

  1. Whenever a pastor, leader, missionary or church falls into adversity, misfortune, conflicts or crisis, it is recommended that he/she receive the joint support and proper covering of other pastors, leaders, missionaries and churches in their city or region. Criticism of others behind their backs or by third parties should not be admitted, and even less so, condemnatory judgment or discrediting of a church or individuals with a recognized ministry.
  2. Whenever an offense is observed in the life of a leader, or any brother or sister in Christ, Kingdom rules of order should be respected: with discretion and prayer, and without sharing the matter with anyone else, the brother or sister in question should be approached first, dealing with the matter at hand directly, and without the involvement of third parties.
  3. Whenever a serious offense on the part of a pastor, leader, missionary or church is confirmed, it should be resolved among the most immediate local or regional leaders, seeking the mediation of competent brothers and/or sisters in Christ.
  4. Churches, pastors, leaders and missionaries that have not yet entered into fellowship with the Council of Evangelical Churches of Extremadura should be treated with respect, while at the same time being encouraged to join in the fellowship, inasmuch as it is the desire of God that we all come together to form one family that may serve as a testimony to those who do not yet know the Kingdom of God.

10 comments:

bryan riley said...

I apologize for this off-topic question, but where in the world is Stepchild these days???

David Rogers said...

Bryan,

I don't know. But my theory is he gave up blogging for Lent, which happened to begin this year right about the same time as his last post.

Trey Atkins said...

David,

Thanks for the great thoughts on the 'city church' concept and on working with others. It truly helps add depth and practicality to the guidelines for cooperation we are provided with. I will be sharing this with some of those we hope to develop partnerships with in the future.

Did it work? It all sounds really good but in life, did churches refuse membership requests and teaching opportunities until they had the blessing of the previous leaders?

If it did work, did that help in matters of church discipline? It seems to possibly address one of the major weaknesses of attempting church discipline in America: those who have fallen simply move on to another place where their history becomes whatever they want it to be.

Thanks again. I hope you are right about Stepchild - I look forward to his next post in the near future.

Trey Atkins
IMB - Croatia

David Rogers said...

Trey,

I can't say that in 100% of the cases 100% of church leaders in Extremadura have kept to these guidelines. The agreement is definitely more informal, in that sense. However, I definitely think it has helped, and that relationships between the various churches and leaders are better as a result of having an understanding like this.

I also agree with you about the problem of initiating church discipine in the States (or for that matter, a whole lot of other places as well). I don't think that gives us the prerogative to just throw up our hands and give in to the complexity of the situation though. Unity can be hard work. But the Bible commands us to "make EVERY EFFORT to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Eph. 4.3).

Paul said...

Great post, David!

Obviously this kind of approach only works in Spain.:)

Seriously, it seems to me the greatest hindrances here in Pennsylvania toward making "every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit" have been more with clergy than laity.

Bart Barber said...

David,

Are evangelical churches the only true churches?

David Rogers said...

Bart,

I am assuming you have read the follow-up post. And, though I am open to being shown otherwise, I would say that the answer to your question depends on one's definition of "evangelical." I would think that a "church" that is not preaching a "gospel" that will get you to heaven is not a "true church."

Bart Barber said...

David,

Be careful about assuming. :-)

Between celebrating the resurrection and grading papers, blogging time has taken a severe hit recently. But I'll look at that follow-up post.

Bart Barber said...

Within a church, I would not prescribe that a member of Sunday School class A could not converse with the teacher of Sunday School class B about matters of doctrine, etc. How might one go about justifying such a restriction between congregations, unless one had concluded that doctrine is not really very important? I mean, there's certainly no biblical defense for such a policy. It would seem to me that this set of guidelines would very successfully have prevented the Reformation.

David Rogers said...

Bart,

As I understand guideline 3.d & e, it is not referring so much to inter-congregational sharing of insights, "iron sharpening iron" type of interaction between believers, but rather doing this with prosyletist intentions, behind the back of other church leaders. We should not be having secret meetings with believers who are under the watchcare of other pastors and leaders, with the intent to draw them into our group.

Of course, nowadays, people are able to read books from authors defending many points of view, and debate points of Scripture on blogs with people from other churches, just as we are doing now. I think this is, for the most part, a good thing.

Also, if we come to feel a particular church or leader has crossed the line over, and is no longer truly teaching the "gospel," but is "really no gospel at all," then we no longer have obligation to follow these guidelines with them. I believe that is what happened in the case of Reformation.