Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 19, 1963
NUMBER 49, PAGE 3,9c

The Majority Or The Minority?

Bob Franks

It is not the purpose of this article to justify any elder that fails to perform his work as the Lord ordained or to defend any of the unqualified. But I write in defense of the elders' right to oversee every phase of church work, yet being very careful in the performance of their duties not to "lord it over the flock." There is a disagreement as to the sphere of elders' oversight. Some are placing a limitation upon the elders' function, to what they are pleased to describe as "spiritual welfare and conduct of the church." They attempt to define the "spiritual welfare, etc.," in such a way as to rule out the duty of the elders to make final decisions in "temporal" things.

I quote from an article by brother Harold Spurlock in the Guardian recently and here are his conclusions relative to the work of elders. "I emphatically deny that elders are over the work of the church! I affirm that the church is over its own work and operation, and that elders lead, guide, tend, guard, and oversee the spiritual welfare and conduct of the church as it works and does the will of God in all things." It is not denied that elders are to "lead, guide, tend, guard and oversee" in the spiritual realm, but I do deny that they have no right to make a decision about temporal things. Brother Spurlock mentioned some of the things he thinks should not be put into the hands of the "minority" or the elders: (1) "Spending the Lord's money as they see fit, (2) Whom the church should support as a preacher, (3) When to have a gospel meeting, (4) What color to paint the auditorium, (5) Who should lead singing, and (8) Whether or not we have two songs before the first prayer." I wonder if anyone really believes that holding a gospel meeting and determining who will do the preaching, the support of the preacher and the other things mentioned have nothing to do with the spiritual affairs of the church? Suppose the majority wanted a preacher who is not sound in the faith? What would brother Spurlock suggest the elders do? According to him, they could do nothing for they have no right to make such decisions. I think he can see the fallacy of such reasoning by attempting to draw a line between the spiritual and temporal in regard to church work. I do not believe he can draw such a line, for one is dependent upon the other to get the job done.

To the Ephesian elders Paul states that the Holy Spirit "hath made you bishops (overseers)." (Acts 20:28) Peter declares the elders are charged with "exercising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according to the will of God...." (1 Peter 5:2) These passages subject the church to the oversight of the elders. Brother Spurlock's "majority" rule would subject the elders to the oversight of the church. We need a passage from him allowing anyone else to oversee or to make authoritative decisions in the church of God, except the God ordained elders.

It should be clearly understood at this point that because the word bishop means a superintendent, it does not permit an elder to be "boss" of the congregation. Some have taken the position he is a "boss" and whatever he decrees is law which cannot be broken. However, this theory is certainly refuted by Peter when he said, "not lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves ensamples to the flock." (1 Peter 5:2) The position that an elder rules with an iron hand is just as dangerous as the "majority" rule of the membership.

Our brother asks for the scripture that "authorizes qualified overseers to act in such a capacity in the first place, and why is such minority rule scriptural on matters of judgment and personal opinion?" We do not have to search long until we find an answer. Note the following: The requisites of taking care of the needy saints require some decisions that would necessarily involve what brother Spurlock would call "temporal" things, viz., (1) Who is worthy of help, (2) How much help is needed, (3) How long the help will continue, and (4) How the help wit be administered. The church in Antioch relieved the needs of the Judean churches by "sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Paul." (Acts 11:29-30) Tell us, why did they not let the church "oversee its own work" and turn these gifts over to the "majority" for them to decide these "temporal" things? The answer is obvious. Only the bishops have the right to make such decisions.

The point is stressed that the congregation should run "its affairs and make its own decisions in matters of judgment and opinion...." There isn't anything I know of that will work without a system of some kind. I would like for our brother to give us the mechanics of his system and how we could go about putting it into operation. Tell us how the church could "make its own decisions?" If a preacher is hired, would he be selected by popular vote of the majority? Or if the auditorium needed painting, would you call for a vote to determine what color? While I agree that such decisions are not all that is involved in the work of elders, I affirm they are part of it. If not, who is to make the final decisions? Does the preacher count the votes and then announce to the congregation the auditorium will be painted purple?

A better understanding would prevail if all preachers would submit to elders and at the same time teach them it is sinful to "lord it over the flock" and teach the flock to "submit to the elders." To encourage elders in an overbearing attitude is sin; it is also sin to encourage members to a rebellious attitude. Proper humility and a disposition to please the Lord will solve the problem of elders, preacher, member relation. It should be remembered in any organization, someone has to make final decisions. If we have enough confidence in the elders to appoint them to "watch in behalf of our souls," surely we ought to have enough in them to determine what color to paint the auditorium or to decide who should hold the next meeting! In fact, I think our brother has caused needless smoke where there is really no fire.

We will be waiting anxiously for the passage that teaches majority rule in any way in the church of God and until such is found, I am willing to leave all the overseeing and decisions in the hands of the bishops — Yes, even to what color the auditorium should be painted.

— 109 Parker Drive, Lufkin, Texas