THE DIVINE METHOD OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT
by G. H. Lang, Unity Chapel, Bristol 1900 AD - Paraphrased by L. Kinder
Review © 2007 Lloyd Kinder
MAJORITY OR UNANIMITY?
The question is whether the Word of God sanctions the practice of
making church decisions by a majority vote of the members present, or
whether it teaches and exhorts us to defer each decision until one
undivided mind and judgment is arrived at.
- My answer is the latter.
Considering that the Church represents before the world the kingdom of
the Lord Jesus, so that worldly men judge of Him according to that
which they see in us, it is manifestly of the utmost importance that,
before carrying out any proposed action, we should make as sure as can
possibly be that the course proposed is a right and proper one, and
well pleasing unto Him whose will we seek to do.
- Experience has abundantly shown that the minority is frequently in the right and the majority in the wrong.
Rather than making known to the Church His wishes by this majority rule
plan of voting, the Lord has rather promised to reveal His will by and
through the bringing of His people to unanimous judgment.
Considering the vast importance of the doings of His people, it would
have been very strange had He left no more sure method of learning His
will and receiving His directions than this very uncertain plan of
acting according to the view of the majority.
- We are often so very carnally- and so little spiritually-minded, that divine things are but slowly apprehended by us.
- This is obviously a good reason for more carefully going over in our minds any matter of group action.
It is to guard against the mistakes inevitably arising from this too
frequent haste that the Lord wishes us, I believe, to defer our
decision and continue our conference until unanimity is reached.
LEADING TO DISSENSION
It seems clear that a method which is as likely to lead to a wrong
decision as to a right one cannot be a divine method, and ought not to
be followed by those possessing the divine nature, and capable of
having the mind of Christ (2 Pet. 1:4, 1 Cor. 2:16), in whose workings
mistakes are unknown.
- Majority rule is eminently likely to lead to
dissension, both secret and public, a truth with which any who have had
much experience on the subject must be sadly familiar.
anything be more likely to stir up contention and cause disaffection
than that a section of the church should have their wishes and,
possibly their sincere convictions, rejected, simply because a larger
section of the church, with no other advantage, has different opinions?
A method at all likely to cause disagreement and possibly open division
cannot be of God, who is "not a God of confusion, but of peace," (1
- But when nothing is done till one judgment is
come to all, everyone is pleased with that which is done and discord
and disunion are averted, while concord and union are strengthened,
bringing spiritual blessing to the whole community.
- It will
doubtless be agreed that, seeing that we pray, "Lead us not into
temptation," a method which tends to so lead us cannot be of God, who
delivers us from the Evil One.
TEMPTATION TO BAD CONDUCT
- But given a member possessed of
an ardent and honest conviction that the plan he or she proposes is
right and good, does not majority rule present very obvious and severe
temptations to bad conduct?
- One has every inducement to "pack" the
meeting, by secretly urging those who think alike to be present in
force, rather than leaving it to the Lord to bring together those who
it is known to Him are qualified to deal with the particular matter to
- One is tempted by vehemence in argument to gain
other adherents to one's own view, rather than by patient reflection to
submit one's judgment to the Lord.
- In the eagerness to gain a
majority of votes one is more likely to be anxious to persuade others,
than to be willing to be persuaded by others.
- A method that stirs up such temptations, in order to obtain a majority of members, cannot be of the Lord.
Such temptation to "pack" a meeting is absolutely banished by the
necessity for entire accord, while the desire to give up private views,
if needful, to arrive at the mind of the Lord, as the only possible
means of reaching unanimous judgment, is very much increased.
one method appears likely to lead me to press forward my views, the
other to lead me to carefully wait upon the Lord for His views.
BODY OF CHRIST
- In Romans 14:4-5, 1 Cor. 12:12-27, Ephesians 4:11-16, and other scriptures, the Church is compared to the human body.
- Of this spiritual body each believer is individually a member, while the Lord Jesus is the head of the whole body.
The more this analogy is prayerfully studied, the more it will be seen
to be the most perfect comparison the divine wisdom of God has
presented to us to illustrate the working of the Church.
little thought is required to see two things concerning the human body:
(a) it is not the members that plan, will and control the body, whose
functions are vested solely in the head, it being the duty and beauty
of the members to recognise and respond to the impulses and directions
of the head: (b) any lack of harmony in the members in doing the will
of the head indicates a measure of disease in those members where the
failure is found, as, for instance, if one arm or hand fails to
co-operate with the other for completing a desired piece of handiwork,
the member has become more or less independent of the head.
this condition occurs, the proper course is to try patiently such means
as will restore the undisputed control of the head.
- When it is
found in the church that there is a divergence of opinion upon a matter
connected with the church, the proper plan is to wait prayerfully for
the whole body to be again brought under the control of the Lord into
- For a church to depart from unanimity and to act
according to the desire of a majority only of the believers in its
membership is as if the affairs and actions of a man's body should be
decided upon by the impulses of a certain number of the members thereof.
ONENESS AS TESTIMONY
By the failure to act in complete unity, the church ceases to give one
of the most effective forms of testimony to the world that is possible.
In John 17:20-21, the Lord Jesus, in speaking to the Father, says,
"Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also who shall believe
on Me through their word; that they may all be one even as You, Father,
are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in us: that the
world may believe that You did send Me. And the glory which You have
given Me I have given unto them; that they may be one, even as we are
one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected into one; that
the world may know that You did send Me, and loved them, even as You
- Without attempting an exhaustive exposition of this passage, it is sufficient for us to notice three things:
(a) The Lord's desire for all His people to be perfected into one;
(b) The pattern of that oneness to be the oneness of the Father and the Son;
(c) The object of this oneness to be the testimony thereby given to the world.
With regard to (a) the prayer of our Lord was in effect that the Holy
Spirit might be sent into everyone who should believe on His name, so
that by the Spirit of God indwelling, we might all be united into one
in God; so that (b), the pattern of our unity should be the oneness of
the Father and the Son, who are, not only one in Person, but also in
action; in all their doings there is the most perfect harmonious unity:
and it would be sheer blasphemy, in fact it would logically involve the
most absolute atheism, to suppose the doings of the Godhead to be
regulated by the decision of any two of the Persons thereof, the one
Person being either opposed to the view of the two, or merely
submitting to being outvoted.
- As to our last point (c) it is to be
observed that believers are to manifest a corporate union publicly, for
the world is to see it. The object the Lord desires to attain is that
the world may know and believe that He was sent by the Father, and that
the believer is a sharer in the love of the Father to the Son.
Why He chose this method I shall hope to next show, but for the moment
what I strenuously emphasize is that the deliberate departing from
oneness of action by adopting the practice of majority voting is
undeniably not even attempting to attain such united working as is set
forth in these words of the Lord Jesus, and cannot, therefore, result
in that testimony which He taught oneness alone could give.
submit it as an invariably true principle for the guidance of the
children of God, that any course of action which tends to mar, even
partially, their testimony before the world, is not a line of conduct
which is of the Father, but rather of the world.
HOW IS UNANIMITY POSSIBLE?
- There arises a question; namely, how is it possible for unity of judgment and action to be attained?
- In divine things the question of "How?" is of comparatively small importance.
It is for us to at least endeavor to obey the revealed will of the
Lord, and to seek after unanimity; and we may leave to God the question
of how it is possible for Him to bring to one mind many persons of
different types of character, of different habits of thought, having
varying ways of looking at the same subject and sometimes opposite ways
of doing the same thing.
- I freely concede the point that humanly speaking unanimity is not possible.
To bring together scores, and perhaps hundreds, of mere men and women
and expect them to come to one unanimous decision upon questions of
perplexing and delicate nature is to look for more than fallen human
nature is capable of.
- Because each human spirit is a separate
individuality possessed of the power and tendency of acting
independently of every other being, therefore it is true, "many men,
- But, as we have seen, the glorious and all-important
fact concerning the children of God is that in place of being any
longer entirely dissevered spiritually from every other creature, we
are all indwelt by one and the same Spirit, the Spirit of Christ; and
when this fact is clearly recognized and acted upon, the humanly
impossible is seen to be divinely possible.
- The human body is
composed of many various substances, and the several members--hands,
ears, eyes, etc--vary vastly in form and use, and yet these manifest
differences do not hinder the whole body working together, because each
part is under the personal influence of the one spirit inhabiting the
- So it is true the members of the body of Christ differ
greatly, but because we are every one indwelt by the one Spirit, the
co-operation of all members is possible, and should be sought after.
It may be that with this, as with other Christlike graces, full and
eternal harmony will only be attained when the last trace of the
rebellious carnal spirit shall have been removed at the coming of the
Lord; but, on the other hand, with this, as with other fruit of the
Spirit, we should aim at perfection and "give diligence to keep the
unity of the Spirit" (Eph. 4:3) and then a unanimity can be reached
which will astonish us, just as time back should have been astonished
had we been told that love, joy and peace could be ours to the degree
they now are through the Spirit.
- Here I state why I believe the Lord chose this oneness of mind and working as His testimony to the world.
It was that through the fact of His people acting upon a principle and
in a manner that the world has never found continuously possible, it
might be made apparent that a divine power was at work among them, that
the Spirit of God, not the spirit of the world, controlled them all.
And, therefore, it is that I say the testimony is utterly ruined by the
plan of a majority vote settling matters, for this is the very method
which worldly men uniformly adopt as the only practicable plan known to
them; and I doubt not it was from them that this, like numerous other
evil practices, was borrowed and adopted by the Church, in days when,
by the toleration of evil doctrine and doing, she had so grieved the
Holy Spirit as to forfeit His unifying and directing help.
it is one of the functions and rights of the Spirit to control the
whole body, for us as a Church to arbitrarily say He shall express His
will through a section only of the members of the body here present is
to assume the office of dictating to Him whom it is our duty and wisdom
to obey, and to thus prevent Him from fully doing that which He would
graciously do for our blessing, namely, lead to unanimity; and also we
forfeit that certainty of knowing what is His will which an undivided
judgment alone can give; for while it is certain what is the desire of
my spirit if my whole body works to one end, it would be by no means so
certain were some only of my members to seek that end, and the rest to
OLD TESTAMENT TESTIMONY
- It is to be noted that the whole burden of Scripture testimony is on the side of unanimity.
This is more clearly seen by observing two very remarkable lines of
thought: first, that unanimity is in the Word of God associated with
spiritual prosperity; and, on the other hand, a divided judgment with
lack of spirituality.
- For instance, Israel in the wilderness were
in a state of unbelief at the time the spies went up to search out the
land, and ten of the twelve selected men reflected the condition of the
people, dissuading the nation from going forward, and the two only,
Joshua and Caleb, persuading them to do so.
- This was a very
striking instance of the minority having the mind of the Lord, but of
their being hopelessly outvoted; and by acting on the view of the
majority the whole people made a fatal error.
- Again, how sad was
the state of the kingdom, while some of the people followed Saul, and a
smaller company helped David; but how significant the statement, (1
Chr. 12:38,40) that "there was joy in Israel" when "all Israel were of
one heart to make David king."
- Once more, what a time of spiritual
prosperity was inaugurated when David proposed to once again seek the
Lord and worship before the ark of the Lord; "and all the assembly said
they would do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the
people." (1 Chr. 13:1-4)
- On the other hand, how miserable was the
condition of affairs when most of the people worshiped Baal, while
7,000 followed Jehovah (1 Kings 19:20); but what a revival of godliness
in Judah is indicated by the words, connected with the proposal to
return to the keeping of the passover feast, "the thing was right in
the eyes of the king and of all the congregation," (2 Chr. 30:4).
Yet again, what a startling contrast is seen between the rapidly
increasing prosperity of the people during the undivided allegiance of
the twelve tribes to David and Solomon, as compared with the surely
downward course after the division under Rehoboam.
- And how
terrible was the condition of Israel when it could be written (1 Kings
16:21) "Then were the people of Israel divided into two parts; half of
the people followed Tibni, the son of Ginath, to make him king: and
half followed Omri. But the people that followed Omri prevailed against
the people that followed Tibni": as compared with the comparative
prosperity of Judah and Benjamin in their unbroken submission to the
rule of the godly Asa.
NEW TESTAMENT TESTIMONY
- I am aware that it may be said that
these examples from the Old Testament have no very direct bearing upon
the government of a Christian Church; but they were "written for our
admonition," and the remarkable frequency with which unanimity and
prosperity are connected in these and similar instances, gives an
emphatic Scriptural testimony in favor of undivided action by the
people of God; and the lesson is yet more impressive when it is seen
that the New Testament follows upon the same side, and sets before us
under the new covenant, the same precept and example as was set before
the earthly people of God.
- Take, for example, such exhortations as the following.
Rom. 15:5, 6: "Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be
of the same mind one with another according to Christ Jesus: that with
one accord ye may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord
- 1 Cor. 1:10: "Now I beseech you, brethren, through
the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing,
and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected
together in the same mind, and in the same judgment."
- 2 Cor.
13:11: "Be perfected, be comforted, be of the same mind; live in peace;
and the God of love and peace shall be with you."
- Galatians: The
direct object of this epistle was to bring the Church to oneness of
mind upon the question discussed; to exhort them to all walk by the
Spirit, and thus to avoid the "strife, factions and divisions," spoken
of as being of the flesh, (Gal. 5:20).
- Ephesians 4:3-16: "Giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
The "unity of the Spirit," is that unity which is manifested by the
Spirit through united action on the part of the body; and therefore in
this passage the apostle at once proceeds to a revelation of the
inter-working of the whole body in perfect harmony.
1:27: "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ;
that, whether I come and see you or be absent, I may hear of your
state, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving for the
faith of the gospel."
- Philippians 2:2: "Fulfill my joy, that you
be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one
mind; doing nothing through faction or through vainglory."
- Philippians 4:2: "I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the Lord."
Colossians 3:17: When this Church met together to discuss the work of
the Lord they were met with this injunction, "Whatsoever you do in word
or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the
Father through Him."
- Now, if a matter had been decided by a
majority only, the members of the minority could not have given thanks
for the doing of that which they had urged should not be done;
therefore the plan of so deciding a matter forces some to take part in
doing things for which they cannot give thanks, and which they cannot
do in the name of the Lord Jesus.
- Can a method which forces
unscriptural conduct upon some members be itself Scriptural; for the
only alternative is that they continue to show their objections by
refraining from the work to which they objected.
- Can this be
considered a Scriptural course in the face of the above quoted
exhortation in Phil. 1:27, "with one soul striving"?
- Or 1 Thessalonians 5:13: "Be at peace among yourselves."
- Earlier I sought to show that dissension is one of the probable and, indeed, frequent results of majority rule.
2 Thessalonians 3:16: "Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at
all times in all ways," which must include business meetings.
Timothy 6:3, 4; 2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9: In the first passage certain
men, and in the second and third certain questions are condemned, and
the avoidance thereof exhorted, because they engender strifes; that is,
not that every time a foolish question is discussed it leads to strife,
but that there is a general tendency in such discussion to provoke
- So it does not require that every time a matter is
decided by a majority vote it should provoke strife; it is sufficient
if it has a tendency that way.
- James 1:5: "If any of you lack
wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally, and upbraids
not; and it shall be given him."
- When a church meets together and
some think one course the best, and some another, it is evident one, or
both, of the parties has not the wisdom of God in the matter.
- This Scripture indicates what should then be done.
Not the opinion of the majority is to be acted upon, for they may be
wrong in their judgment and, for the same reason, not that of the
minority: but let all wait on God for wisdom, and it shall be given, in
God's time, to those who ask in faith.
- In addition to these
passages, exhorting to "peace," to "oneness of mind," to "all speaking
the same thing," to being "perfected together in the same mind and in
the same judgment," we have the already commented upon words of the
Lord Jesus, from John 17, and the Scriptural analogy of the body; and
also the example of a church transacting affairs in its corporate
capacity recorded in Acts 15, which we shall now consider.
- As if
the Lord foresaw that the precepts and whole tenor of His Word would
not be sufficient to preserve His people from adopting almost
universally the practice of the world in the matter of making group
decisions, He caused to be given a very full narration of the
discussion of an important and intricate question by the church at
Jerusalem, including the apostles, to whom was specially committed the
knowledge of His will, and who were undoubtedly those most likely to
know what method was most accordant with the mind of the Spirit.
THE APOSTLES' EXAMPLE
- This record is found in Acts 15.
When closely studied the story gives not only the decision upon the
question actually discussed, but also the principles by which the
judgments of believers were influenced, and, further, that which
directly bears on our subject, the order of discussion.
- Before the
reader goes further I would earnestly ask that the chapter be carefully
read, and then the following remarks may be better considered.
the Gentile church at Antioch there had come from Judea certain men who
taught the brethren that, as circumcision had from the time of Abraham
been the sign of a person belonging to the visible company of the
people of God, they could not be saved unless they were circumcised.
Paul and Barnabas dissented from this teaching, and in order to the
obtaining of the opinion of the apostles and the mother church, the
brethren at Antioch deputed Paul and others to proceed to Jerusalem and
there discuss the question; and, we read, "when they were come to
Jerusalem, they were received of the church and the apostles and the
- The order in which the matter proceeded is then shown as follows.
"They rehearsed all that God had done with them," evidently including
in their remarks a statement of their having refrained from teaching
Gentile believers that they must be circumcised, and also laying before
the church the facts concerning the discussion that had gone on at
- That they did this is clear from verse 24, where the
apostles display a knowledge of what had transpired at Antioch, which
things they evidently learned in the information of Paul and Barnabas.
- Thus the matter was laid before the church, and the proposal to enforce circumcision thrown open for discussion.
Certain of the Pharisees, not having been yet divested of their
sectarian spirit, rose and urged that it was needful that Gentile
Christians should be circumcised and enjoined to keep the law of Moses.
This imposing of the ceremonial Judaic law upon Gentiles had not been
the practice of the early church, as may be seen by the recorded
teaching of the apostles and their speeches on this occasion; but the
addresses of these Pharisees made it clear that there was a division of
judgment upon the question.
- Now, had their method been the
more modern plan that we are discussing, it would have been recorded
that they ascertained on which side of the question there was a
majority of members, and so settled the matter.
- But, as opposed to
this, we learn that when this divergence of view is manifested, the
meeting is adjourned, and a fresh gathering of apostles, elders (v. 6),
and the whole multitude of the disciples (v. 12), constituting the
"whole church," (v. 22), is called together to consider the matter.
Then we learn that upon the subject being again brought forward, there
was "much disputing" (v. 7), showing that those wide and opposed
differences of opinion which now manifest themselves were seen then
- Here again I remark that had the apostolic method of
reaching a decision been the present one, we should expect to find a
record to that effect; but, on the contrary, the disputing and
speech-making uninterruptedly continued.
- Peter, Barnabas, Paul and James all freely expressed their thoughts, until we find the significant record (v. 22).
- "Then it seemed good to the apostles and elders with the whole church," to do certain things.
This is the essence of the whole question--nothing done until all
differences have disappeared in unanimity; then action taken.
that, with the approval of the whole church, it could be written to the
brethren at Antioch, "it seemed good to us, having come to one accord,"
UNANIMITY AS AUTHORITY OF GOD
- And it is of the most momentous importance that we
should notice that the church thus "being of one accord," (Phil. 2:2),
and having learned to "all speak the same thing," so that there were
"no divisions among them" but that they were "perfected together in the
same mind and in the same judgment," (I Cor. 1:10), they are then able
to calmly and confidently claim the authority of the Lord Himself for
their decision, and say, (v. 28), "it seemed good to the Holy Spirit
and to us."
- Thus would our divine Lord impressively set before His
people the method to be followed by the church when considering matters
in a corporate capacity, and teach us that when, by patiently waiting
before Him and focusing upon the particular subject in hand the light
He has given, the church comes to oneness of mind in their decision, we
can then claim His approval of and authority for that which we do.
- This teaching is the underlying basis of the seemingly difficult passage, Mat. 18:15-18.
There the Lord says that if my brother sin against me, and I cannot by
personal influence lead him to repentance, and thus bury the matter, I
am then to take one or two more brethren and see him with them. It is
evident that these brethren would not agree to help me unless they are
convinced that I am in the right and my brother is the offender; so
that there is thus found a consensus of opinion on the subject.
But if the sinning brother will not listen to these further
remonstrances, I am then to narrate the circumstances to the church.
Once more, it is evident that the church will not side with me unless I
am in the right; but if they--the church, not a section thereof, but
"the church," implying the whole church, just as when we speak of "a
city," we mean the whole city--agree with my view of the case, we have
the fact that a body of those indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and so having
the mind of Christ, are of one judgment in the matter; and that if the
offending brother will not hear and submit to the church, he must be
dealt with and treated as a Gentile and a publican, that is, he must be
put out of church fellowship.
BINDING AND LOOSING
- When the church thus unanimously
deals with a case, the Lord assures us that we may be certain of doing
the right thing, and that "what things soever we shall so bind on earth
shall be bound in heaven," for the simple reason that it is the will of
our Lord in heaven, that, through the Spirit, we have done on earth.
So again, Paul, having instructed the Corinthian church to thus deal
with a wicked person (I Cor. 5), upon learning that the discipline had
produced in him the desired repentance, instructs them (II Cor. 2) to
now forgive and receive back the offender and restore him to the joy of
the fellowship of saints; and having invoked the name of the Lord Jesus
for the former measure, he now claims the authority of the Lord for the
latter course; and thus the one who had been "bound" over to Satan as
an evil-doer for the destruction of the flesh, is now, upon repentance,
"loosed" by the Church from the sentence, that no advantage may be
gained by Satan.
- Thus, in this practical matter also the Lord
indicates His willingness to recognize the decision of a church, if
that decision be unanimous; nor is there one single precept or example
in His Word to indicate or even appear to sanction the thought that He
allows the authority of those of His name to be attached to the will of
a section only of those of His people who have to decide a question.
They may, and sometimes do, by that means decide according to His will;
but they have no Scriptural right to claim His authority and profess to
act in His name; such authority being clearly given to the company of
His people, and to them only, who act unanimously.
DEALING WITH MINOR MATTERS
- Against the
application of Acts 15 to the matter in question it has been urged that
the plan there shown is doubtless advisable and possible in matters of
such great importance as the one then discussed, but that it is neither
needful nor likely that unanimity should be or can be reached in
details say connected with the construction or fitting up of a hall or
schoolroom, most of the church being unacquainted with such matters.
But surely this is a very irrational objection, for if the Lord has
undertaken to produce oneness of mind upon important and intricate
questions, why should there be any difficulty in His doing so upon
questions comparatively simple and unimportant?
- And as to the
necessity of these latter things being brought within the rule, I would
ask is it not often over absurdly trifling matters that personal
differences most frequently arise?
- And ought not these things therefore be dealt with in the way most likely to produce and preserve peace?
DESPITE HUMAN SHORTCOMINGS
Beloved brethren, these numerous passages are written, and this clear
example is given, for our guidance, and it is for us to conform our
practice to the Scriptural pattern; nor is there the least suggestion
in the Word of God that any other than this procedure was followed,
whatever the question to be decided by the church might be.
- It now only remains for me to offer some concluding and confirmatory remarks.
- I am asked -- Do you really believe this plan possible?
- My reply is that in divine things the question is both irrelevant and irreverent.
For the believer in Almighty God there is but one question -- not, Is
it possible? but, Is it Scriptural? not, Can it be done? but, Does God,
in His holy Word, bid us do it?
- I have endeavored to show clearly and definitely settle the latter question, and, I say, it is Scriptural!
- Then it is also possible.
- It was impossible humanly for the man with the withered arm to stretch it forth.
- He would have done so long since, had he been able.
But when the Lord bade him do the impossible, it was at once done; for
the question of power rested with Him who gave the command.
- Thus it is with this question, and all other of His commandments.
Moreover, I would point out that the Apostles uniformly insisted that
they were men of like passions with others, (Acts 10:26, 14:15).
The believers, also, who gathered at that pattern church meeting had
very deeply rooted prejudices, very stubborn human wills, yea, all
those infirmities of mind and spirit, which some fear must render this
plan of church government inoperative in our days.
- But the thing was not impossible and, therefore, is not now impossible.
was a modern example in 1900, but there has also been the Quaker
example from 1652 to the present time. Quakers began to adopt the
practice of reaching unanimity at an early date. Sociocracy seems to be
the highest development of the practice to date. - LK]
Yet, again, as I informed you, there is in this very city of Bristol a
church numbering many hundreds of members, the affairs of which, since
its founding on August 13th, 1832, by the late George Muller and Henry
Craik, have been constantly settled in this way.
- Further there is
the China Inland Mission, the Councils of which deal with the
evangelizing of the vast country of China, involving the support and
control of nearly 750 missionaries and large numbers of native
teachers, and the securing and disbursing of many thousands of pounds
annually, involving also the solving of problems far more intricate
than any that usually come before home churches, involving further the
central governing not of one but of scores of scattered churches in
that immense empire, and yet the Secretary writes me that since the
founding of the Mission in 1865 the affairs of its great work have been
conducted on the plan proposed by Scripture.
- Thus, dealing with
these two cases only, we have in the aggregate 103 years of modern and
satisfactory experience of the method, simply proving, as might be
safely expected, that in the "keeping of His commandments there is
great reward," (Psalm 119:11).
- What reward, it will perhaps be asked.
- Is there not great risk of matters needful to be decided promptly being delayed, to the injury of the work?
- Let the Secretary of the China Inland Mission answer, and confirm my remarks under section 1, page 5.
I asked him, Has any matter which it would have been for the good of
the Lord's work to have had decided promptly, been delayed to the
prejudice of the work by the waiting for unanimity?
- He replied, No, decidedly not.
- Whenever there has been delay, it has always proved to have been a wise step, and the necessary guidance has come later on.
- I asked also, Has the experience of this plan shown any distinct advantages accruing therefrom?
The reply is, Yes, after-experience has proved that by this method
mistakes have been avoided which might otherwise have been made.
- And I am further informed that no inconveniences have been found to arise from the plan.
- Is it not a great gain to avoid mistakes?
- Does not this method wholly cast us upon the Lord, and so, by our dependence, glorify Him?
Do we not thus corporately "acknowledge Him in all our ways", and
should we not so secure the fulfillment of the accompanying promise "He
shall direct your paths"? (Prov. 3: 5, 6).
- I am persuaded that
by attention to three things all difficulty in this matter may be
removed, and unanimity always attained, when the Lord deems it
- The most diligent and careful inquiry in ascertaining
that candidates for church fellowship are (a) scripturally converted to
God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, so as to be indwelt by the
Holy Spirit, Whose working it is produces unanimity; and (b) that there
is every reason to suppose from their past life and present conduct
that they are really desirous of knowing and doing the will of God.
This is by the cultivation of personal communion with God the Father,
through our Lord Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, by
regular meditation upon the Scriptures, so that we may advance in the
knowledge of His will, and by habitual prayer, wherein we bring all our
doing and thinking beneath His inspection, and have discrepancies and
evils shown us, and whereby we receive grace to do those things which
are pleasing to Him.
- It also involves the due and loving exercise of discipline against any on whose conduct the Word of God commands discipline.
So our corporate life would be lived beneath the eye and under the
control of God; and the Spirit of the Lord would obtain continually
increasing power over us, working in us to will and do of God's good
pleasure, so that we should be one in action in and through the Spirit,
even as the Father and the Son are One in the communion of the Spirit,
and thus would our Lord's desire and prayer be fulfilled more and more
- So would the harmony and love of our church life be
secured and promoted and so should our joint testimony before the world
be unceasing and effective, to the honor and praise of Him to whom
belongs the glory forever.
- For reference sake I subjoin the
terms of the motion now under our consideration, that the God of all
grace may give us grace to do His will for ever is the prayer of Your
fellow servant of Jesus Christ, G. H. LANG, Globe House, Old King
Street, Bristol, August 1900.
- PROPOSED MOTION: "It is unanimously
Resolved that in future no proposal shall be deemed to be carried or be
recorded as a resolution, until the church unanimously consents to the
same at a duly convened church meeting, it being understood that the
absence of any objection to a proposed motion may be taken to signify