In my previous article, we covered the proper role and powers of Civil authority along with discussing its abuses in the area of Faith and Religion. Flowing from that discussion on Civil authority, I thought it only proper in this article to spend some time considering the question of what kind of powers or governance is proper within a Church Organization.
Now, when I use the term “Church”, I am not referring to any specific faith or set of beliefs and doctrines. When I say “Church,” what I mean is any voluntary Society of men and women constructed for the purposes of publicly worshiping God, in such manner as they believe will be most pleasing to Him and will be most effective for the Salvation of their Souls.
A Church Society, unlike a State Society:
Now that we have identified, just what a Church is, it follows now that we consider what powers a Church organization does have and how they are enforced.
Rules: all Society, in whatever form, any Church or Assembly, that can hold together and not collapse into anarchy or mob rule, it must maintain some Laws and regulations, that all of the Members consent to observe. Every Church has Divine commandments, which must come from the Divine alone, the rules I am referring to here are the day-to-day, or “ecclesiastical” operations.
Members must agree upon what place, and time to meet for worship. Rules for admitting and excluding Members must be established, criteria for appointing and honoring Officers, putting events into a regularly scheduled course, etc, cannot be overlooked. Unlike Divine commandments, these day-to-day rules derive their authority from the members themselves. This is because, as was demonstrated earlier, members join of their own free will; it is the members themselves who decide how to go about worshiping God and fulfilling His Divine commandments.
Enforcement: As we discussed in the beginning of the article, the purpose of a Church is the public worship of God and, through pleasing the Deity, obtain Eternal Life.
All disciplining in a Church organization, therefore, ought to tend to reinforce that purpose and that purpose alone. No ecclesiastic rules ought to be coerced concerning Civil or Worldly possessions. No obedience may be coerced to reinforce the dictates or authority of any priest or Church elder. Honoring God’s power is the focus of the Church’s existence, it is not a place you go to accumulate wealth or power for yourself.
And I must stress again, all obedience to any legitimate regulation must be voluntary. Any use of weaponry to force the point, whether that weapon be the sword, bribery, fear, or guilt, is wholly a perversion and should be overturned from any place of Worship.
To be clear, there are several ways these day-to-day (ecclesiastical) regulations to be both established and enforced without compelling members to obey. These rules, if are they to have any true affect on the Hearts or Salvation of worshipers, must be adhered to out of the Faith and Conviction of each members Heart and Mind.
The tools which Church administrators have by means of enforcement are these: Praise, Rebuke, and, Advice. They may use their positions of authority and respect to offer public praise to well behaved and respectable members (2 Thessalonians 1.3-5), private/public rebukes of offensive members (Matthew 18.15-17), and a Church Official might offer advising or counseling in order to appeal to a member (Philemon 1.8-9).
If these fail to entreat the unity of the flock then there are only two possibilities remaining.
No other Punishment can be inflicted. These are the only tools any Church organization has to enforce its rules.
Let us take a moment here to stop and catch our breath. We have now thoroughly discussed what a Church is, what a Church is not, and what powers a Church organization has in this world. In our next major section, we will delve into the question of how to properly execute these powers. I will focus strongly on a Church and Church go-er’s duty to Toleration, as well as the limits of Toleration.