It was a sweet moment. An elderly couple was attending the business meeting in a local church. They were there as faithful congregates in support of the work of the ministry. They were there to be voted on as new members.
When the time came for voting on receiving the couple as members, the lady to be voted on for membership raised her hand. She wanted to be part of the vote. She wanted to be accepted. It was a sweet moment, but personally painful to observe for two reasons. First, the lady did not understand Robert’s Rules of Order. Nonmembers cannot vote. Second, such a vote should not have been taken, Biblically speaking, unless I am wrong.
Like a good Berean, I personally want to search the Scriptures on the issue of every major article of faith and practice in the local assembly. I do not find the act of voting encouraged in the New Testament, by practice, or precept.
One of the great principles of the Reformation was Sola Scriptura, or, Scripture alone, for all matters of faith and practice. The matter of voting on individuals to become members of the local church is worthy of a Scriptural inquiry.
On any local church matter every Christian should always immediately ask, “Has the Lord spoken on this issue?” Sometimes the Scriptures are silent. More often than not, the Lord HAS something to say. That is not surprising, in light of the promises associated with the New Covenant.
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.” (Heb. 8:8-11, KJV)
Consider the following concepts as to why there might be an absence of any form of voting in the New Testament expression of the local church, especially the voting of new members into the assembly.
First, in the matter of church membership, it is the LORD who adds to the church. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47)
Second, when babies are born into a family, or adopted, I doubt if the baby, or the child, is voted on before being brought home from the hospital. I know my wife and I did not vote on bringing our daughter, Tara, or our son, Adam, into the family. We just loved them, and received them into the family. In like manner the family of God is to recognize, and receive one another, and love one another. I do not find anyone voting on receiving those whom the LORD has added to the church. Perhaps I am wrong.
Third, voting on people is something the world does to control a club, and a membership role. That is good for the world, but not so much for the church. The church should always be careful about imitating the world, and being pressed into its practices. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom. 12:2, NIV) If anything, the church should sing, not vote.
When someone is born again, and received into the fellowship let the church sing:
“There’s a new name written down in glory
And it’s mine, oh yes it’s mine,
And the white throne angels sing the story,
A sinner has come.”
When someone who is born again is received into the fellowship, let the church sing:
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above Ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”
We thank the Lord for His gifts. I know the Doxology is often sung in association with monetary blessings, but maybe we can borrow the music for the moment, and apply the words to the gifts of God for the people of God. Let the church thank the LORD for His gift of sending another saint to strengthen the local body of Christ.
To appeal to another Biblical concept, there is the image of the body. We do not vote on our body members. Speaking metaphorically, we do not say to the hand, “Hand I think I like you. Now, all the other little body parts are going to vote on letting you stay attached to, and stay in the body.” Good idea? Probably not.
Practically speaking, it is always traumatic when a church tradition is questioned. It takes people out of their comfort zone. However, that is what the gospel does. It takes us out of the kingdom of this world, and puts us into the kingdom of God where there are new practices, and new ideas.
So, if there is no voting to be done in the local assembly, on church members, or anything else for that matter, what is to be done? The Biblical answer is unanimous consensus. “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” (2 Cor. 13:11, KJV)
If God the Holy Spirit is in God’s people, if the Holy Spirit is present, there will be one heart and one mind, and that mind will be the mind of the Lord, which is confirmed by His Word.
Let the local church commit itself to doing God’s work, God’s way, as determined by His Word, and guided by His Holy Spirit. Such a practice will turn the world upside down.
As always, I am open for correction from the Word on this matter of voting. However, if there is value in these thoughts, let there be no more voting on God’s people, or by God’s people. Rather, let new members be warmly received in love, with the right hand of fellowship, and maybe even a “holy kiss”. Let the family of God welcome into its fellowship those who give a good profession of faith, are scripturally baptized, and who love Jesus.
Then, let the church stop voting on issues. Rather let the people of God seek the mind of God, as they are guided by His Word, and by His Spirit. Even a multitude of people can be pleased where there is the Spirit of the Lord. “And the saying pleased the whole multitude:” (Acts 6:5)
The church did just fine from the days of the apostle until 1876, and the publication of Robert’s Rules, because the church was guided by the Bible, and by the Spirit.
It is not wrong to use Robert’s Rules of Order for procedural purposes, provided there is no more voting, but rather, a seeking of the unity found in Christ. The majority is not always right. Might does not make right. The Bible teaches Christians to do all things decently and in order. However, no book should ultimately guide the Church except the Bible. Sola Scriptura must forever be the motto of every Christian. Therefore, let the Church control any resource material it uses, and not vice versa.
May the Lord give the modern Church renewed wisdom, and grace, to return to the principles and practices of the Apostolic Church. It is still possible for the local assembly to continue, “daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2: 46, KJV)