Church Government

Eleven Principles for Church Government

John Piper

Click for full version including Scripture references

(After reading, let me know, what do you think?)

Principle One

The Local Church is governed by Christ (Matthew 16:18). This governance was mediated through the authority of the apostles and their close associates (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 2:12-13; 7:17; 14:37-38; 2 Thessalonians 3:14). Today Christ still rules through the words of his apostles as they are preserved for us in the inspired writings of the New Testament. Therefore, every effort will be made to conform the structure and procedures and spirit of church governance as closely as possible to New Testament guidelines, with a constant eye to promoting the glory of God and the advancement of faith (1 Corinthians 10:31; Philippians 1:25).

Principle Two

The ministry of the church is primarily the work of the members in the activity of worship toward God, nurture toward each other and witness toward the world. Internal structures for church governance are not the main ministry of the church, but are the necessary equipping and mobilizing of the saints for the work of ministry.

Principle Three

Governance structures should be lean and efficient to this end, not aiming to include as many people as possible in office-holding, but to free and fit as many people as possible for ministry (implied in the preceding principle).

Principle Four

Christ is the head of the church and, spiritually, all his disciples are on a level ground before him, each having direct access to him and responsibility to intercede for the good of all as a community of priests.

Principle Five

Not inconsistent with this equality, God has ordained the existence of officers in the church, some of whom are charged under Christ with the leadership of the church.

Principle Six

Under Christ and his Word, the decisive court of appeal in the local church in deciding matters of disagreement is the gathered church assembly. (This is implied, first, in the fact that the leaders are not to lead by coercion, but by persuasion and free consent [1 Peter 5:3], second, in the fact that elders may be censured [1 Timothy 5:19], and third, in the fact that Matthew 18:15-20 and 1 Corinthians 5:4 depict the gathered church assembly as the decisive court of appeal in matters of discipline).

Principle Seven

The local congregation therefore should call and dismiss its own leaders (implied in the preceding principle).

Principle Eight

The leaders of the church should be people who are spiritually mature and exemplary (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9), gifted for the ministry given to them (Romans 12:6-8), have a sense of divine urging (Acts 20:28), and are in harmony with the duly established leadership of the church (Philippians 2:2).
1 Timothy 3:1-13

Principle Nine

Spiritual qualifications should never be sacrificed to technical expertise. For example, deacons or trustees or financial and property administrators should be men or women with hearts for God even more importantly than they have heads for finance, and best of all, both. (Implied in the preceding principle.)

Principle Ten

The selection process should provide for the necessary assessment of possible leaders by a group able to discern the qualifications mentioned in #8; and that the process provide for the final approval by the congregation of all officers. (Implied in principles 6 and 7.)

Principle Eleven

Terms of active service should not be dictated by the desire to include as many different people as possible in leadership (see #3 above), but by the careful balance between the need, on the one hand, to have the most qualified leaders and, on the other hand, to guard against burn out and stagnation.

3 thoughts on “Church Government

  1. I agree with all eleven principles, I however believe they must be further divined especially where they seem to contradict each other.
    The point I love most is, that the people must not be over taxed with duties in the church.
    It doesn’t help you got a star quarter back but, his stuck in the locker room mopping the floor.

  2. Hi Tommie, who are the people which should not be overtaxed with duties in the church? Is it the star quarterback of your next sentence? If so, who are the star quarterbacks of the church?

  3. There is a certain polity in the church that would disagree totally with principles 6, 7 and 10. They would say that decisions on who should be leaders are not up to the sheep. The shepherds decide and inform the sheep on due process regarding any decisions regarding the taking forward of the church. The reasoning is that the sheep are probably not discerning enough to take those decisions. To a greater or lesser extent they may be correct. I however agree with John Piper’s take on these issues.

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