One of the most profound and instructive images of the church in the New Testament is that of the “body.” The church is likened to a body – one body made up of many parts, with each part having a specific function designed to contribute to the health and growth of the body (as each part does it’s work).
Although some parts of the body are more obvious and play more important roles, what each member has in common is that they have equal access to God through Christ by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18 – “For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”). This means that every believer has the privilege of access to God without having to go through some human mediator. The newest convert has the same right of access as the most seasoned follower of Christ.
This fact has implications for church governance. As a church, Rosebank Union has since its founding 111 years ago adopted the form of church governance known as “congregational government.” This means that under Christ “the congregation” is the highest authority. But who is “the congregation”? It is the members. It is people, who have made profession and given evidence of having been born again into the family of God through a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is people who, as mentioned above, have “access” to God through Christ by the Holy Spirit.
This fact explains why our process of accepting people into membership of the church is so thorough. We are responsible, as far as it is humanly possible, to ensure that people who become members, and who therefore have the right to have a say in how the church operates, are indeed spiritual members of the body of Christ.
Now it is obvious that in a church the size of RUC, and indeed in even in churches much smaller in numbers than we are, all the decisions cannot be made by all the members. That’s why God has ordained the appointment of leaders in the church, having given to some members of the body the spiritual gift of leadership (Romans 12:8). Two kinds of leaders are mandated in the New Testament: elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). Elders are the “shepherds”, “pastors”, “overseers” of the local church, responsible under Christ, the “Chief Shepherd”, to know, feed, lead, and protect the flock. Deacons (the word means “servant”) are responsible primarily for the many practical aspects of the operation of the church. Both are essential.
In our “congregational government” context, it is the responsibility of the members to appoint elders and deacons, based on the criteria laid down in the Word of God. This is one of the key agenda items at our Annual General Meeting held in March each year. One of the “elders” the membership will need to appoint in the next year to eighteen months is my successor, our new Senior Pastor. In addition to these important decisions, members are asked to approve the annual budget, and major projects, like the Sanctuary Upgrade we did last year. Any changes to our Statement of Faith, the Constitution, and the Rules must be approved by the membership. Most other matters are delegated by the membership to the Elders and Deacons they have appointed.
I hope this gives you a little window into how we operate, and reinforces why you, if you know Christ as your Saviour and are committed to RUC, should be a church member; and why as a church member you should attend the AGM and other meetings where members are called to make important decisions affecting the life of the church.
“From him (Christ, the Head) the whole body . . . grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”