Pastors Don’t Own The Church

Principles are important for pastors involved in House Church ministries. Many pastors follow the latest fads and hip ministry methods and lose sight of the very purpose for which Jesus called them to ministry. Pastors need to hold on to their principles so their churches don’t lose their integrity and purity.

Like many house churches, our church has many “principles” and “rules”. Someone recently criticized our church anonymously on our website, saying “many of the so-called principles of our church are nothing more than our pastor’s opinions codified into rules.” I can understand why he thinks this, since many our church rules originated with me.

But it’s natural for church rules and regulations to come from pastors. The same thing happens in other domains. For example, managers and part-time workers at a McDonald’s are both employees of the same owner. But the owner gives the manager responsibility to oversee the business, and it’s natural that ideas to improve it should come primarily from the manager.

Similarly, pastors and laypeople have the same status before God but are given different duties. Since my role is to watch over the congregation and since I must ultimately give an account to God (Heb 13:17), it’s my duty to set rules and guide our congregation.

However, I don’t make church rules all by myself. I work with our board of deacons. Some people accuse our deacons of being my puppets because they seem to always obediently follow my lead. But when you consider their social status, level of education, and strong individual personalities, you should realize that it’s unlikely that they’re puppets. When they follow my lead, it’s because the church rules I propose make sense to them. In fact, they don’t always agree with me. When they think my proposals are problematic, they say so. When this happens, I usually withdraw my proposals.

Some people seem to think that our rules are arbitrary because we make many exceptions to them. The truth is, you can’t have rules without exceptions. However, we do our best to make these exceptions explicit in writing so that they’re applied consistently and permanently. For example, we have a rule concerning church membership, that those who have been members of other church in the area can’t join our church. But there are exceptions: they can become church members if their former pastors ask us in writing to accept them, or they haven’t attended an area church for more than 2 years and their spouse is a non-believer. I don’t grant these exceptions by myself but consult with the chairman and vice-chairman of deacons. We make exceptions only when we agree unanimously.

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