Rules and Freedom

Life must be tiring for people who need everything to be done exactly as it should be. After all, in general, real life is messy. Life must also be tiring for those who insist on living without rules; there will be no order to their lives. To enjoy life fully, there must be a balance between rules and freedom.

Our church tries to maintain a healthy balance between the two. Sometimes our church demands that rules be followed exactly. When people want to be voting members of our church they must follow set procedures. When we need prayer support, we don’t make a general request to the congregation but ask those who volunteer to sign up and commit to praying for one full year.

In other areas our church is flexible. For example, when house churches multiply, new shepherds must be approved by the Board of Deacons before they assume their responsibility. But they often start their new house churches before they are approved, and the church usually lets it go.

The purpose of rules and regulations is not to restrict freedom but to enhance it. Take traffic lights as an example. Cars are required to stop when the light is red and go when it is green. These rules don’t impede traffic flow but enhance it. We know this because of the inevitable traffic jams that ensue with traffic signal outages.

Rules are also necessary in church life. Otherwise, there will be many conflicts between ministry teams because they do not know the boundaries between the responsibilities of their own teams and others’. We need church bylaws for multiple ministry teams to work in harmony.

However, we should be careful to not have too many regulations, which can impede ministry. Churches with too many regulations usually suffer from many internal conflicts. Their rules do not simply define the authority and responsibilities of various ministries but try to regulate them. So when conflicts arise, members must appeal to rules instead of resolving things by negotiation, resulting in a constant wrangling over rules to the detriment of the ministries themselves.

A church needs bylaws but there should not be too many of them. More importantly they should serve to help ministry, not impede it. Rules must be clear enough for everyone to understand their authority and responsibilities, but flexible enough for individuals to be creative.

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