Dear members and friends of Valley Park,
As highlighted in the May Voice article, VP’s church membership elects Deacons on the first Sunday of May every year to serve on the Board of Deacons for the next fiscal year. Our fiscal year runs from July 2018 – June 2019. These leaders take office on Memorial Day Weekend and prepare the budget for the next fiscal year to be presented to the membership for approval on the last Sunday of June. As a member of VP, your voice on these dates is important. Note the upcoming dates:
The Board of Deacons must present a budget to VP members two weeks before the Annual Budget Meeting. You can pick up the proposed budget (2018-2019) on Sunday, June 10.
You will have the opportunity to review this budget before approving it at the Annual Budget Meeting on Sunday, June 24.
Many people do not understand the authority entrusted to membership in a “congregationally ruled” church. It is commonly assumed that there is a church hierarchy of pastors, elders or deacons who are entrusted with decision-making autonomous of the membership. Often members of a church are not even trusted to know how the income of the church is spent. This is not the case in a “congregationally ruled” church. The members have the right to know all details associated with income and spending before they approve the budget.
Why does a congregationally ruled church give so much authority to its members? It is because of biblically informed understanding of scripture. Theology informs practice. We, at VP and in the American Baptist tradition believe that every member of the church is empowered by Jesus to contribute to the health of the church in a meaningful way. Each member possesses gifts of equal value to others. We attempt to represent this in a way that encourages the involvement of every member in decision-making without showing preference.
In harmony with this, we also believe that the primary role of church leaders is equipping the members to assume responsibility for the health and growth of the church. Thus, leaders want to encourage the involvement of all members in decision-making because this is healthy encouragement and edification.
Let’s take a look at passages that inform these conclusions:
I Corinthians 12:4-7: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
I Corinthians 12:20-22: But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;
The fact that each person is “given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” suggests God is giving abilities according to His discretion and the needs of the church. We should be careful not to assume that we know what is best, better than God. Our priority should be to allow every person to contribute.
The second passage states we should never say we have no need of what a person has to offer. In fact, it says we should not say “we have no need of you.” In practice, decision-making for the health of the church should be shared without discrimination. We allow every member of the church to have a voice as led by God. We need to share the responsibility for the growth of the church equally.
There is a difference between Elders/Pastors and Deacons. The term “deacon” can be translated simply as “servant.” Elders/Pastors are distinguished by their ability to teach, shepherd and give wise counsel. But despite this distinction, Elders/Pastors are simply gifted people called to serve by nurturing and enabling members of the Body of Christ to share responsibility for it.
Ephesians 4:11-12: He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
I Peter 5:1-4: I exhort the elders among you… shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
Elders/Pastors have different roles but share the commitment to building the Body for serving the corporate good of the church. Every member shares this commitment, so there is no partiality.
“Congregational Rule” has some short-comings. It is hard to make decisions when large numbers of people are involved. That is why we elect representatives to make decisions for us at meetings of the Board of Deacons. But we mandate that big decisions be brought back to the members. The power of the Board of Deacons is helpful but limited.
What I like most about “congregational rule” is the respect it displays for the contribution of every member of the church. It entrusts every member with the privilege of knowing what is happening with a right to express concern.
“We” are the owners of VP together. If we need fixing, it is our burden. If we are growing, it is a result of what we are doing. Make sure you understand what the Board of Deacons is prioritizing in spending when the budget is distributed on June 10. Display your support by approving the budget on June 24 if you believe the Board of Deacons is serving us with healthy priorities.
May God Continue to Build a Healthy VP!