I touched on the issue of church polity yesterday. Not at length, but tangentially. I thought I would just pick up on one (short) further thought on that. I am writing this before I am just about to walk into a members’ meeting at our own church. So – just in case there is some unforeseen surprise in it (and I have no reason to believe it will) – rest assured this was written on Tuesday afternoon, not Wednesday morning! This is not about our own members’ meeting.
I do not think this answers every objection or all issues. As ever, all systems and governance will struggle if it is not implemented well and with godliness at its core. We have to accept that even biblical polity can be twisted and turned by our sinful nature.
Nevertheless, one of the key safeguards for the church is the regular members’ meeting. There are all sorts of things that might be said about them, and all sorts of ways that they might go awry. But members’ meetings are vital for healthy churches.
It may well be that your members’ eyes glaze at talk of the constitution. It may be that they don’t have the wherewithal to trawl through your governing documents to work out exactly what the procedure is for tackling whatever issue they perceive. It may well be that talk of governance just makes them want to chew their own arms off. But what they can all do is turn up at a regular members’ meeting.
And yes, they may not control the agenda. But there is usually an AOB in there somewhere. And even if there is not – for someone might have dispensed with it so as to avoid what they consider to be unhelpful interventions – there is little one can do if a member is determined to stand up and raise an issue mid-meeting nonetheless. Of course, there are all sorts of caveats we might want on all of these things (they would make for a much longer blog post for which I don’t have time right now). But there is no denying that a regular members’ meeting, at least in principle, means the members can turn up, hear what the church leaders think about various things, can theoretically add their two penneth and, if required, can even challenge issues as they perceive them more broadly.
There is so much more one could say. But I only want to make this simple point. Do not despise your members meetings.
If you are a church leader, they are your opportunity to allow your members to speak and voice their opinions. If you are a member, it is your chance to address things going on in the church. Where your leaders are doing what they ought, they will probably include items on the agenda such as you wish to raise them. Where they don’t, you can use the AOB section to raise them. If those things aren’t there, or your leaders are purposefully obstructing matters, you can just stand up and say them at the end of the day.
But members’ meetings really matter. Hold them in contempt at your own peril.