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Are Mixed Business Meetings Scriptural?

by Ian McPherson

Some churches in Australia are practicing “Congregational Business Meetings”. There seems to be little opposition to this. The purpose of this lesson is to determine whether or not such an action is scriptural. Let me say at the onset that with the increase of women’s influence in society, it is fairly conclusive that trends such as this will begin to come into the church.

Unprepared churches are susceptible to cultural trends and worldly influences of the society around them. The Corinthian church is a classic example of this. The city was perhaps the most immoral city of that era. In the midst of the city was the “temple of Venus” with more than a thousand prostitutes, who offered their services to all the community and the many visitors. As a result, when the church was faced with having an adulterous man in their fellowship, they were hardened to that sin and even became puffed up about it (1 Cor. 5). Corinth was also heavily influenced by idolatry (Chapter 10). It was not only immoral pressures that churches in Bible time yielded to, but also religious trends. The various religious ‘sects’ that arose within the church were of tremendous influence. This is seen by the influence that Judaism had on Galatia, Jerusalem and other churches. It is also seen by the rampant influence of false teaching in the latter part of the first century, that Jude and Peter tried to counteract by their letters. Sects such as the ‘Nicolaitanes’ (Rev. 2:6,15) were influencing churches, and also the Gnostics had made great inroads as indicated by the writings of John.

Churches are warned not to “be conformed to the world”, but are admonished to be transformed by the renewing of their mind (Romans 12:1-2). These verses warn us to be careful of outside influences. “Renewing of the mind” can only take place through Bible study and obedience. When churches are influenced by the world, it indicates that their leaders are going astray because they no longer study their Bible as they should.

I sincerely believe that the reason why “mixed business meetings” are becoming more widely practised is because church leaders are letting worldly trends influence their thinking instead of allowing their minds to be “exercised” by the word of God. Women’s Rights is a socialist instigated movement in the world. It is actively targeting religion, and weak churches are allowing this influence to affect them. Brethren, we need to be very careful to keep the “women’s liberation” movement out of the church. Any new ‘trend’ in the use of women must be very carefully studied. Mixed business meetings are an example of women usurping authority over the man (1 Timothy 2:11-12), and therefore stand condemned by Scripture.

THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH IS CLEARLY LAID OUT.

Brother Ullas Nair has a whole lesson on this subject, so I will not spend time on this. I will say nothing except that the Scriptures forbid women from speaking in church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35), leading prayers in mixed company (1 Timothy 2:8), teaching the Bible to a mixed assembly (1 Timothy 2:12), and usurping the authority of a man (1 Timothy 2;11-12). It is in the area of usurping man’s authority that mixed business meetings are wrong. Leadership positions, and decision making are areas which are given to men in the church, and not to women.

THE BASIC ‘PREMISE’ USED TO SUPPORT MIXED BUSINESS MEETINGS IS DISTURBING.

The argument used by those advocating them is that they are the only authorized method of handling church business in churches without elders. Consider for a moment the grave implications of such thinking. In presenting this argument brethren are implying that they have discovered a ‘pattern’ for churches without elders. The obvious implication of such an argument is that this should become the authorized practice of every church without elders.

SCRIPTURES USED TO SUPPORT THEIR ARGUMENTS OFFER NO PROOF.

Acts 6:3-4 and Acts 15:22. Neither of these passages however, or any other, give authorization for such meetings. It is interesting that both of their ‘proof texts’ for ‘congregational business meetings without elders’ are examples where the church has either elders or apostles mentioned in the leadership. So how can they be examples of churches without elders?

The context of Acts 6:3-5 says “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” The background to this incident is that a dispute arose between the Grecians and the Hebrews over the distribution of food to their widows (vs1). The apostles were under tremendous pressure as they were trying to organise and coordinate this benevolence programme for widows, as well as spend time in preaching and teaching. The congregation began to complain about how the apostles were administrating this programme, so a plan to select seven men over the programme was formulated.

We notice that in verse 2 and 3 the plan was already formulated, and the decision to select the seven men to serve tables was the apostles’ idea. In vs.2 we see that the apostles called a general meeting of the whole church. This meeting was not a ‘business meeting.’ It was not a decision making meeting, but a meeting called by the apostles with the view of informing the church of a need and was not to decide the need, nor to formulate the plan. Verse 3 shows that the plan had already been formulated by the apostles, and as wise leaders they were involving the church in the implementation of the plan. It reads “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.” -- Acts 6:3

The real ‘business meeting’ (or meetings) had already taken place beforehand. It was during these ‘meetings’ that the apostles had formulated their plan. The apostles’ plan involved (1) The NUMBER of people needed to oversee the programme. They considered that SEVEN people would be needed. (2) The SEX of the people was also decided, they were to select seven (MEN). The Greek word is aner, a word which specifically means “an adult male person, a man in sex and age” (Bullenger's Lexicon). By this word, we see women were specifically excluded from the overseeing of this programme. Women could not be put forward as candidates. (3) The Qualifications of the men were also decided by the apostles before hand, they were to be “of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom”. (4) The decision to involve the church in the ‘selecting process’ was also planned beforehand by the apostles. This is evident in the fact that the assembly was called by them.

The expression “look ye out among you” is the key to women’s involvement in this verse 3. They were to go to the apostles and present names to them of people they thought would fit the qualifications. The next verse (vs. 5) names the men chosen by the congregation. It says, “And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch” -- Acts 6:5. The fact that the multitude “chose” these seven does not indicate that there were not other men put forward also. It only indicates however that all these seven men were among those put forward by the church. The appointment of the men was actually done by the apostles. There is no doubt that the apostles had the authority to reject any of them if they chose to do so.

The church at Jerusalem was clearly under the oversight of responsible leaders, and these leaders were men. There is no example here of a congregational decision making meeting.

How could this be an example of a decision making meeting of a church without elders? Although there were no elders mentioned here, there were twelve apostles who were the men holding the position of authority in Jerusalem.

Let us now look at the passage in Acts 15:22, it reads “Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barnabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:” Notice again that this passage gives no example of a congregational decision making meeting. This verse does not even say that the church was assembled. It simply tells us that the decision found unanimous approval of the entire church. If this verse authorises mixed decision making meetings, it also authorises them with elders because you will notice that the elders of the church were present at this meeting. How could this verse be used as an authorized example of how churches made decisions without elders, when the church at Jerusalem had elders, and they are actually mentioned in the text?

The context of Acts 15 shows clearly that the decision making body at Jerusalem was the apostles and elders, and that they had acted wisely and responsibly about handling a dispute on circumcision that was troubling the church. False teachers had come to Antioch teaching that circumcision was necessary for salvation (15:1). After heated discussion the Antioch church decided to send Barnabas, Paul and others to Jerusalem to look into the matter (vs. 2). When they arrived at Jerusalem they were received by the church and the apostles and elders at Jerusalem (vs.4). In Verse 6 we see that after a dispute about circumcision arose, the apostles and elders came together to consider the matter (vs. 6). This verse is a clear example of a decision making meeting and it is clear that there were only men (apostles and elders) present. The next verses give details of the meeting and the responsible decision that was reached. There was much discussion about the problem, and eventually PETER rose and gave input into the meeting by relating how he been taught through the incident with Cornelius and his household, that there was no preference given to either Jew or gentile in the gospel (vs. 6-11). Paul and Barnabas then arose and related their experiences of God working among the gentiles (vs. 12). It was JAMES who then arose and suggested that they send a letter and distribute it widely among the gentiles, assuring them that the church at Jerusalem had nothing to do with the Judaising teachers that had disturbed them, and that they had given no such order as to be circumcised (vs. 13-21).

This decision was made COMPLETELY by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.. The church was then informed, and the decision explained. verse 22 tells us nothing except that the decision pleased the church, but says absolutely nothing about a congregational planning meeting.

There is neither example, nor authorization for congregational business meetings in the Scriptures. Those churches that practice such are apostate in leadership. The examples that appear in Scripture show (1) God has appointed MEN to make congregational decisions. (2) Where elders are appointed they are the authorized decision makers. (3) Wise leaders call the church together to inform them of their decisions. (4) Wise leaders consider suggestions put forward by church members, including the women.

The modern trend towards mixed congregational meetings is another example of how the world is influencing the church. In the New Testament church, all leadership positions were given to men. Simple passages of Scripture are being twisted to accommodate pressure from women’s liberationists. May God help us to earnestly contend against such error.

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