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
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
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
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.