What is a Biblical Church Business Meeting?

We are moving into the second part of our current leadership series as we evaluate the methodological place of the different components of the church service. In this part, we will move beyond the Sunday gathering and observe the different components of our organization and think together about the Biblical place of church business meetings, extra Bible studies, the youth group, concurrent children’s church, entertainment events, pastoral care, prayer meetings, support groups (e.g. Celebrate Recovery, Grief Share), participation in a denomination and/or inter-congregational events.

Today’s topic is the church business meeting. In my experience, the business meeting has become this bland part of church worship and it seems as though many within the church body consider the business meeting to be a necessary evil or have moved away from having business meetings altogether. Instead, a board of directors is entrusted to make all of the decisions for church bodies as they build multi-campus empires (not all multi-campus churches should be stereotyped this way). Usually, the only people who can be found at a church business meeting are in the ‘inner-group.’ Most others either don’t feel welcomed or honestly don’t care that much about being involved in church business. They simply want to be faithful to Christ. So I ask, what is the Biblical place of a church business meeting? This may surprise you, but there is explicit descriptive instruction in the text of Scripture. Let’s look together.

Acts 1:12-26

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said,

“Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry. (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his homestead be made desolate, And let no one dwell in it’; and, ‘Let another man take his office.’ Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias.

And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”

And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Acts 6:1-7

Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.

“Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them. The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

Acts 15:1-29

Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren. When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”

The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe.

“And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”

All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they had stopped speaking, aJames answered, saying, “Brethren, listen to me.

“Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After these things I will return, And I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, And I will rebuild its ruins, And I will restore it, So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ Says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago. Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas—Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, and they sent this letter by them,

“The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings. Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”

The business meeting

In the New Testament, the explicit business of the church was largely different than what we see occupy the time of most church business meetings in our own day and in our cultural context. People were simply concerned with different things than we are today. I think if we seriously observe the coming together of the church for the purpose of making decisions in the New Testament, we will see that the “business” meeting (our terminology, not the Bible’s) was primarily a theological and doctrinal affair. Here are some brief and basic observations:

    1. The budget and the building were not prioritized. In fact, there is no instruction in Scripture about including budgetary or building plans in the business meeting of the church. This means that these meetings were not really seen as business meetings. They were probably more like family meetings.
    2. These meetings were concerned with making decisions so that the church was in line with the Scriptures methodologically (Acts 1).
    3. These meetings were concerned with assigning responsibility to individuals so that the ministry of the word could be better facilitated and so the pastors could focus primarily on the ministry of the word (Acts 6).
    4. These meetings were concerned with working out correct doctrine according to Scripture (Acts 15).

I don’t know what your experience is. I am not going to claim that we shouldn’t talk about money during a church business (or family) meeting. We should be prudent in our budgeting and accountable in our spending. In almost one-hundred percent of the church business meetings I have been in over the course of my life, the one thing that we don’t see described in Scripture is prioritized and the things that are explicitly described in Scripture are neglected entirely. The business meeting (or family meeting) is designed Biblically for the purpose of guarding sound doctrine and of being sure that only qualified individuals are promoted to positions of doctrinal or organizational responsibility.

The church ‘business’ meeting is ultimately an issue concerning the object of human worship. There is a reason so many God-fearing men and women see no value in the business meetings or denominational gatherings of the organized church. We have become addicted to lesser things. That is idolatry.

So, regarding the business of the church:

    1. It is explicitly the responsibility of the church membership to promote people to positions of doctrinal or organizational responsibility.
      1. The pastor is not the CEO and does not have the Biblical authority to place people in these types of positions, though he may recommend individuals to fill certain positions of this type. The body must decide collectively (Acts 1:23, 6:5).
      2. This does not necessarily include the positions of all volunteers.
    2. We should make a habit of working out sound doctrine together.
    3. Building and budget probably should not occupy much of our time.
    4. “Business” meetings should never take place during a time set aside for the ministry of the word, praise, and prayer.

Denominational involvement

These Biblical principles speak profoundly into the denomination involvement or affiliation of any local church. The question of denominational involvement has been burning in my mind for the last couple of months for some reasons that I won’t mention here. The only Biblical picture we receive of anything even close to denominational involvement or affiliation is in Acts 15 where the churches have come together to hammer out sound doctrine in response to false theological teaching. Our involvement in a denomination or association should reflect the Scriptures. This, too, is primarily a theological issue. We will examine denominational involvement more intently later in this series, but we should be cautious.

If any denomination or association is not concerned primarily with discerning sound Biblical doctrine, then it seems we ought not participate or associate. If a denomination becomes primarily concerned about the number of churches planted, the attendance rate, worldly politics, social justice, or the size of the association or denomination, then it becomes impossible for that denomination or association to be concerned with sound doctrine. We cannot serve two masters. This is a worship issue.

I cannot make this Biblical realization without also calling local church servants to be wise in making decisions or leading churches to make decisions. We are called to be suffering servants and to practice patient endurance. While there is a season when we need Martin Luthers (or Peters), there are more seasons, I think, when we need Charles Spurgeons (or Johns). We must content ourselves with preaching Scripture alone, for it alone is the inspired word of God.


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One comment

  • My dear brother in Christ,
    Much thanks for your insight into Scripture and comments on church meetings (business).
    I shall print this and keep for reference.
    Thank you and God in Christ bless you,
    Albert Koester

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