Why Do Churches Need Policies And Bylaws?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Churches have policies, bylaws, and procedures, so why do they need all of these? The answer might surprise you.

Order

God is a God of order and not chaos (1 Cor 14:33) so a church’s bylaws, policies, and procedures protect and direct the leadership and practices of the church from being chaotic, and these policies include subjects like the sacraments, church discipline, and requirements of its members to live a life free of open sin, like sexual immorality. In this way, every believer, and every church (including the leadership) is held accountable by a mutually accepted set of guidelines that are in the best interests of the church. More than that, they are biblical in the sense of having church government or authority as ordained by God Himself (Matt 18:15-20), as God appointed “apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:11-12), having placed each member in the Body as it pleases Him. When we look at the ordinances, we understand they are things that found in the Bible as well as with the Primitive Church of the first century. Imagine there are no requirements for church membership and several members from another church move in and fire the pastor. Then they use the church funds for things other than the kingdom, and take over the church and turn it into an apostate church. If there are no policies, bylaws, and procedures to protect against this, any church could fall into the hands of a demonic pastor and apostate membership, or worse, it could become a cult. Satan could use this tactic to destroy churches, but the church does have a self-governing mode and have procedures to protect the church from things like this happening.

The church is to equip the saints for the work of ministry

Polity

Polity is generally considered to be any kind of political entity and is typically a group of people that are collectively united by a self-reflected cohesive force such as identity, in this case, part of the Body of Christ, so there must be a form or system of church government and bylaws, policies, procedures, and ordinances. For many churches, their policies deal with leadership and practices of the Church, including the sacraments, church discipline, and requirements to remain a member of the church. In this way, every believer, and every church (including the leadership) is held accountable by a mutually accepted set of guidelines that are in the best interests of the church. More than that, they are biblical in the sense of having church government or authority as ordained by God. Polity is really developed from the church’s experiences over time and is often a reaction that is used to resolve certain issues. Since the ordinances are done in community, we see one of the most important core values of the church, and that is we are relational. The church policies keep us on the right path and out of the ditches of either extreme, from extreme legalism or licentiousness (anything goes). One of the goals of the church is to be reproducing the life of Christ by faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit, but it isn’t done in a vacuum. It is a life-long process where believers are becoming more and more like Christ over time, but they do so within the structure or organization of the church.

Polities Purpose

Polity isn’t just about a bunch of “do’s” and “don’ts.” It’s about what is best for the church. It’s about how to have relationship with one another and the “this is how you do it,” according to the Bible. They are for the benefit of the Body of Christ, but they’re also important in keeping us in fellowship with the Father. Seeing the value of polity is seeing the value in the commanded ordinances of God and in church organization. These ordinances were first established by God and are found in His Word. God authorizes the church leadership to make sure these ordinances are biblically sound so that they can be accurately practiced (baptism by immersion, the Lord’s Supper or Communion, etc. Polity ensures we can follow the teachings of Jesus Christ for His church, like when church discipline might be necessary (Matt 18:15-18). Without Polity, every pastor or elder might do what is right in his own eyes, but with disastrous results, because there’d be no unity and order in each of the churches, so polity reduces the chance of confusion in the church, and we know God does not work in this way (1st Cor 14:33).

Polity isn’t just about a bunch of “do’s” and “don’ts.”

Ordinances

When we look at the following ordinances, we understand that they are those things that are found in the Bible as well as with the primitive church of the first century. For example, baptism and the mode of baptism are done in according to Scripture (Matt 28:20), and have biblical meaning, so the church polity ensures that this is done in accordance with the biblical model. Polity should make attending a church in West Virginia the same as it would be in California, in as far as the ordinances of the church. Many churches have agreed to abide by spelled out polities, policies, and procedures, so the congregational polity cannot override the church’s polity, and the church must be consistently practicing what the Bible has established. For a limited congregational polity to work effectively it requires the unity and cooperation of the local church members, officers, and leaders. This ensures that local pastors or church leaders (and even members) don’t enforce their own rules or ruler-ship in the local church. Even the fact that the pastor is accountable to the church limits what he can do.

Conclusion

Policies, procedures, and bylaws (polity) are there to ensure that the church is following the teachings of Jesus Christ for His church. Churches, just like other organizations, need policies and bylaws and procedures to protect their liability, such as lawsuits or other grievances. Otherwise, there can be mass confusion when something comes up that has never come up before and the church doesn’t know how to respond. Church polity is designed to protect the church, the building, the pastors, the elders and deacons, and even the membership.

Here is some related reading for you: What Does the Bible Say About Church Government?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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