Decision Making in the Local Church - 2

The ways in which decisions were taken in the local church were varied. A lightening overview of the subject in the book of Acts reveals the following dynamics:

  • the 120 prayed and cast lots to replace Judas (2:24)
  • the Twelve identified a need for spiritually-qualified men to serve the daily food distribution to widows (7:2-4)
  • the Jerusalem church acted corporately to select these men (7:5-6)
  • the founding of the church in Samaria was by Philip and other unnamed believers (8:4-8)
  • the gospel was taken to an Ethiopian official by Philip as a result of angelic direction (8:26)
  • Ananias, a previously unknown believer, welcomed Saul into the Christian community in Damascus following a divine revelation (9:10)
  • the church in Antioch took a group decision to send financial aid to the Judean believers in response to a prophecy (11:27-30)
  • "the brothers" in Ephesus encouraged Apollos in his ministry and commended him to the believers in Achaia (18:27)
Even with such a superficial overview, it is possible to see that the process of decision making in the early churches was varied and decentralised, with few apparent formal mechanisms. Instead, we see individuals, recognised leaders and whole churches contributing to the process. The model of elders meeting separately to the whole church and working through an agenda of business is conspicuously absent - though of course arguments from silence are notoriously unreliable as a means of establishing normative practice for today.

Perhaps the most significant example of a major decision taken by the church in Acts concerned the place of the Gentiles in the new Christian community and was hammered out at the Council of Jerusalem (in chapter 15.) Because of the attention Luke gives this matter, I will deal with it as an example of decision-making in a separate post.

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