It is so helpful to study the life of Jesus. When you look at His ministry, Jesus took little notice of political structures. When Jesus was born, Herod was the ruler placed over the country. The promised Messiah seemed like a threat to Herod and to his power. Recognizing the danger, Herod made a move to find the child and kill him. Mary and Joseph took Jesus and fled to Egypt.

This episode in the early life of Jesus makes a profound statement. The grace and love of God to send His Son into the world was in direct opposition to the political structure in Israel. Jesus’ mission was antithetical to the legalism and power of politics, even the politics of the Pharisees. Consequently, you would think that denominations and religious hierarchies—with all their rules, regulations, votes, bylaws, committees, and politics—would get that!

In the Old Testament, God operated from what could be called a “theocracy.” In the beginning, He chose to create Adam and Eve and made a tough decision to banish them from the Garden of Eden when they disobeyed—disrespected—His authority. That message speaks volumes!

The prophets and kings of the Old Testament were not perfect human beings by any means. Yet, they reflected the ongoing revelation of who God is, what He does, and what He expects. In a short summary, this is clarified in the Ten Commandments and through the teachings of the prophets.

The narrative from God is an ongoing tension between love and forgiveness. God’s people vacillate between submissive faith and rebellion.

In the New Testament, God’s will, His love, and His forgiveness become abundantly clarified and personified in Jesus. Jesus doesn’t nullify the law. He fulfills it. Grace has more power than legalism.

Love conquers over rules, yet commandments are the way God alerts us when we miss the mark. We have a built-in radar that detects when we go against God. It is called a conscience. Nevertheless, the law is overshadowed by grace. That grace was exemplified by Jesus’ death on the cross. Political systems are high on rules and limited on grace. You break the law, you pay. In the spiritual construct: You repent, you are forgiven. Jesus takes your place on the cross. It’s not politics. It is grace. Isn’t that the kind of church you want to be?

In the Lord’s Prayer, we say to God—and each other—“Your will be done.” We want what God wants. Our guide is Scripture. We are not perfect, but we are forgiven. We are on a mission, but not alone. It is a co-mission. Our constitution for operation is the Bible. Our Helper is the Holy Spirit. In truth, God has given us everything we need to do church—and to take the world for Jesus.

However, as a gathering of Christians moves toward the formation of a church, guidelines are often developed for the corporate entity of the local body. As Christians in a congregation look to biblical guidelines to function, productivity in the mission increases through the call to make disciples.

From a biblical perspective, churches operate from the position of what might be called an apostolic theocracy. The word “apostolic” reflects the leadership posture of the apostles. Taking their cue from the way Jesus operated, the New Testament leaders didn’t try motivating believers by rules and hard-line demands. The apostles guided the believers through gracious influence, always pointing to the teaching and demonstration of life provided by Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the guide, not a constitution and bylaws. The church is not just any organization. It is the body of Christ. The “theocracy” part of their decision-making reflects that Christ is the head of the church. Scripture is the guide. Prayer is the form of deliberation. Ultimately, God rules. He is the ruler of the universe. Shouldn’t He rule His people, His body, His church—your church?

While this approach seems “impossible” at first glance, a focus on the New Testament demonstrates that God’s people can operate on a spiritual level and reach greater impact on the members of the church and their community. We know this because the churches that have operated from the position of an apostolic theocracy have felt liberated. The bottom line is this: The biblical approach works!

Kent R. Hunter is the author of Church Politics: Pain-Free Decision-Making. Kent is the founder of Church Doctor Ministries, now led by Tracee J. Swank. Church Doctor Ministries is a dynamic ministry that helps Christians and churches become more effective to make disciples for Jesus Christ. Church Politics is available from Amazon.com and ChurchDoctor.org.

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