There is the true story about a midsized church in the upper Midwest of the United States. They had a congregational meeting one night. Members of the congregation were so strongly divided about some issue, the meeting erupted into a fistfight. The police were called, and the story was later printed on the front page of the local newspaper. How does that promote the image of Jesus in your community?

Why do church people sometimes misbehave at such unspiritual levels? There are a couple of reasons. First, most church governance structures—the way congregations make decisions—are not even close to a biblical pattern. In fact, most structures are patterned after feudal, European models of past centuries or corporate models adopted from recent business approaches. Second, faith issues are, by definition, close to the seat of emotions for most people. It is easy for disagreeing Christians to move to a place of emotional and irrational behavior, where they move from disagreeing to being disagreeable.

There is nothing in the New Testament about votes, boards, quorums, bylaws, or Robert’s Rules of Order—not even about constitutions or church-wide meetings. These secular models do not work well for the body of Christ, the church. The only primary document that God gives to the church for making all decisions is the Scripture.

In Paul’s letter to Titus, the third chapter, he addresses political behavior in general. It seems surprising that Paul would write about respect for the “government,” since the people in these churches were under the occupied rule of the Romans, who superimposed their pagan government upon God’s people.

Nevertheless, Paul says, “Remind the people to respect the government and be law-abiding, always ready to lend a helping hand.” He adds, “No insults, no fights. God’s people should be bighearted and courteous” (verses 1-2).

Later, Paul adds, “Stay away from mindless, pointless quarreling.” He continues, “Warn a quarrelsome person once or twice, but then be done with him” (verses 8-10). Paul says the quarrelsome person is “out of line” and “rebellious against God.” He adds, “By persisting in divisiveness, he cuts himself off” (verse 11).

In truth, most church leaders allow too much bad behavior, too often. As disciples, we are called to discipline one another—in love.

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