Bible & Theology

The Lord’s Church… A Democracy?3 min read

July 19, 2012 2 min read


The Lord’s Church… A Democracy?3 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes

God knew what He was doing when He designed the church.

His wisdom is profoundly obvious, especially when you observe congregations that do not respect His design (and their subsequent problems).

Consider the church’s leadership. God decided that each congregation should be led by elders (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Titus 1:5-16; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Heb. 13:17) (synonyms: presbyter, overseer, bishop, shepherd, or pastor). Elders – always mentioned in the Bible as a plurality – are to (1) lead the spiritual and physical affairs of the church, (2) watch over and protect the church, and (3) spiritually feed the church.

What happens when elders stop shepherding and leading, but become in essence mere peace keepers? The congregation becomes a democracy.

When that happens, the church has stopped restoring New Testament Christianity.

Consider the definition of a democracy:

Democracy: a government where all powers are invested in all the people equally; the self-rule of the people.

The Bible describes the church as a flock of sheep (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2). I don’t claim to be an expert in raising sheep, but I know this: sheep can’t shepherd themselves. Yet, that’s what happens when elders stop leading. Consider a few reasons why sheep shouldn’t shepherd themselves:

5 Reasons Why Church Democracies Are Dangerous

1. Democracies aren’t designed to do what is right. They merely exist to make ‘the majority’ happy. Perhaps there is a ‘democratic’ church with a member whose soul is in danger and needs to be disciplined, yet most people favor this person and disciplining him/her would be unpopular. That church likely won’t do what the Bible commands (cf. Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 5:1) because most would be unhappy with such an action.

2. Democracies give troublemakers an equal voice. When the church has an opportunity to serve the community and fulfill the Great Commission (Mk. 16:15), the negative people have a better opportunity shoot it down. When the church needs to make a doctrinal decision, the people who don’t care about what the Bible says will have a voice. In other words, a democratic system gives bitter people, negative personalities, and change-agents an equal say in the affairs of the Lord’s church.

3. Democracies accept the status quo. People tend to dislike change. If there is an opportunity to try something new, it is easy for the majority of people to hamper the idea. If people are comfortable with the size of the church and the weekly contribution amount, why change anything?

4. Democracies don’t fix problems. Since the church is comprised of human beings, problems arise within the church from time to time. If these problems are not resolved, division can potentially occur. When gossip flares up and people start forming grudges against one another, families might start going somewhere else. Without strong leadership, the Lord’s directive for handling church conflict breaks down (Matt. 18:15-17).

5. Democracies suppress idealism. Churches need members who are excited about serving Christ and following His New Testament. Since democracies are not primarily concerned with following the Bible, those who are passionate about restoring New Testament Christianity will either get burnt out, or will go somewhere else. The church shouldn’t discourage zeal, it should encourage it.


Ben Giselbach is the pulpit minister at the East Side church of Christ in Cleveland, TN. He and his wife Hannah have three children, Ezra, Colleyanna, and Eliza Jane. Ben is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University and has returned to pursue his MDiv. He has written three books in his You Are A Theologian Series (Thinking Right about the Bible, Thinking Right about God, and Thinking Right about Salvation) and co-authored It's There In Black and White: 37 Questions about Racial Tension in the Church.
One Comment
  1. Dale Jenkins

    Ben - one of the best, most full of insight, posts I've read in weeks. This is a real issue in the church. Thanks for sharing. In His Care, d

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