The Church and the State: How Laws govern both and what to do when and where conflict arises.
The Church has its governance structure. The purpose of a governance structure within a church is to regulate the functioning of the community of faith and the conduct of its component members. The Church derives its authority in a number of ways
- By God through revelation.
- By the Church leadership through its internal mechanism of government when situations arise and the scriptures must be interpreted to fashion out principles that under-guard specific policies.
The governing structure is concerned with order and discipline and it derives its authority from the scriptures. The Institutional Church has its own regulatory system of law and order-polity dealing with doctrine, governance, worship, property, and finance. The responsibility of eldership in a Church is to translate the church’s theological understanding into norms of conduct.
Church and the State Relationship
The State is instituted by God to promote and protect the temporal and common good of society; its functions fundamentally differ from the Church. It does have a right to protect the citizens of a nation from material and bodily harm while it upholds the fundamental human rights of the individual to freely worship his/her creator. For example, if a religious organization says its “revelation” from God compels it to offer human sacrifices once a week, the State has a right to protect its citizens from such practices. There should be a separation between the Church and the State but the Church should cooperate with the State in matters of common concern.
If we go strictly by the words of Jesus both the State and the Church can fulfill their reason for existing without conflict for Jesus clearly instructed to give unto Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar while this doesn’t inhibit you from giving God what belongs to him.
However, when the State passes legislation that the Church believes infringes upon its fundamental rights and may change the spiritual nature of its leadership or it is based on legislating what the Church believes to be things that have stemmed out of personal moral decadence in society, then a problem arises. When this conflict occurs, the Church and the State must engage with one another in matters of common concern.
The Church must know that to be effective in any society we operate in, trust is a must. You cannot influence a people whom you have lost their trust. Evangelism goes beyond knocking on doors, the way we conduct our affairs before the public is one of the most powerful tools for evangelizing the world. Our credibility with the public is sacred and one of the most powerful tools for evangelism. If the public believes our position intends to cover and hide immoral or unjust practices within our midst then we lose our credibility, our social capital plunges and we will find it difficult to win souls.
This is why Paul told Timothy to only appoint those who have a good report with them that are without i.e. those who are outside the Church.
1 Tim 3:7(AMP)
“Furthermore, he must have a good reputation and be well thought of by those outside [the church], lest he become involved in slander and incur reproach and fall into the devil’s trap.”
He also said provide things honestly in the sight of God and man.
2 Corinthians 8: 19-22(MSG)
“We’re sending a companion along with him, someone very popular in the churches for his preaching of the Message. But there’s far more to him than popularity. He’s rock-solid trustworthy. The churches handpicked him to go with us as we travel about doing this work of sharing God’s gifts to honor God as well as we can, taking every precaution against scandal.
We don’t want anyone suspecting us of taking one penny of this money for ourselves. We’re being as careful in our reputation with the public as in our reputation with God. That’s why we’re sending another trusted friend along. He’s proved his dependability many times over, and carries on as energetically as the day he started.”