When we consider the activity of a local church, we too often bring our own preconceptions in deciding what should be done or not done. What we must overcome, however, are our own preconceptions, whatever they may be.
Many people see the local church as a business and run it as a business. The purpose of a business is to turn a profit and grow, and so many churches have incorporated methodologies to lead to that growth. Others see the local church through the lens of common sense, and still others see the local church through the filter of their previous church experience.
Relatively few intentionally seek to make the Scriptures the basis for their practices. One problem that brought us to where we are today is that the latter part of the nineteenth century saw an intentional change in how the local church operated. “What is scriptural?” was often replaced with “What works?” How churches operated were changed in order to bring in more people and have a greater presence in the community. That trend continued and gained greater traction in the twentieth century and remains with us in the twenty-first century.
Cornerstone is by no means the ideal church, but we seek to be biblical in how we operate. The Bible is the basis for our theology and for our methodology. We may be a little different from what folks have experienced elsewhere, but if we were going to be like everyone else, there really is not a good reason for our existence.
Why do we have elders? Most Baptist churches do not have a plurality of elders. Most have one elder, the pastor, and several deacons that basically function as a board of elder. The Bible, though, indicates that local churches should have a plurality of elders. Elders were appointed in “every church” (Acts 14:23) and in every town (Titus 1:5). If someone is sick, “let him call for the elders of the church” (James 5:14).
Why are only men ordained as elders and teach mixed-gender adult classes? The New Testament provides for male leadership in churches. In 1 Timothy, one of Paul’s epistles that focuses upon life in the church, the apostles writes, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:12-14). Paul roots the practice all the way back to creation.
It’s become fashionable in some churches to have a Saturday evening worship service in order to attract more people who don’t want to “mess up” their Sundays with church. Why do we meet at all, and why is Sunday set aside for our primary corporate worship service? We have former members who questioned this. The Bible exhorts us to come together as an assembly, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). We meet on Sunday because that was the practice of the early church, meeting on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians16:1-2; Revelation 1:10-11).
Why do we practice church discipline? Jesus instructs us to do so (Matthew 18:15-20), and Paul provides specific commands (1 Corinthians 5; Titus 3:10-11).
To be sure, some things are matters of preference. We meet on Wednesday evenings for fellowship and prayer and Bible study. Scripture does not require this, those the Scriptures do exhort us to fellowship and pray and study the Bible. The early church in Jerusalem did it daily (Acts 2:42-47).
What time should we meet on Sundays? The Bible does not say, so this is a matter of preference. We are used to churches meeting during the latter part of Sunday morning and then again that evening. What is the reason for this schedule? Perhaps in an agrarian culture, the early morning and mid-afternoon of a Sunday were spent doing necessary things around the farm, such as feeding livestock, milking the cows, or collecting eggs. We live in a different day. Some churches now have one extended gathering, meeting on Sunday morning with Bible study and worship. They then fellowship over a simple lunch and afterwards have a devotional or sermon or maybe a discussion about the Sunday morning sermon or a theological issue. By 2:00 or so, they depart for their homes for rest and preparation for the coming week.