les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Friday, March 18, 2016

When is a church not a church?

When it's a plant.


The point is valid, though. We're a relatively decent number on a typical Sunday, between 20 and 30 folk. Plenty of churches in the UK and in France have fewer people. And we're busting out of our building, but we'll have a new place to meet from this summer where we'll have a little room to grow.

Meanwhile people sometimes ask questions which we cannot answer as they would wish. Like:

Can I get tax relief on my giving to the church?

The answer is no. Until we are an Association 1905 we cannot issue reçus fiscaux, and to register as an Asso 1905 we need 28 members aged over 18.

Who's the pastor? Who are the elders?

Well who called a pastor? What church meeting appointed elders? We do not yet have sufficient stable church members to allow election of elders and appointment of a pastor. Till then I am the de facto pastor, but I doubt if I will actually be called as the first pastor of Bordeaux Church.

If we become a fully fledged bilingual church with a French congregation as well as an English, then maybe we will be able to call a pastor within 5 years or so. If we remain anglophone then I expect it could take as long as ten years. And in that case my successor would logically be the first official pastor of Bordeaux Church.

And as for me, I couldn't care less. I'm not building a ministry here. We're building a church.


Emmanuel said...

Thanks for these thoughts. I am interested as they fit with the ecclesiology lectures I am preparing for September. Here a a few questions, thoughts:

Q1 Do you have to wait to have a form of government to have a church: pastor and/or elders?
Q2 Is the Word preached faithfully?
Q3 Do you have communion on a regular basis ? Would you baptise a new believer if they asked?
Q4 If a member of the association Loi 1901 messed up and refused to repent, would you discipline him/her?

My own take is that from the moment the Word is preached and communion is taken on a regular basis, you are more than a friendly Bible study group. But I know that for most French Christians, you are not a church until you are une association Loi 1905. But this is wrong.

Grudem says in his Systematic that when a group of Christians start taking communion and baptising,they are a trying to function as a church and should be considered a church.

I have more questions. I'll ask them another time.

Alan said...

Thanks Emmanuel, Very helpful, and so glad to be at least partly in line with what is taught at the august IBB.

Q1 You'd need to explain this question further.

Q2 Hope so. We do our best, and rely on God's Spirit and grace.

Q3 We don't celebrate the Lord's Supper regularly yet. We would baptise a new believer if he was a Bordeaux resident, but a foreign student present for a few months we would encourage to be baptised in his home country.

Q4 Yes.

It seems to me that until we appoint elders we do not have a functioning discipline in the church. In the absence of Paul to appoint elders in every town we need to appoint our own, and for that we need a "we", which means a membership, and slightly larger than we have at present!

Grudem isn't always right or complete. We also need Keller. ;-)
And, as you so rightly point out, our supreme authority is the Scriptures, above the law on associations.

Emmanuel said...

That's a helpful. Firts: I'll try to reformulate question 1: Do you need to have church officers (elders/pastor) before you have a church ? I don't know the answer. I remember having a discussion about it ecclesiology class in ETCW. Don't remember the answer.

What about churches who don't have the same understanding of church government (like the church of England), are they stiill churches ?

I've just finished preaching through Titus. Paul wasn't the only one to appoint elders in the NT. It was part of Titus' task, and he wasn't even an Apostle. Paul doesn't tell Titus to organize an election to appoint new elders. He is telling Titus to appoint elders. Not sure how to work it out today, but haven't you been appointed and sent by a church to preach the gospel and plant Bordeaux church ? Doesn't that give you some sort of authority to lead the church and consider yourself a Pastor? I don't have the answer, it is so complicated.

Grudem isn't always right or complete: agreed.
We also need Keller: agreed.
Bannerman is also helpful. I am slowly reading through his "church of Christ". It is very helpful and quite clear (he repeats himself a lot). I am not a presbyterian, but I found his criticism of the position that the church's authority lies in the members of the church (the usual position in the churches I know) very convincing and helpful.

Thanks for making me think.

Alan said...

Personally I don't much care if you call your elders pastors, or the church committee, or whatever. Also I am not sure that we can unchurch groups that hold to different convictions on church government than ours.

Yes, it wasn't only Paul or even only apostles who appointed elders. I think it is very debatable whether my church in North Wales commissioned me to go and plant Bordeaux Church. This means the answer could be "yes", of course! But in France I have so often heard people described as "pasteur auto-proclamé" that I think it is good to take a strict line. Churches are so easily dismissed and condemned as groupuscules, sectaires etc.. I feel that I need to avoid giving people excuses to dismiss the church.

Yes, Bannerman. Someone commented recently that on reading my blog it was very difficult to know if I was baptist or presbyterian. I thanked him very warmly for this rich and generous compliment!