Chapter 7 – Doing All Things In Decency And In Order
The phrase “decency and in order” is rather vague. There is no specificity given to explain just how to do that. While Paul was with the Churches, they could ask him. But after the apostles were gone, they were so to speak as a “man,” on their own. Paul wrote to one Church on this topic saying, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
Thus, trusting in God, there is a great leeway given for Churches to work out problems in doing all “things in decency and in order.” Sometimes those coming to the Church from other denominations of institutionalized religions see no utility in many of the customs the Church has maintained in common among themselves. All of these customs, in general, were developed to care for business in a way that promoted “decency and order.” Disrupting these can often promote disorder, and may even set loose the carnality of men to do things in violation of this injunction. Therefore both members of the Church and congregation (which is being taught, or “discipled”) could profit by understanding why some of these customs developed, and what their purposes are.
How shall holy men and women conduct themselves in decency?
They are believers. They love decency, and would be embarrassed if found indecent.
For a starter, should all men pray or preach simultaneously as in some religious bodies around us?
Or one by one so that the body might be edified, and people hard of hearing may understand, and visitors not think the Church and congregation had gone mad?
Some “baptized Churches of Jesus Christ” have a rule that they each speak by turn, and only after recognition by the moderator.
Some limit the number of times one might speak on a given subject lest one overbearing or fervent individual push his agenda over the common agreement of the body. That is, in decency and in order.
Most have a rule or practice that when one is speaking he is to address the moderator (who is representing the Church as a whole) rather than an individual.
Lest his remarks be construed personally and offend another. In this rule, they not only behave decently but also in an orderly manner.
Most Churches keep up a history and a list of those that are baptized among them. This is not provided for in the New Testament, other than by inference from the Book Of Acts of he Apostles, which can be considered a history. First, IT IS NOT MANDATORY to have a written history. It is left up to the Church if they wish to or not, and some do not. Throughout history, perhaps more have not than have. But for those that do, they select someone to guide the conference. He is the moderator. The term indicates that this is not a religious, or Church, function. There are no “moderators” or “clerks” found in the New Testament, although brethren associated with the apostles often wrote the epistles as they dictated them to the Churches.
The one recording the deliberation of the Church is most often called “the clerk.” Sometimes, however, some refer to him as the “Recording Secretary.”
Now, we grant that these things are extra-biblical, but they are customs developed to make sure “all things are done in decency and in order.” Hence, the New Testament provides for them indirectly. Each Church is at liberty to do “all things” in their own way so long as the means and end is to make sure they are done in “decency and in order.” So there are some things Churches do out of custom that are not provided for by direct commandment in the New Testament.
May I compile a list for you?
Here is one such list:
Is there any evidence of a “membership” Church in the New Testament?
We can’t seem to find one, but it is the custom of most Churches to have one. However, one that the writer serves does not.
Is there any evidence of a Church voting to allow a minister to baptize a believer?
Again, we can’t find one, but it is a widespread practice.
Is there any evidence that the early Church wrote letters of recommendation of believers to other Churches?
We think so.
“Do we begin again to command ourselves? Or from you?” (II Corinthians 3:1). It seems rather certain that the practice was in the early Church, yet Paul did not need such. Hence, some Churches today, including some in Mississippi do not give such. These things are a matter of custom, but they are in the parameters of doing things in decency and in order.
Do the Churches in the New Testament record their history?
Paul had scribes that did so, but did the Churches?
Most probably did not, but some Churches did, for the King James translators translated the letter of the Church of Smyrna and that of the Church of Ephesus.
Do we have an example of a Church having a song service prior to their worship service?
No. In fact, singing was first developed by the Roman, or Western Catholics; and later on by the Lutherans. However, Eastern Catholics to this day do not sing in their worship service. Singing in Baptists Churches date from the late eighteenth century. Singing, then, is a matter of custom.
Do we find an example of Churches in the apostolic age having their own meeting-houses?
Again, we can’t find such an example. However, at first, Baptists rented houses to meet in, and later bought or built their own. This too, is a matter of custom.
Is there any evidence the New Testament Churches had cemeteries?
No, and for over a thousand years the Catholic authorities would not allow such for “dissidents”, nor would they allow them to be buried in theirs! That is the reason for so many “family cemeteries” in Frontier America.
In having “conferences,” or “business meetings,” we do have one example in the Jerusalem council that met to consider the rules under which Gentile believers were bound.
But to have conferences, how are these to be conducted?
Answer: “in decency and in order.” Each Church is free to conduct their business as they please, but it has been considered well to stay pretty close to the practice of sister Churches of their fellowship. We present one such form used among some of our Churches.
“After divine service by elder _______, by motion and second the Church went into conference.
First, called for the peace of the Church. . .” Why this? To guard against doing something when the church is not in a peaceful state. To do so is highly dangerous, if it is assumed the Holy Spirit has removed His manifest presence from the Church at that time and place. Once the Church answers in peace, they continue: “the Church answered in peace.”
Second, the moderator called for brethren and sisters of like faith and order to be seated with us.
“Seated with us”?
What is this?
It is based upon our definition of the Church. A Church is a “called out assembly of baptized believers gathered together in one place to worship God.”
There might very well be, and often are, baptized believers from other localities present. ALL baptized believers gathered together in one place make up “The Church.” By this phrase, the Church is recognizing the addition of these visiting baptized members of the body of Christ as one with themselves. This is based upon the concept of a unity, or union, of gospel churches in God’s Kingdom.
One may ask, “Can they then vote in the conference.” The answer is, “Yes, upon leave of the Church previous to their being seated.” Some Churches ask for “reference left over from previous conference” before seating visiting baptized believers upon the basis that these visitors would not know of the business then under consideration. Churches that do this, allow the visitors to give “advice and counsel”, with the understanding they are free to take their advice or reject it.
“Thirdly, the moderator calls for general business.” This is self-explanatory.
“Fourthly, the moderator extended the privilege of the church for membership in our way of receiving them.” This is an extending of the privilege of the Church, or ekklesia” to members of the congregation. “In our way of receiving them,” translate into “by baptism,” or if baptized, by a personal relating of the hope of eternal salvation, and the Lord’s gracious dealings with them. [It is well to note here: In one Church Ledger in Mississippi, a sister from another Primitive Baptist church asked to join the Church. After relating her experience of grace, the Church received her. The next meeting day, another sister from the same Primitive Baptist Church also asked for membership. Upon relating her experience of grace, the records of the Church reads: “Not being satisfied with her relation, the Church rejected her”. This is the right of every individual Church, regardless of one’s standing in another Church.] In some Churches, this is done on a quarterly basis to prevent sudden emotional outburst leading to a carnal decision to “join the Church.” In these baptized Churches of Christ, no one attempts to get individuals to join the Church. That is left solely up to the individual and his God and “at His appointed time.” Other Churches extend this privilege at each monthly conference, but this without any appeals or so-called “gospel offers” accompanying the privilege extended. Since this is a natural history of the Church, and not a part of divine worship, the Church reviews the events of the day, and instructs the clerk after any corrections, to place them, as corrected, in the Church’s ledger. Then the conference is adjourned “in peace and in order.”