Question: "Why are church business meetings necessary?"
Answer: The Bible does not address church business meetings per se. Business meetings in a local church today are largely a matter of practicality. Most churches find there is always “business” to take care of regarding finances, building maintenance, groundskeeping, ministry curricula, etc. In most churches with a congregational style of government, business meetings are a monthly staple, as the church members gather to discuss and vote on various items of business. In other types of churches, someone is making decisions affecting expenditures and other business matters, and accountability demands some oversight and/or collaboration, which in turn requires a “business meeting” of some kind among the leaders.
The Bible isn’t explicitly clear on what the government of a local church should look like. However, the Bible does specify that there are two biblical offices in the church: pastors and deacons. Requirements for these offices are found in 1 Timothy 3:1–13 and Titus 1:5–9. While the word pastor is the most familiar to us, the Bible rarely uses it. More often, the term for the spiritual leader of a church is overseer, shepherd, elder, or bishop, depending on the translation. Each of these titles refers to the same position. In Acts 20:17–38, Paul calls the “elders” together and then refers to them as “overseers” and describes their role as “shepherding” a flock. (The word pastor is derived directly from the Latin word for “shepherd.”) Some churches have one pastor; others have a plurality of elders, usually with one pastor who does most of the teaching.
Deacons are introduced in Acts 6 and are mentioned in the Epistles as serving the church. The first deacons were chosen by the members of the Jerusalem church to solve a problem. Some widows in the church were being neglected in the daily distribution of food, so the apostles “gathered all the disciples together”—the whole church (Acts 6:2). The apostles then gave the congregation the task of choosing seven men to handle the daily responsibilities. The plan “pleased the whole group” (Acts 6:5), and they chose the first seven deacons. In this instance, the local church as a unit was responsible for making the decision, and there was a meeting convened—one we would probably refer to today as a “business meeting.”
In Acts 15:22 we have another “business meeting” of sorts, as “the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch.” In Matthew 18 Jesus outlines the process for formal church discipline; in verse 17 He says one step of the process is to “tell it to the church.” Perhaps this reporting was expected to be done at the regular gathering for worship, but many churches today prefer to perform this step in a private, members-only setting. Either way, the church needs to be gathered together to address various types of business in addition to gathering for worship and teaching.
The existence of business meetings in modern church settings usually necessitates other church offices not found in Scripture: the church secretary and the church treasurer are two common ones. Document creation is also involved, with agendas, minutes, financial reports, etc., to distribute, discuss, and approve. Most churches find that following Robert’s Rules of Order in their business meetings helps keep things organized and on track and limits the potential for unhelpful conflict.
A church business meeting is one way that a church can follow Scripture’s directive that “everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Corinthians 14:40). Whatever style of church government a local body adopts, business should be handled with prayer, orderliness, humility, and with a view to glorify God.