This post is especially for my readers who attend Wilkesboro Baptist Church. Earlier this year I preached through 1 Timothy. For me, and I believe for our church, it was a fruitful enterprise. Paul described necessity of godly character and doctrinal fidelity in order for a church to be healthy. Those sermons allowed me to share some thoughts on what the Bible teaches regarding church polity and structure. Out of those sermons and simultaneous conversations with church leadership, we have become convinced that a local congregation should be led by a plurality of pastors or elders. I have previously written on this topic from the perspectives of polity, church health, shepherding, accountability, and leadership.

About 3 months ago, I asked our spiritual emphasis committee (Lee Bentley, Wade McInnis, and Jon Snider) along with our deacon chairman, Steve Melton, and our deacon secretary, James Sullivan, to assist me in revising our Bylaws at WBC to reflect what a plurality of elders would look like in our local church context.

Our work together has been fruitful and encouraging. The product of our work has been the Fifth Amended and Restated Bylaws of Wilkesboro Baptist Church. One comment in particular during one of our meetings highlights the godly leadership present at WBC for decades. “We don’t have people fighting for power or position at WBC.” That is so true. In my almost seven years leading WBC as pastor, we have not conflicts with staff, deacons, or other church leaders for direction and power. We have worked together in our attempts to fulfill our mission of leading our neighbors and the nations to follow Jesus. This Bylaw revision process is another example of working together to help WBC to remain faithful in doctrine and in mission.

At the deacon’s meeting on Tuesday, July 12, the deacons unanimously approved Fifth Amended and Restated Bylaws of WBC that reflects a structural and organizational shift to a plurality of elders.

Church Bylaws are intended to guide how the church operates in organization and structure. I believe church Bylaws should be reviewed and revised regularly. This most recent revision is an attempt to be biblical in structure while recognizing the very helpful framework that is already in place. While these Bylaws guide us, they are not our ultimate authority. God through His Word is our authority.

These Bylaws do not go into affect unless the membership at WBC approves them. So, as a member of WBC, you have every right to access, read, and review this set of Bylaws. There are a number of ways you can access this bylaw revision.

  1. In the Beacon (week of July 17) we will provide the url address to a page on our website that will include 3 downloadable documents. The first document will be a copy of the current Bylaws revised in 2011. The second document will be a copy of the revised Bylaws for your review. The third document will be a side-by-side of both sets of Bylaws so you can easily compare the sections that have been revised.
  2. We will email those three documents to our email distribution list.
  3. If you do not have computer access, we will print you a copy of the proposed Bylaw revision. Please come by the church office and our administrative staff will be happy to print a copy of the revised Bylaws for you.

For a Bylaw revision to be approved, the membership at WBC must be notified of the revision thirty (30) days in advance of a vote.

There are several ways we are going to provide opportunity for questions and interactions regarding these Bylaw revisions.

  1. First, if you have any specific questions or concerns about any Article, Section, or Paragraph, please call the church office and set up an appointment with me. I will make myself available to answer your questions.
  2. Second, we’re going to make our Bylaw revision committee available to visit your Sunday school class per request between now and the end of August to answer any questions you may have regarding the Bylaw revisions.
  3. Third, we will have a Town Hall discussion opportunity on Wednesday evening August 17 to discuss these Bylaw revisions and how they will affect our church structure and polity. During that discussion time, I will highlight several of the recommended revisions and take questions from the floor.
  4. Fourth, we will present the recommendation to approve these Bylaw revisions at our church conference on Wednesday evening August 24.

Please reach out if you have any questions about our process or the Bylaw revision. May God continue to bless the mission and ministry of Wilkesboro Baptist Church.

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

The first amendment to the United States Constitution reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

When you consider the freedom of religion that we have (particularly in light of recent Supreme Court decisions) there are some people we should be thankful for.  Certainly, the founders of our country like Thomas Jefferson, who penned the Declaration of Independence, come to mind.  Jefferson also believed the Constitution should include a Bill of Rights for the citizens of the new country.  But he is not the only one we should thank.

We should also be thankful for a man much less well-known—John Leland.  Leland was a Baptist pastor from Virginia who argued for religious liberty in the new country.  Leland even wrote to George Washington about the topic of religious liberty.  Leland and other Baptists were so adamant concerning the new Constitution’s lack of specificity on the issue of religious liberty that he organized Baptists against its ratification.  Finally, Leland convinced James Madison, a representative from Virginia to make religious liberty and indeed an entire Bill of Rights a plank within the new Constitution.  Upon ratification, Madison introduced 10 amendments which formed the basis for our current Bill of Rights and the first amendment above.

Leland, a Baptist, played a significant role in guaranteeing religious freedom for our infant country more than 200 years ago.  Leland believed:

(1)that the rights of conscience are inalienable, not subject to either government permission or restriction; (2) that the establishment of religion by law always damages religion; and (3) that the real motives for establishment are not to benefit religion but to buttress the power of civil rulers and augment the purses of ambitious clergy.[1]

Would that more Baptists, Christians, and U.S. citizens today understood the beautiful privilege and glorious responsibility of religious freedom found in our nation.  Thank God for men like John Leland who spoke up for religious liberty.  And thank God for founding leaders like Jefferson and Madison who listened to the voice of the people.

[1] McBeth, H. Leon, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, Broadman, 1987), 274.

Photo by Anthony Garand on Unsplash