The theology of church government and administration is held to
he of real relevance to the important question of church growth. It is
the argument of this thesis that there is no theological barrier to the
pragmatic adaptation of the structures of church government. It is held
that, subject to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the adaptation of
church structures to meet the demands of differing historical, cultural,
social and spiritual conditions is both theologically possible and
practically necessary to assist in the fulfilment of the mission of the
The importance, limitations and methodology of the study are
discussed in the introduction. Important definitions are also included
in this portion of the study. The major body of the, research is
divided into three sections.
In the first section, study is made of the theological implications of church government as it relates to four major areas: the
nature of the Ekklesiaj the relationships within the Ekklesia; the
authority for government within the Ekkleaia; and the role of church
government In the fulfilment of the mission of the Ekklesia. Comparison
is first made of the traditional Western polities, and the conclusion
is drawn that major theological differences do exist between Catholic
and Protestant Christians in regard to these four bases of church
government. However, it is seen that Protestant polities are divided
only in expression of a fundamental unity regarding these theological
bases of church government. Pragmatic adaptation of church structures
is seen as both theologically acceptable and practically necessary to
promote church growth.
The second section deals with paternalistic structures of church
government as seen in the Mission Churches of Asia. These structures
are examined both historically and for their effect upon the development
of the Asian churches. These paternalistic structures are rejected
on the basis of their detrimental influence upon the development and
growth of the churches in Asia.
The third section of the study centres upon the close relationship between church structures and the historical, cultural, social
and spiritual Influences at work within the Asian churches. As the
churches of Asia become truly Indigenous, they would seem to modify
inherited church structures to fit the totality of the Asian milieu.
Examination is made of the present practices and structures of
ohurches in Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Japan and the Philippines. These
structures are discussed In terms of the four theological bases of
First, examination is made of the nature of the Ekklesia and
structures of the churches. It is seen that the incarnational nature
of the Ekklesia places the churches in a role of reconciliation. This
reconciliation of the world to God through the Ekklesia demands that the
nature of the Ekklesia be thought of in terms of missionary activity.
Thus, the natur.e and the purpose of the Ekkleaia dec ermines the
nature and form of the various structures of church government. This
applies to the churches of Asia, for these churches must act for God
in the world to which God has commissioned them. It is seen that
the world of Asia is experiencing a thorough-going revolution, demanding
a corresponding revolution within the churches to meet the new situation
The missionary activity of the Asian churches is entering a new phase,
with these churches fulfilling their role of reconciliation within the
Asian milieu, and at the same time, resolving the relationship between
the Indigenous Church and the Universal Church.
Second, authority for church government is considered on three
levels. In relation to the clergy, there is the question of ordination
and training. Yet another area of concern is the relationship of
authority as claimed by Church and State. While there is widespread
religious liberty, the Asian churches must be prepared with structures
to express the authority of Christ under all conditions. A final area
of authority in structures which must be considered is the role of the
Mission Society in the on-going mission of the Asian churches. The
place of the Mission Society involves social, practical and theological
problems. Authority in all church structures is closely concerned
with the relationships within the Ekklesla.
Third, church government and the relationships within the Asian
churches is of importance to the missionary activity of the churches.
Examination is made of church structures and the relationships within
the local congregation, between the local congregation and larger
church structures, and between the clergy and the laity. Relationships
within the Asian churches also involve the need for structures to
define and practice discipline at all levels.
Fourth, structures to assist in the fulfilment of the purpose and
mission of the Ekklssla are considered. It is seen that the purpose
of church government is directly related to the world of Asia, for it is
in this world that the Ekkleaia must win the people of Asia. To this
end, where necessary, church structures must be revised and adapted to
the needs of the Asian situation. The present time is seen to afford
a new opportunity to develop structures for mission; the Asian churches
will need to seize this opportunity.
On the basis of the study of these four areas of churoh structure
the final two chapters of the section deal with contemporary reforms in
governmental structures as the churches of Asia seek to take advantage
of these new opportunities to re-form structures for mission. It is
seen that larger ohurch structures are being reformed, as polity is
adapted to the missionary purpose of the Ekkiesia. Reforms are also
being planned and instituted on the oongregational level, as local
structures are adanted to fulfill the mission of the Ekklesia in their
own locale. Patterns for the full utilization of the resources of the
laity and the ministry, as well as practical arrangements for missionary
activity at all levels are seen to be developing.
The study closes with one final chapter of principles and
suggestions for the adaptation of ohurch structures for missionary
activity and church growth. It is hoped that these suggestions and
principles may prove to be of some value in the promotion of church
growth, both in Asia and throughout the world, through the pragmatic
adaptation of church structures.