If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment…, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the LORD thy God shall choose; and thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and inquire; and they shall show thee the sentence of judgment: and thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they… shall show thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee: …thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall show thee, to the right hand, nor to the left. (Deuteronomy 17:8-11)
I think this passage and others like it in the Old Testament are examples to us of the role that the church should have in believers’ lives. Personally, I believe that many Christians go to their pastoral leadership for advice and listen as if they were listening to some radio personality (Mr. Fix-it, or Gear-head Joe). I know there is a ditch on both sides of the road, but I believe too many Christians use the idea of the priesthood of the believer to discount the counsel and authority of the local church. I am thinking particularly of instances when two believers are involved in some type of disagreement (paying rent, borrowing items, other mundane things). I have thought often that we should follow Paul’s thinking and set up “courts” in the church to help decide matters between believers. If it worked, which I fully believe it would, because that is how the Bible tells us to conduct ourselves, we should include more weighty matters. Really, if both parties claim association with a church, and they cannot work something out between themselves, it should be worked out in the church. And this should be able to be done without going through a bureaucratic legal system (sorry lawyers!). These may have to become somewhat public so that the whole church knows what is expected of the individuals involved and the pressure (or weight) of the church can be brought to bear upon the situation.