A gracEmail subscriber writes: “In a recent Family Notes you gave the website address of a particular church. The first thing that met my eye on the website was the set of organizational bylaws. Since you are knowledgeable in the Scriptures and in the law, I would be interested in what you think about these church bylaws.”
* * *
Bylaws in general are merely part of the legal technicalities of a corporation, including 501(c)(3), charitable, nonprofit corporations. Unless churches in the U.S. are incorporated with 501(c)(3) status, contributions to them are not officially tax-deductible. Some incorporated churches have very limited by-laws. Other churches have more detailed bylaws for the clear understanding of all concerned.
The Scriptures do not envision a culture with tax-deductible contributions, corporations, church-owned real property and buildings or church treasuries with budgets, pledges and bank accounts. Therefore they do not talk about bylaws. The scripturalness of bylaws, it seems to me, is not that bylaws are mentioned in Scripture — for they are not — but that the bylaws themselves are not inconsistent with Scripture principles. (Some would argue that institutional, incorporated churches are themselves a divergence from the biblical picture, which they say involves informal fellowships meeting from house to house.)
It is to be expected, given our circumstances so different from the Middle East of the first-century, that church bylaws might include elements more detailed than those prescribed by Scripture. If I were part of a congregation that was writing bylaws, I would want to scrutinize the details very carefully. Since I am not part of this particular congregation and have no involvement in its affairs, I have not felt a need to critique its particular bylaws.