We are having a lot of problems in our church. First our preacher resigned and left right away, and now our deacons have taken it upon themselves to bring in preachers of their choice. Our church is nondenominational. We elected a pulpit committee, but it seems the committee is just a farce because in the end the deacons are controlling the church. They have changed or added to the by-laws of the church without bringing it before the church. We are supposed to vote on everything that goes on in our church, but lately we have not had the chance to do so. Can you tell me if it is legal for the deacons to do this? Our church is going to be torn apart if we cannot get this settled.
I am sorry your pastor left quickly, and I am sorry the deacons are not communicating with the congregation. Unfortunately, the things you are experiencing are not uncommon in the church of God. Before you draw too many conclusions, you may want to check an old copy of the by-laws to see what authority the deacons had. The by-laws determine their authority. The answer to your question is that the deacons can amend the church by-laws unilaterally only if the by-laws gave them that power. If the by-laws did give them this power, then they can choose what they want to bring to the congregation.
The selection of a new pastor is usually done with a Search Committee in independent and Baptist churches. Typically, a group of church members agree to serve on the committee. Their responsibility is to search for potential new pastors and invite promising ones to come and preach. This sounds like what you are experiencing. That seems normal, but you are in a better position to know who is serving on the Search Committee. Are only deacons serving on the committee?
Many leaders hear the words of Christ and either do not understand them, or they do not really care. A leader’s responsibility in the body of Christ is first and foremost one of being a servant. Leaders should never view individual ministry responsibilities as acquisition of power or influence! Christ did not intend the leaders to have a position of personal honor, prestige or glory. Jesus’ instruction to His disciples was that their role was one of service (being a servant) and slaving for others. The congregation should be at the top of the church’s organization chart with the leaders at the bottom and not the reverse. In Matthew 20:25-27, Jesus said,
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you . . . just as the Son of Man did not come to serve, but to be served . . . (NASB) Matthew 20:25-27
and then again in Mark,
And calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.” (NASB) Mark 10:42-44
This is what God expects out of His leaders. He wants men who serve Him and others.
God also desires that Christians submit to their leaders as long as they are not in sin (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Tim. 5:19-20), that is they meet biblical qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-7), Titus 1:6-9) and they are not teaching false doctrine (2 John 9-10). Otherwise, all Christians who have committed themselves to a church have the obligation to submit to their leaders,
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.
Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (NASB) Hebrews 13:7, 17
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. (NASB) 1 Tim. 5:17
The obligation of every Christian man and woman is to submit to his/her leaders as long these men are godly, (that is, they are qualified) and they teach the truth. At the point a Christian feels he/she can no longer submit, he/she needs to find another church.
Your situation is complicated. I would encourage any Christian in this situation to be gentle and submissive while asking many questions. After you believe you have all the important facts, then you can make the right decision. Pray for your leaders.