Drawing Lots for Serving Brethren.




[We understand that it has been recently suggested at an Unamended ecclesia that the use of voting to choose serving brethren should be abandoned in favor of “drawing lots”.  This has traditionally been frowned upon by Christadelphians as not being a scriptural or proper way to conduct ecclesial affairs “in decency and order”.  We provide the following comments from bro. Williams out of the January 1887 Advocate that help to provide logic and reason as to why casting lots provide no solution to the organization of ecclesial affairs.  We believe the reader will find the explanation scripturally sound and logical. – A.T.]


 A list of twenty five questions on the above subject have been sent us, with a pressing request by brother Gunn to published them as soon as possible. Great complaint is made by our brother because we sounded a voice of warning of the danger of introducing the system into the ecclesias. We are compared to some foolish scotch people, who smashed to pieces the first tanning-mill introduced into their district, because they held that the artificial breeze caused by the fanning-mill, was a usurpation of the power of Him who holds the wind in the hollow, of His hand. 


If it affords our brother any degree of pleasure to compare my humble self with some of his foolish kinsmen, he is welcome to it; but I plead guilty to the charge of being afraid of the introduction of anything “artificial” into the Ecclesia of God; and if I can “smash it to pieces” I shall do it though it be at the risk of being called “superstitious.” Complaint is also made that we warned before reading what some brethren had written upon the question. We can but say, that if we beard of the circulation among the brethren, of a book on partial inspiration, we should not stop to read that book before we sounded the word of warning, because we would know the danger of the principle. So in regard to this subject, there is sufficient to enable us to decide the question without leading everything that may be written upon it.


Now in regard to these twenty five questions, we will say, that we can state our reasons why the system is dangerous without encumbering our pages with so much unprofitable matter as these questions contain. For the information of those who are not informed in regard to the proposed innovation, we will state, that it is claimed that the present method of appointing serving brethren in the ecclesia, viz: by a vote of the brethren, is unscriptural; and that it has been the cause of most of the troubles which have arisen. That the scriptural and peaceful way is, for the brethren first to nominate a certain number competent to serve, and after praying God to make the choice, draw lots for which of the nominees shall be His choice; that which ever shall draw the lot with “presiding brother” (or what ever service the election be for) on it, shall be regarded as the Lord’s choice, and all contention, if there be any, cease. Before turning to the Scriptures let us reason a little upon the subject. The object is, it seems, to avoid the electioneering which it is claimed is resorted to in some places. Now supposing there exists the trouble complained of, will the Lot method cure it? How can it, when, before ever a lot is drawn, there is a caucus, at which nominations are made? If the spirit of electioneering exists, will it not find just as much scope in the nominating by vote as it would in the electing by vote? Ask politicians where the more “wire pulling” is done, in the nominating caucus, or in the final election. Again if the final choice is the Lord’s, why make a nomination at all? If the Lord directs the hand to draw out the proper brother to serve, from six members of the ecclesia, he will do so from all the members. As brother Roberts has well said, there must be proof that the Lord acts in the case, before we presume to say that any man is the Lord’s choice.


We will suppose an ecclesia wants a presiding brother, how, according to the Lot method would he be procured? He would be nominated. How would he be nominated, and by whom? By vote and by the ecclesia. Then allowing that a lot is cast after the nomination, would he not owe his position as presiding brother to the vote of the ecclesia? In other words, would not the vote, which is branded as a Gentile practice, be the very foundation upon which the member as presiding brother would stand? This being the case, would not the Lot be a work of superfluity? Again, draw lots with the idea that the one upon whom the lot falls is the Lord’s choice, would he not in that case be a presiding brother by divine appointment? which is just what imposters of the Romish and Protestant churches claim as “Clergymen.”  If it be answered no, he is not of divine appointment.  Then we ask, why call him the Lord’s choice? and why pray for the lot to be directed by the Lord? If the Lot system be adopted at all, it is to take the matter of electing serving brethren out of the hands of the ecclesia, and to place it in the hands of the Lord, therefore the appointment is of the Lord and not of the ecclesia. Now if a man is put into an office by the Lord, who is to take him out of that office?  In case he would become a disgrace to the ecclesia, which is among the possibilities, what could be done? If the Lord put him in office, what right would the ecclesia have to remove him? and how could they remove him, except by vote? The farther we pursue our investigations of this dangerous system the more the danger appears.


Much has been said about the use of the lot under the Law, but laying aside the strain many portions of Scriptures have received, supposing it was the method by which the Spirit expressed itself, during the times of direct operation of the Spirit, that would be no reason for expecting the same in these times when the Word takes the place of the Spirit. In the Word we have it marked out as to what are the qualifications for responsible positions in the body. This is our guide, and let us accept it, and with our eyes open, instead of drawing lots blind-folded, do everything decently and in order.


Now, in turning to the Scriptures, let us ask, which is the more important matter to come before the ecclesia, the question, which brother shall preside at our meetings? or the question shall we withdraw from a certain brother? The latter unquestionably! If then the ecclesia is to decide the greater, it certainly ought the lesser.  The Savior says that if the trespassing brother refuse to hear the one against whom he has trespassed, we are to tell it to the church, and if he neglect to hear the church, let him he unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. It is not the voice of God expressed in drawing lots, but it is the voice of the church guided by the Word, which is to decide the important matter of withdrawing from a brother. Shall not then the same voice, directed of course by the Word, decide the question of serving brethren. In what manner can the voice of the church be given? It has to speak some Way. It must say yes, or no. How otherwise can it speak but by vote? Paul dares anyone, having a matter against another, to go to law before the unjust (I Cor. 6:1) and not before the saints.  “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge          the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge which are least esteemed in the church.” Here the Apostle is reprimanding the brethren because they had “set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.” The fact that he speaks of them having set the wrong men to judge, and asked them, “Is it so that there is not a wise man among you?” shows that he recognized their right, and their duty to set them in office; and he also holds them responsible for setting the wrong men as judges. If our Lot friends had been there, they no doubt would have been ready to present twenty-five questions to Paul on the adoption of the Lot method; and would have shown to their satisfaction at least, that the new “copyrighted” system would end all trouble and cause contention to cease. The Apostle’s command here is to set men to judge of matters of dispute.  Whoever therefore would be “set,” would be the appointment of the ecclesia, in whose hands God has left everything to be done decently and in order. Where the flesh is in the ascendancy, no system will stop contention. If the Lot system were tried, its potency, in the absence of the direct operation of the Spirit, to stop contention would soon become dependent upon the question, as to who is the man? It would be like the old man, returning from his work, and reaching the point where one road led to his home and the other to the Saloon. He would place his staff upright and agree that which ever way it fell he would go. If however it fell homeward, he would say “That is not fair”, and try again, and it was never fair till the staff fell towards the Saloon. The trouble arising from the question, who shall preside, or who shall be Secretary etc., is generally with those who regard these offices of service as “eminent” positions. We know of no such thing as eminence for brethren in this state of things. We are simply servants in the household, and it is all a question of washing dishes, making beds, or sweeping the floors; things about which it seems ridiculous to discuss the question of “eminence.” Some men cannot stand to be put on a place eminence, they become dizzy. So with men in positions which they regard as eminent, their mistaken estimation of their eminence makes them dizzy, and there is no telling what trouble they will make for themselves and those whom they regard as under them.


Much more could be said on this subject, but we think this will be sufficient for the present, to show why we sounded a voice of warning. There is no room for clericalism in the truth; and once countenance the idea that a presiding brother who chanced to have a lot fall upon him is the Lord’s choice, and you make him a divine appointee over God’s heritage instead of a servant of the ecclesia, who may be removed, when necessary, by the same method by which he was placed in his position. The evils resulting from some few cases where it has been claimed there has been electioneering, have been held up as if all the ecclesial trouble we have ever experienced have been the result of not adopting the Lot method, but the fact is the disposition to push the Lot system has been so extravagant that it has been a victim of exaggeration. For a more detailed treatment of the Lot question, we cannot do better than refer to brother Washburn’s article on p. 241, vol. 1 of THE ADVOCATE. [We have the original article written by bro. Washburn if there any who wish to have a copy of it – it provides a more in depth exposition of the scriptures involved.  Please contact us if you are interested – A.T.].


Thomas Williams