Abstract: To the right is a summary how leaders can help strengthen culture one church community at a time. The examples below assume that leaders creatively develop local resources while uniting in worship and prayer to develop a vision unique to the relationships in the local community. The unified worship and prayer begins in the Upper Room. This focus on the Lord should inspire communities to build time-tested models for church-based family, educational, economic, and judicial institutions in the boardrooms, courtrooms, classrooms, and family rooms. As secular institutions collapse under the weight of excessive debt and the challenges of untenable political power imbalances, the paragraphs below should inspire the development of Christ-centered solutions.

To see how individuals and families achieve greater success
by upholding the six covenantal elements below, visit www.Covenant.net/Legacies

God's Promised Blessings Are Experienced
in Different Institutions and "Rooms"

God works through only three covenantal institutions: the church, family, and government. The Lord provides (1) resources, (2) transcendent purpose, (3) higher authority, and (4) ethical guidelines so that these institutions can enjoy (5) God's blessings and use God-given abundance (outcomes) to replicate as part of a divine (6) succession plan. In this way, God's three covenantal institutions respect the six elements of the covenant. Of the three main covenantal institutions, only the church is given the keys of the kingdom. This authority is given to qualified church leaders so that they can maintain sound doctrine and effectively refute those who oppose it. See, e.g., Titus 1:9. As the leaders draw close to God through worship and prayer, He reveals time-tested covenantal models while the Holy Spirit suggests how leaders can meet needs in the local community. As spirit-inspired men and women pray about using available resources to fulfill God's purposes, a vision should develop for reflecting God's character in each community through the members of the covenant community church.

Elders praying in the upper room can unite around plans for having the church work alongside governments and families to build upon time-tested models for church-based family, educational, economic, and judicial institutions. Preaching elders can prayerfully develop sermons to inspire managers, lawyers, teachers, and parents within boardrooms, courtrooms, classrooms, and family rooms. With help from the church, all leaders can build their institutions upon sound covenantal models based on the doctrines of grace and the Biblical gospel. In this way, the centrality of Christ is maintained according to Christ's wisdom reflected through Scripture and throughout history. Then "we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom [because]....we have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:13,16)

Restoring the Centrality of Christ in the Upper Room.

In his book, The Upper Room, famed 19th century theologian J.C. Riley reminds readers that the "upper room" was "the forerunner of every church and cathedral." Riley continues, "Here it was that professing Christians...first began to pray together, to worship, and to exhort one another." They focused on developing unified responses to the issues that God placed on their hearts. Such issues undoubtedly involved the family, educational, economic, and judicial matters that most concerned Christ.

The leadership in the upper room has profound influence in maintaining sound doctrine while refuting those who oppose it (Titus 1:9). Elders in the upper room must know how to take every thought captive and tie their decisions back to the doctrines of grace and the character of God through a commitment to orthodoxy. Moreover, the elders must know how to relate God's character to people in all other institutions through a commitment to orthopraxy. As shown on the diagram at the right, the upper room elders directly oversee the church, which influences God's two other institutions: the family and the government. Moreover, the leaders in the upper room will likely have roles in the community where they can communicate orthodoxy and orthopraxy in the boardrooms, courtrooms, classrooms, and family rooms. As explained below, the elders have some direct influence over the families and constitutional connections with the government. In full accord with Scripture, elders can use their influence through the church, family, and government to help maintain the "mind of Christ" in all of the rooms where people spend their time.

Restoring the Centrality of Christ in the Family Room.

Members of strong families enjoy better health, better parent-child relationships, lower expenses, greater wealth accumulation, higher incomes, higher academic scores, less abortion, less dependence on government, lower average taxes, less poverty, less premarital sex (and related harms), longer life spans, less suicide, safer homes, and many other benefits. Moreover, members of families see marriage modeled and they learn to behaviors that contribute to strong intergenerational families.1

A comprehensive study by the U.S. Catholic Bishops shows that children and spouses have a much stronger sense of well-being and enjoy better health, while experience lower incidence of many major diseases.2 Research by United Family documents how people in families enjoy greater longevity, experience less violence, experience better intimate relations, succumb to less substance abuse and addiction, report fewer hardships, and see their children realize better outcomes while feeling happier.3 FamilyFacts.org documents how closer family relationships fill needs of children so that they are less likely to turn to sex, drugs, serial romantic relationships, attention-garnering behaviors, or other destructive quests for fulfillment.4 The Journal of Health and Social Behavior came to similar conclusions when tracking 789,000 people over 20 years. For example, the Journal found that unmarried people were 75% more likely to die during the research period.5 The NY Times cited studies showing how married people have less cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other ailments.6

Historians and researchers have found that religion has a key role in building strong people. When Alexis de Tocqueville studied America, he concluded that the source of the success could be found in America's churches<sup>7</sup>. Looking at more recent history, Mary Eberstadt, author of How the West Really Lost God, has found that, "that religious observance and family bonds go together."8 More modern researchers, such as W. Robert Beavers, have noted that, "all studies have found some aspect of religiosity or spirituality as a component of strong families."9

Modern global research comes to similar conclusions. John DeFrain and Sylvia Asay have compiled extensive research from Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Somalia), Middle East (Israel, Oman), Asia (China, India), Oceana (Australia, New Zealand), North America (Canada, United States), Latin America (Mexico, Brazil), and Europe (Russia, Greece, Romania)10. While their research does not look closely at religion, the studies continually affirm the importance of religious ideals. The authors have summarized their findings in, The International Family Strengths Model with six common themes based on the observation that, "family strengths from family to family and culture to culture are actually remarkably similar" and "there are six major qualities of strong couple and family relationships…"

Successful families 1) affirm strengths and appreciate resources given to them, 2) maintain positive purposes in their communication, 3) uphold commitments [and respect for leadership], 4) "talk about faith in God, hope, or a sense of optimism in life [expressed] "in terms of ethical value and commitment to important causes," 5) are blessed with enjoyable time together (noted in what the authors called "Journals of Happy Memories)," and 6) foster "religious communities for families seeking this kind of support" for "effective management of stress and crisis." DeFrain and Asay also underscore the importance of, "an effective educational delivery system."

The above six dimensions of healthy families parallel the six elements of the Biblical covenant. While the global research shows elements that are generally revealed to people with diverse faiths, the Christians can define these terms using concrete precepts from the special revelation of Scripture Such specific teachings can foster more agreement about shared premises and give inspiring examples of families that have been blessed when following God's teachings.

When family leaders respect God's law, as revealed in Scripture, and man's law, as codified by the government in its statutes, their marriages and families will be supported by the ministers in the church and the magistrates in the government. The dimensions of this support are explained in in the classic confessions11 and catechism and in the above diagram.

In the time-tested church teachings, families have strong guidelines for raising children with the skills to expand Christ's influence in civilization. While the above research shows how society has often succumbed to unprincipled relativism, families can find renewed hope by studying history and inspiring their children to build families that have God-honoring connections to the family and government. History abounds with examples of great church leaders working with families and government to build solid foundations for societal relationships. See, e.g., "Calvin's Geneva by E. William Monter and How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill.

Obviously, people often marry and have children for reasons that are very personal and not always focused on God's grand design for strengthening society. Nonetheless, through even the most private and intimate times of worship and prayer, God can strengthen families and reveal how generations can unite in glorifying and enjoying God through covenantal relationships. This can inspire parents to raise children that have deep personal walks with God as well as the skills and character to address the most challenging issues described in 21st century newspapers.

Restoring the Centrality of Christ in the Classroom.

The church has a role in discipleship that is shared with the family. According to Scripture, the father has ultimate responsibility for the education of the children. The father delegates authority to his spouse and the church so that parents work together with church leaders to provide Christ-centered training. The above diagram shows how education is under the jurisdiction of parents and churches, not under the government, and how this education is symbolized by training in the classroom.

In the classroom, parents and qualified Christian teachers can work together to build effective educational programs. To keep this education focused, there is wisdom in helping each child develop a clear sense of calling and purpose. Secular studies show that an individual typically enjoys far greater fulfillment in his career and happiness in his marriage and other relationships when he has a written plan based on a clear purpose.12 A good church will help students appreciate how even greater power results from dedicating his purpose to honoring and serving God.

In many ways, families and churches are uniquely able to create ministries that empower students in development of divinely-guided plans. Parents and religious instructors can provide valuable instruction about, 1) recognizing potential, 2) knowing God's purpose, 3) hearing God's call, 4) reflecting God's character (e.g., His priorities and principles), 5) experiencing the blessings of obedience, and 6) pursuing a pathway for personal and community prosperity. As explained in essays at www.BiblicalPurpose.com and as modeled in the coat of arms at the right, these 6 elements reflect a deep understanding of God's character.

To develop an effective educational ministry, a church should first gather together parents who understand the value of helping their children discover and define a clear statement of calling. Second, the church should provide instruction about creating educational plans to develop the skills and character needed to fulfill a calling. Third, churches should help each young man or woman find prayer partners who share common spiritual and vocational concerns. These kindred spirits can form small prayer and accountability groups that meet regularly for encouragement.

Ideally, churches should build educational programs that unite each student with mentors who know the students well enough to help him or her identify not just models but also mentors. A mentor can help clarify the extent to which he or she should follow historical models and/or the extent to which the student should transcend the success of role models by pursuing unique abilities.

As educational programs help students focus on their callings, they can explore their deepest passions and learn to articulate their great dreams. This can inspire a purposeful commitment to education that makes each student an eager and joyful learner.

To keep costs low and instructional standards high, churches can take advantage of the latest distributive education technology resources. The internet now facilitates access to low cost K-12 education as well as respected college-level credentials. Degrees that previously cost tens of thousands of dollars are now available for little or nothing through web-based classrooms.

Web-based college training can cost much less while helping students develop far richer relationships. Given that many colleges require that students take only about 25% of the classes on campus, students can have freedom to earn the remaining credits using low-cost online education from a terminal in the student's community. From a home computer or from a terminal at a church, students can log onto a "home page" to see pictures of an impressive virtual campus. Leading scholars committed to Christ-centered education make streaming video and audio recordings of their lectures available for a nominal charge. Currently this low-cost content is available from Taylor University, Moody Bible College, Grand Canyon College, and many other respected Christian colleges. Innovative new sources of content are under development through http://FreeThinkU.com/ and http://wheatstoneministries.com.

The church can bring together parents and teachers who mentor students in following the frames of reference taught by Jesus. Elders in the local church can disciple students according to time tested principles like those listed at www.BiblicalDisciples.com and www.BiblicalDisciple.com. Mentors in the church can help their protégés pursue educational and career plan based on God's special calling to each student and His broader revelation about the needs in the community. Elders can help student plug into collaborative groups, professional societies or other modern versions of the ancient guilds that have guided and protected men and women as they pursued their career paths. In this way, students can experience the power of purpose.

Church leader can encourage participating in Bible studies where students meet kindred spirits who encourage respect for Christian character qualities. Within fellowship groups, church members can prayerfully assist one another in finding tutors or peers who offer mutual support while building Christ-centered relationships. Some churches may even sponsor homes near the church where men or women can pay modest rent for same-sex housing facilities that foster a healthy learning environment.

Students working in the local church can develop rich friendships who respect Christian economic teachings. Christ said more about economics than another topic, so it should be reasonable to have economic instruction as part of a core curriculum. Moreover, given that economic problems rank among the topics that most concern Americans , Christians should want to know how they can respond with time-tested solutions based on the teachings of Jesus. Christians concerned about problems listed at www.BiblicalReason.com/Problems can encourage Biblical economic solutions like those outlined at www.BiblicalStewards.com and www.BiblicalReason.com/Solutions.

The church-based education can be accredited by respected denominations instead of secular authorities. Degree candidates can learn from teachers who submit to an accreditation process overseen by seminaries that affirm well-reasoned statements of faith. Universities like piedmontu.edu now encourage delivery of their low-cost classes through the local church. See, e.g., http://www.piedmontu.edu/e4-12/churches. This model can be scaled so that leading Christian universities can deliver more accredited training through local churches, thereby serving and blessing churches affiliated with the universities.

The churches can help the students earn credits that apply toward degree programs at respected professional schools. After the student earn the first year or two of his or her degree in a church environment focused on developing a strong sense of calling, credits can transfer to a professional school that grants a professional degree. If students receive their first year or two of education in the local church, they can keep costs low and save money for professional training at a more expensive university or trade school. More important, the students equipped and inspired in the local church can advance to the professional training with confidence that they are on the right career path. This confidence can be coupled with great passion for pursuing a career with diligence and other character qualities that glorify God. Each step along the educational path can advance the student toward a vision of building a prosperous business, professional practice, or trade that supports helps support a God-honoring family and church.

When Christian parents and churches unite in providing educations, students can receive all their training from teachers who keep Christ at the center of all schooling. Whereas most Christians receive their elementary, secondary, college, and graduate schooling at state institutions that have banned display of the 10 Commandments and dedicated thousands of hours to unchallenged relativistic teachings, Christian students can receive education premised on God's moral absolutes.

When teaching time-tested standards, churches can develop compelling response to problems identified by writers like Harry Blamires, author of The Christian Mind. He writes: "Christianity is emasculated of its intellectual relevance. It remains a vehicle of spiritual and moral guidance at the individual level perhaps; at the communal level it is little more than an expression of sentimentalized togetherness. The mental secularization of Christians means that nowadays we meet only as worshipping beings and as moral beings, not as thinking beings. . . . We twentieth-century Christians have chosen the way of compromise. We withdraw our Christian consciousness from the fields of public, commercial, and social life. When we enter these fields we are compelled to accept for purposes of discussion the secular frame of reference . . ."

The future of affordable education will revolve around local churches that emphasize mentoring and discipleship in the real world (drawing on wisdom from how churches historically have been involved in education). Young men around us will get plugged into solid men's groups at local churches that emphasize the marks of the Biblical church. (See, e.g., www.9Marks.org and www.BiblicalPurpose.com) Although most parents cannot keep paying tens of thousands of dollars per child for the private high school and college education experience, they can afford and encourage the low-cost distributive education piped into local covenant community churches through the internet. Such community-based education can build the strongest relationships while cultivating skills and talents that will best serve the community. In this way, groups should multiply according to a "2 Timothy 2:2 model" characterized by reliable men becoming qualified to teach others.

Restoring the Centrality of Christ in the Boardroom.

The board room is typically populated by leaders who have strong connections to the family and the government. The most mature leaders who operate under guidance from God through a process superintended by elders in the Upper Room. As the diagram to the right indicates, the leaders in the board room need to understand their relationships to the entities depicted on the diagram.

Business owners owe much of their success to the government. While investors may bemoan taxes and red tape imposed by the federal and state bureaucracies, nobody can reasonably deny the role of government in maintaining property rights, enforcing contracts, adjudicating tort claims, and otherwise maintaining the free markets in which businesses operate.

Business owners and managers also owe much to strong families. Studies show that families own and oversee a large portion of the businesses that form the foundation for the American economy. Approximately 35% of Fortune 500 companies are controlled by families. Moreover, family businesses account for more than half of the U.S. gross domestic product, generate 60% of the country's employment, and create 78% of all new jobs!14

While businesses have close relationships to God and His covenantal institutions, a business entity is not an institution ordained by God, as is the case with family, church, and government. Instead, a business can take various legal forms, such as corporation or partnership, and it can have a variety of completions, depending on the maturity of the business leaders.

When business leaders have a mature understanding of divine sovereignty, they will seek Spirit-Led wisdom, follow God's Law, and submit to Christ's Gospel. When the Trinitarian God works on the hearts and minds of a business leader in this way, the leader exercises mature self-government. This may inspire the leaders to uphold covenantal ideals. In fact, it is possible draft partnership agreements, shareholder agreements, operating agreements, and trust documents with all of the elements of the Biblical covenant.15

Of course, very often business leaders do not hold to a clear understanding of God's character. Moreover, business decision-making is frequently not informed and guided by mature elders, corporate chaplains, or spiritually-mature outside consultants. In such cases, the business leaders lack necessary may not have governance documents reflecting the elements of the covenant and the decision-making may be too self-interested to uphold governmental regulations or provide fair rewards to the employees working in the in business. In such cases, the government needs to supplement self-government with external government, such as by sending auditors to the business or imposing minimum wage laws.

Christian business owners should want to honor God and reflect His character out of respect for divine Lordship over all of creation. As 1 Timothy 4:8 reminds us, godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the life to come and the present life. In fact, studies increasingly show that business leaders who practice spiritual disciplines and honor God can experience greater rewards in this life. For example, Nabil Ibrahim and John Angelidis, in the Journal of Business Ethics, analyzed 312 Christian-based companies. In the Christian-operated corporations, they found significantly better performance compared to industry, growth rate in sales, return on investment, and increase in number of employees.16

Practical models for Christian family business are explained at www.WOTSMOST.com and www.BibicalBusiness.info. The models assume businesses are most likely to thrive when there are free markets. Such freedom exists when there is self-governance based on Christian values and oversight by a Congress, President and Supreme Court that enforce laws minimizing taxes, inflation, litigation, and other ant-business economic phenomena.

God works through families to birth and raise up leaders. The most mature of the leaders may assume roles as heads families or churches. In both cases there is an emphasis on servant leadership where the head encourages self-government by each inviduals. Nonetheless, when self-government fails, the top-down authority of the state must be imposed. Depending on the maturity of the people in the business, the business leaders may borrow leadership principles from the top-down governance of the state or the bottom-up governance of mature individuals and families. The relationship of the business to the individual, family, and state is depicted in the diagram to the right.

How does a business encourage maturity so that individual can enjoy maximum self-governance and family businesses can encourage the greatest free enterprise? Each business must examine itself with probing questions to make sure that it is honoring God by (1) making the best use of resources, (2) holding to a clear vision with staff members inspired by their personal purpose statements, (3) seeking wise counsel, (4) upholding time-tested ethical standards, (5) rewarding stakeholders, and (6) equipping the next generation. To foster success in these six areas, board members can gather in the board room to answer these six questions:


Resources Has your leadership team identified your primary strengths and opportunities while be realistic about weaknesses and threats?
Vision/ Mission/ Objectives Have you defined a vision statement that can guide mission, values, and strategy?
Management Does your governance structure encourage input from wise counselors and focus managers on servant leadership?
Creed Do policy and procedures encourage faith, hope, love, service, truth, grace, and similar core values?
Profits/Losses Does faithful execution of the plan result in rewards for employees, customers, the broader community, and financial stakeholders (as indicate in KPI)?
Succession/Scalability Plan Is the next generation of managers developed and empowered to build teams and reflect God's character in the marketplace?

The six questions on the above table parallel the elements of God's covenant. The questions for the boardroom parallel the questions that individuals and families should ask themselves. See, for example, http://tinyurl.com/6keyQuestions. Similar covenantal questions for governments are explained throughout Political Polytheism by Gary North17. While each business leader can start by asking himself/herself personal questions about reflecting the character of God, it is helpful to ask parallel questions about the families and governments that influence the business. Of course, the greatest success can come from business owners in the boardroom all agreeing on answers to key questions. Then, when they all speak the same language, nothing they plan to do will be impossible18.

Restoring the centrality of Christ in the courtroom.

To understand Biblical teachings about conflict resolution, legal scholars turn to history. Ecclesiastical courts have deep roots in history. Themes common in contemporary mediation have antecedents extending back to Biblical times. For approximately 3,500 year, the Jewish and Christian leaders have appointed and empowered judges to resolve differences among members of the covenant community.19 An examination of these changes provides valuable insights into how parties to contemporary disputes can most effectively resolve their differences.

The history of mediation can be summarized as an age-old conflict between the church and the state for jurisdiction over disputes. The church generally wins in times of peace. During times of great change, however, the secular courts often intervene to resolve disputes that the church is not equipped to handle. This has been especially true during times when evolving economic powers cause disruption. Invariable, the secular courts dominate dispute resolution and resort to legalistic methods that may delay or compromise justice. This leads to calls for reform and starts the cycle anew. Historian Steven Goldberg comments, "There seems to be an historical pattern of oscillation between formal systems of dispute resolution and informal reforms that gradually became more formalized, leading to new calls for informal reforms of the now calcified older reforms. 20

When litigation practices distract people from more peaceful methods of dispute resolution, historical methods of dispute resolution can provide proven models. History reveals how and why peaceful forms of arbitration succeeded in many types of historical religious communities. The following chronology shows a consistent pattern of Biblical conflict resolution that can inspire all believers to look more closely at how Christ can continue to have relevance in the courtrooms today.

Although the Old Testament discusses arbitration in a variety of judicial forums (e.g., courtrooms), the New Testament most actively promotes peaceful reconciliations of disputes. Early Christians applied teachings from Matthew 18 and 1st Corinthians to reconcile brothers who might otherwise have gone to court. This method of conciliation succeeded with little state involvement until the 4th century A.D. At that time, however, the Roman empire became Christian. The state courts began to act as mediators in disputes involving people of the same faith.21

After the Romans began their involvement with religious disputes, the church continued to maintain the upper hand. In the 5th century, church bishops had final authority in the resolution of differences among believers.22 Ecclesiastical bodies did not relinquish significant control during the medieval period. The state did not attempt to undermine the church's dominance in judicial matters because government officials were preoccupied with more pressing concerns.23 Ecclesiastical leaders continued to broaden its authority through the 11th century, at which time lay authorities began to oppose the church dominance in judicial matters.24

The dual systems of secular courts and religious arbitration mechanisms which began evolving in the 13th century have continued to develop in modern times.25 Both the church and the state used arbitration frequently during the medieval era.26 For example, historians believe that arbitration of disputes was a common occurrence during the 13th century.27 During this time, religious arbitration matured to complement the legal system28. The church and secular systems co-existed in part because they resolved different types of disputes.29

In the time leading up to the Reformation, church courts achieved success in promoting peace through reconciliation. The Anglicans promoted a Christian worldview that encouraged various methods of reconciliation.30 Likewise, the Catholics also wanted a Christian society and sought to achieve this objective through use of private reconciliation.31 The Jews resolved disputes by using religious tribunals.32

In the 17th century, the secular courts began to assume dominance. Churches relied on state judicial officers to validate private arbitration decisions.33 Secular courts began usurping jurisdiction.34 Church court jurisdiction waned. The Calvinists, who at one time sought to adjudicate all matters involving social relationships, found it cheaper to rely on state courts. Their ecclesiastical courts deteriorated to work with only selected paternity cases involving bastard children.35 Other ecclesiastical courts continued until the 19th century but their jurisdiction decreased.36 Enforcement powers of ecclesiastical courts also declined.37 In the end, church courts only arbitrated matters involving marriage and probate.38

As church-based arbitration decreased, other forms of arbitration increased. Both the English parliament and the courts encouraged private arbitration as an alternative to litigation.39 According to Blackstone, arbitration was the primary means for resolving disputes in the 17th and 18th centuries.40 A number of scholars have commented on how common law institutionalized this preference for arbitration over litigation.41

The arbitration advocated and discussed by Blackstone, although resembling court adjudication, built upon the traditions of religious reconciliation in European legal history.42 It was this understanding of arbitration that crossed the Atlantic as Blackstone's Commentaries became more popular in America. Although some histories wrongly claimed that Blackstone did not favor arbitration, this incorrect view had died out by 192543. It was only the court-annexed arbitration which the great legal scholar opposed.44 This opposition probably stemmed from Blackstone's aversion to any legal doctrines contrary to scripture. Court-annexed arbitration can be contrary to the Bible both because it is sponsored by a secular state and because such arbitration has many characteristics of litigation, a practice which the Bible condemns. Such views also reflect the thoughts of John Locke, another European legal scholar who had great influence in America.45

History documents at least two millennia of successful arbitration influenced by the church. Only in the 17th century did the state begin to have significant impact in efforts to replace religious reconciliation with secular arbitration. This transition probably began with the deterioration of common values. Both in Europe and in America, the "antinomian controversy" of the early 1600's undermined faith in Biblical law.46 As people lost faith in traditional religious doctrines, the foundations of community deteriorated. This decay continued throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Small deviations from English common law proved cancerous; law became divorced from community both in Europe and in the English colonies overseas. One historian writes: "The social contexts of disputes became increasingly irrelevant. . . . and, above all, the appearance of these changes within communities as well as without all point to the conclusion that as communities changed and as law changed, not necessarily in tandem, the legal system became less responsive to individual communities."47

As religious communities and their methods of dispute resolution declined, the secular courts intervened. Initially, in both England and in America, courts developed methods to enforce arbitration hearings. They required bonds for the amount in controversy. This solution did not work because it left open the possibility of litigation concerning the adequacy of the bond.48 Nor did the use of bonds protect arbitration decisions as the chancery abrogated agreements based on bonds.49 As courts re-litigated arbitrated decisions, juries also undermined decisions based on bonds.50

Some historians wrongly assert that courts began refusing to enforce arbitrated decisions as early as 1609 after the ruling in Vynior's case.51 In fact, courts continued to respect arbitrated decisions at least until the end of the 17th century. It was with the passage of 1698 arbitration act that the courts began to formalize mechanisms to overrule the decisions from arbitration hearings without resorting to legal maneuvers regarding the adequacy of bonds.52 Initially, arbitration agreement remained valid, especially in disputes involving matters too complicated for juries.53 This would change, however, with the growing use of revocation and ouster.54 Both of these doctrines gave courts the ability to over-rule decisions from private arbitration.55

As the courts began to undermine arbitration, people also began to believe that the state courts could achieve justice more successfully.56 Supposedly, secular courts could take into account broad policy objectives ignored in private arbitration.57 Trained judges also had the ability to rule on complex matters that might confuse private arbitrators. By the time common law crossed the Atlantic to the American colonies, courts had supplanted church-based arbitration in many areas. What remained of private or religious arbitration had become like court trials with contempt citations, evidence rules, and other characteristics of litigation.58

The Puritans colonists and other settlers in Massachusetts Bay believed that they could create a theocratic society that restored Biblical justice. For several decades after settling in Massachusetts, they succeeded in forming close-knit communities that discouraged disputes. The social peace was achieved through universal religious devotion and a strong dislike of lawyers and litigation.59 Leaders such as John Winthrop and organizers on the Mayflower stressed fidelity to Biblical covenants.60 When disputes occurred, the church resolved them through established mechanisms for reconciliation.

The primary lesson from the Puritans is that communities can avoid disputes by promoting adherence to common values. One universal counterpart to a love of peace was the aversion to litigation. A dislike of lawyers prompted Puritans to work actively to avoid all disputes and maintain harmony at all times.61 Lawyers were despised because of they threatened Christian harmony.62 The Puritans knew that involving attorneys in any disputes would increase costs and waste time.63

When disputes arose, the Puritans encouraged use of mediation. This involved one or more impartial third parties helping disputants find mutual agreement.64 When disagreements arose, "two or three brothers" intervened when necessary.65 In essence, mediation reflected the reconciliation traditions that existed for centuries in Europe.66

In a typical Puritan community, the church was the courthouse. The minister typically acted as the mediator.67 Community peer pressure insured that parties would abide by the decision of the mediator; therefore, the Puritans did not develop any special means of enforcement.68

Churches processed cases regarding wrongfully working on the Sabbath, heresy, and slander. Religious bodies also resolved various commercial and real estate disputes. These included questions of business ethics and land title disagreements. The church resolved tort and contract issues up until the beginning of the 19th century. If disputes affected large numbers of people, Puritans sought "group consensus" among members of large assemblies.69 In the group forum, Puritans addressed all types of policy issues.70

The ancient tradition of religious reconciliation encountered growing resistance in the nineteenth century. The systems of shared values promoted by the churches did not address complexities of the evolving commercial culture. State courts and commercial arbitration filled the vacuum by drawing on common law procedural standards when resolving disputes. Religious institutions failed to maintain viable alternative procedures.

Churches countered the movement toward secular adjudication by developing arbitration which did not differ in significant ways from formal litigation. The perverted reconciliation offered by religious bodies had few benefits relative to secular adjudication. Unfortunately, the modified church dispute resolution had many disadvantages. Most significant, perhaps, was the absence of a theology that united large number of believers. Many doctrines of religion did not cross cultural lines as well as the common law philosophies. Nor did the churches succeed in popularizing economic philosophies that had credibility among merchants as well as churchgoers.

Although religious reconciliation has fallen into disuse, a large body of information remains concerning the former success of non-secular dispute resolution. As churches recognize reasons for their past failures, they may develop improved methods for promoting shared values. As religious people identify new and intelligent ways to build communities around common beliefs, they may once again have the strong sense of community which led to the success of early religious reconciliation. Then much of the historical information about church-based arbitration can provide valuable insights. Churches may once again actively promote religious reconciliation as a peaceful alternative to court adjudication of disputes.

Even in the 21st century, Scriptures has highly relevant commands about resolving conflicts privately or within the church. See, e.g., Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 6. Solid precedents remain from prior centuries when ecclesiastical courts established procedures and case laws to guide mediators and arbitrators. Nonetheless, the church cannot work alone when resolving conflicts because not all church members will respect the churches authority and some conflicts involve people outside of the church who need to be under governmental authority. For this reason, the courtroom is dependent upon both the church and the government.

Churches today should follow the models in Judeo-Christian history when equipping trained peacemakers to respect both ecclesiastical and secular authority. Following examples of ancient and modern ecclesiastical courts, churches can resolve a broad array of matters according to legal statutes and principles of equity. Christian peacemakers can base decisions on robust case laws from church courts, as documented in Blackstone's commentaries and seminary libraries with countless tomes documenting the foundation for English and American jurisprudence. While many judicial decisions today are based on relativism and opinions of biased judges, churches can appeal to higher authority when confronting such relativism and bias. Preachers can remind both people involved in conflict and the judges overseeing conflicts that all believers must guard against self-interest and expediency while upholding the sacred obligation to reaffirm divine ideals.

Thankfully, Christians have proven and practical ways to honor the lofty principles of justice articulated in Scripture and church history. At www.Peacemaker.net\rules, for example, there are well-reasoned and Bible-based procedures for respecting divine commands in all conflicts involving Christians. In this way, Christians can minimize conflicts while trusting that disputes resolved in the courtroom will respect the centrality of Christ.


While Scripture ordains three covenantal institutions and guides them in respecting the six elements of the covenant, the church is given primary responsibility for maintaining sound doctrine. Mature church leaders understand how an orthodox understanding of doctrine leads to orthopraxy throughout the community.

As leaders pray about using available resources to fulfill God's purposes, a vision should develop for reflecting God's character in each community through the members of the covenant community church. This vision can guide the relationship among leaders in the upper room, boardrooms, courtrooms, classrooms, and family rooms.

While the vision described and illustrated above can provide a clear paradigm for allocating resources and clarifying purposes, the abstract model above will need to be adapted to each community. Because the covenant model presumes commitment to God's ethical precepts, these laws can help define institutions and guide decisions. Moreover, because the God at the center of the covenant model is the triune divinity of orthodox protestant teachings, modern leaders can have confidence when following Christ's model and the Holy Spirit’s guidance when seeking to provide the most godly leadership.


  1. http://tinyurl.com/FRC-FamilyStatistics
  2. http://tinyurl.com/BishopsFamilyHealth
  3. http://unitedfamilies.org/downloads/Marriage_Guide.pdf
  4. http://www.familyfacts.org/briefs/6/benefits-of-family-for-children-and-adults
  5. http://tinyurl.com/JournalStudiesMarriage
  6. http://tinyurl.com/LessCancerHeartDiseaseETC
  7. http://tinyurl.com/deTocquevilleChurches
  8. http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/data-show-strong-families-promote-religious-practice
  9. http://aspe.hhs.gov/daltcp/reports/ressucfa.htm
  10. See Strong Families Around the World: Strengths-Based Research and Perspectives by John DeFrain and Sylvia Asay
  11. For example, in the Westminster Confession of Faith, see how God’s three main institutions are supported by the magistrate (Chapter 23), the marriages (Chapter 24), and the Ministers (Chapter 25-27).
  12. See Brian Tracy, Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want—Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible, 2nd Ed., (Williston, VT: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2010), 13. Tracy sites results of a longitudinal study that tracked 1979 Harvard MBA program graduates. The students were asked when graduating whether they had, "set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?" Only 3% of the graduates had written goals and plans. Ten years later, the 3% with written goals were earning, on average, ten times more than the other 97 percent put together. Other students with non-written goals also reported much greater success than those who had not recorded any goals. Pastor Rick Warren sites similar statistics in a sermon entitled "Making the Most of Your Time," delivered in Lake Forest California, at Saddleback Church on June 11-12, 2005. Warren’s research shows that, "Only five percent of Americans have written down goals for their life. Only five percent. Ninety-five percent of the people in America have no written goals for their life. It's interesting. They've studied that five percent who have written goals. They are the same five percent that are the highest wage earners in the nation."
  13. More than half of the 15 top problems facing America have economic roots. See http://tinyurl.com/top15issues.
  14. http://www.familybusinesscenter.com/resources/family-business-facts/
  15. Email info@vfos.com to request sample documents
  16. Angelidis, John and Nabil A. Ibrahim, The Long-Term Performance of Small Businesses: Are there DifferencesBetween "Christian-Based" Companies and their Secular Counterparts?, Journal of Business Ethics (Spring 2005) 58:187–193
  17. See http://www.freebooks.com/fetch.php?file=2014
  18. The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Genesis 11:6 NIV
  19. Elkouri, E. How Arbitration Works (1973).
  20. Steven Goldberg, Dispute Resolution (Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 1985).
  21. Ibid. at 302-03.
  22. Ibid. at 303.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Ibid. at 304.
  25. Edward Powell, "Settlement of Disputes by Arbitration in Fifteenth-Century England" 24, 25 Law and History Review
  26. Oldham, James and Henry Horwitz, Arbitration and the Royal Courts in the 18th Century (1989) pages 17-18.
  27. Powell, Edward, "Settlement of Disputes by Arbitration in Fifteenth-Century England" Law and History Review pp 24, 25.
  28. Oldham at 19.
  29. Powell at 25.
  30. Rodes, Robert E., "Secular Cases in the Church Courts: A Historical Survey" Catholic Lawyer 301-309 Vol. 32, No. 4, pages 306-09.
  31. Ibid.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Oldham at 3.
  34. Rodes at 305.
  35. Rodes at 306.
  36. Sarah Rudolph, "Blackstone's Vision of Alternative Dispute Resolution." 280 Memphis State University Law Review Vol. 22 (1992)
  37. Rodes at 305.
  38. Rodes at 305.
  39. Rudolph at 280.
  40. Rudolph at 283.
  41. Rudolph at 284; Powell at 19.
  42. Rudolph at 294.
  43. Ibid. at 295.
  44. Ibid. at 295.
  45. Oldham at 4.
  46. Bruce Mann, "Law, Legalism, and Community Before the American Revolution" 1415 Michigan Law Review 84 Mich. L. Rev. 1415 June, 1986
  47. Ibid. at 15.
  48. Rodes at 8.
  49. Oldham at 25.
  50. Ibid.
  51. Morton Horowitz, "The Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860" 145 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977)
  52. Bruce Mann, "The Formalization of Informal Law: Arbitration Before the American Revolution" at 13.
  53. Oldham at 16; Rudolph at 285.
  54. Rudolph at 288; Oldham at 27.
  55. Rudolph at 288, 290.
  56. Rudolph at 279.
  57. Ibid.
  58. Rudolph at 286.
  59. Jerold Auerbach, Justice Without Law? Non-legal Dispute Settlement in American History 22 (1983)
  60. Susan Donegan, "ADR in Colonial America: A Covenant for Survival" 14, 16 Arbitration Journal June 1993
  61. Auerbach at 23.
  62. Donegan, Susan, "ADR in Colonial America: A Covenant for Survival" Arbitration Journal June 1993 pp. 17
  63. Ibid. at 16.
  64. Auerbach at 28.
  65. Auerbach at 24.
  66. Donegan at 19-20.
  67. Ibid. at 18.
  68. Ibid. at 18.
  69. Ibid. at 20.
  70. Ibid. at 21.