A question about Church government

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by stilllearning, Dec 29, 2012.

  1. stilllearning

    stilllearning
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    Although I was not raised as a Baptist, I have been a Baptist from the time that I got saved. And as a Baptist, I have always thought that autonomous Baptist Churches should have a Congregational form of Government.
    (Important things get voted on, by the congregation.)

    Also, as I grew(as a Christian), in my understanding of the Bible and what true commitment to the Bible’s teachings and the Lord’s leadership means, I naturally became an Independent Fundamental Baptist.
    Independent: (Because of what the Bible clearly teaches about separation:)
    Fundamental: (Because of what the Bible clearly teaches about itself:)
    Baptist: (Because in it’s true form, it’s not a denomination at all, but a called out assembly.)
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    The point that I am getting to is the fact that in the FB Churches that I have started associating with over the last few months, I have discovered that they aren’t really a Congregational form of government at all, but actually a dictatorship.
    (The pastor makes every decision! Period.)

    Now I know these men and how they love the Lord and how they faithfully preach God’s Word and are winning folks to the Lord and are being open and honest about their Churches finances(with monthly reports to the congregations);
    But there are never any votes, for anything.
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    The reason I am just now discovering this, is because for the last 20 years or so, I have been ministering in an isolated location, with almost no associations with other pastors or Churches.
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    As for the kind of Government God’s Church aught to have, we have a few clues in God’s Word.....

    “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” (Acts 10:47)
    A Church wide vote should be taken, before someone is allowed to join a Church by baptism.

    “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.” (Acts 6:3)
    Deacons should be chosen by the congregation and approved by the pastor.

    Etc. Etc.
    ------------------------
    But......... we have a unique situation in these last days........
    2 Timothy 4:2-4
    V.2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
    V.3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
    V.4 And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.


    The “they” in verse 3 is the congregation!
    And this prophecy in God’s Word, has come to pass:
    Today, most congregations are filled with people described in this passage.

    Unless a pastor(who follows God’s instructions and preaches the Word the way He should), becomes a dictator; He will be quickly kicked out and replaced with some ear tickling compromiser, who is only concerned with pleasing the people and keeping his job.
    And this is "not" what a pastor aught to be.......
    “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
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    Therefore, I am becoming inclined to become more like a kind and benevolent dictator, than a pastor hired by the Church, to please them.
     
  2. SaggyWoman

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    So what is your question?
     
  3. stilllearning

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    Well SaggyWoman, I guess you have hit the nail on the head.

    I wasn’t asking a question, but simply announcing a new realization and decision that I am coming to about this subject.

    Each individual “pastor”, will have to give an account before the Lord as to how he led God’s Church; And so will I!
     
  4. preachinjesus

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    lol...well, as I grew in my understanding of the Bible and what true commitment to the Bible's teaching and the Lord's leadership means I walked away from a fundamentalist Baptist ministry and back into the mainstream of evangelical and Southern Baptist life. ;)
     
  5. stilllearning

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    I know where you are coming from(but not from personal experience).
    It’s just a shame that you were involved with one of the “wrong” fundamentalist Baptist ministries.
     
  6. Logos1560

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    Baptists in the 1600's and for years after that taught that congregational church government was taught in the Scriptures. Some Baptists now do seem to practice an Episcopal-type church government.

    A Confession of Faith by a group of Separatists in 1596 maintained in Article 23 “that as every Christian congregation hath power and commandment to elect and ordain their own ministry according to the rules prescribed” and the verses cited were Acts 6:3, 5, 6 and Acts 14:23 (Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions, p. 89).

    In a 1611 Confession of Faith thought to have been written by Thomas Helwys, Article 21 noted “that these Officers are to be chosen when there are persons qualified according to the rules in Christ’s Testament (1 Timothy 3:2-7, Titus 1:6-9, Acts 6:3-4) by election and approbation of that church or congregation whereof they are members (Acts 6:3-4 and 14:23) (Lumpkin,p. 122). The 1677 Second London Confession of Faith by Baptists maintained that a bishop or elder is “to be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the Church itself,” and it cited Acts 14:23 in the margin with the comment “See the original” (Lumpkin, p. 287; McGlothin, Baptist Confessions, p. 266). The 1742 Philadelphia Confession of Faith by Baptists retained the same words that had been based on Acts 14:23: “to be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself” (Cathcart, Baptist Encyclopaedia, p. 1320).

    Baptists in England in the 1600’s had based at least a portion of their doctrine of church government on the original language text at Acts 14:23 with clear support from the Latin translation of Erasmus, the Latin translation of Beza, and the pre-1611 English Bibles.

    The words "by election" are found in Tyndale's New Testament, 1535 Coverdale's Bible, 1537 Matthew's Bible, 1539 Great Bible, 1539 Taverner's Bible, Jugge’s New Testament, 1557 Whittingham’s New Testament, 1560 Geneva Bible, and 1568 Bishops' Bible ("ordained them elders by election") at Acts 14:23.
     
  7. saturneptune

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    Baptist churches are local, autonomous, visible organizations. Each church can decide on their form of government. I believe there should be no hierarchy, no creeds or other chanting during the worship service. A local church should vote on a local Constitution, by laws, or statement of faith that applies to that church.

    In forming a government, it has to be done in a fashion to carry out the work of the Lord without political games constantly being played. A pastor called by the Lord to lead a local church should be respected and supported by the local congregation, as he gives overall leadership and direction to the church through Jesus Christ. There is no excuse for opposing the leadership of a pastor unless it is unBiblical. If it is, then why was he approved in the first place. A pastor's power is checked by congregational votes. There are deacons in most local churches, but they are servents, not a governing authority. A local church might choose to form an elder form of government, where a group of men are elected with governing authority. This takes power away from the congregation. For this to work, the men elected must be elected on the basis of spiritual maturity, not social status, otherwise it will fail. If social status is the reason for these men being chosen, abuse of power will follow. My belief is that elder government is more destructive than the benefits it might give.
     
  8. Greektim

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    There's fundamentalism for you... if it wasn't good then it was "wrong".
     
  9. Greektim

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    Bada-bing... I too have left IFBdom, into SBC and evangelicalism, and now moving into a plural eldership position where the elders lead the church.
     
  10. Scarlett O.

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    Dear brother - by very definition of dictator - you will be neither kind nor benevolent as pastor.

    And by very definition of pastor - you are not hired to please man, but please God.
     
  11. Tom Butler

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    No system of church government is perfect because imperfect men and women are involved.

    And few Baptist churches I'm aware of are purely democratic and congregational. \

    Even those with elder-type rule and strong pastors got to that point in some manner. Such as, the congregation autonomously decided to operate that way.

    How do elders and deacons get to be elders and deacons. The church elects them.

    How does a pastor get to be pastor? The church elects him.

    The church saturneptune and I serve has a congregational government--but delegates a great deal to committees and individuals, along with the commensurate authority.

    We have given our pastor the authority to act unilaterally in certain instances.

    We don't vote on everything. We set parameters, then allow individuals and committees to operate freely within those parameters. One parameter would be a church budget, prepared by the appropriate committee and approved by the congregation.

    In looking at our church business meeting minutes (which go back all the way to 1901), I found that in the early days, ours was a robust congregational government. Just about everything required a vote. But still, some things were delegated. With responsibility came authority--and accountability. All such actions were reported back to the church business meeting.

    So, no congregational government is purely congregational. And no strong pastor government is purely "dictatorial." That is, unless the pastor owns the church building.

    Don't laugh. Among IFB churches, that's not as rare as one might think.
     
  12. stilllearning

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    Hello Tim

    The “wrong” Fundamentalism I was referring to, is the brand where “production” is placed above EVERYTHING!

    For instance, certainly soul-winning is important, but IT should never be lifted above Holiness: The area where I knew where preachinjesus was coming from, are the personal testimonies of folks that had been delivered from “Fundamentalist Churches”, where hypocrisy had reached to such a level, that the most ungodly people in the congregation were given a pass, if they were getting more people baptized than others.

    True Holiness is always a result of “true subjection” to Christ: And true subjection to Christ can only come from rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
    ------------------------
    Any Fundamentalist Church that mistakenly gets off track, by lifting “winning souls”(or anything else), above the sound teachings of God’s Word, is going to be the “wrong” kind of Fundamentalism.

    One of the “danger signs”, that a Church is getting off track, is when “unbiblical” things are preached and taught: And the excuse is given.... “I said that because it tugs on people’s heart strings”!
    When “production” becomes a pastor’s goal, things like this will happen more and more.

    On the other hand, a Fundamentalist Church who’s pastor is leading the Church in an honest attempt to stay true to the whole counsel of God’s Word, will be an example of “good Fundamentalism”. Things may not always be perfect, but sound Bible Preaching, will keep them on the right track.
     
  13. stilllearning

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    Hi Scarlett, and thank you for the warning.

    From a human viewpoint, an authoritative pastor who is Biblically leading his congrigation......
    “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” (1 Timothy 5:17)

    .....Will look like a “dictator”.

    But I would never refer to myself as a dictator. Because I am sweettator!
     
  14. Bro. James

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    The flock of the unregenerated

    Much of the world is not born from above--never has been.

    We are reaping the sowing of several generations of hyperevangelism, child evangelism and repeat after me salvation. The unregenerated are at every level. See John 3:5 and context. Nicodemus, a master of religion, was not born from above.

    Sorry, this thread is about church autonomy. The churches in the scripture were persecuted. The true churches in the past two thousand years were persecuted. False religion still prevails in this world. Most churches are conformed to this world. Jesus is coming to set it straight--with a rod of iron.

    The preacher is worthy of double honor--yet still has only one vote. A church is a church without a pastor or deacon(ess).

    We live in a cold, cruel world. Our flesh will go for the "warm and fuzzy" even when the source is pseudo. The fact of it is simple: the author is either God or Satan. We seem to be having difficulty choosing the right--perhaps we know not how. Our depraved nature still gets in the way.

    Even so, come Lord Jesus.

    Peace,

    Bro. James
     
  15. Jack Matthews

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    How would you determine the difference?

    When Jesus washed the disciples feet, he set a perfect example for the kind of leadership pastors of churches should exercise. His leadership, through his spiritual gifts, teaching, preaching, and personal example, and through being spirit-filled and following the leadership of the Holy Spirit, should lead a congregation to consensus. I've been a member of three churches since I became a Christian, one Disciples of Christ, two Southern Baptist, and I have not yet been part of one that had a balance. In the Christian Church, it seemed that the congregation had to vote on everything. That particular church had a large endowment income, and there were some older members who wanted to make sure that no pastor ever got his hands on it. In the SBC churches, the pastors led by relationships with influential members, hand picking their personal choices for the powerful leadership positions and with cut and dried business meetings.

    I guess I am pre-disposed to local church autonomy, and particularly to congregational leadership, but in the New Testament, the concept of separation relates to ecclesiastical authority, not ministry cooperation. In spite of occasional bouts of frustration with what I see as arrogance and an attitude of superiority towards other believers, and a very backward, good ole boy way of doing denominational business, I think Southern Baptists have hit on a great way to work together in their denominational structure, in spite of some self-appointed "king makers", and have a very Biblical structure that is perhaps one of the most efficient stewards of offering money I've ever seen. Every church, no matter the size, is a direct participant in missions, and they have more missions personnel on the field, per capita, than any other denomination or church group.

    As I prepare to make a move, and find a church in which to serve, I have to say that the structure of its leadership, and its denominational affiliation are not high on the list of priorities.
     
  16. Salty

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    I think it is good for a good to have committees for different aspects of ministry - but the key is too have as many of the church members on the committees- and to limit the number of committees one member can serve on.

    In a constitution I wrote - it stated a temporary committee would be formed for 3 months -could be renewed for 60 days - if the committee had not finished the work - a new committee would be formed, but no more than 1/3 of the original members could be on the new committee
     
  17. stilllearning

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    Thank you very much, Bro. James, Jack Matthews and Salty, for your insight.
    (Three different perspectives, that are all correct, for the most part.)
     
  18. Mexdeaf

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    I'm really beginning to see that as the Biblical model also.
     
  19. Reformed

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    stilllearning,

    The Bible teaches elder rule (Acts 20:17; 1 Tim. 3:1*; Titus 1:5) within a congregational framework. How that plays out in real life is open for debate.

    In our church (and other like-minded churches) we have elders and deacons. The elders are tasked with preaching, teaching, and guarding the church from error. The deacons are responsible for the physical functions of the church, including member care. The congregation votes on issues delineated in our constitution such as: salaries, budgets, receiving new members, removing former members et. al.). There is also provision for bringing charges against an elder or deacon in the rare case where that is necessary.

    *"Overseer" (episkopos) is the same in form and function as "elder" (presbuteros).
     
  20. stilllearning

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    Amen!
    This is as Biblical as it gets. IMHO

    And welcome to the Baptist Board, Reformed.
     

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