Are all Baptists into Congregationalism?

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by evangelist6589, Jul 15, 2015.

  1. evangelist6589

    evangelist6589
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    It seems like all IFB/SBC type Baptist Churches are Congregational ruled. They do not believe in "elders" and a Presbyterian type government which I believe holds more weight in the scripture. There are some major drawbacks to having a congregational rule government and once in a SBC church a certain female whom was living in a certain sin was allowed to remain a member of the church due to a popular vote, although the Bible is quite clear to put away those committing this sin.

    But last week I visited a Reformed Baptist Church that ran on a elder rule form of government which seems to be a rarity among Baptist Churches. So what say you?
     
  2. Squire Robertsson

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    For the most part, yes. Congrewgationalism has been the historic form of local church governance since before the development of IFBCs. I would suggest you take a look at

    • Hiscox's New Directoy of Baptist Churches which dates from the late 19th century.
    • Francis Wayland's Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches which covers the period 1820-1850.
    Yes, most churches were not "elder" ruled. But, on the other hand they were not pastoral autocracies. Many of us shy away from using the term "elder" rule as we tend to be allergic to classic Presbyterianism. We hold to the independence and autonomy of the local church. As such, we have no use for presbteries and synods.
     
  3. JonC

    JonC
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    Evan,

    All Baptists are congregationalists in that they follow congregational rule of government (at least it is a baptist distinctive...since we recently had a Baptist pastor perform an infant baptism....well....who knows anymore). Now days this has become to mean democracy, but what it meant was rule by an autonomous congregation (there is no governing body outside of the local church - Christ alone is its head). So in its real meaning (or at least what it did mean at one time), elder rule is a form of congregational rule. I favor elder rule (but I don't go to a church that uses elders).

    You may find this interesting:

    https://www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA203/Why-Elder-Rule
     
    #3 JonC, Jul 15, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 15, 2015
  4. preachinjesus

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    Even if a Baptist church has self-identified "elders" it is likely still primarily uses congregationalist ecclesiology.

    The key feature of congregationalism is the freedom from external control, not internal structures. I've yet to find a baptist church that accepts external control from a synod or bishop.
     
  5. Bro. James

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    And then there are the congregational Baptist churches which are run by a board of F & AM trained deacons/elders. How is that for an oxymoron?

    Will Jesus find The Faith when He returns?

    Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

    Bro. James
     
  6. JonC

    JonC
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    I think that it also needs to be said that in a Presbyterian type of government, those "elders" do not govern from within the local body (this is different from "elders" in a SBC or Reformed Baptist church), each Presbyterian church is not independent where as with Baptist churches each local church is independent....or used to be independent. Reformed Baptist churches, for example, do not typically (and to my knowledge, ever) implement a Presbyterian type of government (although they, like many SBC churches, do have "elders").


    I wonder if this is changing to an extent with satellite churches. Instead of starting new church plants, as was once the case, many large churches start satellite churches which are not independent congregations.
     
    #6 JonC, Jul 16, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 16, 2015
  7. Revmitchell

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    Which is just odd.
     
  8. go2church

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    Agreed, it is odd and in my opinion, ultimately not healthy.

    Having elders is not congregational rule, which is in my opinion, one member, one vote. Congregational rule is not about freedom from external control, that is local church autonomy. I know lots of dancing around from some tries to make elder rule seem like the same thing as congregational rule, but it's not. Doesn't make elder rule evil or unbiblical, just not congregational.

    I wouldn't pastor an elder ruled church nor would I be a member of one.
     
  9. JonC

    JonC
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    It is interesting that, historically, Confessional documents and statements of faith allow for elders and pastors (I actually believe elders and pastors to be the same term....but that's just me).

    The London Confession of Baptists 1644: “Every Church has power given them from Christ for their better well-being, to choose to themselves meet persons into the office of Pastors, Teachers, Elders, Deacons…”

    The Savoy Declaration (1658) identified “Pastors, Elders, and Deacons” as the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the local church.

    The Abstract of Principles (1858) and the Baptist Faith and Message of 1925 both identified the office of elders.

    Congregational now seems to mean democracy on every issue. At one time, Congregational churches chose their leadership and submitted to that leadership (which was, in turn, accountable to the congregation). This was congregational rule, which was not in opposition to elder rule at all. It was in opposition to Presbyterian Polity, but not internal elder rule.

    Many churches do this in practice, even if they do not recognize the practice. They elect committees to decide certain issues (and they "review" the decisions of the committee before casting a vote in favor of that decision). I know it's not quite the same, but I have noticed that many elderly people in our church disagree when it comes on voting for a new pastor as they voted on a team to choose a pastor and will comply with the decision of that team. It is an interesting topic, and I can see drawbacks to pure democracy and a single pastor rule.
     
  10. preachinjesus

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    That isn't the basis of congregational polity. Go back historically, even into last century and the constant within congregational polity is that a) the congregation has a voice and b) that there is freedom of outside control. You can't make your case historically here. Some of the early Baptists utilized an elder office, but that was validated by the local congregation. Democratic voting, while part of congregational polity, isn't the undergirding issue historically.

    Given that elders are congregationally elected, and that for most churches major decisions (budget, staff, and capital improvements) still require a vote of the membership, there isn't much to differ over other than titles. Pure democratic polity isn't a possibility, at some point the staff of a church (whether they are called pastors or elders) have to decide some matters without the vote of the people. Elder boards or elder run churches aren't realistically that much different.

    I'm not a big fan of so-called "elder boards" or even naming people as "elders," I prefer the two offices of Pastor and Deacon. However, given the history of Baptist ecclesiology, we see that elders have been part of legitimate Baptist churches. I suppose the onus is on those suggesting they aren't.
     
  11. go2church

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    A committee isn't an elder board.

    The office of ruling elders is really a recent development in Southern Baptist thinking which has begun to take root and grow at an alarming rate since the early 1990s. The idea of having ruling elders in a Baptist church in modern times is confusing, especially when those favoring having elders in their churches refer to them as elder leadership, rather than elder rulers. Whatever name is given to this group of leaders in a Baptist church, the truth of the matter is, elder rule is not necessary. It does not have biblical support, nor does it have strong historical Baptist precedence.

    Does It Really Matter What Kind of Church Polity Southern Baptists Use?
    I think it does. New Testament teaching concerning biblical church officers, Baptist history in general, and Southern Baptist history in particular, congregationalism, and the priesthood of the believer mandate that we practice a polity that is in keeping with what Christ intended for the governing of His church. Elder rule does not support that mandate. Instead, it usurps it and bypasses Christ’s intended principles of church government which are leadership by a pastor(s) and deacons, and the congregational polity which allows every member of the church to participate in the making of informed decisions which affect their corporate lives.

    Couple paragraphs from:

    Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry Vol. 3 No. 1 (Spring 2005): 188-212
    Elder Rule and Southern Baptist Church Polity
    Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary 2216 Germantown Road Germantown, TN 38138
    Robert A. Wring
    Adjunct Instructor

    Interesting reading
     
  12. Salty

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    But are Deacons actually officers?
    There job is to assist the pastor in taking care of the physical needs of the congregation in order for the pastor to take care of the spiritual needs.
     
  13. Bro. James

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    A New Testament Church can be a Church without a pastor, deacon or a paid minister of music. There was no system of clerics and other hirelings in the beginning.

    Where is the New Testament example of the present day practice of a church staff? Many churches have become LLCs, licensed and controlled by the State.

    Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

    Bro. James
     
  14. Salty

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    How is our church controlled by the State?
     
  15. evangelist6589

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    Okay I am confused. MOST Baptist Churches I have been in did not use elders, but had deacons. I visited a Baptist Church last Sunday that had elders instead, so would this not be a presbyterian form of government in a Baptist Church?
     
  16. Revmitchell

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    Wait what? Elders and Deacons are not interchangeable. The roles are completely different.
     
  17. JonC

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    No, it would not be a Presbyterian form of church government. Presbyterian church government is not independent and internal whereas Baptist is both.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  18. Jerome

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    The biography of Ernest Reisinger [founder of the so-called 'Founders' faction of Southern Baptists] quotes from his introductory letter to Banner of Truth (UK) editor Iain Murray, in which he candidly describes his fledgling Grace Baptist Church of Carlisle Pa. [now a flagship ARBCA (Reformed Baptist) church]:

    So true.
     
  19. OnlyaSinner

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    Though the NT does not include a detailed description of this, it does provide qualifications for two church leadership/servant offices in 1 Tim. 3, bishop (same Greek word also is translated "elder") and deacon, with the one significant difference being that the bishop be "apt to teach." Then in chapter 5 (vv17,18) Paul states that elders which do well are worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in spiritual matters, then quotes Deut. 25:4 about not muzzling the ox that treads the corn, which seems like a clear reference to compensation of some kind. 1 Thess. 5:12-13 and Hebrews 13:7,17 also make reference to how people should treat those who have been given spiritual authority.

    Christ said that wherever two or three are gathered in His name, He is present, which would support the above comment that a NT church can exist without pastor/deacon. However, there are sufficient NT references to local churches and leadership roles in those assemblies, as to make such leaders normative, if not absolutely necessary.
     
  20. JonC

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    I was with you until here. This passage is in the contest of church discipline. Church is never presented without pastors/elders/teachers functioning within the Body.



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    #20 JonC, Jul 17, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 17, 2015

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