Presbyterial or Congregational?

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Jerome, Feb 2, 2011.

  1. Jerome

    Jerome
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    In his publication Doctrinal Distinctives of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Elder Nichols of Grand Rapids Reformed Baptist Church claims that the 1689 Confession teaches "presbyterial local church government" and opposes the "error" of congregationalism.

    Is this widely accepted by you Reformed types?

    Is congregationalism an error that the 1689 Confession teaches against?

    I believe Mark Dever at least pays lip service to congregationalism, reserving to the saints the "last word" on things.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. David Lamb

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    I suppose that (as is so often the case) it depends on definitions. What do you mean by "presbyterial local church government"? What does Mark Denver mean by it? If it means one local church having more than one elder, then I would say that (in the UK at least), this is something which is "accepted by us Reformed types".

    Acts 15 and 16 talk about the elders (plural) of the church at Jerusalem.

    Acts 20.17 & 28 mention the elders of the church at Ephesus:
    From Miletus he (Paul) sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.... "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."
    The church at Philippi had more than one elder. Philppians 1.1, where the word translated "bishops" is the same as the word elsewhere translated "elders":

    Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
     
  3. Ruiz

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    As I went to bed last night, I was thinking about what I wrote.

    I think any Baptist outside of the United States would reject pure congregationalism. Without hearing the lecture but having served under Pastors of great churches like that in Grand Rapids, I cannot see they were anti-congregational on some areas. Rather, I bet the author was hitting on the generalities. That is, the overall rule is not congregational but elder.

    I think, for instance, that Grand Rapids would require the final step in the process of church discipline to be congregational. I have spent time at both Capitol Hill and with the former pastor at Grand Rapids. I found Mark's approach actually less congregational than what you may have found at Grand Rapids.

    Yet, I would agree, a pure congregational church is most likely, in Baptist Circles, an American invention. Besides the Biblical arguments for pure congregationalism, I have always said that it makes no sense that a mature Christian would have the exact power of vote on important issues as a baby Christian. Too often I have seen clear Biblical principles abandoned because babes in Christ would vote against it... or some Pastor voted out of his congregation for nothing related to his character or qualifications, but because the babes have nit-picked.

    One thing is for sure, if you want to see a good fight, I tell people go to most Baptist congregational meetings...
     
    #3 Ruiz, Feb 3, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 3, 2011
  4. JohnDeereFan

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    We practice a form of presbyterial government. The church is not a democracy.

    We came from a church that voted on everything. The result was that, as more and more false converts and weak Christians got into the church (because the church refused to adopt Biblical membership criteria), it just got more and more liberal and more and more worldly, to the point that it was barely recognizable as a church.
     
  5. JohnDeereFan

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    And a relatively recent one, too. I'm straining my brain to try to remember such an idea from my youth, but I just can't.

    See my last post.

    I actually saw a pastor get fired once because he wasn't funny in the pulpit. I'm not funny, either. Hope I'm not next. (Although, in all fairness, I did once title a sermon "You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Psalm is About You". That's about as close as I come.)

    I used to go to a great little church in New Jersey. Sure, it had its flaws, but overall, it was a terrific church. Until our meetings. Then everything changed and it was like being thrown into school of sharks.

    Once, when we were talking about changing the name of our church, I almost saw too men come to blows over what the new name should be. Both men were deacons and another member and I literally had to step between them to keep them apart.
     
  6. Ruiz

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    I read your initial post and thought it was rather good.

    Essentially, pure democratic approach tends to be more populist. That means there tends to be more populist ideas advanced. In Government, it means that tough decisions are put off to another generation. In Church, it means tough Biblical stands are put on the back burner (or jettisoned). Not that populist regimes can't make tough decisions, many do, but they have a tendency to make populist decisions without the wisdom required of an Elder or the Biblical sturdiness of and Elder.

    I will never understand the mentality in churches to having a baby Christian who knows little of the Bible, Theology, Prayer, and God to have the same voting power to all things in a church as a seasoned, Godly, prayerful, wise, and Biblical Theologian who demonstrates they are above reproach. The baby Christian on milk is not ready to make a decision about meat. Somethings concerning meat they are just not ready to handle.
     
  7. annsni

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    We definitely are presbyterial. We have 11 pastors (elders) and a number of deacons (can't remember the number off hand - wait, it's 3 "classes" of 5, I think so that would be 15). The only thing that gets voted on by the congregation is new members and the budget. That's all.
     
  8. webdog

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    I agree the biblical model is elder led, not democratic. In America we seem to think our rights transfer over to the church, but I don't see it.
     
  9. Ruiz

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    In past churches (we have just moved) we didn't vote on members, but it was announced for several weeks and if you had concerns you were to bring them up to the Pastors/Elders. If no one objected, we installed them as members during a public worship.

    The budget, capitol building projects, final step of church discipline, position statements (normally this is not a vote but a support), change in Constitution, approval of deacons/Elders, and major staff changes are usually the ones I see most often as needing voting.
     
  10. JohnDeereFan

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    Well, I am a genius and it's about time somebody recognized that!

    No, seriously, thank you. It's really odd having this conversation on a Baptist message board because, often when I talk about having a presbyterial form of government (by the way, have I been using "presbyterian" wrongly all these years?), the Reformed folks all congratulate me, while the Baptists all look at me like I'm from Mars or something.

    It's funny, I was a false convert for about three years. I was the product of bumper sticker theology and pop-Christianity. I was probably what we would call an "emergent" now.

    I remember getting up in a church meeting once and pontificating that the church is like a fish bowl...Honest to goodness, I thought the nonsense I was spouting was the most brilliant thing ever said in that church. Now, of course, I'm embarrassed because I realize it was Unbiblical, babbling nonsense.

    I was a false convert and still young enough that my stupidity can be laughed at. But the really sad part is that I was allowed to get up and spout off this nonsense and that the church actually considered it. Not one person in the church had the discernment or loved me enough to put their hand on my shoulder and say, "Yeah, I'm sure that whatever it is you're rambling on about must be really interesting, but you need to sit down now".

    This church was so egalitarian that a twenty year old false convert who wouldn't know sound doctrine if he tripped over it was actually given an opportunity to try to influence the church.

    In our church, you're mentored and trained from the beginning. We pair you up with older saints in the church right away so that they can help you along, so that they can steer you around the landmines, so that they can share their wisdom with you. You're expected to grow.

    If you do, then you're going to have a voice in the church. If you don't, or if you're a new believer, you're not going to have much of a voice yet (and the key word here is yet). We don't want to keep you quiet. We want to help you to grow precisely so that you can take a more active part in the life of the church.

    We're not mean and we do want to include everybody, but every boat has to have a captain, a competent officer corps, and a crew or else the ship is just going to sail around in circles.
     
  11. annsni

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    Oh - I forgot the voting of the elders! We do that by silent ballot. We get a paper with all of the eligible men who are members of the church mailed to every member in good standing. There are 5 spaces to write in names. Once the names are tallied, each of the men who are the top men are brought before the pastoral staff and anyone who might have some knowledge as to why this person should not be an elder speaks up and they discuss the issue then decide if his name is valid or not. If it is, he is then called and asked to pray about it for a week. If it is not, the next person in line is brought up. Once there are 5 men who are asked to pray and they come back with an affirmative, then they become the next "class" of deacons. They serve for 3 years. They can serve many terms (oftentimes they do) if they are voted in again. They are introduced at the annual meeting. So I guess that means we'll be getting that letter soon!
     
  12. Ruiz

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    I think there is some merit in how you do things. Overall, I think Elders should be examining men to ensure they are qualified. That is essential.

    One thing I have not seen done and only know of a couple of churches who practice it, is mentoring up coming elders (or potential elder candidates) into the roll... and also mentoring them their first year in their new role. I think this would be helpful but I know of few churches who do this. None of the churches I have belonged to has done this well. We tried in one church, but that is a long story.
     
  13. Ruiz

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    The first few years I was saved I was all about the "Church Growth Movement." It took a very wise professor to straighten me out. The problem is that I was in youth ministry already and probably did more damage than I helped by that time... hence another reason to ensure Elders select qualified Elders... not a populist group who gets the most "exciting" Pastor they can find.
     
  14. JohnDeereFan

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    They did the same to me. I had long hair and I could play the guitar and the kids thought I was hip, so they put me in charge of the high school youth group. Of course, I was a false convert and wasn't capable or eligible to be in charge of anything in the church (truth be told, I didn't even meet the Biblical requirements for membership in the church to begin with).

    My focus was all about scheduling the next trip to Great Adventure or scoring group tickets to Petra for the kids. I honestly cannot give even one thing I said to teach them the Bible (which, in retrospect, might have been a good thing) or catechize them in any way. Typical Gospel According to Oprah stuff: Jesus is really cool. Jesus is a good guy. Jesus wants to be your buddy. Jesus wants to make you happy.

    I would be shocked if any of them are walking with Christ today.
     
  15. Luke2427

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    I think that the church congregation can make major decisions as Paul seemed to indicate in I Corinthians with "know ye not that ye shall judge angels", etc...

    I do believe that Scripture seems to indicate that most decisions that are not of a pivotal nature should be made by a group, board or whatever you want to call it, of elders.

    That board of elders should be chaired by the teaching elder known as the ruling elder.

    At our church we have a Church Council consisting of the heads of the major departments (education, youth, chair of deacons, grounds upkeep, music, treasurer). I chair that council and funnel my visions for our ministry through them and then out to the congregation once the church council is fully on board.
     
  16. annsni

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    In our church, all of our pastors were hired from within except the senior pastor. We now have 11 pastors. I know with my husband coming on staff, he started out as a pastoral intern and DID have a lot of mentoring and training as he went along. For his ordination, he and the other pastors trained for 3 years, working through materials, classes and teachings from other ordained ministers so there was a lot of work done with them there. Hubby even told me now that they will be starting another class soon where all of our pastors and a few other local pastors from other churches who wish to join (these are all pastors of small churches who don't have the benefit of this sort of thing in their church) work together through a book over a period of months. They study for 3 weeks then come together to either have one of them teach (name drawn from a hat) or else discuss it together. With the last class, they also had some of the men who were leaders in our church or who were members in our church who were leaders of parachurch ministries. I'm sure it will be the same with this class. I'm guessing that's what you might be thinking of?
     
  17. mets65

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    As far as voting goes, a lot of baptist churches only allow members 18 and older to vote.
     
  18. Ruiz

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    When we talk about babes in Christ and the mature, we are not talking about age but Christian maturity. I, for instance, would have taken Spurgeon's insight at 21 over most Christians at 40.

    Physical age does not necessarily mean Christian maturity.
     
  19. Jerome

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    From VI. The Church, The Baptist Faith and Message:

    Malcolm Yarnell (SWBTS) comments on this in The Baptist Faith and Message 2000: Critical Issues in America's Largest Protestant Denomination (2007):

    So, getting back to the OP, is congregationalism an "error" that the 1689 Confession is opposed to? How so?
     
  20. Ruiz

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    It is good to see someone mentoring others and working to help them through the first steps. I wish more churches would do this.
     

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