It seems there are a lot of churches, even in the Baptist sphere, that are moving away from a congregational model. Pastors and boards of elders are making most if not all of the decisions regarding ministries, vision, etc. While I can kind of see why they would do this, and even how it might be biblical, it seems very similar to what led to the Roman Catholic church as we know it. I've always believed in the priesthood of every believer. This means, at least in part, that every believer is being led by the Holy Spirit. I also believe that the congregation as a whole is the church, and that the pastor is a member of the church. The pastor is not the head of the church, and he certainly doesn't have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit, but rather we all together ought to be following the Spirit's guidance. So for one man (or one small group of men) to unilaterally decide the course of the church seems...wrong. But at the same time, sometimes there are members who assert their opinions and cause the church to keep from going in a direction the pastor and most of the church believes we should go. It's frustrating. Here's the situation that's prompting all this. I recently preached a series going through Third John on "What is a Church Member?" After the series, I tried to kind of gauge on a Sunday night the church's thoughts on what I presented as qualifications for church members (since they are fairly basic to what it means to be a Christian and member of a church). They were: 1) We're Saved, 2) We Give (cheerfully and sacrificially, as the Lord leads you), 3) We Serve, and 4) We Gather. From what I could tell, people were on board that these were important for church members. So I brought it to a vote at a business meeting that we would present these qualifications to all of our members, new and old. But I didn't realize that there were at least two members who were not at the Sunday night discussion that I had led to gauge their thoughts on these things, and when it came up at the business meeting, they were adamantly opposed to it because it would mean many of their family members who no longer attended would be taken off of the membership roles, and that this would send the message to their family members that they weren't welcome at church and that the Church did not love them. So we tabled the whole thing and didn't move forward with it. I will still encourage church members to adhere to these guidelines, but I lack any authority (at least from the church) to tell people that they need to be practicing these things in order to be a member of our church. It's frustrating. But I also believe that the unity of the church is more important than moving quickly, even if it's a direction we need to go. So I'm kind of stuck. I think the congregational model is most biblical because of the priesthood of believers, and yet this very model keeps us from becoming more biblical on the issue of church discipline. Of course, the goal isn't to exclude people as members, but to raise the bar and be clear about what church membership ought to look like. I thought these four qualifications were simple enough, non-controversial enough, and a good step in the right direction. Perhaps I should have pressed forward with it and called for a vote. It would have passed by the vast majority. I don't know. Perhaps these kinds of decisions are best made unilaterally by the pastor or board of elders, but I'm not really sure that would have gone over the best either. What do you think about all this?