Friday, February 09, 2007

Is Congregationalism Biblical???

I know...first ordination...then congregationalism. You're probably all ecclesiologied out by me today. But this stuff is really important. We go to church every week [possibly numerous times a week]. Do you even think about how this stuff is done at your church?

Do you have elders acting as what the Bible qualifies as deaconal in role? Do you have deacons acting as what the Bible defines as the roles of the elder? Do you have people that aren't members of your church teaching and leading? Does it matter??

It seems to me that if these roles are all intermingled and flip-flopped around there's the possibility that there is great confusion in your church. It's a good indicator that confusion or pragmatism [or both] have taken over your church. If it is true that His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness [2 Peter 1:3] should we rule out that the Bible is the authority to train us in that life and godliness? That's absurd. Of course it has the authority as all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness [2 Timothy 3:16]. if the Bible is the guide for our individual lives then why not for church life as well. I've heard people say, "[the book of] Acts is descriptive...not prescriptive." True enough, but is that a blanket statement spread out in order to ignore what Acts [or the rest of the New Testament for that matter] says about church life? I have heard from others that my ideas about the church [no matter how good they might be] might be Satan getting a foothold into the church. This might be correct, but I've never heard other people say that about themselves. We might all be correct, but we might all be wrong. What's the rule bar that we measure ourselves on? The Bible...we have to come to agreement based on the Bible...because if we don't we're looking at schism because people just disagree about everything.

I think there is a lot written especially in the epistles of Paul that give us a glimpse at how to conduct church life. The Bible isn't only authoritative in regard to spiritual disciplines and my personal life. It has a ton to say about ecclesiology. Maybe if we are faithful to what the Bible says [even a little more than we are] God will be seen as greater and us as smaller and weaker.

So here's the last church government post from me for today:) Is congregationalism biblical? Is it a democracy? Check out this article by Paul Alexander, Is Congregationalism a Democracy. This explains pretty well why I believe the Bible teaches that congregationalism is the Biblical model for church government [as opposed to an Episcopacy or Presbyterian persuasion]. These are just a few quotes, but I recommend you check out the rest of the article.
"Biblical congregationalism is democratic in the sense that it is not strictly monarchic (rule by one), oligarchic (rule by a few), aristocratic (rule by the fittest), or anarchic (rule by no one), but rather government by the people (the demos). It is the gathered local assembly that is the final court of appeal, not the pastor or the elders, and not a deliberative body outside or above the local church...

In a congregational system, the gathered assembly is only the final court of appeal in matters of discipline (1Cor 5:1-13), doctrine (Gal 1:6-9; 2Tim 4:3), personal dispute (Matt 18), and church membership (2Cor 2:6)...

Yet there is a significant sense in which even a congregationally governed church is also a monarchy, Christ being the benevolent King and the members his willing and submissive subjects. Christ alone is the true head of the church (Eph 1:22; 4:15; 5:23). And again, there is a significant sense in which a congregationally governed church is also an oligarchy or aristocracy, overseen by a plurality of Christ’s qualified under-shepherds, the body of elders (Acts 14:23; 20:28; Phil 1:1; Titus 1:5; 1Peter 5:1-5)...

...the congregation is also responsible to obey its leaders and respect their authority (Heb 13:17)...

Biblical congregationalism also recognizes that the congregation is not the infallible guide to faith and practice (2Tim 4:3)...Congregational decisions are not right simply by virtue of being made by the congregation. Vox populi (the voice of the people) is not always tantamount to vox dei (the voice of God), which is why the leaders of the church must be those who are “able to teach” from God’s word the “doctrine that conforms to godliness” (1Tim 3:2; 6:3)."

[As always I tried to bold and italicize all the Scripture references.]

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