Unfortunately, much of what Americans believe about church polity is colored by the realm of politics in the United States rather than the bible. We have taken much of our American political system and imposed it upon the local church (for the record, that’s a bad idea).
In fact, in our Southern Baptist statement of faith, the Baptist Faith & Message, here’s part of the article on “The Church”, p. 13: “Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes.” While I endorse our statement of faith as a whole, I cringe a little at the second half of this statement. “Under the Lordship of Christ”---absolutely, that is to be the case---Jesus is head of the church universal and the church local (Colossians 1:15-18; Ephesians 1:22; 5:23). However, I still haven’t found “democratic processes” in the New Testament.
With that being said, what does the bible say about church structure and the decision-making of a congregation? Is the bible silent about this issue? Is the bible vague about the issue as some have stated? Who leads the church? How are decisions to be made? Can we answer any of these questions with certainty from the scriptures?
I believe we can. And, that will be our task over the next several weeks as we look at the issue of church polity and structure of the local congregation.
For further study check out these books:
- Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
- Who Rules the Church by Gerald Cowen
- A Theology for the Church edited by Daniel L. Akin