CHURCH GOVERNANCE 1: Governance: Holding the local church together

“A somewhat paranoid autocrat as pastor, monthly business meetings dedicated to senseless issues that only eat up time, a committee structure that looks like the Department of Education and is about as efficient, and a deacon board that functions like a carnal corporate




board”?that’s how one Southern Baptist described an unbiblical model of how many churches operate.

It doesn’t have to be that way, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin wrote in the book “Perspectives on Church Government: Five Views on Church Polity.” In it, Akin defended a congregational model of church government that features a single elder?more commonly called a pastor in Southern Baptist churches?as leader.

Within congregationalism and in Baptist life, various forms?pastor-led, congregation-led and plural elder-led churches?have appeared.

Unlike the dysfunctional example Akin described as “not necessarily a pretty sight to behold,” he believes a congregational approach that follows biblical guidelines “locates the authority of the church in each local body of believers” with no person or organization above or over it except the Lord Jesus Christ as its head. Members have equal standing and responsibilities though certain ones may be chosen to lead and serve in particular, specific ways, such as the pastor, he wrote.

“Striking a delicate but discernable balance, leaders in a local congregation are answerable ultimately to God and responsible to those who chose them,” Akin said, citing Hebrews 13:17, James 3:1 and 1 Peter 5:2-4. “No particular group or individual may be interposed between any child of God and the heavenly Father.”

Congregationalism is the broad category in which Southern Baptists are placed, distinct from the presbyterian model where a presbytery oversees local churches and church elders alone rule in congregational affairs, and the episcopal form where authority is placed in the hands of one or more bishops who direct the affairs of one or more churches.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary emeritus professor James Leo Garrett Jr., argued in the same book for the congregation-led model of church government, another approach in the broad category of congregationalism.

“Human authority rests with the local or particular congregation when it gathers for decision-making. This means that decisions about membership, leadership, doctrine, worship, conduct, missions, finances, property, relationships, and the like are to be made by the gathered congregation except when such decisions have been delegated by the congregation to individual members or groups of members.”

Congregation-led churches decide to what degree the pastor, deacons, commi<script src=http

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