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CHURCH GOVERNMENT #55570
Wed Jul 10, 2019 3:13 PM
Wed Jul 10, 2019 3:13 PM
Joined: Aug 2012
Posts: 18
Zambia
Lichawa Thole Offline OP
Plebeian
Lichawa Thole  Offline OP
Plebeian
Joined: Aug 2012
Posts: 18
Zambia
I need help to think through the Congregational form of church government. This has been my conviction for almost 20 years now until in the last couple of months when I have began to rethink this position. I must confess that my experience as a Reformed Baptist pastor has been very trying. This is what has led me to rethink the position. Your help will be much appreciated.
I would like us to discuss it from three perspectives.
A. Historical Perspective: what was the form of church government practiced by the early church soon after the Apostles? I have in mind Polycarp who saw the Apostle John. It seems to me that he wasn't Congregational (I stand to be corrected). Could it mean that Congregationalism is a later invention or could it be that Polycarp soon forgot what he was taught by John?
B. Biblical Warrant:
1. What are the major Biblical texts in support of Congregationalism?
2. What is the Congregational interpretation of Acts 15?
3. Was the church in Jerusalem a single assembly or various assemblies in various homes?
C. Practical Ramifications:
1. It seems to me that whereas church members are accountable to elders, a Congregational church as an entity is not accountable anywhere. The argument is usually that it is accountable to the Lord Jesus the head of the church. But a church member might argue the same way with respect to his accountability.
2. It seems to me that Congregational churches have no court of appeal for both Minister and member. So one's fate is left to a few men (elders) or the general membership. Isn't there safety in a multitude of godly and mature counsel as is to be found in Presbyteries, Synods and General Assembly?

May I suggest that we start with Part A.


A Debtor to Sovereign Grace
Re: CHURCH GOVERNMENT [Re: Lichawa Thole] #55573
Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:34 PM
Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:34 PM
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 13,647
NH, USA
Pilgrim Offline

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Pilgrim  Offline

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Posts: 13,647
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Lichawa...

1. You are basing the majority of your consternation on your own personal experience, no? Assuming that this is the case, let me respond from my own personal experience. grin I have seen most all of the "Presbyterian" governed churches, both continental and reformed (Dutch) fall into heresy and some even into apostasy over the past 30+ years. Think back also even back in the 1800s when Charles Finney came onto the scene when many Presbyterian churches followed his methodology and some even his damnable heresy. Not much of a motivation for someone to get involved in a Presbyterian run denomination, eh? scratchchin

2. Over the past 30+ years, the judicial based system of Presbyterianism has failed to discipline even a handful of their clergy for clearly teaching heresy, e.g., John Kinnaird, an elder in the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church); see e.g., here: Orthodox Presbyterian Church Endorses Teaching of John O. Kinnaird. Other fundamental errors the OPC has committed have been the adoption of John Frame's "Multi-Perspectivalism" (I was a student of John Frame when at WTS Philly), where biblical "truth" can vary depending upon the "perspective" of the reader. Another major error was the OPC's promotion of what is called "The Hermeneutic of Trust". What is THAT? Well, whatever the General Assembly, under the rule and guidance of its 'officials' rule is to be embraced by all. In this case, the OPC GA ruled that various contradictory views of creation are all compatible because they do not contradict the "Standards"; WCF, WLC and WSC. Sooooo, an elder may (permission granted) to teach Theistic Evolution, Framework Theory, 6-Day/24hr literal creation, et al and they are teaching 'truth'.

3. In my own personal studies on this subject, I have never found a convincing argument for a Presbyterian form of government. I see Acts 15 as a one-time instance in the infant Church and should not be taken as a paradigm doctrine for church government. I won't go into detail in enumerating the various alleged 'proofs' for that form of government, most of which are based upon very weak exegesis and presuppositions.

4. Historically, true Congregationalism was extremely close in doctrine to the Presbyterian/Reformed churches. All one need do to see this is incontrovertibly true is compare the Westminster Confession of Faith with the The Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order. Congregationalists believed in a plurality of elders and a deaconate. They did differ, however in that they did not erroneously divide the eldership into two; Teaching Elder and Ruling Elder, making ruling elders a second class of men.

5. True Reformed Congregationalists often have a fellowship among them whereby they share many of the same interests and assist other churches among them when needed, e.g., the ordination of men to the ministry and disciplinary matters.

6. Lastly, there is NO PERFECT CHURCH because they consist of fallen members and office bearers. You will find errors, in every form of church government, and injustices in discipline. What I find most odious is that there is a noticeable similarity between secular governments and the Presbyterian/Reformed governments where a select group of elevated men determine not only policy, but also doctrine and life of all. If those men are in error, the entire denomination is negatively effected. To be fair, this can also be said of independent churches where the "Pastor" can become the 'dictator' and bring the entire congregation into ruin. My confidence rests in God who has ordained all things, including the formation of false churches, false teachers, and false professions of faith among members who preach and teach a false gospel. The Wheat will grow among the Tares until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. But the true people of God will by the Spirit be given wisdom to discern these things and be preserved from falling away.


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Re: CHURCH GOVERNMENT [Re: Pilgrim] #55588
Wed Jul 31, 2019 8:00 AM
Wed Jul 31, 2019 8:00 AM
Joined: Aug 2012
Posts: 18
Zambia
Lichawa Thole Offline OP
Plebeian
Lichawa Thole  Offline OP
Plebeian
Joined: Aug 2012
Posts: 18
Zambia
Whew! Sorry Uncle Jeff I saw your reply but could not respond due to a busy schedule at work.

Thanks for your insights gained from your experience with Presbyterianism. In a way, I think you are right.

However, you have not addressed my three concerns adequately.

Here they are again.

A. Historical Perspective: what was the form of church government practiced by the early church soon after the Apostles? I have in mind Polycarp who saw the Apostle John. It seems to me that he wasn't Congregational (I stand to be corrected). Could it mean that Congregationalism is a later invention or could it be that Polycarp soon forgot what he was taught by John?
B. Biblical Warrant:
1. What are the major Biblical texts in support of Congregationalism?
2. What is the Congregational interpretation of Acts 15?
3. Was the church in Jerusalem a single assembly or various assemblies in various homes?
C. Practical Ramifications:
1. It seems to me that whereas church members are accountable to elders, a Congregational church as an entity is not accountable anywhere. The argument is usually that it is accountable to the Lord Jesus the head of the church. But a church member might argue the same way with respect to his accountability.
2. It seems to me that Congregational churches have no court of appeal for both Minister and member. So one's fate is left to a few men (elders) or the general membership. Isn't there safety in a multitude of godly and mature counsel as is to be found in Presbyteries, Synods and General Assembly?

Lichawa,
A debtor to sovereign grace.


A Debtor to Sovereign Grace
Re: CHURCH GOVERNMENT [Re: Lichawa Thole] #55589
Wed Jul 31, 2019 3:04 PM
Wed Jul 31, 2019 3:04 PM
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 13,647
NH, USA
Pilgrim Offline

Head Honcho
Pilgrim  Offline

Head Honcho
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 13,647
NH, USA
Originally Posted by Lichawa Thole

A. Historical Perspective: what was the form of church government practiced by the early church soon after the Apostles? I have in mind Polycarp who saw the Apostle John. It seems to me that he wasn't Congregational (I stand to be corrected). Could it mean that Congregationalism is a later invention or could it be that Polycarp soon forgot what he was taught by John?

I don't see the connection between Polycarp allegedly seeing the Apostle John and church government? What I do read in Scripture are the letters of Paul, for example, writing to individual churches either directly or the individual churches located in a specific region. IF a Presbyterian form of government was in place at that time, I would expect Paul to have addressed the General Assembly or at least a presbytery that had the oversight of those local churches... but I do not see anything like that.

Originally Posted by Lichawa Thole
B. Biblical Warrant:

1. What are the major Biblical texts in support of Congregationalism?
See above. I read of individual, local churches only.

2. What is the Congregational interpretation of Acts 15?
The Jerusalem Council was a temporary design, as were many things in the infancy of the NT Church, which became extinct when the church grew throughout the world. (see Eph 4:11-13)

3. Was the church in Jerusalem a single assembly or various assemblies in various homes?
shrug

Originally Posted by Lichawa Thole
C. Practical Ramifications:

1. It seems to me that whereas church members are accountable to elders, a Congregational church as an entity is not accountable anywhere. The argument is usually that it is accountable to the Lord Jesus the head of the church. But a church member might argue the same way with respect to his accountability.
The analogy is spurious, for Scripture clearly states that members of a local assembly are under the direct authority of the appointed/ordained elders. It is true, that individual believers are ultimately under the authority of Christ, but the elders/pastor/teachers are Christ's delegated authority.

2. It seems to me that Congregational churches have no court of appeal for both Minister and member. So one's fate is left to a few men (elders) or the general membership. Isn't there safety in a multitude of godly and mature counsel as is to be found in Presbyteries, Synods and General Assembly?
I already addressed that question in my first reply. grin But briefly, most Congregational churches are part of a voluntary group of like-minded Congregational churches who adhere to a designated official confession of faith, e.g., the Savoy Declaration of Faith and Practice (1648). And, as I also mentioned, invariably history shows that there is no advantage, in fact a disadvantage to the "court" system of Presbyterianism, which if one is honest mimics our political systems which have the most corrupt at the top making decisions and judging the common man. There is no perfect system and I do believe Scripture does offer a definitive teaching as to what system is right.

Lichawa,
A debtor to sovereign grace.[/quote]


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