Friday, July 11, 2014

Some thoughts on church government

Apparently, a mega-church pastor has gotten into some trouble--apparently including losing at least one affiliate--partially as a result of claiming that "Congregationalism is from Satan."  Now apart from obvious objections--like how does the "church" separate unrepentant sinners per Matthew 18:17 separately from the counsel of the elders apart from the consent of the congregation, or exclude or welcome back the sexual sinner (1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Corinthians 2) without the consent of the congregation, or test and approve elders like Mr. MacDonald without, ahem, the guidance and consent of the congregation--it strikes me that every church in the history of mankind has had, in effect, congregational polity. 

Now this does not mean that the Bishop of Rome, or the Archbishop of Canterbury, or other church bodies are necessarily putting things up to a vote, when a pastor--or bishop, or Pope--loses the trust of congregants, they vote by refusing to take part in ministries, by refusing their tithes and offerings, and finally by refusing to come at all.  It is the same vote that buyers of shoddy goods cast when the deficiencies are known, no?

It is interesting to note that as MacDonald has come up with this un-Biblical idea and failed to support it Biblically (or even acknowledge the counter-arguments), this is exactly what happened.  Attendance at Harvest Bible Chapel has plunged, and the church (which is deeply in debt) has undergone an austerity program

Why has this happened?   It is a simple thing; if one refuses to acknowledge (1 Cor. 12) the evident gifting of the congregation to handle the matters the Scripture does hand to church members, one signals a spiritual and emotional distance from that same congregation.  It is no accident that many pastors of mega-churches fall into the trap of assuming "my way or the highway" leadership, as they have the best "opportunity" to become distant from ordinary church members.  They simply no longer have the relationship needed to exhort and rebuke effectively, and therefore they grab for power because they no longer have that relational authority.

As for us, let us pray for the repentance of "my way or the highway" pastors, and remember for ourselves that leadership manifests itself not in "dominant" behavior in the church, but rather in service and love.