What Congregational Polity Means

In every society or group, a set of rules is necessary to maintain the society or group in civil and orderly manner. Without the established set of rules to which each member of the society or group must follow, confusion and anarchy ensue. The set of rules is the foundation that defines good governance or polity of a society or group.

In a Baptist-based congregation, the church governance is called congregational. “The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church defines “congregationalism” as “that form of Church polity which rests on the independence and autonomy of each local church.” Congregational polity draws its name from the independence of local congregations from the authority and control of other religious bodies.

Strictly speaking, a church that has congregational form of governance does not mean that members can do whatever they prefer and can ignore established spiritual leadership in the church, based on the reasoning that every member has equal rights, privileges, and duties under the Lordship of Christ. This reasoning is the secular definition of pure democracy at its best that excludes the work of the Holy Spirit. Rather, it means that the local congregation is independent of the control of other religious bodies or denominations. The local body is free from the direct intervention of outside religious organization in governing its affairs. That is to say, the congregation is an autonomous and living body of Christ that is governed by Biblical standards set forth in its Constitution and By-laws.

Because our church is a Baptist-based church, I am inviting every regular member in good standing and those who wish to be counted among us to please read the article about Congregational Church Governance. This article describes how a congregational church is governed. Pay particular attention to the paragraphs “How should decisions be made?” inasmuch as they mirror our church established procedures in carrying out church business according to our Constitution and By-laws.

1 Corinthians 14:40 says 40But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” While this verse was written by Apostle Paul in the context of the proper decorum in true worship, it applies also to any gatherings and/or governance of congregation since our ultimate objective is to glorify God. Remember that our God is the God of order who demands orderliness, not anarchy or chaos in His living body of genuine believers – the church.

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