Congregationalism and the devil

Not too long ago in one of my many link postings I mentioned this piece by Steve Holmes who made a firm rebuttal to comments made my Mark Driscoll about the congregational form of church government. (You can find links to a couple of responses to Steve here).

It’s not often that something Mark Driscoll says is made to look quite calm and measured, but that’s what James MacDonald has managed with this piece called ‘Congregational government is from Satan’ which ends with,

“Down with congregational government. Not the people who believe in it or appreciate its history, not the good or bad people who try to function well in a bad system—down with the system itself. It’s unbiblical, unhealthy and too often a tool of Satan for the discouragement of good Pastors, godly Elders, and local churches everywhere.”

Stop being so balanced and come off the fence MacDonald and tell us what you really think! I’ve never had much experience of this form of church, anyone have anything good to say in its defence?

One thought on “Congregationalism and the devil”

  1. Nicholas Wilson says:

    Plenty in its defence. At the end of the day, a congregation humble, teachable from the bible, and willing to follow Jesus’ call will make do with any government, and if not, whether the rules say they should be obeying someone or not, they’ll be causing trouble. The weaknesses of congregational government are when the congregation is immature, and looking at the case where it’s gone wrong doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad system. Does MacDonald really think the sort of people he is describing would knuckle down and do what the pastor says if he could pull rank on them? When church government fails, it means we have to care for and nurture our brothers and sisters more.

    Submitting every decision to a full vote seems almost overblown, but having an eldership that picks their own successors and runs the show independently on the other extreme is also simply not all that healthy, and anecdotally we know of cases where that has gone wrong. Somewhere in the middle, you are engaging the godly men and women in the congregation without letting the younger few drown things out.

    There are congregationally governed churches where there is a resistance to evangelism, but others where it goes really well. As a system, I reckon it’s highly biblical in the principles, and that independent churches really ought to have at least a few checks and balances on their pastors. Denominations that set up bishops to perform that role are stepping more clearly away from the first-century pattern, but where it works I don’t see it as hugely wrong. I think that pragmatism is fine here, following wisdom rather than firm instructions, and there is certainly no need to denounce one form of government or another is such strong terms.

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