May 9, 2006
Let me tell you about that Baptist pastor, but first this. Being together for the gospel–not a conference; merely a normal Christian experience!–with Baptists and Anglicans over here in Sydney, Australia, for a few days, I’m struck by one challenge both kinds of churches have–finding appropriate ways to be shaped by Scripture in our local church polity.
As a convinced congregationalist, I have no doubt that there is a significant role for the congregation in being the final court of appeal for matters of church life and doctrine. Not that our congregations are always right, but they always HAVE the right and responsibility to settle matters.
But one help we find in Scripture is having a plural eldership in our local churches. Some people do not see such a pattern in the New Testament, nor do they think we have liberty to pursue it. I respect such conscientiously-held opinions. Others, however, oppose a plurality of elders merely out of a convenient conservatism. Such an impulse is too often opposed to the sole supreme authority of Scripture itself.
Now, to that Baptist pastor. He did what countless other Baptist pastors have attempted–many succeeding, many failing. This one succeeded, by God’s grace. The pastor was C. H. Spurgeon. The church was the New Park Street Chapel, a Baptist church. When Spurgeon arrived there as pastor, they had deacons, but no elders. Spurgeon concluded from reading the New Testament that they should have elders, and that this was an important matter, especially for the spiritual, pastoral work of the local church. In January of 1859 the church voted to appoint elders. May more churches follow this simple, Biblical, useful pattern. For the health of churches, the good of Christians and the greater glory of God, help your pastor find some men who meet the qualifications laid out in I Tim 3 & Titus 1, and put them around them, and watch the blessings that flow from such obedience.
On another note, Al, did you really say that bears will build laser weapons in the woods before the faculty of SBTS go home to Rome?! You always did have a way with those arresting images!