It’s been a whole week.
One whole week in this town. One whole week with these people. One week on mission.
Of course, God’s purpose for this town stretches far beyond this small breath of time. Today, I learned of the continuing ministry of the church. We discussed how the church functions.
New Life Baptist Church is, funnily enough, a baptist church. A significant feature of Baptist churches is their theology of how the church should be run. the fancy name for this is ecclesiology. Their ecclesiology is a direct result of their theology which believes every Christian believer to be a priest in God’s kingdom.
This is called the ‘priesthood of all believers’. Most baptist churches then reflect this belief in their ecclesiology by adopting a democratic system, where every member has the right to voice an opinion on every decision to be made.
Like many baptist churches, New Life had discovered this to be painfully crippling at times. Having to vote on the most tedious of matters. The ecclesiology began to get in the way of the church’s mission opportunities.
I was most intrigued by the way they had reinterpreted their church governance. The church was essentially managed and run day-to-day by a pastoral team, paid by the church to serve the church. So many decisions were taken by this team without ever being seen by the congregation. This liberated the church to engage in mission better.
The pastoral team had all had theological training and also brought many other skills together including teaching, preaching, business management and children’s and youth work. To my mind, it seems rather ridiculous to give every member of a church equal say over matters they may know nothing about. Whilst this does mean certain people can make certain decisions in a church I don’t think this in any way contradicts the idea of the priesthood of all believers. It is a simple recognition of differences within the body of believers.
That is something I can really appreciate. I don’t want to become part of a church with one leader who has a dominating personality, and nor do I want to be in a church which is paralysed by decisions over what colour to paint the walls. To have a trained, professional pastoral team who are chosen by the congregation seems to give a much more practical ecclesiology, expressing the idea of the priesthood of all believers in a different way.
It seems very important to think deeply about the ordering of a church. I appreciate the Baptist system of autonomous churches who are free to organise themselves. Since the mission with which the church participates can be varied in it’s expression, it becomes necessary to structure church to best serve Christ in the local situation.
Blessing to the God who works in this time and in this place. May we humble ourselves, our ideas and programmes before him.