Editorial -- By: Anonymous
JBTM 3:1 (Spring 2005) p. 1
In September 2004, I attended a meeting sponsored by the North American Mission Board to discuss matters related to denominational and church polity with leaders from several SBC entities. The topic of our conversation focused particularly upon developing church planting-ecclesiological guidelines that were both biblical and Baptist. All those attending believed that the church planting strategies of our denominational entities should embody the beliefs of Southern Baptists. Our primary concern was to establish broad guidelines that would assist NAMB in the development of church-planting guidelines to train church planters.1
All participants realized the importance and implications of our conversations. Numerous items were addressed and debated. Although the overall climate of the meeting was cordial and fraternal, deeply held convictions were articulated with great intensity. After several hours of dialogue, a consensus of positions acceptable to all began to emerge. As a means of bringing our session to a close, the facilitator of the meeting (Dr. Ed Stetzer) solicited final comments and opinions from each person in the meeting. Addressing the last person at the table (who had said very little during the discussions), Dr. Stetzer asked, “Do you have any final comments or observations?” The man’s response, which was both humorous and insightful, can be paraphrased as follows: “When I first was asked to attend this meeting to discuss Baptist polity, I thought it would be about as exciting as watching paint dry. However, after several hours of
JBTM 3:1 (Spring 2005) p. 2
listening to our discussion, I now see that Baptist polity is incredibly important and has profound implications for the ministry of our churches and our denomination.”
The remarks of my friend reflect the attitudes of many Baptists today. Few Baptists pay much attention to or seem overly concerned about matters of church polity. Many Baptists mistakenly believe that polity is a matter of church business meetings, budgets, and organizational schemes. Such a view of church polity is, however, misinformed and naïve. As noted elsewhere, polity can be defined as “the organization or government structure of a local church or fellowship of churches,”2 or more simply as “a form of church government adopted by an ecclesiastical body.”3 As these two definitions indicate, polity involves governance and organization. The ultimate goal of a church polity should be to discern and implement the will of God for His people. Church polity, and for Baptists congregational polity, is the way in...
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