Baptist Polity And Elders -- By: Mark E. Dever

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 03:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: Baptist Polity And Elders
Author: Mark E. Dever


Baptist Polity And Elders

Mark E. Dever

Senior Pastor
Capital Hill Baptist Church
525 A St. NE Washington, DC 20002

Introduction

Recently, John Bisagno, retired pastor of the First Baptist Church of Houston, Texas, said at the Tennessee Baptist Evangelism Conference that one of the two most divisive issues in Baptist churches today is church government. We no longer live in those ordered days that I grew up in, and that Louie D. Newton, pastor for decades of Atlanta’s Druid Hills Baptist Church described so well in his book Why I Am A Baptist: “The first step I undertook when I became pastor of Druid Hills Church was to set up the Pastor’s Cabinet, composed of the heads of all the departments of the church life—Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Board of Deacons, Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Finance Committee, Chairman of the Trustees, Chairman of the Board of Ushers, Clerk, Treasurer, Chairman of the Relief Committee, Superintendent of the Sunday School, Director of the Training Union, President of the Woman’s Missionary Society, President of the Brotherhood, Minister of Music, Chairman of the Music Committee, Chairman of the Guest Book Committee, Chairman of the Youth Council, Librarian, and Members of the Church Staff.”1 Ah the confidence of mid-twentieth century corporate organization! Newton continued, “Stemming from this idea of the Pastor’s Cabinet, all plans of evangelism, enlistment, stewardship and promotion are first discussed in this small, responsible

group, then submitted to the larger groups for questions and suggestions, and finally, after the widest possible conference and agreement, submitted to the church for approval or disapproval.”2

Would earlier Baptists have approved of such a plethora of unbiblical offices in our churches? Perhaps so. The Philadelphia Baptist Confession (1742) says in chapter 1 “Of the holy Scriptures”, section 6: “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down, or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture; unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”

“Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illuminations of the Spirit of God, to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word, and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions an...

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