Pastoral Reflections On Baptist Polity In The Local Church -- By: Jim Henry

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 03:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: Pastoral Reflections On Baptist Polity In The Local Church
Author: Jim Henry

Pastoral Reflections On Baptist Polity In The Local Church

Jim Henry

Senior Pastor
FBC Orlando
3000 S. John Young Parkway
Orlando, FL 32805


It was my first pastorate. My first year in seminary. Racial turmoil was surging through the south. Our area was in the eye of the storm, and subsequently, I discovered so was our church, and so was I. On a quiet Sunday evening as I was moderating the monthly business meeting and asked for new business, we all were shaken when a man I considered a friend, rose to his feet and made a notion that I be fired as pastor because “I was a n---- lover.” Have you ever called for a second for your own demise? I did. There was a pregnant silence and finally I heard a muffled second. Discussion followed; mainly from the originator of the motion. Finally, I asked if the question could be tabled for a week. I told the people I would visit each member’s household on Saturday and they could answer the door with a yes or a no with no questions asked. I would report to the church on Sunday and if no’s were more than yeses, I was history and would resign that day. I’m not sure of the procedure, but to that small and shocked congregation of believers it seemed to give a segue to buy some time.

Long story short, some godly deacons intervened on my behalf during the week, and at a Wednesday night meeting, asked the church to continue to stand for a free pulpit as long as the preacher preached the Word of God. Their conclusion was I had, and in so many words, the church should uphold that standard whoever was the pastor. The recommendation passed by a

safe margin; the weekend circuit ride became unnecessary, and I continued to serve for another year and a half as their undershepherd, somewhat bruised, but still afloat! I was learning as a neophyte in the ministry, some of the complexities and nuances of Baptist church polity.

The Role Of The Pastor

The role of the pastor, his authority, leadership, congregational government, elders, multiplicity of pastors, and the rate of pastoral leadership in large churches and the emerging church plants, is one of utmost importance, not only for each local church, but for all evangelicals, especially Southern Baptists. Why so? Stephen Olford said, “There can be no peace or prosperity in national, social, or spiritual life, without rule, authority, and order. . . . God is not the author of confusion but of peace.”1

Recent testimony that has come personally to me, a promising young pastor in a growing church ousted by older members ...

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