Elder-led Congregationalism

Christ-ruled: Christ is the Head of the Church and He administers His Church by His Word.

Congregationally-affirmed: As a Priesthood of Believers, Spirit-filled Members of the Church Exercise Authority in the Church Governance as the Body of Christ.

Elder-led: Christ Appoints Qualified Elders/Pastors to Preach, Teach, Train, and Administer His Word in His Church.

Deacon-served: Christ Appoints Deacons to Care for the Physical Needs of the Church, Work for the Unity of the Church, and to Support the Ministry of the Word.

Ministry-accomplished: Much of our ministry here is accomplished by teams we call ministries. The church body votes to give authority to members who serve in various areas entrusting them to accomplish the ministry objectives under the direction of the church constitution and in partnership with the elders of the church.

Elder-led Congregationalism in Action

Elder-led Congregationalsim is exactly how we currently operate as a church body, we just call our elders pastors.  This is very different from what some may confuse with elder-ruled church government, (ex. Presbyterian), where the elders/pastors make every decision for the church. 

Jonathan Leeman: “You might compare a congregational and non-congregational model of church government to two different exercise classes, one in which the trainer does the workout while the whole class watches, and another in which the trainer demonstrates the exercises and then tells everyone to get to work. Which class will be healthier? Or consider two different construction crews, one where only the foreman works, and another where the whole crew works. Which crew will build more houses?”[1]

To illustrate elder-led congregationalism let’s answer the following question:

How do these biblical principles bear out in the government of Idlewild Baptist Church?  Every member acknowledges that this church belongs to Jesus Christ and that His Word serves as the authority for how we conduct His church.

The congregation calls the elders/pastors of the church and entrusts them with the biblical duties of the office. The elders meet regularly to pray, discuss, plan, and provide spiritual oversight for the church and its members. The elders/pastors are accountable to the Lord and to His church, the congregation, through the Personnel Ministry of IBC. The congregation calls the deacons and they work to lead and serve by example. They are led by the Chairmen of the Deacons and by the Sr. Pastor or teaching elder and are accountable to Lord and the congregation through the leadership of the Chairman of Deacons and Sr. Pastor (elders/pastors).  Every deacon is assigned a number of members to care for and to protect the unity of the church.

The congregation appoints teams of Christians, called ministries, over the various ministries of the church (Missions, Finance, Facility, Personnel, Recreation, etc.)  These teams have the vested authority of the church based on approved ministry descriptions in our bylaws and the congregation-approved funds allocated to their ministry each year in the annual budget. The ministries are accountable to the elders/pastors and to the congregation through our ministry conferences.

The congregation has given authority to the church ministerial staff to operate the church office, which oversees the people and activities of the church and coordinates and supervises pastoral and non-ministerial staff.  The church office is led by the Sr. Pastor/teaching elder.

Quarterly the ministerial staff, all church officers, and all ministry chairs meet for our Church Council.  The Church Council represents an executive group consisting of all the positions the congregation has given authority to conduct the affairs of the church.  The Council meeting serves as an instrument of helpful communication and cohesion between the ministerial staff and the various officers and the ministries they represent.  If something comes before the Church Council that has not been already authorized by the congregation it is brought before the congregation in a church business meeting.

The congregation has quarterly scheduled ministry conferences in which major decisions are made by all the members present and voting.  (annual budget, calling a pastor, etc.)

Someone may ask, “Is biblical elder-led congregationalism a democracy?” Leeman states “…biblical congregationalism is a mixed government—part monarchy (rule of the one: God), part oligarchy (rule of the few: elders), part democracy (rule of the many: congregation). Jesus is King through his Word; the elders or pastors lead; and the congregation has final (human) say on certain crucial matters.”[2]

“Elder-led congregationalism gives final authority and therefore a responsibility to the gathered congregation. With authority comes responsibility. By joining a church, therefore, you become responsible for what your church teaches and for every single member’s discipleship.

-IBC members are responsible to act if Pastor Ed begins to teach a false gospel.

-IBC Members are responsible to help ensure Member Candidate Chris adequately understands the gospel.

-IBC Members are responsible to ensure that Member Max is excluded from the fellowship of the church if his life and profession no longer agree.”

If you have further questions about the church government and how we conduct the ministries at IBC please contact the church office.

[1] Jonathan Leeman, Understanding the Congregation’s Authority, 18.

[2] Jonathan Leeman, Understanding the Congregation’s Authority, 7.