Congregational church government (polity) is a biblical principle that churches must maintain. It is an expression of congregational autonomy and is not to be surrendered, partially or completely, to any outside control.
This autonomy does not mean local churches are without input from other resources. However, they must seek this input from within their own congregations. This can include the sharing of teaching materials and financial support.
Freedom of Religion
In order for a church to thrive, according to Pan American Broadcasting, it must be able to function independently from government control in certain fundamental ways. These aspects of church autonomy are called “church freedom.”
Having this independence is crucial for churches to thrive because it helps them carry out their mission and vision according to their beliefs. This is why the First Amendment protects religious freedom.
It also helps churches to fulfill their responsibility to serve the community. A church that doesn’t have this freedom will be more likely to be forced out of business by local government or forced to make changes that aren’t in the best interest of its congregation.
The freedom of religion is a human right that includes the right to worship, to change or not to change one’s beliefs, and to have an opinion about moral and social issues without interference from the state. This is a fundamental right in most countries, including the United States.
However, the freedom of religion is not an absolute right. There are other incorporated rights, such as freedom of speech and the right to assembly, that must be respected if freedom of religion is to be fully enjoyed.
These rights are all important to the overall health of a society. The freedom of religion protects religious people from discrimination in public places and promotes a diverse society where different faiths can flourish.
In many countries around the world, religious freedom is compromised by government restrictions and social hostilities from private individuals or groups. These restrictions range from laws, policies, and actions that limit free speech to harassment or persecution of religious groups or individuals.
About a quarter of the world’s nations experienced high or very high levels of government restrictions on religion in 2017. This figure has remained consistent since 2016, following two years of increases.
Despite these increases, most of the countries studied still experienced low to moderate levels of overall religious restrictions in 2017. This is a significant improvement from a decade ago when nearly 70 percent of the world’s population lived in countries classified as having heavy restrictions on freedom of religion.
Self-government is the ability to exercise control over oneself and the organization of one’s life without outside authority. It is a core concept in international law and a tenet of many political contexts, from nation-states to autonomous regions. It also has important implications for free speech and the role of government in society.
Churches that have established themselves as independent, self-governing congregations have gained spiritual maturity and become a blessing to their members and the community. This is an achievement that should be recognized and celebrated.
The Bible teaches that the local church is to support and spread the truth (Acts 20:28). Congregations are called independent–self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating.
To achieve these goals, the church planter must provide the new believers with a model for self-government from the beginning. This can be a challenging task and takes time. But it is essential for the long-term success of a church.
If the new congregation does not develop a sense of self-government, it may become discontented and divide into competing groups. This can be prevented by planning and implementing a self-government program early in the church’s development.
Moreover, the congregation’s responsibilities as self-governing representatives of God’s Word should be clearly defined in the constitution and bylaws. This will protect the integrity of the ministry and ensure that leadership changes do not cause redirection or loss of momentum.
According to New Testament qualifications, the church’s senior leadership should be carefully selected. This will allow the church to have a pathway of progress that will grow in Christ and exalt His Church.
Leadership should be based on the needs of the congregation, not on personal preferences or egos. The leadership team should be representative of the demographic makeup of the church, diverse, and committed to the senior leaders’ plans for the local church.
Whether the senior pastors are appointed or elected, they should be accountable to the congregation. This requires that they bring issues before the congregation for discussion and decision and submit reports to the congregation on their activities. This can be accomplished through open congregation meetings or by electing a board, such as deacons and trustees, to oversee the church’s work.
In addition to defending truth and holiness, a local church must also defend its own self-discipline. That means it must confront and correct sin in the life of its members, primarily by means of rebukes and warnings. The elders and other leaders of the congregation can use these measures to protect the health and safety of the local church, and they are commanded by Scripture to do so (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5).
A person with low self-discipline will procrastinate on activities they don’t enjoy, avoid exercising daily initiative, and often end up with spiritual lethargy. On the other hand, those with high levels of self-discipline will find ways to complete undesirable tasks, initiate activities that build the church and consistently invest in their callings.
This type of discipline is often referred to as “sound mind.” In 1 Timothy 4:1, Paul urges Christians to train themselves for godliness by hearing biblical teaching, participating in corporate worship, the Lord’s Supper, Bible reading, meditation, prayer, and fellowship. In addition, he calls Christians to deny many legitimate pleasures to win heaven’s prize.
As a result, self-discipline in the Christian life is like that of a trained athlete who would win a race by putting his entire body under strict exercise and diet. The apostle Paul compares self-discipline to the strenuous workout of a competitive athlete and rebukes half-hearted Christians who do not pursue godliness.
Throughout his letter, Paul warns against various erroneous views of self-discipline. One such view is Pelagianism, taught by a fourth-century British ascetic, Pelagius (AD 354-420).
In this philosophy, man can save and sanctify himself by sheer force of will. The Western Church in AD 529 condemned this view.
Another erroneous view is semi-Pelagianism, a syncretistic approach that holds that man and God are joint partners in producing authentic self-discipline in the believer. By this faulty belief, God gives the believer a small measure of grace, but man supplies the rest.
On the other hand, Augustinian teaching rightly teaches that only God can produce authentic self-discipline in the Christian. This monergistic view of salvation and sanctification produces spiritually dead people whom the Spirit of God must regenerate to achieve a new, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
One of the most important aspects of a church is its community. A church’s community consists of people who share the same beliefs, values, and goals and work together toward those goals.
The local church is often seen as separate from other churches, but that’s not necessarily the case. The Bible teaches that the local church is a community of believers (Ephesians 4:11) and a part of the larger Body of Christ.
This is a fundamental principle of the Baptist faith. We are called to cooperate with other churches in benevolence and evangelism, but we are also called to honor the independence of the local church.
As a result, we have to be careful not to overburden the local church with tasks that take it away from its primary purpose. This is because our mission as a church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, and we are not called to be administrative administrators of other congregations or even institutions.
It is also important to note that the local church’s autonomy does not mean it can’t help another congregation in need. The New Testament does give examples of sending and receiving help for needy Christians.
If a congregation gives any control to another organization, whether a human institution or a local church, that congregation has lost its independence and is no longer in a position of true freedom.
Many faithful local churches have used their own bulletins to teach others about liberalism and have exposed the digression with specific cases. In fact, on several occasions, the liberal churches charged that their autonomy was violated because a faithful church sent bulletins and exposed their practices.
The autonomous nature of the local church in the Bible is theologically and historically significant. As we see in the New Testament, God designed His church to function independently of an ecclesiastical hierarchy. Still, He made it clear that each church was also part of a fellowship that included other churches. This is a pattern that has been repeated in the history of the church.