Before you close your eyes and click to another website, let me ask you a question. Why do we get so excited about what the Bible has to say about women in ministry, homosexuality, adultery, divorce, and yet when we begin to speak of church government and church life, pragmatism takes precedent over the Scriptures? Why do we claim that clear teachings of church discipline are outdated and untransferable to church life today? Historically Baptists not only practiced these things, but considered churches that did not to be in sin. What happened to get us to this point? Why do our church roles boast of people that we have never seen nor heard from in years?
Perhaps one way for you to answer some of these questions would to be to read Polity, Biblical Arguments on How to Conduct Church Life, edited by Mark Dever (senior pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C.). Another suggestion I have for you is to research the history of the church. Jim Hamilton has written a web-log entitled Elders in Baptist Churches that provides some interesting historical data that points to the use of Elders in Baptist Churches (access his blog on my links section). However, the best advice I can give you is to search the Scriptures. A jumping off place for this search can be the pastoral epistles.
The first three chapters are introductory essays by Mark Dever, Greg Wills and Al Mohler. The remainder of the book contains copies of historical Baptist documents that clearly show Baptists were committed to the following: (only a sampling)
- Church Discipline
- Meaningful Church Membership
- The Use of Church Covenants and Confessions
- The ordinances of the Church (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper)
- The High Role of the Pastor as preacher, teacher and shepherd.
- The officers of the Church–pastors (elders) and deacons
These documents help you see how pastors dealt with particular discipline issues in their churches. If you are confused about the polity of your church, this book is a good one. May we trust God to make His bride holy and without spot or wrinkle.