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Bapticostal Congregations:

Baptist identity in the 21st century

Interesting piece which leads to a number of observations:
Is it truly surprising that bapticostal churches made up of ex members of the Penticostal/charismatic movement would understand and therefore approve a type of leadership model that they are familiar with over the congregational approach which they may not do?

If the answer is no, then that doesn't suggest a better form of leadership or even more efficient one, only one that they retain from a denomination they have left because they are used to it.

If, as suggested above, church members restrict progress, is it truly down a lack of desire to change or stand still, or is it maybe that the Vision that the church leader offers is actually the wrong one?
It is interesting that the implied suggestion here is that the dynamic leader has it right, yet is unable to convince enough of the congregation to step into that vision in order to get enough church support to see it start. Is that a church vision or a personal one? If the vision is agreed then the minister would be given the authority to work it out by default, he or she shouldn't be in a place where the congregation is holding anything back from them.

Throughout my Christian journey, I have worshiped at Penticostal churches and seen how the leadership operates....and it does. But it can be an us and them approach. People only seem to get listened to if you are have a title of some sort or have a recognised spiritual gift of leadership....which involves having a title such as pastor, prophet ect.

The baptist congregation is different, it isn't an army, it is a family. It doesn't require task masters, it requires a vision that the majority of ordinary people can relate to and be a unified part of. It doesn't need Leaders (in the sense of visionaries that want to act with or without the congregation), but servants that listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit breathed through the opinions of the people that make up the body of the church and as such have their hearts warmed enough to engage with and walk into it as a church.

Is being vibrant ect down to strong leadership? I again suggest a lot of it has to do with being in a grounded relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit. Much of the so called enthusiasm I have seen is more about emotionalism. Talk to a person after they have walked out of church and whether a church is vibrant can be tested at that point. None of us are perfect....but I have groups of 65 years old plus that are running the race of faith just as passionately as when they started.

And they are running it in areas away from the limelight that cannot be seen by others. Strong leadership has very little to do with this. Only encouragement and standing alongside them.

I get the point about the colour of wall paper being a frustration, but my penultimate point is this. If the wall paper colour change is proposed as part of a wider or whole visionary concept then it is not normally a problem because people can see why it needs to be done. If however the change of colour is sold in isolation then there is confusion. For me, true leadership and vision is not about directing change on your own but being able to assist others to see it and the test of whether the vision comes from me or God, is via the Church Congregation. Not the person giving it.

Can both forms of leadership operate within Baptist together...it would seem that they are. But as to will it be good for the church as a whole over time and will the church member continue to have a full valid voice.... This maybe part of a wider question.

As a former London Baptist minister, I have long been aware of this trend. Indeed, it begs the question of what are the distinguishing features of Baptist ecclesiology. Taken to extremes one might even ask if such "non-congregationalist" churches should have been admitted to Association or Union membership.

However there is nothing in the Declaration of Principle which prescribes the form of Church Government (although it is enshrined in the Model Trusts for Church Buildings and in many Trust Deeds for existing churches). One therefore has to ask if Church polity was relatively unimportant to those who formulated the D of P, or because if references to it were omitted because there was a common assumption of what was normative? I suspect the latter!

I am naturally happy that churches from many different "baptistic" traditions should wish to affiliate themselves with our denomination. However it is perhaps true that some serious questions about church governance should have been asked some 20 years ago when these churches first started requesting such affiliation. It's far too late for that; but one must both wonder if one of our distinctives is being eroded and also ask if that matters (or not).
Thank you Israel.
Andrew Kleissner

A few thoughts. It is regrettable that words like "charismatic" and "strong leadership" come to represent something opposite to "congregational" when it comes to how we as local Baptist churches worship and make decisions together. 'Charismatic' surely means that all those who have received the gift of the Spirit have a ministry for the building up of the church including through using gifts of prophecy, wisdom and teaching.

We do not listen to the congregation because they have "rights". We listen, learn and discern together because God may be speaking. Are churches truly charismatic where only the professional preacher and worship leaders are heard and obeyed? And of course strong leaders should not be confused with autocratic leaders. An autocratic leader may be strong but is just as likely to be weak.

We must learn from each other and value the differing cultural revelation we bring. Indeed that is part of hearing God through each other. However in the West there is larger cultural move all of our churches must be aware of.

One of them is that people are less likely to be ready to believe what a leader tells them. Are we preparing our congregations to live as followers of Jesus in the worlds of home, education and work when if we model and tell our people just to take our word for it?
Phil Warburton
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