I have come to love James MacDonald, senior pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago area. And he will never care what I have to say, but for those who may be on the fringe on what type of church government is most biblical, I will just say a few things. First, you should read his post on church government. In response:
- he made clear that he is responding to a certain prevailing form of congregational life (we might call “hyper-congregationalism”), where business meetings are forums for church “members” to air out all their dirty laundry and every one feels like they have a God-given right to speak their mind and make motions and vote on EVERYTHING. This type of church follows American/western Individualism more than the Bible. MacDonald uses very strong language, but with him I agree that this type of government is wrong.
- I am starting to be a nitpicker for what I consider bad argumentation. MacDonald at one point says there is “not a shred of biblical evidence for a congregation voting.” Just because you use the word “shred” to add to your argument does not make you more right. I agree with him that voting is not explicitly stated, but that in itself does not mean the first century church never voted. MacDonald’s handling of Matthew 18, Acts 6, and 2 Corinthians 2 (he may have since removed these references from the blog post) is plausible, but not air tight. He assumes elders are the ones with the final authority in both Matt 18 and Acts 6, but that is certainly not what the text says in Matthew 18 and, let’s face it, it is the Apostles present in Acts 6, not elders who are in charge.
- So many more things I want to say, but all in all, James MacDonald’s view of elder-governed/congregational-accountability is not that different from what I would consider the biblical model of elder-led/congregationally-governed. I think in many cases who you consider the final authority makes a difference, but I do think in most cases, as long as you see elders as the leaders/teachers/pastors/overseers, and as long as you see the congregation as a source of accountability (Galatians 1.8-9), it would not make much of a difference. I would say that, depending on what you mean by “congregational”, congregational government is absolutely biblical (Matthew 16.18-19).