Monday, October 31, 2005

Polity Matters: Part XII: On Polity and Ecclesiastical Movments

G-Harmony is the star of the blog today. In an insightful comment yesterday, he wrote about one potential benefit of a theological movement:
"There are other issues to consider as well for my flock- for instance, if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, my church would have at least some idea where to begin looking for a new pastor- because of who I have encouraged and led us to fellowship with."
Here's my question, and it's strictly that: Has single-pastor polity fed ecclesiastical movements because in the sudden absence of a pastor, congregations have no pastoral leadership structure remaining other than deacons, who may not possess a shepherding mindset or burden? I can think of many reasons why my hypothesis may not be true. If it is true, chalk up one more pragmatic argument (in addition to the exegetical one) for multiple elder-led, congregational polity: its contribution to the obsolescence of the movement mentality.

P.S. G-H, is that a Glamourshot photo?


G-Harmony said...

It is very definitely not a Glamourshot photo. (I'm really not sure how else to respond...)

Let's consider what you say for a moment. I would like to (and eventually will have, I believe) some I could be confident to step in should I be removed from the picture one way or another. The most ideal situation would seem to be a transition in which the succeeding pastor has been "in house"- allowing for a seamless continuation of ministry built on established leadership and trust. However, in my situation, I've been here just two years. The church has been through much turmoil in the course of its history. The congregation is small. Fellowship with other churches has proven to be positive and beneficial for us (and I hope for the other churches we have fellowshipped with as well).

My observation is that can and does happen regardless of specific polity. Congregations who have the (senior) pastor/deacon/congregational government have often had succeeding pastors transition from within (and sometimes, they're not even related! :) ). Case in point- Will Hatfield recently assumed the office of Senior Pastor at Campus Baptist Church in Ames, Iowa. As I understand it, Will was more or less a "homegrown commodity," rising out of the congregation as a product of the outgoing pastor's leadership and ministry efforts.

Multiple elder-led congregations have called men from outside of their congregations to come in and shepherd the flock. Case in point- Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, until recently was pastored by Ed Dobson. He has stepped down due to Lou Gehrig's disease. His church- elder led- is in the process of a nationwide search to replace him. There are leaders in place to help the church navigate through this time- but there also seems to be an expectation that someone from outside the church needs to come in and assume that pastor role.

Something to chew on for you- Rolland McCune observed in a workshop I attended last week that "In a battle, issues are meaningless without a base." I'm still pondering that one.

G-Harmony said...

the original photo...

Dave said...


I believe that you misheard Dr. McCune on that point. It is "issues are useless without a face," not "base." His point is that abstractions don't cut it. He was was talking about identifying errors and the people who propound them.