We have been looking at the nature of the church with a particular emphasis on the fact that the local Church is both spiritual and human organization. As a human organization, therefore, one of the most important characteristics of the local church is its organizational structure. This study therefore presents an overview of the different forms of Church polity/governance. Generally, there are four major types of Church government. These are the Episcopal, Presbytery, the Roman Catholic and that of the Congregational polity.
a. The Episcopal form of Government is the system of government of the church whereby power is vested in the bishops to oversee cluster of Churches. Examples of the local churches that practice this type of government in Ghana is the Anglican and the Methodist Churches. They are more of centralized system. Thus, their ministers are normally paid from a central fund.
b. The Roman Catholic form of Government is like the Episcopal. Just that they recognize the special role of the pope who serves as the head of the Roman Catholic Church universal. Thus, they recognize the role of the Pope, Cardinal, bishops and the priests in charge of the local congregations.
c. The Presbyterian form of Government is also the form of government that power is vested in the number of elders appointed by the Church. Examples of such local Churches in Ghana are the Presbyterian Churches. Thus, they recognize the offices of Pastors and elders in the local Church. The pastor serves as a moderator in the local church.
d. The Congregational Church Polity has to do with the democratic system of government. Here, as the name suggests, it is congregational in nature, meaning every local church is autonomous. This means every local church is to govern itself, financially support itself and propagate itself. Apart from the autonomous nature of such congregations, they also emphasize the need for cooperation with other local Churches that practice this system is the Baptist Churches where Amazing Grace Baptist Church belongs. The only offices recognized by this system are the Pastor and deacons and for administrative purposes, church council or elders in some contexts.
The autonomous nature of the congregational form of government in the New Testament
It is worthy of note that the New Testament churches have at least five easily observable and measurable characteristics that are close to the congregational polity. They are as follows:
i. Self-governing – The New Testament Church can make its own decisions under the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18)
ii. Self-supporting – The New Testament Church can provide for its material needs through the tithes and offerings of the members.
iii. Self-expressing – The New Testament Church expressed itself according to the local culture. This has to do with times of worship and ways of expression in worship. All should be within Biblical guidelines and teachings.
iv. Self-teaching – Each member influences and teaches the other members (Romans 15:14).
v. Self-propagating – The New Testament Church will be involved in starting other new churches.
Thank you Doc. for your commitment to educate church leaders and pastors for the work of ministry. May the Almighty enlarge the territory and coast of your ministry!