January 21, 2024


There are a variety of ways to do church. One way is called the episcopal system. With that pattern, there is one person on the top who has ultimate authority. That persons makes the decisions and speaks for the entire group. The RCC, for example, is episcopal in how they operate the church; authority extends from the top down.

Another way of doing church is Presbyterian. In that system, the church selects representatives, and they oversee the operation of the church. A small group of elders administrate all the business of the church. The only influence individual members have is to elect their representatives. Beyond that, individual members have little authority; the elders take care of everything. Authority is spread among a few leaders.

The other way of doing church is congregational. Under this format, the members of the church cooperate together to make the major decisions for the church. The church operates itself; the people make all the major decisions. Individual members under this system have considerable influence in the decision-making process of the church because members must cooperate to get anything done. Authority is spread throughout the whole congregation.

Which of these systems is most biblical? No doubt, supporters of each system argue that their way is biblical. The RCs and the Anglicans would probably say that the episcopal system is most loyal to the biblical model (although most RCs and Anglicans don’t see the Bible as their highest authority). Presbyterians, no doubt, would claim that their system is most biblical. Baptists, who are mostly congregational in their orientation, would claim that the congregational system is the most biblically faithful.

Today, I’d like to consider what the Bible says about how a church is supposed to organize and operate itself. And in the process, I think we’ll find that the congregational system is thoroughly biblical. Congregationalism has its own set of challenges, but it is a biblical system that serves the church well.

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