Word of the Week

A Congregational Church

Baptists are a crazy bunch. Just because you know one doesn't mean you know them all.  We tend to think that we are a little less crazy than most at WPBC, but I digress.

There's a set of standard principles that make us unique (this is where types of Baptists like the Southern Baptists drive me crazy because they've seem to have forgotten this).  The list includes:

-separation of church and state (politics and religion don't mix in worship)

-priesthood of all believers (we can pray directly to God and interpret scriptures as individuals)

-believer's baptism (we don't baptize infants, but confessing Christians as older children, teens or adults)

And the one that trumps them all is autonomy of the local church. Each church community has the rights to make its own decisions, elect its own leaders and plan its services as the community thinks is best.  And, thus, no larger Baptist group can tell a local church who it can hire, what it can read, etc.

At Washington Plaza, we seek to faithfully live by these historic Baptist principles. We do better at some of these than others. Overall, though, we seek to govern ourselves as a congregational church.

Many begin to wonder if the pastor of a local congregational church is the chief decision maker for the congregation since there is not pope or bishop to report to? When many meet a pastor for the first time, it is usually assumed that they are the "head" of the church, functioning like a CEO over an organization.

While this is true in some churches of large membership and those that call dictator like leaders, in the Baptist church this is not true (or shouldn't be true). Pastors don't rule the church any more than any of the members do. Based on the idea of the priesthood of all believers, we believe that all members should be included in important church matters. We hold congregational meetings a couple of times a year where votes are taken on decisions that shape the church priorities, goals and financial resources. 

So, am I the chief boss? No.  Do I have a boss? Yes, I have an entire congregation. They all hired me and I guess if they wanted to, they could all fire me one day if they felt I was not longer a good fit for the congregation.

It is impractical though to think that every church member would weigh in on every issue. We all lead busy lives and we'd get nothing done if no one had the authority to do anything on their own. This is why the congregation calls a pastor and elects church leaders to guide ministries within the church.  On any given week, I'm consulting daily with church leaders (the trustees, the chief lay leader: the moderator, and other members of the church council). I never make decisions or speak on behalf of the church without consulting with the lay leaders first. Washington Plaza is OUR church, not mine. Together we make plans about upcoming activities, projects and services. We pray God's discernment is present in our leadership and that the decisions we make are in the best interest of the congregation (because we know if they aren't, we'll hear about it!)

However, this does not mean I am without a role. Though I'm not the CEO, I recognize the weight of the position I have. There are countless ways to lead even when you aren't "in charge." I represent a lot of really fabulous folks as the pastor of Washington Plaza and seek to do my best each week to spend my time in away that best serves them and the community.

In a week, if you are affiliated with Washington Plaza, you'll be receiving a mailing about our stewardship campaign this year. I ask that when you receive this brochure you'll carefully review it and consider what God might be calling you do in the upcoming year with your gifts of time and finances to the church. This is what being a congregational church is all about: we must ALL do OUR part. We'd cease to be a church without it, no joke.