Baptist Directory: church officers

Baptist Directory: church officers

Chapter four of The New Directory for Baptist Churches addresses the issue of church officers.

The case is made for the simplicity of the issue, that the number of offices is two: pastor and deacon.

Pastors are at times called elders and bishops. These are all in reference to the same office. To make this argument, he appeals to church history, the writings of the church fathers, and ultimately to the Scriptures. All other systems of more complicated hierarchy developed over time and are not rooted in the scriptures.

He covers the nature of the pastor’s work, calling, authority, and support.

Deacons attend to “whatever temporal affairs may require attention” within the church. They are servants who assist the pastor and free him from these concerns to give himself primarily to the Word and prayer.

Other officers are simply those necessary to the functioning of the church as a legal body, and these offices hold no church authority other than that they may be held by the deacons. These offices include such things as: clerk, treasurer, trusties, etc.

Overall, this chapter is straightforward and offers nothing that should be considered controversial by any baptist.

Baptist Directory: church membership

Baptist Directory: church membership

Chapter three of The New Directory for Baptist Churches deals with the subject of church membership.

He only briefly addresses the question of the necessity of, and biblical basis for, membership. Then he quickly moves on to list four conditions of membership.

  1. A regenerate heart
  2. A professed faith
  3. A reception of baptism
  4. A Christian deportment

In recent years there has been a movement within certain evangelical circles suggesting that unbelievers need to feel a sense of belonging to the church before they actually believe. These churches wouldn’t necessarily extend membership to these unbelievers, but they tend to place a very low priority on membership to begin with. In contrast with this idea however, Hiscox says,

Their theory is, that within the church regeneration and salvation are to be found, rather than before entering it. By this practice the holy and the profane are brought into unseemly fellowship in the body of Christ, the broad distinction between the church and the world is diminished or obliterated, the salt loses its savor, and the city set on a hill to that extent is god, and ceases to be a monument of grace to men.

Under number 4, he suggests some time be allowed to observe a new convert’s life before baptism and membership.

If they still choose their old companions, find pleasure in their old pursuits of worldliness, are captivated with the vanities and frivolities of life, to say no more, who could believe that any vital and radical change by grace had passed upon the soul?

Sadly, this practice of proving a person’s confession seems to have been lost. Now, people are commonly admitted to membership with no proof of a changed heart.

He goes on to discuss the means and methods of admitting members by letter of transfers.

And likewise, the modes of dismissing a member by letter or by discipline.

The chapter concludes with 14 notes concerning how to conduct meetings and votes on these matters.

Baptist Directory: A Christian Church

Baptist Directory: A Christian Church

This second chapter makes the case for what a church is and is not, what authority a church has, how a church should be constituted, and how one might be dissolved.

After detailing the use of the word “church” and its Greek roots, and distinguishing between the universal and local churches, the author moves on the the definition of a true church.

To show the unity of virtually all Christian communions throughout history he quotes from every major confession regarding what a church is. He quotes the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican Church, the Augsburg Confession of the Lutherans, the Helvetic Confession of the continental reformed, the Belgic Confession, the Westminster Confession, the 1st London Baptist Confession (1643), and the 2nd London Baptist Confession (1689).

Having defined the church, he moves on to a discussion of the marks of a true church. These he defines as unity, holiness, catholicity, apostolicity, and perpetuity. To which he adds “the preaching of the pure Word of God, and the right administration of the sacraments.” Though he acknowledges these to have reference “rather to the action of the Church’s life, than to the substance of that life” and does not return to them.

As to his five marks, he shows that in each case they do not mean what the Roman Church would claim they do. For example, looks at what he says concerning apostolicity.

But the true apostolicity consists not in succession, but in possession; for they who possess and exhibit the doctrines, the spirit and the life of the Apostles, have right to claim this mark of a true gospel church.

I won’t belabor the rest of the chapter, other than to point out one interesting tidbit which came under the section concerning the comity of churches.

No member has a right to vote in the meeting of any Church but his own, or even to be present at such a meeting, or participate in the Communion except by invitation and as a matter of courtesy.

I’m sure there will be more to say on this subject in the chapter dealing directly with the ordinance of the Supper.

Baptist Directory: Propositions and Statements

Baptist Directory: Propositions and Statements

This introductory chapter consists of 13 propositions followed by 8 distinctive statements of baptist doctrine.

The 13 propositions cover topics such as the authority of scripture, religious freedom, separation of church and state, autonomous church government, etc.

The 8 statements then distinguish Baptists from other Christian denominations. Most are not surprising at all, but the final two had points of interest.

Since these statements are a decent summary of the distinctions between baptists and other protestants, I will list them all, but then offer some quotes from the final two.

Statement 1: regenerate church membership.

Statement 2: baptism by immersion.

Statements 3-5: proper subjects for baptism, communion, and church membership.

Statement 6: autonomous church government.

Statement 7: church officers.

This is where it starts to get interesting.

Baptist’s hold that they are two; pastors and deacons: besides these, there are no others. They assert that bishop and elder in the primitive churches were identical in office and authority, being pastors when holding the superintendence of churches, and evangelists when preaching from place to place; and that ruling and teaching elders were not, and properly should not be, distinct and separate offices in the churches. Consequently bishops are not a superior order of the clergy, nor ruling elders an order distinct from teaching elders.

What this statement does, is establish a simple, two office order of church government. By equating pastor, elder, and bishop as the same office and distinguishing pastor and evangelist as separate functions, but not offices, this statement rejects all episcopal type church organization, be it the Episcopalian denomination, the charismatic designation of bishop as greater than pastor, or simply a multi site model with a pastor who holds authority over more than one congregation.

It likewise rejects the Presbyterian model of distinguishing teaching and ruling elders and essentially creating a three office system.

Statement 8: doctrinal beliefs.

Here is a list of beliefs which are not really that distinctive or controversial. However, the opening line is quite interesting given the current state of doctrine in evangelical churches in America.

In doctrine, Baptist’s agree very nearly with other evangelical Christians. They are what is usually called Calvinistic, as opposed to Arminian views of free-will and the sovereignty of grace.

This statement was probably meant to distinguish between Baptists and Wesleyan groups. Interestingly, the author asserts that all Baptists are “usually” Calvinistic. While true at the time, it is certainly not usual now.

In appendix A on creeds and confessions, he lists a number of historic baptist confessions and tells their history and connection to one another. They are all Calvinistic. Actually, they go beyond a simple Calvinistic soteriology to establish a fully Reformed, covenant theology.

Oh that modern day Baptists would recover the doctrinal foundations their forefathers once held so dear!

The New Directory for Baptist Churches

The New Directory for Baptist Churches

I picked this little book up some time ago at a used book store and I’m just now getting around to reading it. First published in 1859, this edition was the 25th printing of the final 1894 updated edition.

Published by Judson Press (originally the Baptist General Tract Society), this directory came out shortly after the Southern Baptists left the Triennial Convention in 1845. The Triennial Convention was reorganized as the Northern Baptist Convention in 1907 and renamed in 1972 as American Baptist Churches USA. My understanding is that this directory was still in use among Northern Baptist churches as late as the 1950’s.

There are 18 chapters and 6 appendixes.

Since I find this sort of thing interesting, I’ll be sharing excerpts and summaries from it for the next 19-20 days (excepting Sundays).

Follow along and let me know what you think in the comments!