An Examination of Baptist Polity

By Jeff Straub

Evangelicalism has been plagued in recent days by several well-known cases of ministerial malfeasance. Larger-than-life pastors have been terminated from churches over accusations of moral failure, sexual deviance, alcoholism, and arrogant leadership. No church is ultimately immune from trials of this sort, as churches are led by sinners. Our pastors are sinful, our elders (if we have them) are sinful, our deacons, our Sunday School teachers, yea, even our missionaries are sinful individuals, all in desperate need of the sanctifying work of Jesus Christ. Moreover, our congregants are sinful. We live in a sin-filled world that too often infects and affects the church.

Admitting this reality is the first step in walking circumspectly as individuals and congregations. Churches are hospitals for the broken and battered by sin. Well they should be. Where else would someone go for the balm of Gilead? Churches ought to be the very places sinners can go for instruction, encouragement, and even rebuke. But in the process of dealing with sinners, we church leaders need to strive to protect our assemblies from the sin that infects them and us.

Sadly, some in church leadership have allowed their sinful nature to turn into sinful actions that have affected their churches. Pastors get angry and sin. Church members suffer abusive behavior. Pastors face temptation and succumb to the temptation, discrediting themselves, their churches, and their Lord. How are Baptist congregations to cope with these calamities, especially in the light of the #MeToo movement? How do Baptist churches who believe in congregationalism handle ministerial sin?