Each year the FBCR congregation sets aside a few weeks for reflection. We reflect collectively on who we are as a church, and we reflect individually on how we relate to the church at large. From now through Sunday, November 7, 2021 I want to invite our faith community to consider broadly what it means to live in community together. Toward that end, we will highlight nine different facets of community, nine ways by which our community takes shape.
Baptists from the beginning saw what could happen when matters of faith and belief were cast upon people. They understood that belief by coercion was not true belief at all, but simply a mode of control and, ultimately, oppression. In answer they began to experiment with the idea that perhaps individuals had to be trusted with their own beliefs and actions rather than having them handed to them by a hierarchical authority like the government or the church. They also knew though, that on their own, there could be no true encounter of God and no robust mission. They needed one another in community. The community served to pool resources, to hold the beliefs of the community in dynamic tension with one another, to organize their efforts in the world. For Baptists, the local church, became their central organizing principle. Churches worked together in association, yes, but held no authority over one another. In Baptist life denominational authority is granted only by the churches and authority in the churches is granted only by the people of the congregation.
So, what does this have to do with stewardship?
Well, if stewardship means taking stock of what community means and how we care for and serve our community of faith, then recognizing that congregational polity is a part of that means realizing that we all as individuals – that you dear listener – have authority in the congregation. You share that authority with the other members of the FBCR community, but YOU have authority in the decisions made, in the vision set, in all workings and happenings of the church.
Given that you have authority in the workings of the church, here are some things to contemplate:
- If the way that our community of faith shows up in the world is a matter decided by bottom-up, congregational leadership, what does that require of us in terms of dialogue and communication? What does it imply about how we deal with things like conflict and controversy? What does it say about unanimity and unity?
- What does congregational polity suggest about your role in the church?
- Lastly, what does the fact that you are a needed and integral part of the mission and vision of FBCR call you to do? To know a bit more about the way we make decisions? To express an idea? To become involved in leadership? How can you put your knowledge of congregational polity to its most constructive use?