Overview of the types of Church government, by Rev. Fosu


We have been looking at the nature of the church with a particular emphasis on the fact that the local Church is both spiritual and human organization. As a human organization, therefore, one of the most important characteristics of the local church is its organizational structure. This study therefore presents an overview of the different forms of Church polity/governance. Generally, there are four major types of Church government. These are the Episcopal, Presbytery, the Roman Catholic and that of the Congregational polity.

a. The Episcopal form of Government is the system of government of the church whereby power is vested in the bishops to oversee cluster of Churches. Examples of the local churches that practice this type of government in Ghana is the Anglican and the Methodist Churches. They are more of centralized system. Thus, their ministers are normally paid from a central fund.

b. The Roman Catholic form of Government is like the Episcopal. Just that they recognize the special role of the pope who serves as the head of the Roman Catholic Church universal. Thus, they recognize the role of the Pope, Cardinal, bishops and the priests in charge of the local congregations.

c. The Presbyterian form of Government is also the form of government that power is vested in the number of elders appointed by the Church. Examples of such local Churches in Ghana are the Presbyterian Churches. Thus, they recognize the offices of Pastors and elders in the local Church. The pastor serves as a moderator in the local church.

d. The congregational Church Polity has to do with the democratic system of government. Here, as the name suggests, it is congregational in nature, meaning every local church is autonomous. This means every local church is to govern itself, financially support itself and propagate itself. Apart from the autonomous nature of such congregations, they also emphasize the need for cooperation with other local cal Churches that practice this system is the Baptist Churches where Amazing Grace Baptist Church belongs. The only offices recognized by this system are the Pastor and deacons and for administrative purposes, Church council or elders in some contexts.

The autonomous nature of the congregational form of government in the New Testament
It is worthy of note that the New Testament churches have at least five easily observable and measurable characteristics that are close to the congregational polity. They are as follows:

i. Self-governing – The new church can make its own decisions under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. (Colossians 1:18)

ii. Self-supporting – The new church can provide for its material needs through the tithes and offerings of the members.

iii. Self-expressing – The New Testament Church expressed itself according to the local culture. This has to do with times of worship and ways of expression in worship. All should be within Biblical guidelines and teachings.

iv. Self-teaching – Each member influences and teaches the other members (Romans 15:14).

v. Self-propagating – The new church will be involved in starting other new churches.

Called to belong to God’s Church, by Rev. John Kwasi Fosu

Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg.

Topical Bible study material on the Local Church and our Christian Calling

This material begins our studies on understanding the local church and our Christian calling. This lesson specifically focuses on understanding the fact that we have been called to belong to God’s Church. Before looking at the meaning of the Church, it is essential to first describe the nature of our calling.

Understanding our Christian calling (Ephesians 1:18)
It is worthy of note that to be a Christian means to belong to God’s church. And to belong to God’s Church means to be called of God. Embedded in the meaning of Church is the idea of divine calling. For the word church is a combination of two Greek words that mean “called out.” Paul, for instance, testified that God called him “by His grace” (Galatians 1:15). And so Paul reminded Timothy that the believer has a “holy calling” (2 Timothy 1:9). We have therefore been “called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9) and have even been “called to glory” (1 Peter 5:10). God calls us by grace and as such it is not because of any merit that we may possess. It is worth emphasizing that this act of divine calling comes with hope (Eph 4:4) thereby assuring us of happy future (1 Peter 1:3).

What is the Church?
From the Biblical perspective, the Church is the body of Baptized believers indwelled by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of worship, edification, evangelism and social concerns. Thus, the Church is not a human property. It is God’s Church, for Jesus said I will build my Church.

The Church as both Universal and local
The Church is described as universal and local and thus the invisible and visible assembly of believers. All who have believed in Jesus and so have been called of God automatically belong to God’s universal or invisible church. That describes all those who have come to faith in Jesus and have their sins forgiven and redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Being part of the universal Church means belonging to the invisible Church. When we talk about invisible Church, it is to express the fact that only God truly knows those who are part of God’s kingdom. Outward description of others as belonging to the universal Church, that is on our part as humans, may not be accurate.

The visible Church and for that matter, a local church is a group of people who have turned from their sins and so placed their full trust in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. Following their new birth, they are baptized to belong to a visible congregation of believers. These individuals continue to meet on a regular basis as members of the family of God. They fellowship in prayer, praise and Bible study for the definite purpose of glorifying Jesus and expanding God’s Kingdom on earth. The ideal biblical pattern (Acts 2:41-42) should be that being part of the invisible church, should precede that of the local church.

The Local Church as both human and spiritual organization
It can therefore be deduced that the church is both spiritual and human organization. If we ignore any one of these aspects we are mistaken and the church will not grow. It is both human (that is physical) organization and Spiritual organization. The balance of the two is necessary for Church growth.

The implication of understanding the Church as spiritual organization, on one hand, is that we are to recognize the pivotal role of the Spirit’s leadership of the Church. As a spiritual organization, therefore, the emphasis of faith, prayer and the administration of the word of God and the ordinances are important.

On the other hand, as human organization, successful planning of the Church is necessary for growth. As human organization, all the essential leadership dynamics such as planning, goal setting, drawing up of programmes, good relationship network as well as balanced strategies in modern way of doing church are to be considered. There is therefore the need for balanced emphasis.

The Christian calling and the nature of the Church are both God’s plans. For the concept of church was born in the mind of God. For Jesus said, “I will build My church…” (Matthew 16:18).

1. What does it mean to be called by God?
2. Is it possible for one to be a true Christian without belonging to a local Church? Give reasons for your answer.
3. State three main purposes of the Church.
4. What is the difference between an invisible Church and local Church?
5. Identify three implications from the fact that the Church is both human and spiritual organization.