Understanding Congregationalism

RON HAMILTON,
CCCC CONFERENCE MINISTER

The theme for the 2020 Annual Gathering is “On This Rock” as we focus on Christ-centered Congregationalism. This is a fitting theme as we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock.

One of the key elements of historic Congregationalism is the use of a church covenant to bind people together in shared life and shared mission. The Cambridge Platform includes these words…

4 PLATFORM OF ECCLESIASTICAL GOVERNMENT.

It was certainly so in the days of the apostles. They prepared materials before they erected churches. They went from place to place and preached the gospel; and as many as professed to believe the gospel and were baptized, and being of a competent number, they formed into a distinct church. But how did they form church and how are churches now to be formed? or what is it that constitutes a number of visible saints a proper church? I answer,

A mutual covenant. It is by confederation, that a number of individual Christians become a visible church of Christ. A number of professing Christians cannot be formed into a church without their freely and mutually covenanting to walk together in all the duties and ordinances of the gospel. They may be real and visible saints, while they remain unconnected and separate; but they cannot be a proper church, without entering into covenant and laying themselves under certain obligations to each other, to live and act like Christians.

Far too often, people characterize Congregationalism as a polity that promotes the individual rights of members to express their opinions by voting on key matters of church life and practice. Congregational voting has its place in our form of government. However, mutual accountability is far more important than individual rights and opinions.

Congregational life is far more effective in churches where people are bound together in covenant. Members seek the will of God together as they agree “to live and act like Christians”. The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus prevail as people seek to discern the will of God together. Mutual covenant is a wonderful part of our heritage that promotes life together and effective ministry in the name of Jesus Christ.

Of Plymouth Plantation