No, actually, I welcome the questions and the comments from what looks like my elder rule and presbyterian friends. So, let me try to sketch out a few reasons why I am a congregationalist.
But first, a couple of caveats.
1. While I think the Scripture is sufficient and tells us everything we need to know about how to organize the local church and how to define relationships between local churches, I don't think what we're told about local church polity is anywhere near exhaustive or extensive or plentiful. The biblical date, imo, is sufficient but it's also slight.
2. I don't think polity is a matter that should create acrimony between Christians. Practically speaking, it is a matter that divides Christians because either you'll organize in some hierarchical, interlocking structure or you won't. You can't be both locally "autonomous" (not sure I like the word or the connotations) and episcopal. But this is not a gospel issue; it's not a fundamental.
3. By congregationalist, I don't mean American-styled democracy where it's one-man one-vote on every issue. So, when I use the term I'm not insisting that there is a vote on everything or that there is no appointed leadership and decision-making beyond or apart from the congregation. I certainly affirm the leadership and authority of a plurality of elders in a local church body. That's part of the apostolic practice, but that's not the whole of the apostolic practice.
So, a couple of reasons why I am a congregationalist.
First, because Jesus was a congregationalist. I guess I should elaborate on that point, huh?
In Matthew 18:15-17, the Lord gives an outline of "steps" to be followed in the case of private offenses. If one brother sins against another, there is a process for reconciliation and restoration to be followed, the end of which is the entire church hearing the matter, addressing the person, and treating the person as a tax collector should the person remain unrepentant. The last line of defense, if you will, is the congregation--not the elders or a synod or bishop located elsewhere. The local congregation adjudicates.
In the example of scandalous public sin in 1 Corinthians 5, the apostle Paul writes to the congregation and exhorts the congregation--not the elders or a regional body--to "hand the man over to Satan" and "put the man out of the fellowship." It's the congregation that acts decisively in this matter of discipline. They take this action, at the apostle's instruction, "when [they] are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 4). It's the local assembly that takes this action. Second Corinthians 2:6-7 refers "to the punishment inflicted by the majority," indicating that the disciplinary action was taken by a majority of the congregation in Corinth. Whether 2 Corinthians refers to the same incident addressed in 1 Cor. 5 is immaterial. In fact, if 2 Corinthians addresses a different incident, it only strengthens the case for congregational responsibility in matters of discipline and membership.
So in these passages it's clear that the congregation takes the final and decisive action in membership and discipline, including a vote of some form in 2 Cor. 2. Both the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul teach this. So, this is reason one for me: Jesus and the Apostle Paul instruct local congregations to handled matters of discipline and membership.
Tomorrow, D.V., another brief point.