Is Congregational Polity a Baptist Distinctive?

Posted by in Baptist Life

One of the speakers at the 2008 Pastors Conference in Indy stated that his church had not had a business meeting in two years. When someone asked him about it, he asked “Is the church still here? Are the lights still on? Do we still have baptisms?” This megachurch pastor seemed proud that his church did not exercise congregational polity.

In section VI of BFM2K, it states:
A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” (emphasis mine)

It seems to me that more and more SBC churches are moving away from a congregational polity toward other polity models such as pastor-led, staff-led, and elder-led.

How would you describe the polity in your church? When do you bring things before the church for vote and when do you not bring things before the church for a vote? Where do you draw the line between the church voting on something and the pastor, staff, or elders making the decision?