We believe that the Bible teaches us that the local church is led by a plurality of elders (Acts 14:23) in an overall context of congregational rule (Matt 18:15-17; Acts 15:22), with deacons serving in physical and financial areas of church life (Acts 6:1-7; 1Tim 3:8-13). Thus, we identify with the historic stream of Protestantism represented in the Baptists.
We do not believe that the congregation should be the final arbiter on every particular matter. However, we do think that the Bible specifies the congregation as the final court of appeal in four specific areas.
Doctrine. Paul tells the whole congregation at Galatia to consider accursed anyone who preaches a different gospel than his (Gal 1:6-9). He also tells Timothy that congregations are the ones responsible for gathering to themselves “teachers in accordance with their own desires” (2Tim 4:3). Therefore, while the elders are to lead the congregation into right doctrine, the congregation has a built in “safety valve” if the elders begin to teach things contrary to the faith once delivered to the saints.
Dispute. Jesus says in Matthew 18:15-17 that that if a brother sins and he does not repent after being confronted privately by one or two brothers, to bring the matter publicly to the church (not to the elders). The elders should, indeed, lead the congregation in the discipline process, but that discipline is brought to the bar of the congregation, not merely to the elders.
Discipline. Paul tells the whole church of Corinth, in 1Cor 5:1-13, to assemble themselves together (5:4) to deliver the sinning brother over to Satan. They are all responsible to “purge the evil person from among you” (5:13).
Membership. Once that same brother from 1Cor 5 is disciplined, it appears to Paul in 2Cor 2:6 that “the punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him.” In other words, the punishment was inflicted by the majority of the members, and the members are now responsible as a whole congregation to once again treat him as a believer by taking him back into the membership of the church.