<font face=arial>Dear Brothers and Sisters:
The Change Movement has infected many of our mission outposts. Today's lesson is my response to a proposal by some brethren in Ghana to create a national organization to manage the affairs of the churches. The points of my lesson respond to specific things they are proposing. Please share this with other saints.
- <font size=4> OBSERVATIONS ON A PROPOSAL BEING MADE TO CHURCHES OF CHRIST IN GHANA </font>
<font size=3 face=times new roman>Christ established but one church (Matt. 16:18). We refer to it as the Church of Christ (Rom. 16:16), because it belongs to him. He purchased it with his blood (Acts 20:28). It is his bride (Eph. 5:23). Christ's church is worldwide in its outreach and existence. While the church of Christ in different nations will speak a different language, its members might wear a different style of clothing, its meeting places may conform to local architectural styles, the message, worship and organization of the church must of necessity be the same in every nation. The only way that can occur is if all Christians in every nation subscribe to and honor the same sacred blueprint and pattern for the church (II Tim. 1:13).
Christ is head over all things to his church (Eph. 1:22). His Apostles were chosen and empowered to set the church in order in her beginning days. They were guided by the Holy Spirit which brought to their remembrance all that Christ had taught (John 14:26). The things they taught were the commandments of the Lord (I Cor. 14:37). When the Apostles died, there were no divinely chosen successors to take their place. Instead, the churches had the inspired writings of the Apostles and prophets to guide them (Eph. 2:19-21). Today, we like them have no other authority or guide save the teachings of Christ and the Apostles recorded in our New Testament. We need nothing else as they are sufficient to guide us into all the truth (II Pet. 1:3-4).
From that inspired and authoritative Word we learn that no human organization was provided for his church beyond that of elders, deacons and preachers in each local church (Acts 14:23; Phil. 1:1). With the New Testament to guide them, each congregation is fully sufficient and able to conduct its own business. We need no citywide, statewide, national or international organization to manage our congregational affairs and govern our churches. To create such an organization is wrong on several counts:
- It is presumptuous to attempt to change the government of Christ's church. Woes are pronounced on those who add to or take from His Word (Rev. 22:18-19).
- To do so is to act without divine authority. Christ told the apostles to teach converts to observe all things that he had commanded (Matt. 28:20). But he did not order any government greater than that of the local congregation.
- We have no right to do that which Scripture does not authorize. When Jewish Christians sought to make Gentile brethren be circumcised and keep the ordinances of Moses' Law, the Apostles and elders wrote, "We have heard that certain who went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls; to whom we gave no commandment" (Acts 15:24). There is not commandment for any governing organization beyond the local church.
- History demonstrates that when such an organization is created, in time it will come to dominate and control the churches that fall under its influence. But only Christ is the head of his church (Eph. 1:22).
- Efforts to create governing bodies larger than the local church will result in division among God's people. For those who honor and respect the Bible can have nothing to do with such a human organization. Those who create and promote it will bear the responsibility for this harm to the cause for which our Lord died (Rom. 16:17-18).
- Misguided brethren in America created a similar organization in 1849. At first they called it the American Christian Missionary Society. It caused division. When you read of or see Christian Churches and Disciples of Christ, they were once our brethren, but they preferred their Missionary Society to the fellowship of those who would not for Scriptural reasons accept it. In time, the society gave birth to a benevolent society, a society for building church buildings, one to provide for aged preachers, one for Bibles, tracts and literature, one for Sunday schools, societies for women and others for children, a temperance society, and one for higher education. Today, it is has grown into an international governing body that owns and controls Disciples of Christ churches. We must learn from the mistakes of the past lest we repeat them.
- This desire to have a larger governing body in the third century lead to the eventual development of the Roman Catholic Church with its pope who claimed to be the universal head over all the churches.
<ol>[*]A congregation can choose and send a missionary and other congregations could assist them.
[*]A congregation that has been successful in its work could offer to train other congregations in their methods.
[*]A strong church could provide funds to a weak church to help them get a meeting place.
[*]A strong church could adopt and care for a sick or aged gospel preacher.
[*]A strong church could invite leaders of other congregations to discuss ways to carry the gospel to unevangelized sections of your country or other nations.
[*]A strong church or a brother of means could publish materials suitable for Bible study. They could offer these lessons to others who could purchase what they need.
[*]A strong church or an individual could publish a newspaper for the churches in Ghana that would carry news reports that would help brethren keep in touch and up to date on what was transpiring in other places.
[*]Elders and preachers can have a weekly or monthly fellowship meeting. They can encourage each other and inform each other of what is being done in their work. But they have no right nor business in making rules for others to keep or trying to exercise authority over anyone.
[*]All of these items can be done efficiently and scripturally without creating an organization that would be over the churches . . . and without God's approval. This we know for we have been doing it successfully for generations.
[/list]Some things we have no right to do if we wish to please our Lord Jesus.
<ol>[*]No one has a scriptural right to demand that all Christian women or young people must wear a certain kind or color of clothing, whether for worship or for daily life. Leaders of cults have such rules as they lord it over their flocks. We are not to lord it over the sheep of God (I Pet.5:2-3). We should teach them to dress modestly as Paul instructed, but beyond that we cannot go (I Tim. 2:9).
[*]No Christian or congregation should be fellowshipping with denominational bodies or encouraging others to do so. Amos rightly ask, "Shall two walk together, except they have agreed?" (Amos 3:3). Paul asks "what communion hath light with darkness?" He then says, "Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate saith the Lord" (II Cor. 6:14, 17). John teaches us that "whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching Christ, hath not God . . . If anyone cometh unto you, and bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house, and give him no greeting: for he that giveth him greeting partaketh in his evil works" (II John 9-11). Those who fellowship with those who teach and practice error are like those who go into the presence of a man who has a contagious disease. They are easily infected with the disease of error.
[*]No faithful preacher of the gospel will seek to usurp the authority of the elders of Christ's church. God has ordained that elders, not preachers, are to oversee the flock (Acts 20:28; I Pet. 5:1-2). Our job as preachers is to teach the gospel to Christians and sinners alike (II Tim. 4:1-2). We are servants, not rulers (Matt. 20:26-27). We serve under the oversight of our elders. We must beware of those men who like Diotrophes love to have the preeminence among the brethren (III John 9).
[/list]I encourage every child of God to remember the brethren who first brought the gospel to you. They taught you truth and righteousness. Remember the lessons you have learned from God's Word about the matters discussed above. Paul marveled that Christians in Galatia were "so quickly removing from him that called (them) in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; which is not anther gospel . . . " It was a perversion of the true gospel (Gal. 1:6). Remember Paul's warning , "the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith . . . through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies . . . " (I Tim. 4:1-2). Fifty years of sacrifice and success can be swept away in a few years if brethren compromise their faith and allow men to introduce changes to the faith, worship and organization of the church which Jesus did not authorize.
May God bless each one of you and the churches you serve and may you be steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (I Cor. 15:58).
For 50 years, a servant of Christ.</font>
John Waddey, Editor
Christianity: Then and Now