Non-Church Organizations and "Liberals"
Our Internet work takes us
far and wide and we encounter many issues.
Regarding issues, all issues, there are gradations and various stages of
progression. Many within so called "conservative churches of
Christ" are observing the beginning stages of the
privately supported institutions to preach the gospel
issue. More advanced stages can be observed among groups where the
practice of non-church entities have been an unchallenged
practice for a time. Many of you have noticed that one justification for
these societies and foundations, not local churches but providing the
corporate and collective climate, having a President, board of directors,
and treasury, in and through which Christians pool their resources to preach the
gospel, is "Individuals do not need authority, only the church is under the
restriction of authority." In actively dealing with the privately funded
matter since the seventies, I have heard the "...no need for authority" many
times, usually after all the other attempted justification has failed. As
to gradation, I have observed that when the "No authority for individuals thus
functioning..." is offered, the progression of these privately funded
institutions is well underway. In reality, these institutions are, when
fully formed, nothing short of privately funded missionary societies. One
with whom I had a debate, when asked about privately funded missionary societies
answered (question and answer inserted):
Yes, if it were possible for a missionary society (MS) to function without interfering with the work of local churches."
In debating and conducting dialogue with those more advanced than some presently "among us," I have noticed a number of vestiges of their "Individuals not under authority" argument. In their privately funded orders, when questioned about certain things, their standard reply was, "We do not have to have authority, we are not a church." In reality, even this argument among them is seldom heard today as most of them now believe authority is not binding in any circumstance.
A while back, a preacher whom I knew mentioned how much they had enjoyed certain quartets and choir singing, along with mechanical music accompaniment. I inquired about his reference and it was something similar to our "privately funded orders." I pressed him regarding vocal music being taught and thus mechanical music being excluded and his reply was, "We were not acting as the church, but our own order to receive edification; therefore, I do not have to provide authority for the presence of quartets, choirs, and mechanical instruments in the singing of spiritual songs!" (Cp. Eph. 5: 19.)
Several years ago, we received an announcement from another progressive group, wanting us to announce and attend their special area activity. I read the material regarding their retreat and noticed two things of special interest:
1). They explained that their "retreat" was not part of the church, but was a privately funded matter, an edification entity.
2). They mentioned that one feature of their retreat was the presence of a well known female speaker. They further explained that this female speaker would be addressing both men and women and that her theme would be "The Gospels."
When I contacted them as to their authority for having a female preacher addressing a gender mixed audience of adults, their reply was, "We do not have to have authority, if you had carefully read our invitation, you would have noticed that we are not the church, but a privately funded group." (Cp. I Tim. 2: 12f.)
Concerned brethren, we are marching faster and faster toward some of the practices mentioned in the above. In one of my last debates on privately funded orders in which Christians come together to do the work God has assigned to his collectivity, the local church, I asked my disputant the question are mechanical instruments of music allowed in the foundation worship, since these orders do not have to have authority for their existence or practice, and the answer was never given. In order to be consistent, the answer must be, "Yes, they are allowed" or, "They are not forbidden."
The only way we can preclude what is coming is to simply return to the Bible. All we read in the New Testament as far as corporate or collective work is that Christians worked in and through the local church in preaching the gospel (I Tim. 3: 15, Acts 13: 1f.). They were content with this arrangement and in having the specified oversight of elders and the
financial means of the church treasury (Acts 14: 23, I Pet. 5: 2f., I Cor. 16: 1, 2). The early Christians knew that they were subject to biblical authority in all capacities. Peter taught, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God" (I Pet. 4: 11).
We call upon all to return to God and his ways. Forsake man's wisdom and man's creations. Error is not only wrong in its original state, but it is progressive, as seen in the above. I have seen the error of the privately funded matter and I have seen where it leads. Let us not only avoid such, but also warn and admonish those who are captivated by man's thinking and schemes.
Addendum: Most who are aware of the various stages of different churches of Christ especially those designated as progressive or liberal, know that these churches do not even attempt to offer any authority justification for what they believe or practice, either individually or as a church. Some of them started out just as we are observing today with those who are opposed to church sponsored (treasury) societies by arguing the "Individual is not subject to authority." Since they claimed that as individuals and then "Individuals functioning within the climate of a foundation," had no need for authority, they introduced many innovations into their privately funded orders. They have now progressed to say, "Even functioning as a church, we do not have to have Bible authority." Some contend, "If the elders promote it, it is permissible, it matters not what is taught in the scriptures." Some have moved to such concepts as "Grace only" and "To press for authority is legalistic." History is one of the primary indicators of the future. Hence, I predict it will only be a matter of time before we will within our "own ranks" be seeing more impetus toward "Grace only" and in general, "...authority is legalism."