Pages from the Past . . .
Individual Work in the Church
(EDITOR'S NOTE: The following was originally printed in The Gospel Advocate, July 4th, 1935).
Most of the work Christians are commanded to do is individual work. There is no organization in the church through which very much can be done, except to meet together to teach and be taught and to worship God. The disciples came together upon the first day of the week to break bread, and Paul preached unto them.
The New Testament has no organization through which its members can work except the local congregation. Of course, much of the work of a Christian is, and of a right ought to be, individual work. To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction is pure, practical religion, and can be, and should be, done by individual Christians. Congregations are made up of individuals, and the whole congregation is benefitted by the work of its members.
There is little for the congregation to do as a congregation except to congregate and worship God. The greatest power in the congregation is the power and work of its members, even when they are not congregated. The spirituality of a church consists of the spirituality of its members.
Institutions are established with the expectation of their support by the churches, without any offer of control, unless it be by remote control. Large churches are sometimes advocated, I fear, to give some one or something control over the church when the contribution is accessible. The number of Christians composing a local church is not given in the New Testament, except in the language of Christ when he said: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:20). This passage does not teach how many may be gathered together, but it does teach how few can do it with his approval.
It seems that in small congregations the work of the congregation as a whole can better be thrown on the individual than it can in larger churches. The closer the individual Christian can be brought to the public worship the better for the membership as a whole. What is called the organization of the church, if there is such a thing, is exceedingly simple. The New Testament does not use the word "organize" in connection with the planting of the truth in any locality. The church in the New Testament is represented as a building, but not as an organization. Individual responsibility to God is one thing that is emphasized in the New Testament. Too many people are trying to save others by controlling them rather than by teaching them the gospel and allowing them to be controlled by it. We are servants, even bond servants, to Christ; but we are free men, as far as man is concerned. "We shall be delivered from bondage into the glorious liberty of the children of God." "For why is my liberty judged of another?" On the question of liberty the apostle gives a caution that should not be overlooked: "Take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak."
Truth Magazine I:9, p. 19