Luther G. Roberts
That emphasis needs again to be given to the subject of "Scriptural Organization" is evident by the many organizations that brethren have formed and continue to form that are unscriptural. Here in the Northwest section of the United States various churches have formed a "Steering Committee" in Seattle, Washington to conduct the affairs of the churches. It was reported in the minutes of a meeting of the "Steering Committee" held April 18, 1964" that "the minutes of the last meeting have been read and approved by the following congregations: Bellevue, Central, King Street, Federal Way, and Northwest. Other participating congregations need to send in their word of approval."
In that meeting some "decisions" were reached by the Committee for the churches, and it is reported that "It was agreed that we suggest that a checking account be set up by the finance committeeunder the title churches of Christit is also requested that all those congregations send at least one third of their proposed contribution to 1319 N. 192nd St., to the churches of Christ in care of Earl Dudman." The Steering Committee has control of this money and appointed two men to have oversight of this account under said committee.
An organization in religion to be scriptural must be authorized in the New Testament. There is no organization of churches of Christ revealed in the New Testament. Only local churches were organized according to the inspired record. When man organizes two or more congregations into one organization under one head he forms a religious denomination. To organize an association or organization composed of men from various churches to act for the churches is unscriptural, that is, it is not authorized in the Scriptures. A local church of Christ, composed of "all the saints in Christ Jesus that are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons," (Phil. 1:1) is the only type of church organization found in the New Testament, and any other kind of religious organization is, therefore, unscriptural. Churches of Christ as revealed in the New Covenant were independent, self-governing bodies under Christ, which when organized had men as overseers, who were called bishops, elders or pastors, and other men who served as deacons. These men with the other members of the congregation constituted the whole of the organization of the church of the Lord.
The word "church" in the New Testament is used in two senses, generally speaking. One use is in referring to the saved in the aggregate or the redeemed universally; the other refers to the saved in a particular locality. A denomination in religion is an organization larger than a local church, and smaller than the church in the universal sense of the term. N. B. Hardeman said, "What is a denomination? It is a religious organization larger than a local church, smaller than the redeemed in the aggregate. Therefore, it comes in between, separate and distinct from, the church of the Bible at both ends of the line" (Hardeman's Tabernacle Sermons, Vol. I, p. 226). Reuel Lemmons said, "God has provided for the organization of local congregations of Christians. This is the only unit of organization in the scriptures. God is silent regarding the organization of any unit within a congregation and smaller than the congregation. He is likewise silent regarding the organization of any unit larger than the local congregation, and through which whole congregations may work to carry out the Mission of the church" (Firm Foundation, Vol. 73, page 210).
With this simple organization the gospel was preached to the entire world in the first century (Col. 1:6,23). The local church was also, the organization that cared for its own needy, and when the need arose, sent to the necessities of poor saints in other churches (Acts 6:1-6; 11:27-30; 1 Cor. 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 8, 9; Rom. 15:25-27). Jesus Christ is the only head of the church and of all things to the church (Eph. 1:22,23). This means that Christ has all authority over the church and that the church must be subject to him (Eph. 5:23, 24). The apostles of Christ are the only ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). They had no successors. They rule the churches through their decisions handed down under the direction of the Holy Spirit and revealed in the New Testament by men guided by the Holy Spirit when they wrote it. There is no appeal from these decisions.
"God spelled out a plan for his people to organize themselves into congregations; and described clearly the work to be done by these congregations in proclaiming the gospel to the whole human race.... The local congregation working through its elders, overseers, is to select, send, support, and supervise evangelists. It would be unscriptural for any other agency other than the local congregations to undertake to do this work." (Athens Clay Pullias in Where There Is No Pattern, April 25, 1957, page 6). Another wrote, "The church is the Only organization authorized to discharge the responsibilities of the Lord's people. When brethren form organizations independently of the church to do the work of the church, however worthy their aims and righteous their designs, they are engaged in that which is sinful." "It" (the New Testament church), "is the only charitable organization that the Lord authorizes or that is needed to do the work the Lord expects his people today to do." (Annual Lesson Commentary, Gospel Advocate Co., 1946, page 338, 340.)
"Every New Testament church was a complete body within itself and was independent of all other churches. No church had any authority over any other. The work of the elders stopped at the church in which they lived and labored. The elders had no authority to take charge of the missionary money or any other money or means of any church except the one over which they were 'overseers.' Each church was complete within and of itself." . . . "Churches should never be tied together, even in as good work as preaching the gospel to the heathens. Elders of one church should not try to get hold of the money that has been contributed by others to direct for them in foreign fields or other places. No missionary society should be started by the elders of a church or by any individual. We should have no one-man missionary society. Churches should not be tied together to support schools or homes for the aged or for any other purpose." (F. B. Srygley, Gospel Advocate, Vol. 49, p. 1500).
TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 2, pp. 9-10 November 1965