By Roger Shouse
There seems to be a growing segment within the Lord’s body which refuses to acknowledge any accountability except to the Lord himself. Now on the surface this allegiance to Christ seems noble and grand but underneath brews an independent spirit which changes the function and role of the local church. These ‘:free and independent spirits” feel that they can come and go as they please, as frequently or infrequently as the mood hits them, and no one should dare question their actions. How could they, “they are accountable to no one, except the Lord. “
Admonishing and encouragement from the pulpit, from the elders and even in private generates feelings of personal meddling, fires a barrage of criticism about all the problems within the church for several weeks or months. After a period of time, the “free spirits” show up once again without any explanation as to where they have been, with no apologies and with no change in their attitudes about their service. But of course why should they change? They are accountable to no one, except the Lord. They come as they please, they go as they please, they serve the Lord as they please and they will answer to no one.
Although I find more and more folks using this type of reasoning, the Bible shows otherwise. We are accountable and not only to the Lord.
(1) We are accountable to the eldership. The elders are to be my spiritual feeders (1 Pet. 5:2), my overseers (Acts 20:28), my leaders (Heb. 13:17) and my examples (I Pet. 5:3). The Bible teaches that I am to “obey” them (Heb. 13:17). I am accountable to be fed, to be overseen, to follow their lead and example. When I am not this way I cause the elders to grieve (Heb. 13:17). I cannot obey them and still come and go as I please.
(2) We are accountable to the local church. My influence, my participation in worship, my involvement in the work and my financial support are the lifeline of the local church. If members can come and go as they please without reason and without question who will teach the classes? How can the church commit itself to supporting a preacher if it cannot be assured of a certain monetary amount? “Free spirits” make people wonder who are members and who are visitors. Withdrawal of fellowship (1 Cor. 5) is indicative of my accountability to the local church.
Does this article hit you? I know it does some because we have some ‘:free spirits” where I work. Their attendance is sporadic at best. Their spot in the Bible classes, home studies, and personal evangelism remains empty. This interest and enthusiasm for the Lord is a question to all of us. If you are one of these “free spirits,” I ask you, “Why not straighten up and serve the Lord as you should and become a vital part of this congregation? You are only pleasing the Devil and fooling yourself by believing that you are accountable to no one except the Lord, and that you can do as you please.” Years of this “free spirit” will only result in passive, lukewarm, unconcerned members of the church of Christ who haven’t served the Lord in a long, long time. You cannot serve God as you please. You must do things on God’s terms as he likes, the way he tells us. This is Christianity as it is perceived by many in the 1980’s.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 12, p. 356, 374
June 16, 1988