By Ron Halbrook
For the truth’s sake, members of churches of Christ must respect what God revealed about the organization of the local church. Either there is a pattern revealed in the Bible for local church organization and function, or there is none. If there is no pattern, then no organizational arrangement under the sun could violate the pattern! Everything from intercongregational “steering committees” to full-grown missionary societies to diocesan bishoprics to denominational conventions to the papal system itself would be scriptural! In fact, that is the very viewpoint widely advocated today. Where there is no law, there is no sin.
But there is a pattern for the organization of the church. Where is it found? In the New Testament. The Scripture completely furnishes us unto “all good works.” The things written were meant to be kept “always in remembrance,” even after the apostolic men died. These things were to be committed to faithful men, “who shall be able to teach others also.” Yes, the New Testament Pattern for the Church is binding for all ages-and we are not too “smart” today to be exempted from that pattern. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught” in God’s Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:15; 2 Tim. 2:2; 2 Thess. 2:15).
In the New Testament days, as soon as there were qualified men, there were to be “elders in every church.” Acts 20:17 and 28 show that “elders” are the same as “overseers” (same word as bishop), and they are to “feed” or tend or pastorize (function as a pastor or shepherd) the flock. The qualifications for elders are specified in Scripture, and there was never one pastor or elder or presbyter over one church but always a plurality over each church. The local eldership had a tremendous responsibility, but that work was limited to overseeing the local church. There were no outside organizations latched on to the church, nor sub-organizations within the local church, nor did the eldership of one church ever oversee the work (or any part of the work) of other churches (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2; Phil, 1:1).
In the early 1800’s, there was a return to the simple New Testament pattern. This effort to restore the Gospel and the Church to their original purity was called “The Restoration Movement.” But in 1849, representatives from many churches came together to form the American Christian Missionary Society-thus creating an inter-congregational organization outside the local church. That led to a great falling away from the Bible pattern for the work, worship, and organization of the church; the Christian Churches and the Disciples of -Christ denominations resulted. Many churches of Christ are headed down the same road of apostasy today. The present Nashville “Let Freedom Ring” Campaign is just one sign of apostasy. It is directed by an inter-congregational “steering committee” made up of representatives of many churches, latched on to the Radnor church of Nashville, but capable of “pulling up stakes” and latching on to another church or just existing independently.
Remember, brethren: Either there is a Bible pattern, or there is not. Which is it? Look before you leap!
Truth Magazine XX: 49, pp. 778-779
December 9, 1976