Responsibility to the Local Church

By Roy E. Cogdill

The New Testament pattern of things evidences that the individual Christian should be a part of a local church of Christ. Paid “assayed to join himself to the disciples” when he came up to Jerusalem from three years of preaching in Arabia. This is essential to fellowship with the saints for fellowship is a congregational matter. When an individual is not a member of a local church, he is not subject, to an eldership (Heb. 13:17); he cannot discharge his duty toward other disciples of the Lord (I Thess. 5:14-15; Gal. 6:1-2; Heb. 10:23-25); he cannot have fellowship in the work of the church for he is not in a position to participate in it and do his part (Titus 3:8-14, 3:1-3, 2 Tim. 2: 21-26; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; Eph. 4:14-16). All of this failure means disobedience to the Lord and eventually condemnation in eternity.

There are a good many professed Christians, throughout the country that have no place in the local church. They are members of none. They are not a part of the church where they worship. They are not subject to its discipline and accept no part of its work as an obligation. They have no church home and are a part of no church family. They are religious strays or tramps, responsible for nothing and worth nothing to any congregation of God’s people.

Then there are those ill-humored, selfish, conceited individuals that cannot follow divine instructions to “let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” They get angry at the preacher when they do not agree with him, or at the elders when they do not follow their suggestions, or at other brethren when they are not shown the attention or consideration they think they deserve and are too obstinate to try to adjust such strained relations with others. They swell up and go elsewhere after doing all the harm they can by the nasty, ugly disposition aroused within them and by the ugly things which they say. Then they start visiting around from place to place, if they go to the services at all, and become disgruntled, soured, unhappy and useless in the services of the Lord.

Of course, if all local churches would do their duty and after trying to save such individuals, withdraw fellowship from them, and if all other local churches would respect the will of the Lord and refuse to accept them into their fellowship until they made things right where they came from, not only would such individuals be saved and restored to their usefulness to the Lord, but other churches would be prevented from experiencing the same damage being wrought to them. So many elders are afraid of trouble, if they exercise any discipline, that they allow their fears and their own judgment to overrule the will of the Lord. Then so many others are so anxious to increase their numbers and contributions they will disregard the discipline which has been exercised, when it is, and receive them without any questions asked or demands made. Both evidence a lack of regard for the will of the Lord and confidence in His word.

Of course, again, there are those who remain on the church membership list and count themselves in fellowship with the local body but who are worth nothing to it for they cannot be counted on to do their part. They will not fellowship the local church by regular and devoted attendance to its services. They feel no responsibility toward an effort to preach the gospel in a series of special services even though it is arranged in the interest of saving souls and edifying the saints. They do not furnish their proportionate part of the, resources with which the church can carry on its work. If they come regularly, that is all they do. Such are deceived, if they think Sunday morning attendance will take them to heaven, or if they count, themselves faithful in spite of their indifference to their responsibility to the local church and its program and their lethargy in the service of the Lord.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 19, pp. 7-8
March 16, 1972