"THE CHURCH JESUS BUILT" Innovations In The Work Of The Church INTRODUCTION 1. In our previous study, we summarized the work of the church as... a. Edification (preparing the saints for service) b. Benevolence (providing for the needy saints) c. Evangelism (proclaiming the gospel) 2. When we let the local church do its proper work, it will... a. "equip saints for the work of the ministry" b. "edify the body of Christ" c. "grow up in all things into Him who is the head, Christ" 3. Yet it is not uncommon for the local church to be used in ways God did not intend, such as for political or social activism... a. Not that such causes are without merit 1) As individuals, Christians can certainly participate in such matters 2) Using other organizations such as family, community, or governmental agencies b. But the local church is limited in its resources 1) It can easily become "burdened" (cf. 1Ti 5:16) 2) It can be hindered or distracted from fulfilling its true purpose [Among many churches, innovations have been introduced into the work of the church. Though well intentioned, they tend to denominationalize and/or secularize the church. One such innovation is...] I. INSTITUTIONALISM A. INSTITUTIONALISM DEFINED... 1. The support of human institutions from the treasury of local churches a. "...the doctrine or practice of a church sending money to an institution of some kind in order to carry out some work that the church has deemed worthy of support." - http://www.goodfight.com/notes/Institutionalism.html b. "... this may include supporting missionary organizations, orphan's homes, nursing homes, schools, other churches, even political organizations." - ibid. 2. Such institutions are often called 'parachurch organizations' a. "The parachurch is effectively a new form of religious organization that dates from the early 19th century." b. "In the first quarter of the 19th century, parachurch organizations were abundant in many forms -- Bible tract societies, independent educational organizations, independent missionary groups, and moral reform organizations." c. "The defining characteristic of a parachurch is that it stands outside of the organizational structure of well- established religious bodies." d. "Parachurches are often the creation of an entrepreneur or a small cadre of people who seek to achieve specific goals." -- http://religiousbroadcasting.lib.virginia.edu/parachurch.html 3. The goal of such institutions are certainly noble: evangelism, benevolence, edification, etc. a. The issue in this study is not whether such institutions have a right to exist b. The issue is whether local churches should support them out of their treasury B. PROBLEMS WITH INSTITUTIONALISM... 1. There is no scriptural support for churches to support human institutions a. There is no example of NT churches sending money to human institutions as a way of carrying out their work of evangelism, edification, or benevolence b. The practice began in the 19th century (see above) c. In the NT, churches sent money directly to other churches or individuals 2. It gives oversight of the local church's work to those not its elders a. Human institutions are governed by board members, CEOs, or other individuals b. Churches 'out source' their work and their oversight by giving to such organizations 3. It turns the local church into a collection agency for man-made organizations a. Institutions appeal for churches to support their organizations b. The local church thus becomes a mini 'United Way' for human institutions 4. It tends to denominationalize the church a. Institutions usually identify their association with a particular group of churches b. E.g., a 'Church of Christ school', or 'Church of Christ benevolent home', etc. c. The use of 'Church of Christ' in such a way contributes to a denominational mindset 5. Additional insights regarding the problems with institutionalism come from an article on Parachurch Organizations by William McDonald: a. "One result is that capable teachers and preachers have been called away from their primary ministries in order to become administrators. If all mission board administrators were serving on the mission field, it would greatly reduce the need for personnel there." b. "Another result of the proliferation of organizations is that vast sums of money are needed for overhead, and thus diverted from direct gospel outreach. The greater part of every dollar given to many Christian organizations is devoted to the expense of maintaining the organization rather than to the primary purpose for which it was founded." c. "Organizations often hinder the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Jesus told His disciples to teach all the things He had commanded. Many who work for Christian organizations find they are not permitted to teach all the truth of God. They must not teach certain controversial matters for fear they will alienate the constituency to whom they look for financial support." d. "The multiplication of Christian institutions has too often resulted in factions, jealousy, and rivalry that have done great harm to the testimony of Christ. 'Consider the overlapping multiplicity of Christian organizations at work, at home, and abroad. Each competes for limited personnel and for shrinking financial resources. And consider how many of these organizations really owe their origin to purely human rivalry, though public statements usually refer to God's will (Daily Notes of the Scripture Union).'" -- http://web.singnet.com.sg/~syeec/literature/parachurch.html [Whether individual Christians should support such human institutions is another issue. There is no authority for local churches to do so, and it is fraught with problems. The same is true regarding...] II. SPONSORING CHURCHES A. SPONSORING CHURCH CONCEPT DEFINED... 1. Where one congregation oversees a work in another area, or the combined efforts of two or more churches a. "One congregation that especially oversees a project such as a mission society, in which other congregations have an interest and to which they voluntarily contribute regularly. The fact that other churches contribute to a project this is overseen by the elders of one church is the central idea." - J. D. Thomas, We Be Brethren, p. 355 b. "A sponsoring church is a congregation which assumes the oversight and control of some activity in the general field of evangelism, edification, or benevolence." - Kevin Kay, Institutionalism: Sponsoring Church 2. Some examples of sponsoring church arrangements a. A church sponsors a foreign work, with its elders overseeing the evangelist(s) and the congregation(s) in a particular area b. A church sponsors a work beyond its own ability to finance (e.g., TV, radio), and asks other churches to financially support its efforts c. A church sponsors an evangelist, with other churches channeling their support of said evangelist through the auspices and control of the sponsoring church 3. The sponsoring church concept was developed as an alternative to parachurch organizations a. Many opposed human institutions like missionary societies b. This alternative sought to do the same work through churches rather than societies B. PROBLEMS WITH THE SPONSORING CHURCH ARRANGEMENT... 1. There is no clear scriptural support for the sponsoring-church concept a. Some point to Jerusalem as a 'sponsoring church'
- cf. Ac 11:29-30; 12:25 1) Where supposedly the elders of the Jerusalem oversaw the work 2) But the 'elders' in Ac 11:30 are just as likely those of the churches in Judea b. Some believe Philippi 'sponsored' Paul's support
- cf. 2 Co 11:8; Php 4:15-16 1) Where supposedly support from other churches were funneled through Philippi 2) But Paul's remarks in Php 4:15 refer to the beginning of the work in Macedonia, and 2Co 11:8 can easily include support received directly from other churches later 2. It gives too much oversight to the elders of a local church a. Elders were to oversee the flock of God 'among you'
- cf. Ac 20:28; 1Pe 5:1-2 b. Elders of a sponsoring church have oversight beyond the local congregation c. They oversee works in other places, even churches in other countries d. Who gave the elders the right to assume such authority? 3. It violates the NT pattern for local church autonomy a. In the NT, congregations were independent, autonomous b. Other than the Lord and His apostles, a congregation was answerable only to its elders - cf. 1Pe 5:5; He 13:7,17 c. Elders of the sponsoring church expects churches and individuals they 'sponsor' to be answerable to them d. Sponsoring churches have sought to control the actions and even the property of churches or works they 'sponsor' (especially in foreign countries) 4. It reverses the goal of scriptural cooperation between churches a. In the NT, support always worked toward the direction of equality - cf. 2Co 8:13-14 b. In the sponsoring church concept, smaller churches send money to bigger churches c. Instead of equality, big churches become bigger at the expense of smaller churches 5. It seeks to activate the universal church a. The sponsoring church concept was originally developed in opposition to church supported missionary societies (e.g., the American Christian Missionary Society) b. The missionary society concept was designed to activate the universal church c. Thus the sponsoring church seeks to accomplish the same as the missionary society d. Yet such efforts lead to the next problem... 6. It leads to denominationalizing the church a. Attempts to activate the universal church lead to denominationalism b. Invariably, such efforts separate those who support such efforts from those who do not c. Before long, groups of churches are identified by whether or not they support such efforts (e.g., institutional vs. non-institutional churches) d. People begin asking "Are you with us, or them?", sounding like those in Corinth - cf. 1Co 1:11-12 [Both institutionalism and the sponsoring church concept have done much to denominationalize churches of Christ. Another innovation has done much to secularize churches of Christ... III. SOCIAL PROGRAMS A. SOCIAL PROGRAMS DEFINED... 1. Where churches use their funds to offer social programs a. Either for their own members b. Or for those in their community and beyond 2. Social programs such as: a. Day care centers, schools, counseling services b. Orphan homes, disaster relief, medical missions c. Family life centers, gymnasiums, racket ball courts 3. Through such efforts, using the local church to: a. Solve social ills in our society b. Provide entertainment for young people to keep them interested and out of trouble B. PROBLEMS WITH SOCIAL PROGRAMS... 1. There is no scriptural support for the church to support social programs a. The church certainly provided benevolence for Christians - cf. 1Co 16:1-2; Ro 15:26 b. As individuals we are certainly to be "good Samaritans" - cf. Ga 6:10; Jm 1:27 c. But there is no indication that the local church became a business that offered such a wide range of services 2. It burdens the local church with activities for which it was not designed a. Notice Paul's concern that the church not be 'burdened' - cf. 1Ti 5:16 b. Christians were expected to fulfill their familial duties - cf. 1Ti 5:8 c. Thus limitations were placed on who the church could support - cf. 1Ti 5:9-13 d. The church has its own work to fulfill (e.g., evangelism, edification), while the Lord expects individuals, families, governments, and society at large to fulfill their duties - cf. 1Ti 5:4,14 (family); Ro 13:3-4 (government) 3. It has the long term effect of secularizing the church a. Secularize - To draw away from religious orientation; make worldly - American Heritage Dictionary b. The effects of secularization on the church through social programs are evident: 1) Elders (shepherds, pastors) become board members, directors, managers 2) Evangelists (preachers, ministers) become staff managers, personal counselors 3) Churches have youth directors, education superintendents, family counselors, secretaries, janitors, etc. c. Losing its spiritual focus, a congregation becomes: 1) A business instead of a body 2) A foundation instead of a family 3) A corporation instead of a church CONCLUSION 1. Again, it is not that there are social causes that do not need to be addressed... a. As individuals, Christians can and should make an impact b. They can use other organizations such as family, community, or governmental agencies c. Like leaven, their influence may not be as noticeable, but nonetheless real - cf. Mt 13:33 2. But do not forget that the local church is limited in its resources... a. It can easily become "burdened" (cf. 1Ti 5:16) b. It can be hindered or distracted from fulfilling its true purpose intended by God 3. History has shown the impact of institutionalism, the sponsoring church concept, and church involvement in social programs: denominationalism and secularization Being 'in' the world, there is the danger of becoming 'of' the world (cf. Jn 17:14-15). Should we not be content to "let the church be the church", especially in regards to its work...?
Note from Gary...
I will need to study this topic and reflect upon its consequences further. At the moment, I post this for informational purposes only.