I want to welcome all concerned readers to this third and final article of this series dealing with human institutions among otherwise “conservative brethren” doing the works of a local church. When I embarked upon this series of articles I had no idea of the large interest in this subject matter. I am thankful for the many encouraging responses I have had to this series and I am thankful for the criticism that has come my way from certain involved parties. The question we are addressing in this article: “Are these organizations expediencies for the individual works of a Christian?” is necessary to answer. That argument is often used as a basis of authority for certain organizations to do the works of a local church. Some argue that the College, Foundation, Camp, etc. are all extensions of the home or the individual, and thus capable of forming and doing the works of an individual. I say nay, for the Scriptures no where authorize the formation of any organization outside of the local church wherein Christians can pull together and do works as a collective body (Colossians 3:17). When an organization is formed THIS IS NO LONGER AN INDIVIDUAL AT WORK!
The Individual Christian Does Have His or Her Works to Do
Every work to be done for the Lord does not have to be done through a collectivity. The individual Christian has to go into the world and preach the Gospel (Matthew 28:19), financially care for needy saints (I Timothy 5:16), and care for the spiritual needs of brethren (Galatians 6:1-2), just as the local church has those works to do also. The individual does not have to wait to pray or sing to the Lord until the saints assemble as a local congregation (Acts 16:25). These points are clear and much more evidence could be cited if necessary. Though we all have individual works to do, we have absolutely no authority to form an organization to do those works. The organization for evangelism, edification, and benevolence has already been formed by the Lord Jesus Christ. That organization is the church (Matthew 16:18; cf. I Thessalonians 1:6-8, Ephesians 4:16, and I Corinthians 16:1-3). However, some would agree with that in principle and yet follow a whole different way of logic in application (the same organizations that typically agree with the truth on God’s marriage law, fellowship, and other issues; but will miserably fail in application of those truths).
“Let the Church Be the Church” – AMEN!
I received an article on the 20th day of July, 2004 in my email written by Ron Halbrook entitled “Let the Church Be the Church”. The title of the article was encouraging, but the content was disgusting. In that article Ron wrote, among many other false things, the following: “The school conducted by Christians may do some things the church does, but is not the church. The school may make arrangements during the day to sing, to pray, to study the Bible, and to disseminate truth in every way possible while training young people in all sorts of secular subjects and pursuits. What the school does is an extension of the work of the home and the state in preparing young people for life (Eph. 6:4; Rom. 13:1). Such schools must also guard against going into apostasy or abusing the role God has given to them.”
He continued later in that article to say: “A business conducted by Christians may do some things the church does, but is not the church. The business may make arrangements to sing, to pray, to study the Bible, and to disseminate truth in every way possible. The business is an extension of the individual, whether acting independently or in concert with others, in making an honorable living (Eph. 4:28).” Further into the article he wrote: “As circumstances permit, we [The Guardian of Truth Foundation (G.O.T.) - B.A.Y.] create and utilize opportunities to teach people the truth of God's Word and we [G.O.T. – B.A.Y] do everything possible to encourage them to obey, worship, and serve God faithfully. Such studies have been conducted for the staff writers of Truth Magazine from time to time. The Truth Lectureship makes it possible for other interested individuals to share with us in such studies.”
Where is Ron correct? He is correct in stating that the college, the business, and other organizations are not the church. I know of no one who would disagree. However, you will notice that when Ron says the school may make arrangements to do things such as collective worship services, he provides not one Scripture. He says the school is an extension of the home and he adds the state as well. What Scripture teaches that? Does the parent oversee the school or does a board of directors? The liberals use similar logic to justify the local church supporting “orphan homes” from her treasury. He then talks of the school opposing apostasy and being careful not to abuse the role God has given them. Ron, where are the Scriptures listing the role God has given to a secular school? Florida College has no authority from God to train preachers, conduct worship services, or have a time of year wherein they, as a human organization, preach the Gospel.
Ron Halbrook’s logic then enters into the realm of secular business conducted by Christians. Certainly, we all agree that a Christian can pray, teach, and study the Scriptures anywhere the opportunity arises. We agree that a Christian needs to have secular work (II Thessalonians 3:10). Yet, he uses both the Christian’s privilege of prayer, study, and worship accompanied with the need for Christian to earn a living, to authorize the organization of a secular entity to do spiritual works. Where did God ever authorize such a thing (II Samuel 7:7)? The Truth Magazine Lectureship was more than a man offering a prayer for his lunch at work or answering a Bible question during his lunch break. This is more than a Christian being a good example in a secular setting (Matthew 5:14-16). This is a human organization preaching the Gospel and conducting a worship service. The Guardian of Truth Foundation publicly acknowledges that they are an organization that takes on the task of boldly proclaiming their Gospel: “If the Guardian of Truth continues in its heritage of boldly proclaiming the gospel of Christ without compromise, may God bless its efforts and extend its usefulness.” (Guardian of Truth Magazine; “Gospel Preaching, Gospel Preachers, Gospel Papers”; The Heritage of the Guardian of Truth; July 20, 1995; pages 433-436).
To Argue Expediency is to Redefine the Establishment of Bible Authority
When brethren say that the Florida College, the Guardian of Truth Foundation, the Akin Foundation, or any other organization formed are simply tools (expediencies) to aid the individual in their works they are changing the truth. When God gives work to an individual that is to whom he expects the fulfillment of that work to come from. If an individual can form societies, foundations, schools, and other organizations the logical conclusion is that the local church can too. If not, why not? There is equal authority in the Scriptures for the church of Christ Orphan Home as there is the Florida College Lectures, the Guardian of Truth Lectures, etc. The Great Commission does not read (abuses are in brackets): “Go ye therefore [and form colleges and foundations to teach] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Paul did not write in his letter to the Philippian brethren: “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no [foundation] communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but [your foundation].
The all-suffiency of the church (I Timothy 3:15), and the Scriptures (II Timothy 3:16-17; II Peter 1:3) are challenged when one argues that these 20th and 21st century institutions among “conservative brethren” are expediencies. We must remember that for something to be an expedient, there first has to be a command or example we are following. There is no command or example of Christians organizing as a collectivity beyond the local church to do the work of the church or individuals in spiritual matters. When Paul and Barnabas coupled together in a concurrent action to preach the Gospel (Acts 13:1-2), they did not form the P and B Foundation and host lectureships in Cyprus, Paphos, Perga, etc. They did not seek funds from the Simeon foundation to support themselves. Jesus Christ, Peter, Andrew, James the son of Zebedee, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Lebbaeus, Simon the Canaanite, or Paul never attended a college to learn how to preach. For that matter, neither did Timothy, Titus, Philip, or any other evangelists in the New Testament. History and the Scriptures are silent in revealing any such institutions in the first century.
Recently I read an article entitled “Reflections on the First Annual Truth Magazine Lectureship” by Jason Hardin and Daniel Ruegg (http://www.renewedinspirit.org/). After reading that article I wrote Jason Hardin asking him one question: “Are you opposed to human institutions doing the work of a local church?” His response: “I would reply that the church is certainly all-sufficient to fulfill its mission without looking to businesses or other human organizations as adjuncts. It is my belief that Christians can operate legitimate business enterprises such as colleges, journals, publishing houses, bookstores, etc. In conducting those businesses, brethren should utilize every possible opportunity to exert their influence for good by example, in writing, and by the spoken word. Such organizations act in the realm of the individual and not as an arm or adjunct of the church.” I responded saying the same things I have in this series of articles in a very condensed way. I asked “Is your belief based upon the Scriptures? If so, which one(s)?” This issue is about Bible Authority. Where are the Scriptures? Jason has not answered. Ron Halbrook wrote an article arguing why these things are right, and he offered no Scriptures to prove his conclusions. Why? There are none!
I left the Institutional Movement among churches of Christ a few years ago. I will not practice the same errors under the idea that they are individually run and supported. In conclusion, I ask you the reader to choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the organizations such as Florida College, the Guardian of Truth Foundation, the Akin Foundation, etc. that our erring brethren have organized on the other side of the cross, or the Lord our God? As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).
Back to Part One
Back to Part Two
Back to Studies on Institutionalism Index