There has been a movement in the religious world away from what has been called "organized religion." This movement has no official headquarters or visible structure. It has evolved, like so many other movements that have came and gone, because of the changed thinking generated by the abuses that are seen around us in the religious world.
Some of the teaching within this movement has been good; calling people out of the super structure of denominationalism to the simplicity of New Testament worship. Many have seen the problems which have evolved from leaving the pattern left by the Spirit-filled apostles, building a structure that dictates rules to their particular denomination, and separating it from others. This type of structure usually leads to further division from within as men seek to be in the decision making seat When people get disillusioned in these religious bodies they look for something else, or quit all together. Thankfully, many of those who are sincere find that there are still congregations of God's people who are worshiping as they did in the first century; following the New Testament pattern to the best of their ability; being simply Christians. In seeing these things, there are those who have "come out from among them" (2 Corinthians 6:16:17), to be added by the Lord to His church.
The heart of the teaching within this movement to leave 'organized religion' has been bad. it has caused some to forsake meeting with a local church altogether. But God warns us in Hebrews 10:25-26 that we are not to forsake "our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins." We are to worship with other families who share the "common faith" (Titus 1:4) so that we might "stimulate one another to love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24). However, some have started meeting in their own homes, with their own family, completely denying that there should be a "local congregation."
Some say they prefer to keep their religion a very personal relationship. Some, even in the Lord's church, are denying that there is scriptural precedence for a local church and meet with any Christian they happen to be with on the Lord's day (and other days as well).
I believe that the sources of fuel that "drive" this movement are many. It is partly because of the humanistic teaching we have been bombarded with over the past few decades. In all the communication media we are encouraged to "do it our way" (as Frank Sinatra sings it). We are taught to look down on any authority who would tell us to do it "their way." The "Me Generation" has grown up and is demanding their sovereignty from the rest of society.
Another source of fuel for the movement has been seeing the "televangelists" who have had their masks of hypocrisy ripped away and have been exposed for what they really are. Those who have placed their faith in these men see now how they "fleeced the flock" while living lives of opulence. Their exposures have filled our newspapers and evening news reports causing many to point the finger at any "organized religion."
My concern, is not the political mistakes that may come by overcompensating for these abuses (though I am concerned about government interference in religion). Nor is my concern over the many changes taking place among my denominational friends and their churches (though I am certainly concerned for their souls and pray that they will abandon denominationalism and turn to Christ and the church He built [Matthew 16:18]). But my concern, and the reason for this tract is over some of the changes I see among some of my brethren who are influenced by this movement
Some brethren have suggested doing away with any structure that would be identified as a "local church." Others have decided to move the worship into their own homes and atop meeting with other brethren. Many times these are relatively new brethren who readily admit they are in need of being taught.
The purpose of this tract is to point out from the scriptures that:
When we reject "organized religion," we are rejecting the religion established by the authority of Christ. We find the following to be true of the churches established under the direction of His inspired apostles:
Though there were churches who had not yet reached maturity in this area (having not yet appointed men to serve in this capacity), this can only be considered a temporary arrangement, since God's plan is that elders be appointed in "EVERY CHURCH." For that matter Paul writes to Titus, "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might SET IN ORDER WHAT REMAINS, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you." (Titus 1:5)
While a church is not defying God's scriptural arrangement by not having elders and deacons (if they have no one qualified by the scriptures to serve), they must be actively looking for qualified men who are willing to serve God in this capacity, and the decisions of this congregation are just as binding as if it had elders. It has just as much responsibility to discipline its members, and its members have just as much responsibility to accept the discipline. It also has just as much responsibility to make sure its practices are "scriptural." It has just as much responsibility, in every area, as a church that is scripturally organized.
In the rest of this writing I will assume churches are fully and scripturally organized. But the same responsibilities fall upon those churches who are in the process of appointing elders and deacons; and the same responsibilities rest upon each member of these churches whether they have elders or not.
Anyone who decides that they need not be a part of a local church, submitting to its oversight; or
any church who decides that it doesn't need this organization, needs to realize that they are
rebelling against God, and will be so judged. In John 12:48 Jesus said, "He who rejects Me, and
does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him in
the last day." and the inspired apostle John wrote in 2 John 9, "Anyone who goes too far and
does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching
has both the Father and the Son." Let's remember that ALL of the New Testament is the
teaching of Christ. Can anyone deny the consequences of choosing to disobey Him? Yet there are
some among us who choose to not follow Christ in His arrangement for each Christian to be a
working part of His church in their community.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE LOCAL
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE LOCAL CHURCH?
Though the terms "local church" and "universal church" are not used, per se, in the Bible, the concepts are certainly taught there.
The church is simply comprised of those who are Christians. God sometimes addresses them, or speaks of them, in the "universal" sense (see Acts 2:47 "the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." And in Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, "upon this rock, I will build My church..." etc.); and sometimes in the "local" sense (1 Cor. 1:2 Paul writes "to the church of God which is in Corinth..." and in 1 Cor. 11:18 he instructs us for "when you come together as a church....) (see also Matt 18:15-17, Philemon 2, etc.) It is easy to determine which sense is to be understood by the context of the passage.
The church, in the "universal sense," has no organization. Nor does it have work to accomplish. When the church is spoken of in the "universal sense" it is simply to identify ALL, of those who have been bought by the blood of Christ and called out of the world and into the service of the King.
All of the work of the church is done by the "local" church under the oversight of its elders.
It involves the following:
Churches were instructed in five areas of worship. 1) To partake of the Lord's Supper on the first day the week (Acts 20:7). (see also Paul's instructions to the church in Corinth, 1 Cor. 11:17-27, [remember also Matthew 26:29]); 2) To give of our prosperity "on the first day of the week" (1 Cor. 16:2); "as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Cor. 9:7); 3) To sing "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." (Eph. 5:19) (See also Col. 3:16-11); 4) To be taught via the preached word of God, "Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and prolonged his message until midnight" (Acts 20:7) 5) To pray. When Peter was miraculously released from prison he went to Mary's house "where many were gathered together and were praying." (Acts 12:12), and Paul urged the church in Rome, "to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me." (Rom. 15:30). 6) Disciplining those members who are living in rebellion to the will of God so that......... (1) their souls may be saved in the day of judgement and that .......(2) the church can remain pure by "purging out" the leavening influence of the evil doer.
In 1 Cor. 5 Paul instructs the church to "not associate with any so-called brother if he should be covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler; or a drunkard, or a swindler" -- not even to eat with such a one." (v. 11) He also gives us the reasons. It is "that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (v. 5), and because of the influence on the church. "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?" In 2 Thess. 3 Paul instructs the church in Thessalonica that "if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame." (v. 14-15)
You cannot exclude yourself from worshiping with others to simply be a "Christian at large" and please God. He instructs us to work together as a church. There is much work that we can and must do, as individuals. However, this cannot be a substitute for our responsibility to work together in the collective sense as a local church. Christians are instructed to be a part of, and amenable to, a local church. We are to submit ourselves to the elders' rule. "Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account." (Heb. 13:17, (see also 1 Tim. 5:17-19).
Anyone who neglects his duty to work and worship with the local assembly by only working and worshiping at home violates the very principles of, and purpose for, the New Testament church.
Some Christians have found it much easier to just quit working with other Christians that they disagree with, rather than to continue working together in love to resolve their disagreements.
Look at all the problems in the church at Corinth. Paul never suggested, or even hinted, that their disagreements should be resolved by division.
I can understand the frustration felt by one who disagrees with the majority of a congregation on some point. It may seem hopeless that your brethren's minds will ever change to your way of understanding. But, we need to realize that God never instructs us to quit worshiping with those we disagree with.
When one decides to stop worshiping with the local church and start meeting in their home as a means of resolving their disagreements, they not only violate the purpose of the local church, but they leave undone the work that God gave the church to do. They are to be a part of that work
Some have mistakenly used Matt.18:20, "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst" to mean that when two or three Christians have met together, that means the church has met, or that Jesus accepts that arrangement. This is simply not true. The context shows that Jesus was speaking exclusively to His apostles. Notice v. 18, "Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." Are we ready to apply this verse in the same general sense that some have with v. 20? Of course not!
Some have blurred the distinction between the church treasury and the family treasury. God makes a clear distinction between the two. In Acts 5:1-11 we see the .account of Ananias and Sapphira. They conspired together to keep back a portion of what they had indicated they were giving. Notice v. 4, Peter said, "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold was it not in your own power?" When did it cease to be his own? When he committed it to God! (See also 1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. Chaps 8 & 9.) Some also exchange the authority and discipline of their husbands or fathers for the authority and discipline of elders. In doing this they have left both the spirit and letter of the New Testament arrangement (1 Pet 5:1-6, 1 Tim. 5:17-19)
Every relationship carries certain responsibilities. Being a Christian is one of the greatest privileges, and brings the greatest blessings, of any relationship we can have. But it also carries some of the greatest responsibilities. We need to realize the tremendous obligation that we have as Christians.
What are some at these responsibilities?
SOME CONCLUSIONS THAT NEED
An individual may find himself in a locale on the Lord's day where there are no churches of the Lord. What should he do if he can't worship with the saints in such circumstances? He just has to do the best he can to fulfill his worship obligations on the Lord's day. It is, however, very rare to find oneself in such situations. Usually proper planning would keep that situation from occurring. However, the tact that this situation COULD occur does not give license for him to CHOOSE to not assemble with fellow saints when this unusual circumstance is not present. Also, this temporary situation does not make him a church in that locale. A church that is here today and gone tomorrow does not fit the criteria for a New Testament church.
A family, or other group of Christians, could find themselves in the same situation as noted above. Again, I am not going to dictate how they should handle such situations because the scriptures do not give such instructions. They would have to do the best they could. But, again, this would not give them license to CHOOSE this way of worship, either. They are obligated to worship with the saints on the Lord's day. While they were worshiping under these special circumstances this would not make them a local church because they have not met the scriptural criteria
If a family finds themselves in a PERMANENT situation where they are away from other saints, then they are obligated to establish a local church where they are, or relocate to an area where they can worship and work according to New Testament pattern. If they decide to establish a local church they MUST meet ALL of the criteria of a New Testament church.
The only reasons that I have seen for persons to choose to meet and worship in their homes rather than meet with the saints in an established local church in their area are: (1) They have followed the erroneous teaching that there is no such .thing as a local church, or (2) they have become angry with someone with whom they have been assembling, or (3) they disagree with some practice or decision of that church.
If their reason is they believe there is no such thing as a local church, they need to be taught the truth. (Acts 15:4, 1 Cor. 11:18; 16:1-2, 2 Cor. 11:8, etc.)
If their reason is they have become angry with someone, God has instructed us how to resolve such conflicts (Matt 18:15-20). If they choose to disregard God In these instructions, their problem is one of rebellion.
If their reason is a disagreement with a decision of the church, they need to consider the responsibilities of a Christian as noted from the scriptures above. (Please notice all six points),
The only way that God would approve of someone deciding to leave local church, because of some problem or problems, and start another, is if they have done all they can to correct the error they believe the church had entered into, and now believe the church has crossed over into denominationalism and it is no longer the Lord's church, (and there are no other faithful congregations nearby. )
God's family needs to learn to work together AS A FAMILY. The glue that binds a family together is love. Why is it that when problems arise within the church the first solution that seems to come to some people is to divide the church? Shouldn't we work together in love and find resolutions to our problems? Division can occur by one or more families quietly slipping away, or by a "knock-down-drag-out" fight that leaves a chasm that can never be crossed.
Hasn't God's church been fragmented enough? When Paul wrote to the churches that we claim to be emulating, he directed them to stay together and work out their problems; not with hatred and selfishness, but with love and self-sacrifice.
We wonder why our young people have so few contacts with other young Christians. Perhaps it is because we have so fragmented the body into "them" and "US" that we have both sickened the young among us, and separated them from those who would normally be "among them." Some of the "them" are those who have departed the faith and accepted denominational concepts. But many times the "them" are those that we have had some falling out with, or simply are separated from for selfish reasons.
We wonder why so many of God's churches have no elders and deacons. Perhaps it is because churches are kept so small by divisions and fragmentation there is not a very large 'pool' of qualified brethren to choose from.
We wonder why it is that our Bible classes rarely have enough children of each age group to have a good class. We wonder why some churches have quit having children's classes at all. Some children's classes have such a wide range of ages that they are just not effective. Again, the problem comes from fragmentation of the local church.
Isn't it about time that we start thinking about consolidation instead of fragmentation? Are we not to be good stewards of God's church? Is it good stewardship to maintain several church properties within the same area with each struggling to keep its bills paid?
Why can't churches consolidate and become stronger with greater influence in the community
instead of fragmenting and dying out little ....by....little?