The Church and the Individual Christian
by Roger Shouse

 

For several years now brethren have been divided over what all the church can or can not do. Such things as supporting a College, Orphan Home out of the treasury has caused some "blood to be spilled" and many congregations to split over the matter.

Brethren who have defended the use of the church's money to support social things or provide housing for the orphans have generally reasoned one of two ways. Many claim that the Orphan's Home is a home itself, and therefore the church can support a needy home. The other common line of argumentation goes something like this: Whatever the individual Christian can do as a religious act the church can do. Since an individual Christian can support an orphan's home, it is assumed therefore that a church should be able to.

That thinking sounds plausible but it first must be found to be true. Passages like Matthew 18:15-18 shows the difference between the individual and the church in religious activities. The Lord in the passage here instructed the individual to go to the guilty party first, not the church.

One would think that if the church can do what the individual does in religious activity, then the opposite ought to be just as true. Whatever the church does as a religious act, the individual can do. Of course this causes some initial problems right away. What about attendance? Can a Christian just stay home - have his prayers, read his Bible, and eat his Communion without assembling with the saints? Whatever the church can do the individual can do! But the New Testament plainly says a Christian can't do this. We are "Not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together" (Hebrews 10:25). The eating of the Lord's Supper takes place when we "come together" (I Corinthians 11:17,18,20). Acts 20:7 says they "were gathered together to break the bread." So a Christian cannot do what a Church does as a religious activity. But look at some other things churches are doing today.

Many churches knowingly go into debt with the expectation of others helping them out. We call this the sponsoring church arrangement. It is not found in the Bible. A church will take on some benevolent or evangelistic mission always large in proportion and much more than they can handle financially themselves. So they solicit funds from other churches and individuals to help them in this work. Now suppose a Christian did what the church did. Can you imagine a Christian family buying a house that they cannot possibly afford and expecting, even demanding other Christians to help them pay for it? Churches are doing this all the time. They do this to build their meeting houses. They do this to fund "One Nation Under God."

Other churches are involved in taking the oversight of another church. Some have even gone to the extreme of receiving the total contribution of another church and then delegating how and where those funds would be used. Can you imagine a Christian family doing this? Whatever the church does as a religious act the Christian can do? A family decides that you should send your total paycheck to them and they will decide how to spend and pay for your bills. Your children would be taught and disciplined by this other family, since they have oversight of your home. Doesn't sound very pretty does it?

If a church can do whatever the individual Christian can do then it ought to follow that whatever the church is doing then the individual Christian can do. I hope you can see from this article that this type of thinking just isn't right. Brethren still have not proved from the Bible, the idea that "Whatever an individual Christian can do as a religious act then the church can do." And once they have proved that, then they must show us why the opposite (Whatever a church does as a religious act the individual Christian can do) is not true. Sometimes folks are so set on proving things, that it proves too much for them. From Gospel Truths, March, 1992 P.O. Box 493, Greenwood, IN 46142

Charging A Batter Which Has A Dead Cell
by Dennis L. Reed

More than forty years ago, I shared in the Lord's work with a faith gospel preacher in Birmingham, Alabama, who was the only preacher among our black brethren in that area who truly stood firm for the Truth and preached it with all boldness. Brother James Ashhurst, now deceased, was one. of the finest men that I have ever had the opportunity to work with in my efforts to preach the gospel. Brethren Frank Smith and Bob Crawley, both now deceased, had the same confidence in this brother and diligently worked to help him in every way that they could to carry the gospel to the black people who made up almost half of the population of Birmingham during those difficult years of the 60's.

Brother Ashhurst was telling me one day about a brother whom - he was trying to strengthen through teaching and said to me, "brother Reed, helping this brother is like trying to charge a battery which has a dead cell - you can charge it, and charge it, and charge it, and it will still be dead!" I thought then, and think even more today that our lack of effectiveness in providing strength, soundness, and knowledge to a great many of our brethren is being hampered tremendously by our having to try so hard to charge a battery which has a dead cell!

We have often heard that one of the most difficult tasks in life is trying to help someone who doesn't believe that he needs any help or else he is just totally satisfied with what he is now doing and doesn't want to be helped! So we are therefore confronted with the task of getting brethren to recognize the tremendous dangers which threaten their faith, and to provide them with the teaching, exhortation, and strength to encounter the enemy - but we find ourselves charging and charging, and then ultimately having to realize that our lack of success is simply because we are working with a "dead cell" - a mind or heart which is not at all willing to receive the needed instruction!

There are so many brethren who just refuse to listen, and they refuse to open their eyes so what they can see! There are so many who don't even have the desire to examine any kind of spiritual issue. There are so many who are being deceived and beguiled with smooth and fair speech! There are so many who are believing the falsehood being, spread by the "union in perversity" folks that "it just doesn't matter what you believe, teach or practice - you can still remain in full fellowship with God and with your brethren!" There are so many who wan', the kind of preaching which entertains them and tells them how really great and faithful they are! We are really living in a generation where it seems that many of our brethren prefer to hear "smooth things" and "deceits" (Isaiah 30:9-10).

Yes, brother Ashhurst was right on target, "you can charge it, and charge it, and charge it, and it will still be dead!" When a person wants so badly to follow his or her own selfish desires, and when one so greatly desires to believe and practice what pleases and satisfies their personal whims in religion, it becomes very obvious that you have a battery which is definitely going to resist a "charge" (Matthew 13:10-16). When you want to have fellowship with sinful doctrines and practices which justify you in what you desire to do - then you have become as dead and useless to the Lord as any of our net-, hbors out there in the denominational world who are of that same persuasion! And besides all of that, you may well have developed a whole vocabulary of derogatory names and remarks that you can make about those who would dare to question what you are teaching, practicing or fellowshipping! Those who refuse to come to the light will never receive the Truth (John 3:19-21; 1 John 1:5-7; Ephesians 5:6-14).

Yes. it is extremely difficult to drill through hardened material. We may well be trying to break through concrete walls, or we may well be plowing in rocky soil, It is becoming more and more evident that we are diligently trying to charge some batteries which have dead cells!

But make no mistake, we are determined to never "grow weary in well doing" and we are still totally confident that the gospel of Christ is the "power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1: 16-17)!