In a recent issue of the "Gospel Advocate," in the classified ads section, there are some ads that should tell us where we are as a denomination. Our language and practice give us away.
One ad reads:
"WANTED: Church Administrator/Office Manager. Large Middle Tennessee Church needs business manager to be responsible for personnel, administration, financial management, total program support. Experience neccessary. Salary negotiable."
This is the type of ad one often sees from some institution or organization in the business world. And that is the type of institution or organization (corporate body) that our modern day "local church" is becoming. It is just more apparent in the larger church operations. These larger church corporations do need a "Church Administrator" or "Office Manager." The other denominations have had such for years. Any efficiently operated business or institution needs an "Administrator."
The ad does not stipulate that the potential employee must be a Christian or even a member of the Church of Christ. It does not state that such a candidate must be of the male gender! Perhaps the ad is worded carefully because the question of discrimination can really become a serious matter. Wonder what would happen if some highly qualified woman applied for the job? I know women who are capable administrators and business managers. Would this church allow a female "to be responsible for personnel, administration" and "total program support"? Women do this in the business world; so why not in this church business operation?
I also wonder what this large church would do if the most qualified person was not a member of the Church of Christ? Since this profession is so new in our ranks, I suspect the most qualified, both men and women, can be found among the Baptists, Methodists, or one of the older, more established denominations. Our preachers are now proclaiming that the Eldership has "divine authority" to make all final decisions for "the local church." If that ruling body should decide to employ a women or a man of some other denomination, or even someone with no church connection, then the church has no appeal or recourse, the decision is final! As with the Pope for the Catholics, so the Eldership is for us! And preachers are proclaiming this as if it is God's arrangement.
I suggest that this church should place ads in some of the large denominational journals. They are certain to get more qualified applicants through these sources. Surely they desire the best employee they can get. Since that church has various kinds of hired "Ministers," I wonder if the "Church Administrator" will hire and fire these employees? Will the "Church Administrator" evaluate the work of "the Pulpit Minister"?
The "Church Administrator" would handle the "financial management" of the corporation, which would include investments in stocks and bonds, savings accounts, rental property, Day Care Center, Mother's Day Out, Family Life Center, the gymnasium, children's home, home for the elderly, equipment purchases, building payments, records, and the salaries of all the employees of the Corporation. When a corporation owns $2-$10 million in land and buildings and takes in an income of $1-$3 million per year, that is no small operation. As stated, this employee will be responsible for "total program support." That is a big responsibility and should demand a high salary.
The above describes the advanced stages, the development and growth, of what our preachers call "the local church," which they proclaim to be an institution, organization, or corporate body. If you are naive and so unthinking as to suppose that today "the local church" is simply a group of Christians acting together in some orderly or systematic arrangement to accomplish something God wants them to do (sing, pray, study, encourage, teach, observe the Lord's Supper, pool resources for some specific cause, withdraw from the disorderly, etc.), then you need to wake up and face realty! Religion is big business; even getting that way more and more among Churches of Christ. What else can we expect? We are reaping what we have sown. And the end is not yet! How do you think the Roman Catholic Church got to be where it is today? In the same way. If we think we can plant the same "seed" and reap a different harvest, we are woefully deceived.
Just for our study and to see the vast difference between what we are doing as we "Grow a Church" today, and the way it was in the New Testament, I challenge you to seriously study all the following references to "the church." Acts 2:42, 44-46; 4:32, 34-35; 6:1-6; 11:29-30; 14:27-28; 15:4, 22; 20:7. Romans 15:14, 16:17-18. I Corinthians 1:10, 5:4-5; 11:26-33; 14:23-40. Ephesians 5:19-21. Phillippians 4:15. I Thessalonians 5:11-22. 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15; and James 5:19-20. When I refer to "the church," I simply mean God's people, even when they, as individuals, are doing things together in an orderly or systematic fashion. In none of these references, nor in any other, do you find an institution or organization. Combining our efforts and/or resources toward a common, agreed-upon goal, does not "form or constitute" the disciples into a corporation or functional entity. It did not do so in Acts 11:29-30. There is not one thing that the Lord requires of His people that necessitates forming or constituting ourselves into a "formal organization." If we think so, we are "seeing" what is not there.
When our corporate body, "the local church" acts, it is not the action of the disciples themselves, acting as individuals in an orderly, systematic arrangement. In I Corinthians 14, when "the whole church," the disciples, assembled together for the exercise of "spiritual gifts" by which "edification" (14:26) took place, Paul instructed them: "But let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner" (14:40). That is essential to some degree in any endeavor where people come together to do anything even watch a football game. Just because "the whole church," all the disciples, come together, does not necessitate instituting a "formal organization" or corporate body. Nor does "the whole church" coming together to do together whatever they do together, thereby become a "functional entity" or corporate body.
Yes, modern Church of Christ preachers actually claim that there is a "requirement" or "pattern" from God for this corporate body -- institution! In fact, according to them, "the local church" does not even exist until such a "functional entity" is formed. There may be disciples in that locality or city, meeting and serving God together, but there is no "local church" there until they purposely "start a church" by forming or constituting themselves into such! This is not an option or expedient. No! It is a "requirement" of Almighty God. Note carefully that it is something more than, something distinct from, the saints meeting and serving God together. It is a human institution -- just like the Roman Catholic Church or the Baptist Church or the Christian Church or any other denomination! There is no "pattern" from the Lord for such a practice!
The ultimate results of such teaching is seen in this "Large Middle Tennessee Church," with its "Church Administrator" and all else. This is not simply an abuse, but a legitimate fruit to be expected. "Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows this he will also reap."
If other "local churches" grow to the size of this one, with its diversified operation, then these churches also will have need to employ a "Church Administrator/Office Manager." And why not?
Can anyone seriously entertain the idea that such a corporate operation is what the Lord had in mind when He said: "Upon this rock I will build My church?"