In the March issue of The Examiner there was an excellent article under the above title. It deserves very careful study by every Christian. Did you really study it?
Let me offer a suggestion for an excellent Bible study. Invite some of your friends who are Christians to your house for an in-depth study/discussion of that article in the light of God's word and our own Church of Christ teaching and practice. Each person should have a copy of the article for his/her own use. (You are at liberty to reproduce copies.) Get a group of concerned saints who can "examine everything carefully," who will honestly "search the Scriptures" to see if the things are true. Allow at least two hours for the study!
First, you should go the New Testament and read together the passages where "the church" is found and any related passages. Ask questions like these: (1) What do these passages tell us about "how to start a church"? (2) What is the church? (3) Is there any record of anyone, save the Lord Himself, who "started" a church? (4) Did the apostles go out into the world to "start churches?" (5) Is there a requirement or pattern from God for Christians to "form or constitute themselves into an organic institution, body corporate, a functional unit?" (6) Is there a "pattern" showing some "formal organization," called "the local church," that is formed or started which has been assigned "certain works" that only this unit can perform with God s approval? (7) See if you can find any requirement from the Lord that "every Christian must join or become a part of such a formal organization." (8) Search to see if there is anything clearly taught about "local church membership" or "placing membership" with such an organization. See if you can find any saints spoken of as "church members." (9) Also check if there is any authorization from the Lord clearly showing every Christian must join such an institution "and therein serve under the control of that organization in certain works that the disciples cannot do otherwise and please God."
Take the questions one by one and seek a Bible answer -- if there is one, and discuss the matter fully and openly. This should generate other questions that demand answers.
Then take the article and read it aloud together, perhaps taking turns with the reading. Stop and discuss any part as needed to ensure understanding. In fact, put yourselves in the place of those in the article who were discussing this matter and role-play how to "start a church."
Now having completed the reading and discussion, together identify what you have learned on this vital subject. Discuss it fully. Make a written list. Raise this question: Now what does all of this mean to us? What do we believe based only upon what God's word teaches?
Now what do we do? Maybe you will want to meet again soon to further discuss the matter. Perhaps have the same study with other concerned disciples.
But before you leave this meeting, ask these sobering questions: What does the Lord require of us as Christians that we cannot do as individuals acting on our own or acting together (conjointly) with others just as we have been doing in this meeting in our home? If we should meet on Sunday, as such a group, would it be scriptural for us (the gathering or assembly) to sing, pray, study God's word, take up a contribution to help a needy family and send support to a worthy preacher in Nigeria, and observe the Lord's supper? If not, why not? If yes, what is the need for a formal organization, body corporate, called "the local church?" Does God require such?
I hope many of you will have such a meeting -- soon. Probably it would be best not to invite the preacher. They sometimes have difficulty being objective, and have a tendency to "take charge."
Question: Do you and your friends have the right, even the duty, before God to have such a gathering and engage in such a study without asking permission or notifying the Eldership and Preacher? If not, why not? If not, it should tell you a lot about how things are with you.
If you will have such a meeting, I can assure you it will be an enriching, rewarding experience. Don't stop with just this one. If you do have such a meeting, please write me and tell me about the results.
I encourage you to start some serious Bible study groups on your own. Take the initiative for such. Reach out to others, perhaps, even those of an honest and good heart who are outside the Church of Christ. They have the same institutional problems that we do. --CAH