(For the benefit of hundreds of new readers, I must review the previous articles.)
In the November '87 issue of this paper, I dealt with The Myth of the "CHURCH" of the Bible , showing that the English word "church" should not be in the New Covenant Scriptures at all! The English word "church" is not a translation of the Greek word ekklesia. Modern usage of the word "church" almost always has reference to (1) a religious institution or organization like Baptist Church, Church of God, Church of Christ, or Christian Church; or (2) to a material building (properly built according to Church Architectural design to look like a Church should look!) called a "church." There are other uses of the word, such as "going to church" "we had church at 10 a.m.," etc.
It was emphasized that in the day of Christ and His apostles, the word "ekklesia" was an everyday, non-religious, Greek word that meant "assembly," "congregation" or "gathering" of people. The word "church" was put in the King James Version by the decree of King James I. It is a terrible mistake that has wrought misunderstanding and error through the years. Put it down as a fact: In the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ as proclaimed by His apostles there was no such thing as a church, a religious institution! Jesus did not build or die for a religious organization called "Church!" The early disciples did not build, establish, join or hold membership in a Church institution or organization of any kind. There should be no Church institution today.
In Part II , I showed some of the results that would follow if the Church institution should fall or be removed. Let me briefly state them.
(1) The entire clergy system, our hired professional Pulpit Ministers and all other Minister types fall with it. (For this, and all other results following, I gave reasons why such is true.)
(2) The Eldership or Lordship, the rulers or managers of the corporation, the local Church institutions, will also fall.
(3) If there is no corporate Church, then the Church membership deception will be gone.
(4) There will be no local Church treasury into which you are to deposit your money to provide an operational fund for the organization.
(5) Obviously, if there is no Church institution there will be no need for our increasingly larger, more elaborate and expensive Church buildings or headquarters. This is probably the biggest financial ripoff going today.
(6) The denominational names, like West Berry Church of Christ or Mid-town Church of Christ, will be no more. There won't be any corporate entity or organization to wear such anti-scriptural, divisive names.
(7) The leech-like para-Church organizations, such as preacher training schools, colleges, kindergartens, Church literature publishers and sellers, and all others who depend upon the Church institution for their livelihood will be gone. The financial "gravy" from the Church institutions is big, big business!
In the January '88 paper, I wrote about some of the blessings and benefits that could come to individual saints (you!) with the dismantling and removal of the institutional Church. These were:
(1) There would be a mighty freeing of the SLAVES of the institutional Church! As a Church member you are in slavery to a Church institution controlled by men! You have no voice or vote in anything. Your role is to (1) obey and (2) pay. Membership in this human institution called a "Church" requires that you agree to work and serve under the authority and oversight of the corporate officials -- the Eldership! You are not free in Christ! You are in bondage to a human institution and its Rulers. Yet Jesus said: "No man can serve two masters..." (Matt. 6:24). The apostle Paul said: "...do not become slaves of men" (1 Cor. 7:23). I ask you, "Do you obey God or men?" If you say "God" then I ask how you can agree to obey men?
(2) The blessing of individual responsibility; the acceptance of the duty and right to make your own decisions relative to serving the one Lord or Master. This was discussed at some length.
It would be of great value if each saint, who is of an honest and good heart, willing to examine everything carefully, could have a copy of each issue and fully study what was offered in the light of God's word.
Let me discuss with you some other benefits and blessings to you -- the individual disciple, if the institutional Church was removed -- or, if you were willing to remove yourself from it as a slave-member. Here I am not suggesting that as disciples we should separate ourselves from other disciples who are slave-members of a local Church organization. No! As long as they will accept a relationship with us, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we should seek to retain ties with them on this basis. Not as a fellow slave/member of the local Church institution controlled by overlords called "Elders;" but as fellow members in the one body (Eph. 4:5) of Jesus Christ. We do not want to remove or withdraw ourselves from our brothers and sisters in Christ. No! We seek a closer relationship with them as "members in one body...so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another" (Rom. 12:4-5). We can't have a relationship with one another that is closer than that! We all need it.
We can "attend" their meetings, pray and study with them, observe the Lord's Supper with them. We should invite them to the various meetings we have in our homes when engaged in any or all of the activities just mentioned. The difference is we do not share a Church institution membership relationship and responsibility as they do. We are not supporters of the institution that claims to be the Institution of Christ, the very one He built and gave His life for. But we are fellow saints with all the redeemed, the ekklesia or assembly of the gathered ones, purchased by His bood. We accept them as Christians even though we believe that they are sincerely in error and honestly mistaken about the Church of Christ denomination. We are willing to discuss these vital matters with them anytime they are willing to do so.
We want to see the Lord's people freed from membership in a human institution ("the local church") to which they belong as member-slaves. We want to see them free from Church institutional control and restore them to the control of our Lord (Ruler) Jesus Christ. Free them from slavery and obedience to men - the Eldership and the Pulpit Minister, the clergy control. Exactly like people need to be freed from Baptist Church control, from the control of and obedience to the Methodist Church, the Church of God, the Presbyterian Church, and the Independent Christian Church. They are all from the wisdom and will of men!
We must remember that most of them have been "born and reared" in the Church concept. "Everybody ought to join a Church of some kind" is the general idea. Many "members" do not like the organizational set-up and control, the ritualistic, institutional approach to God; but like the members of other denominations, they bow to it and go along to get along. After all, they have been assured by the clergy, the Pulpit Ministers (who are the professionals, trained in the clergy schools to be the official teachers) that what we have today is the exact arrangement and organization as it was set up by the Lord Himself. The slave/member has no voice or vote in anything. So they do not question it. Thus the blind lead the blind, even as is true in all other denominations.
You should understand the recent "doctrine" of our clergy that proclaims to the slave-member that to obey the Elder-ship is the same as obeying Christ; and to disobey the Elder-ship is the same as disobeying Christ. This corporate body of men represents Jesus Christ to you! The same claim is made for the Pope of Rome. Both claims are false, anti-scriptural and anti-Lord Jesus Christ!
Brother and sister, it is your eternal destiny that is at stake here. What I am writing here is either the truth or it is dangerous error! If you think it is the latter, then prove (test) it for yourself by God's word. If you run to your Pulpit Minister or to the Elder-ship, you know what answer they will give. It will be the same one the Pope would give, if he was willing to give any at all.
I challenge you, dear reader, to test or examine the modern Church of Christ Church (or any other church) in the light of God's word. Search for the justification for the Church of Christ institution in the Scripture. Show the authorization for such in all its parts and pieces. See if you can find a "Church member" referred to in Scripture. See if you can find where the "five acts of worship" are described and that this is the way to worship God. Find the evidence to prove that all five acts are to be engaged in each Sunday at the morning "Worship Service" only! (See if you can find anything said about the "worship service" idea). Find why only three of the five acts are acceptable on Sunday evening and Wednesday evening, but are not acceptable at "the main Worship Service" on Sunday morning.
Seek the instruction from the Lord for having a building, a Church, cathedral, or sanctuary as the place of worship.
Search for the Lord's authorization for a Church organization to hire a professional Pulpit Minister (a Church employee) at a high salary and excellent "compensation package" to be the Chief Pastor and manager of the corporate Church.
Brother and sister, you have a big stake in this vital study. Accept your individual responsibility and search the Scriptures daily to see if these things are truth or error. Take your time. Do your study with an honest and good heart, with eyes to see, and a heart willing to understand. God bless you in this endeavor.
(3) You can become a Christian only and be only a Christian!
This was the plea in our earlier history before the institutional Church reached its octopus proportions. This appeal found a ready reception with thousands caught up in denominational divisions. But in the last 30-40 years this solid appeal has been lost and the Church of Christ Church (C of CC) and the Independent Christian Church Church (ICCC) have joined the other denominations/sects, yet all the while still trying to "con" themselves and all others into believing the falsehood claim is even made that the C of CC is the one true Church restored just as it was in the days of the Apostles! Hundreds of sermons have been preached on "The Marks of the True Church," "The Identity of the church," telling the sinner that he must find and join this Church in order to be saved and go to heaven! Often sermons were preached, and still are, on "Must One Be a Member of the C of CC to be Saved?" The answer given was and is "Yes," but obviously it has to be the right C of' CC! Preachers even declare that the Church is the way, or "the gate" to heaven.
The folly of this "big lie" is seen clearly in our own inconsistencies and divisions. Which one of the C of C Churches is the one true Church? There are several factions and divisions, alienated and separated from each other, yet each one claims to be the exclusive one true, faithful Church! The focus is on the right Church institution, not on Jesus Christ, the Savior. There is no Church, meaning an institution or organization, with all the necessary parts and pieces such as found in the C of CC or ICC of today set forth in the Scriptures. Don't lose sight of this fact as you read and study God's word.
Church institutions of all kinds, with their distinctive and divisive names and doctrines, set people off in sects and factions, all of which are works of the flesh and condemned by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:19-21; I Cor. 1:10-13; 11:19). Start naming the various Churches and see how they divide and separate people who claim to be saved, the children of God. Our C of CC divisions do the same sinful thing!
The name Christian is not divisive at all. It unites. If you are a Christian only and I am a Christian only we are the same, united as one in Christ. I do not believe you can use the name Christian by itself in any way that is divisive. I mean as the name for the individual disciple (Acts 11:26). Obviously the name Christian is divisive in that it identifies and sets apart those who are followers of Christ from those who aren't. You must add some sort of modifier like Baptist Christian, C of CC Christian, or ICC Christian to divide those who claim to follow Christ. The name Christian unites. It is used only three times in Scripture and only as a noun, a name for the disciples of Jesus.
Wouldn't you love to be just a Christian? One very capable, dedicated brother has written a popular book entitled "I Just Want To Be A Christian" My question to him is: "What is stopping you?" He may sincerely want to be just a Christian, but he isn't! He is a member of a C of CC (organization, institution). At best he is a C of CC Christian; he is a member of one of the "local" institutions aligned with a specific faction of the larger C of CC denomination. If he is willing to pay the price, my brother can be in reality just a Christian, only a Christian, but he will have to give up his C of CC membership.
In his current role as Pulpit Minsiter and a C of CC member, my brother is not just a Christian. He is a member of a denomination and occupies a functional employee position therein that is wholly without divine direction. As a member of a C of CC he cannot be just a Christian, a Christian only. The Baptist Church member claims to be a Christian, but honestly admits that he is not just a Christian or Christian only; he is a Baptist Christian! My good brother should be as forthright as the Baptist and acknowledge that he is a C of CC Christian. A denomination is still a denomination, a creation of men, regardless of the name by which it is called.
Would you like to be a Christian only, just a Christian? Not some kind of sectarian Christian, who belongs to some institutional church or denomination. Indeed you can -- and you should -- be just a Christian if you have faith and courage to make the break with the Church institution, and be a non-denominational child of God. No, you do not break with the disciples of Jesus as individuals. They are your brothers and sisters (Gal. 3:28) in Christ (not in the Church) where we are all one -- united!
(4) No Institutional Church Burden.
If we all withdraw from or dismantle the local Church institution, if we would be Christians only, we would riot be burdened with some Church organization we have to "sell" to the world as "the Lord's Church." We would not seek to teach people how to become "members" of some Church institution; but rather teach them the gospel of Jesus Christ, show them the necessary response to it in order to be saved, become a child of God, and be a Christian only (Mark 16:15-16; Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 2, 8, 10, 16). No arguments or discussions over which Church is right in name, doctrine, and practice. After becoming a Christian, saved, they can then be taught to "observe all that I commanded you" (Matt. 28:20).
If we were Christians only we would not need to argue with Church people or anyone else about which Church is the right Church; which one is the one true Church that they must find and join in order to be saved. We would show them that there is no Church institution set forth in Scripture. Denominationalism, Churches, are from men, not from God. Stay out, don't get into any of them!
We would not have to spend needless time and effort in talking about "restoring" the right church since there is no such thing in God's word.
Church organizations, denominations, cause divisions and alienations. They divide people into differing parties and sects, with different names, doctrines and practices, yet all claiming to be the way of God. C of CC/ICCC disciples of Jesus have been deceived into believing that our particular Church party or faction is the one true Church and all others are false. There are several sects going under the label or denominational name of Church of Christ, with each one claiming that it is the very one Jesus established. There is no "true Church" because there is no such institution in God's word.
(5) No longer will there be a Church treasury.
Gone will be the false doctrine that saints are required by the Lord to contribute into the cofer of the Church each first day of the week as one of the required "five acts of worship." No longer will there be a corporate Church treasury, erroneously called "the Lord's money" or "the Lord's treasury;' or "sacred money" for the clergy/rulers to fuss and fight over. No longer will all of this collected wealth be available to the corporate lords, called The Eldership, to buy high-priced property and erect thereon costly, elaborate Church buildings, cathedrals, sanctuaries, and other expensive facilities. No longer will that pooled wealth be available to hire a professional clergyman as the Pulpit Minister; or, any other kind of Church employee Minister. What a blessed day it would be for the people of God if all of this was removed and the individual saints could be "free in Christ" to serve Him and the Father on their own initiative.
Each saint will then be free to make his/her own decisions about what will be done with his/her money. As in scriptures, "the disciples...each one of them" (Acts 11:29-30) will determine to what and how much he/she will give of his/her own resources. They can pool it together, as each may decide, to concurrently send to a common need or person or work. Young saints will begin to see how each one, however limited or abundant their resources, can have personal, direct involvement in giving help and support as he/she deems wise.
If we could today simply get all these corporate Church treasuries emptied and removed, we would solve many of our problems and perhaps be able to get on with the Lord's work of preaching the gospel to the lost world, strengthening the saints, and helping the needy. The love of money (and what it can do) is still a root of all kinds of evil.
(6) Without the institutional Church we could again establish the right of individual (personal) judgment and freedom of speech for each disciple. This is a vital dimension of individual freedom in Christ, individual responsibility, and individual accountability that we have emphasized in this paper before. The local Church institution (since there isn't any such thing authorized by the Lord!) has never been assigned any responsibilities by the Lord. Yet one brother, using another term he has concocted out of his misconceptions and assumptions, speaks/writes often of "collective obligations." Do you have any idea what that means? Of course, this brother, along with a few others, has invented a delusion that they call "the local collectivity.'' This is an idol they have erected and they "worship" because it is a creation of their own. They spin this tale with absolute assurance of its rightness, giving the Lord full credit for their invention, of course, and proclaiming that "collective obligations" have been assigned to each "local collectivity." Only "the local collectivity" can engage in or perform these "collective obligations" or responsibilities.
In case you have not yet figured it out, "the local collectivity'' is another way of speaking of "the local church" organization. By all of their human reasoning they have precisely determined what "the local collectivity" can do; the specific and exclusive works assigned to it. Somewhat like the Pharisees did such things, these legal "experts" have gotten it all figured out down to a nat's hair! With their "laws" and interpretations they can resolve any problem, split any hair-line question and give forth "the precise law of God" on the matter. In this way these so-called "conservatives'' have created their own sect of redeemed ones, the one and only true Church! They have been so involved in the tithing of anise, mint, and cummin areas of laws and rules that they have left undone the weightier matters of the law (of God). Their laws, rulings and decisions are matters of life and death; and the soul that sins against their laws shall surely die. At least, he (even the entire membership of a local Church!) is thrown out of their kingdom and consigned to hell! That's how severe and extreme these clergymen and their laws and interpretations have gotten. They have plenty of room for more laws, but no place for love and mercy. And these are my brethren and I love them!
The Lord has not assigned any responsibilities to any Church organization, to any human creation called "the local collectivity," or "the local Church." Not one. No! Not one! Also, it should be noted that the Lord has never assigned any responsibility to any Church-related institution of any kind! In the service of the Lord, every command and required action or behavior belongs to the individual disciple only!
The individual (alone) has the responsibility. The individual alone has the accountability to God. And the individual alone will be judged by the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no collective or corporate responsibility. There is no collective or corporate accountability. And there is no collective or corporate judgment. Can't you see that?
You are to study -- examine the Scriptures -- and learn the truth for yourself. Like the Bereans did it (Acts 17:31). You are to decide for yourself, based upon your personal searching of the Scriptures, what is right or wrong for you. In this way you will know the truth that is able to make (and keep) you free (John 8:32). "Truth" here primarily means the divine person (Jesus Christ) who is the very word or embodiment of truth. All decisions should be yours, personally determined.
Certainly you should seek help, guidance and information from any source you decide, but the decision about God's will must be yours, formulated in your mind and based upon the facts. Seek teachers, books, papers that may be helpful. Do not accept or subscribe to the doctrinal positions of any Church institution or its Rulers or its hired professionals simply because they declare something to be the truth. You do not have to be aligned with any Church or brotherhood segment or division. In fact, it is wrong to do so.
You are answerable only to God for what you believe and teach; and teach you must do. You have the right and the liberty to teach others what you believe. You have freedom of speech and you should not allow any man, body of men, or Church to take it away from you. Don't allow anyone to tell you what you can or cannot teach.
You may be wrong about some teaching or belief, or perhaps more than one, but it will be your error determined in honest study. This can happen and most of us can personally attest to this fact. We can be honestly mistaken and sincerely in error. If indeed it is an error, it will be error even if you are conscientious and as honest as can be. Saul of Tarsus was. Therefore, we must continually "test" and examine our views in discussions with others, in constant study of God's word, in listening to and reading from others.
You have access to the same source of truth anyone else does. Everything God wants us to know is recorded and preserved for us in the Old and New Covenant Scriptures.
Guard well and exercise your right of personal judgment and freedom of speech -- and action. Grant fully this right to other disciples. Listen to others. Read from others, even those with different views. Examine everything carefully; hold fast what is good (I Thess. 5:21). That is your personal responsibility. Share your views openly and be ready to give the "sound doctrine" for such.
"...but sanctify Christ as lord in your hearts, always being ready to make defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness [toward the person] and reverence [toward God]..." (I Pet. 3:15). Can you do that? That is your individual responsibility and you will account to God for how well you have done it.
The above presents additional benefits and blessings to you -- the child of God, when the institutional Church is removed or when you separate yourself from it. God bless you, my people. -- CAH.
In this series of editorials -- all three of them, I hope you have kept in mind that I have not discussed or been critical of persons. Not even our preachers as persons. What I have written is not a judgment or condemnation of any person or group of persons. ! have dealt with the Church institution system, the preacher/clergy system or practice, the structural "worship services'' ritual system, the Eldership/Lordship control system, the laity, member-slave system, along with many of the related concepts, beliefs, and practices. I hope and pray that you -- the reader -- will recognize this fact. Nothing I have presented is personal, that is, a judgment or condemnation of any individual. I believe that by far the great majority of the readers are of the honest and good heart, who want to please God and go to heaven. You are my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. I accept you as that; and here I include all the preachers.
Are you able to rise above feeling that what I have presented is personal, and objectively, honestly consider what has been presented? Will you act or react as did the noble-minded Boreans? When they heard the apostle Paul "they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11}. That is all I can ask of you. We are told the results: "Many of them therefore believed..." (v. 12). I have written from my heart to your heart (mind) and tried to warn you concerning what I believe to be the doctrine and practices of men, things contrary to God's will. Please don't close your mind and reject what is presented before you examine it carefully. God bless you. - CAH.