CHURCH CLOSINGS MAKE GOOD NEWS

The above is the heading of an article by COLEMAN McCARTHY, which appeared in the Tampa Tribune-Times, March 5, 1989. It starts by telling that "In Detroit, 31 Catholic parishes are to be closed. In Chicago, 18 have been terminated since 1982. In Washington, the archdiocese is shutting four high schools." Causes include a shortage of priests, money, or customers. Mr McCarthy says:

"As a Catholic, I look on the closings as another of those disguised blessings that represent a chance for spiritual renewal, not decline."

Mr. McCarthy raises some vital questions. One is "What did buildings ever have to do with faith anyway?" Then he offers his answer:
"Managing them turned priests into superintendents. Bishops with the edifice complex relied on the counsel of Realtors more than the grace of God.
Clerics became real-estate sharpies."

In other words it turns them away from what they are called to do, work in spiritual areas.

McCarthy says that "Tie-ins with property mean entanglements with the West's capitalism that the Pope himself regularly attacks." He quotes from the book of Acts that "all who believed were together and held all things in common, and would sell their possessions and goods and distribute them among all according as anyone had need."

Read this observation:

"In the United States . . . the Pope's anti-capitalist warnings go unheeded. Here a church without wealth buildings, real estate portfolios is as unthinkable as a Pentagon without weapons. BUILDINGS MEAN SECURITY, the taxidermic of stuffing belief with properties. Religions ought to be exactly opposite that, earning its place because its security is in free-loading leanness that trusts in God, not the trusts of Chase Manhattan."

Real estate in the form of church buildings is the main strength of the modern churches of almost all denominations. Can you imagine those who claim to be God's people doing His work without a church building?

Among Church of Christ (C of C) churches the building is the main essential for having a church operation, with the employee called the Pulpit Minister (clergy) as a close second. Then comes the Ruling Body in each local organization, the Eldership.

Mr. McCarthy asks:

"Where would people worship without churches? Why not in homes or on open land? It was that way in the early church, beginning with Antioch where Christians were first called Christians. DIVESTITURE, NOT OWNERSHIP, was the mark of faith."

He is telling it like it is. These are wise and right observations from a Catholic. Why can't C of C church leaders (Elders) understand this? Well, for starters, the building is their religious headquarters and looking after it and what happens there is perhaps their most important function. Then comes the hiring, firing, and supervision of the corporate church employees who work there. Where else would these corporate officials have their business meetings or provide offices for the employees? The building is where the members are to report in at the appointed time for the spiritual therapy and to perform the worship rituals, the vital "five acts of worship,'' as they are called.

The building, the corporate church institution, the hired employees, and the corporate Board of Directors the Eldership are all without scriptural precedent or authority. They are money-consuming items which take up to 90% of the local church's "income", which is squeezed out of the lowly, voiceless, submissive members by the pressure applied with the false teaching that MONEY COLLECTION is one of the required five "acts worship." It is TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION! The money contribution is a very important item for the Pulpit Minister and the other employees; their livelihood depends upon it! It is amazing that God's people can be so easily deceived. Remember that the duties of the lowly members of the Church institution can be summed up this way: 1 ) OBEY and 2) PAY!!

Buildings are NOT essential! They are not even an asset in doing what Jesus wants His disciples to do; they are usually a detriment! They LOCALIZE and CONFINE "religion" to a physical location, confining 95% of what the disciple does to that place, the building.

The "worship services" are today "held" under the authority and direction of the Church Rulers, at the times this ruling body dictates. This constitutes the major, if not the total, effort of most disciples in serving the Lord. It is all done at the appointed PLACE, the building, which is also called "the church." (That unscriptual word "church" has many different meanings and is very confusing.) If any of the members attempt to meet with other saints for Bible study and fellowship in their own homes, they will encounter strong opposition from the church rulers, even to the point of being "thrown out of the church". Any activities of the individual members, along these lines, must be approved by the Lordship of the local Church. They "belong to the church" which means that they are not FREE to decide and act on their own in serving the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is more and more being taught that this body of Rulers (Elders) directly speaks and acts for Jesus Christ. Preachers are proclaiming that to obey the Eldership is the same as obeying Christ; and to disobey the Eldership is the same as disobeying Christ! The same claim is made for the Pope of Rome! If the latter is a "Lord God, the Pope," then the other must be equally "Lord God, the Eldership"! If not, why not?

Pay attention, dear brothers and sisters; look at what has happened to you in your MEMBERSHIP role in the local church organization. You are required to submit to and obey MEN! They rule with absolute authority; they cannot be questioned in any decision that they hand down. As HARDEMAN NICHOLS, well-known preacher, preached in a sermon at Sixth and Izard C of C church in Little Rock: The subordinate members must OBEY the Elders when they agree with what these Rulers decree; and they must SUBMIT when they do NOT agree! Do you, dear reader, get the full impact of that little clever perversion of Scripture? Like the Pope of Rome, this Papal body (Eldership), that RULES the local C of C church, is right even if it is wrong! Can you accept that kind of false teaching?

The infallibility of the Eldership, nor their authority over you, is not to be questioned and this is becoming more and more rigid and enforced. When will the people in the pews face the reality of what has happened to them and find the faith and courage to throw off this unholy yoke of bondage? Claim your individual freedom get out of the slavery of the institutional church!

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

First, STOP CONTRIBUTING MONEY TO THE CHURCH ORGANIZATION! 80-90% of the money goes to pay for buildings and their upkeep; and for the salaries of the professional, hired employees of the organization. You should you MUST, if you desire to have God's approval decide for yourself for what and how YOUR money will be used. It is YOUR responsibility. When you merely drop it into the church coffer to be used according to the judgment of others, you have deserted your personal responsibility! You are allowing others (the Eldership) to use YOUR money to do what they will with it. In most cases today the contributor has no voice or vote relative to its use; and usually never knows specifically how it is used. This is wrong and you can and should STOP IT!

STOP PAYING THE CHURCH OBLIGATIONS that you had no part in making.

The local church collection/treasury is NOT and does not ever become "the Lord's money" or "the Lord's treasury," as the disciples have been conned into believing. Contributing into a local church treasury is NOT taught in NT scripture, much less referred to as "an act of worship". It is a contribution to a human organization, set up and controlled by men.

Use your money and resources to do what the Lord wants you to do with such. First, to provide for yourself and those of your household and your extended family (1 Tim. 5:1-16; Acts 6:1-7; Eph. 6: 2-3;James 1: 27).

Second, to assist any and all who are in need (Acts 11:29-30; Eph. 4:8; Matt. 25:31-46; Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35).

Third, in helping those who go out to preach the gospel where it has not been proclaimed or where the field is still white unto harvest (Phil. 1: 5; 4:15).

Fourth, be ready to help with every good work; whatever you believe is right and that will benefit or bless others, lift up the fallen, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, care for the sick, and help those in prison. Of course, in helping with these good works, we must not do evil (wrong) even if good does come as a result.

Fifth, help provide the money and the human resource (yourself) to teach the saved, His disciples, "all things" that Jesus has commanded in order to strengthen them in the faith.

Sixth, help provide the money necessary to preach the truth and expose error by radio, television, papers, etc.

Seventh, use your resources and talents to get the good news to the lost in other countries. Perhaps the best way to do this is the translation and circulation of the Scriptures to those of all nations "in the language wherein they were born". Nothing can take the place of God's word. It is the answer to man's greatest and deepest needs; it tells of the "great salvation" that God has provided for all men and how it can be obtained. The translation and distribution of the Scriptures is a great and needed work, but it will cost thousands and thousands of dollars. But we could do it, if we were all willing to help financially and otherwise.

These are just some of the good works to which you can contribute your money, your own efforts, and your prayers by your own decision!. It is your individual responsibility to make your own decisions about what YOU will do in serving the Lord.

It can all be summed up by saying: Follow Jesus! Read the gospels and what His followers reveal to us about His activities. Peter tells us that "He went about doing good" (Acts 10:33). Paul instructs: "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10).

Jesus plainly states that only those who do the will of the Father in heaven will enter the kingdom of God. The will of the Father is expressed clearly in the Scriptures. Why in the world would any saint have difficulty learning what he or she should be doing in serving the Lord? If YOU have a copy of the Scriptures, why should YOU have to depend upon some Pulpit Minister to tell you what you should do in serving and obeying the Lord? Weigh this well: ATTENDING CHURCH SERVICES AND PERFORMING THE PRESCRIBED CHURCH RITUALS IS NOT OBEYING THE LORD JESUS CHRIST! He, nor any of His inspired teachers, never taught any of the saints to do such a thing. Doing these things is obeying MEN, NOT Jesus Christ.

Remember RESPONSIBILITY is individual and personal: NOT institutional or group.

ACCOUNTABILITY to Jesus Christ and God the Father is individual and personal. "Each of us shall give an account of himself to the Lord." Nobody, no Board of Elders, nor the Pope, nor the Pulpit Minister, father nor mother, no CHURCH ORGANIZATION, can stand in your place of accountability to God!

JUDGMENT IS INDIVIDUAL! YOU will answer for yourself, NOT for how you obeyed and submitted to the presumptive Eldership, but for how you have accepted your responsibility and followed (obeyed) Jesus. And, dear brother and sister, if you actually lack the ability to understand the difference between obeying MEN and in obeying GOD, don't worry about it, God will take care of you. Your "ticket is already punched." Or, as the unique, colorful Texas preacher, J.D. Tant, often put it when speaking of those who claimed that they could not see or understand the essential, simple truth as God has revealed it through His word: "Don't worry, God will poke you through the fool hole."

Here from scripture is an account of how it should be done: "And in proportion that any of the disciples had means, EACH ONE OF THEM DETERMINED to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. And this THEY did, sending it through the hand of Barnabas and Saul to the elders" (Acts 11: 11:29-30). YOU decide where YOUR contribution will go; it is your responsibility. STOP Trying to serve God through a PROXY organization and counterfeit Rulers.

LESSONS TO LEARN:

1) There is nothing about a local church institution or organization to be found in Scripture; nor any authority from the Lord for men to erect or establish such. There is not one word in the divine record telling the disciples to start, establish, or build a CHURCH, local or otherwise. All church institutions and organizations are from men, not God. All of them are denominations, including the C of C churches and the Independent Christian Church churches.

2) Every responsibility assigned by the Lord is personal and individual. There is NOT one responsibility' or work assigned to a corporation, organization, or institution, local or otherwise.

3) The "Great Commission" was given to individuals the individual apostles that Jesus had chosen. It was not given to them as a corporate body, institution or organization. Each one was assigned responsibility and each one was to carry out his obligations. They might work together in some special effort (Acts 6:1-6; 8:14). Paul, at times, had several men and some women (Phil. 4:2-3) with him, but it was not a Missionary Society nor a corporate organization of any kind. At no city did they ever establish, set up, or start a local corporate church institution.

4) Jesus did not build or set up an institution or organization; and He did not have reference to such a thing when He declared that "upon this rock I will build my ekklesia" (mistranslated "church"). He would "build" add to the number, multiply His ekklesia (people). One by one, three thousand souls or individuals were "added that day," on Pentecost. "And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved" (Acts 2: 41, 47). They did not "join some church organization," there wasn't any there to join!

Individuals may work together, assist or cooperate with one another to do whatever needs to be done, if they desire or if it needs multiple effort. They may even organize to do it, See 1 Cor. 14 where Paul instructs the saints about doing things "decently and in order" when doing things together. But there was no church institution at Corinth or anywhere else. Remember that the Lord has no "functional unit" for the performance of His work other than the individual disciple. That is where responsibility and accountability begins and ends.

Isn't it time, dear brother and sister, that YOU took charge of your personal service to Christ, made your own decisions about the use of your money, your time, your talents and controlled your own life?

Do YOU have the faith and courage to leave the CHURCH CONTROL and put your total life and all you have fully under the control of Christ as your Lord and Master? Live for Jesus, oh, my brother and sister, HIS disciple ever be. God bless you. - CAH