(Editor's Note: The article below was written in 1986, but I did not publish it; however, I think it would be good to do so even at this late date. So with some minor changes it is now presented for your study. It should illustrate how desperately men have tried to justify "the local church" institution as being from God. The appearance of THE EXAMINER had caused many people in the pews to start studying this subject and more and more of the saints were learning that God's word contains no teaching whatever about the local church institution as it is seen today. Read the article carefully).
In 1986 in the Guardian of Truth, Robert Turner, a recognized teacher in the "Conservative" ("Anti") Church of Christ Churches (C of C Church) was again trying to calm everyone's concerns and fears about the "the local Church" institution. It seems that the appearance of THE EXAMINER (January 1986) has caused more and more of the members in this faction of the C of C Church, to begin to study this subject and ask questions about whether such teaching is actually found in God's word.
Brother Turner decided to undertake the task of easing all the concerns and fears, so he presented his latest "revelation" on "The Nature of the Local Church." Since there isn't a word in the NT Scriptures about such an INSTITUTION, the preachers must constantly seek to clarify, refine, and justify this denominational organization, and thus re-assure everyone that "the local church" corporate structure is never-the-less from God, even though designed and established by men, just as is true of all other denominational structures.
A few years ago some of these brethren invented the following terms which are now familiar, in the "conservative" Churches especially: (1) "the local fellowship" and (2) "the local collectivity" as euphemistic ways to describe the legal institutional entity commonly called (3) "the local Church." Of course, you should know that none of those three names or descriptions are found in NT Scripture. My good brother now claims that:
"saints are expected to form 'teams' to carry out collective obligations; and these 'teams' are called churches."
See how boldly that assumption is asserted without any scriptural justification whatever? What will they come up with next? Note what Turner says in the above statement: The "saints are expected to" 1 ) "form teams", 2) "to carry out collective obligations", and 3) "these 'teams' are called churches"! Dear brother and sister, have you ever read anything like that in God's word? You know well that such far-fetched ideas are not in God's word!
Turner does not tell us who it is that "expects" saints to form "teams to carry out collective obligations." Nor does he cite a passage that sets forth such an idea. There is not any teaching in God's word that "assigns collective obligations" to any organization whatever. In fact, there is nothing in Scripture about "collective obligations", meaning obligations assigned by Jesus Christ to some organization or corporate religious structure. The responsibilities which Jesus Christ has assigned, were not assigned to any corporate structure or institutional church. All obligations or duties have been assigned only to individual disciples. One thing is certain: Jesus Christ never said anything remotely resembling the far-fetched teaching of "collective" or organizational obligations. This shows the desperation to find justification for what men have designed and built and want to palm it off as the Lord's doing.
Let's look at the assumptions and implications in that one statement above.
(1) "saints are expected to form teams'... " Yet he cites not one passage that teaches such an idea. Why? There isn't one, obviously! The word "team" is not even in Scripture: at least, not used with reference to the disciples of Christ.
Turner has dug up another non-biblical word, "team", to go along with the other non-biblical terms he helped invent and implement, such as "the local fellowship" and "the local collectivity." These terms are used to describe what he asserts is in Scripture, but he can't find it. Brethren, if such concepts are there, you don't have to invent words or terms to describe them. The words of English scripture will do it. No where are saints told that they are expected "to form teams" for any reason whatever.
(2) Turner asserts that saints have what he calls "collective obligations." This really means that there are Church INSTITUTION responsibilities. That means that the Lord has assigned duties to be executed by a corporate structure called by "the local church," which Turner is now calling the "local team."
Where has the Lord described and assigned "collective obligations" to what Turner calls a "team" or a "collective;" or, even to a "the local church" organization? Neither the concept nor the expression "the local church" is in NT Scripture. Our preacher/clergy invented the terminology to describe what has been fashioned out of the will and wisdom of men. The denominations are a classic example of it.
Do you believe that the Lord has placed responsibility of any kind upon any religious institution; and that this responsibility is to be exercised by or through that corporate Church organization? If so, where is the passage that so teaches? If the Lord has assigned "collective obligations" to "the local collectivity" (Turner's terminology) or to "the local Church" corporate structure, as is believed and practiced by nearly all denominations today, it must follow of necessity that there would have to be "collective" or corporate accountability! That means that each corporate church, as an entity or institution, has been assigned corporate responsibilities by the Lord Jesus. If God has assigned corporate responsibilities, this also means that there will be corporate accountability to God. If that is true, it means that each local church, as a church organization, will stand before God to give an account of ITSELF to God. Will God judge each local church organization, as an organization? Will each "local church", as an institution, be called one by one to stand before the Lord for final judgment? Will the Lord send churches to hell, if these institutions have not been faithful to Him? If so, where is such teaching found?
Take your New Testament Scriptures and search to see if you can find 1 ) any reference to a corporate church institution; and 2) find where the Lord ever assigned any responsibilities to such an organization or institution. Please let me know if you find such.
Early in my life I somewhat thought that the Lord's Supper was a "corporate" or church institution responsibility, that the local church was "in charge" of the Lord's Supper, as the only official administrator of such; about the same as the Roman Catholic Church, and most denominations, teach and practice. I suspect that most C of C church members today believe that the Lord's Supper can only be "administered" by the local corporate church, through its "officials", the Eldership. Of course, there is no justification whatever for such a false doctrine.
The Lord's Supper does not "belong to" the local church organization for control and administration; or for deciding who is "worthy" to partake of it. The Lord's Supper is for the Lord's disciples and they individually decide when, where and with whom they will observe this important way of "remembering the Lord's death till He comes again."
If there is such a thing as corporate or church responsibility, this would necessitate "collective" or "corporate judgment! How could it be otherwise? Will not the Lord hold the "collective" or the corporate Church institution accountable for what He has assigned IT to do? If indeed the local church organization is a "local team", will each "team" stand before the Lord, as a "team," to be judged as a team for its performance and service? In the event that the "team" is condemned, then all team-members will be cast down into torment as a team! Even if you are a good, faithful team-member you go to hell with the team! This is ridiculous, but shows the desperation of men who are wedded to their idols and resort to such to defend them.
(3) Turner's third absurd assertion is that "these 'teams' are called churches." This is sheer folly. Nothing whatever is said about "teams" in Scripture; and definitely no "church" was ever called a "team" in the Scriptures.
Did you know that the local churches are simply a bunch of "teams?" I guess that each saint can decide which "team" he/she will play on or join; somewhat like "join the team of your choice." Do these C of C "teams" play against or compete with each other? Or, do the C of C Church "teams" play against Baptist "teams" and Methodist "teams," and other denominational "teams"? Somewhat like many C or C churches do in the softball Church League. Furthermore, the Scriptures never speak of more than one "church" in any city; hence, there was only one "team" to a city.
Dear brother and sister, have you ever taken the time to seriously consider all the doctrines and practices (religious laws) that preachers have imposed upon you, claiming all of it to be "in the name of the Lord"? It is my view that most disciples have never thought about such, must less seriously looked into this vital matter. They take the word of the hired, professional preachers. They do not realize the vital need to truly "examine everything carefully; hold fast what is good (1 Thess. 5:21 ). That is your obligation before God and your eternal destiny depends upon it. Do it today!
My brother Turner assumes/asserts without any scriptural proof whatever that God has assigned "collective obligations" to "the local teams" or "the local churches," which in his view are functional units, corporate bodies or structures, legal entities. It would be interesting to have Turner attempt to prove from the Scriptures, in a public discussion, that the Lord has assigned any "obligations" to any institution called "the local church" or even "the local team."
When Paul wrote to "the church of God at Corinth," was he writing to "the local TEAM in Corinth?" Acts 8:1 can therefore read: "On that day a great persecution arose against THE LOCAL TEAM in Jerusalem." Remember the fact that there was always only ONE "church" in each city, so there was only one "team" per city. Therefore, the thousands of saints in Jerusalem were all members of the same "team." Wonder where they all got together to play as a "team"? I can't imagine a team of 50,000 members!
But our brother offers us more of his folly. He claims that this "team is seen as a 'tool' '! He does not tell us who has seen "the team as a tool," but apparently he is the only one to whom the Lord has "revealed" the latter day message. Again he asserts: "God has given us a 'tool' for our work." Furthermore, he claims that "We should emphasize the local church as a 'tool'." Can you beat that? What next? Dear reader, be sure that you learn to talk about the local church institution as "the local team" and as "the local tool"! Your friends and neighbors will get a "kick" out of that.
Let me summarize these statements and claims from Turner:
(1) The local church is a team.
(2) The "team is seen as a tool."
(3) God has given us a "a tool for our work."
(4) The "tool" is therefore something given TO US "for our work;" hence it is something other than "us" the disciples.
(5) This "tool", therefore, has an identity separate and distinct from the disciples as individuals. It is something given to us; hence, it is not "us."
(6) But the "tool" is the same thing as "the team."
(7) And the "team" is the same thing as "the local church."
(8) Therefore, "the local church" is merely a "tool" to be used by us for "our work." "The local church" is not, therefore, "us" - the Christians. IT is something separate and distinct from the saints themselves. IT is something that they can "join" on their own decision and upon the acceptance of the local church official Board of Elders. It, "the local church", is a separate entity "a legal being" separate from the members or the people themselves.
(9) But Robert (and all "the local church" institution preachers) teaches that the Lord REQUIRES every disciple to join or become a member of "a local church".
(10) But the local church is a "team", so disciples are required to join a TEAM.
(11 ) But the TEAM is a "tool", so every disciple is to join a TOOL.
(12) The local church (institution), the TEAM, and the TOOL are identical.
(13) But the TOOL, which we join and become a part of, is something that God has given us for our work.
(14) Therefore, since the "tool," and "team," and "the local church" are all identical, "the local church" is something totally distinct from the disciples who join IT.
(15) But the "tool," which is the "team' and the same as the local church," is something (a separate entity) God has given us for our work.
(16) This clearly shows that "the local church" is NOT the same thing as God's people, the redeemed. "The local church" is a humanly-devised institution, or corporate structure, a denomination, set up and controlled by men the clergy and the corporate officials as is the case in every religious institution. They are all from men, not from the Lord Jesus Christ.
When will those who love God and seek to serve Him learn and accept this vital truth? When will they accept their personal responsibility and accept their individual freedom in Christ? Denominations and religious institutions are of and from men, not from God. CAH