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                        "THE CHURCH JESUS BUILT"

                 Innovations In The Work Of The Church


1. In our previous study, we summarized the work of the church as...
   a. Edification (preparing the saints for service)
   b. Benevolence (providing for the needy saints)
   c. Evangelism (proclaiming the gospel)

2. When we let the local church do its proper work, it will...
   a. "equip saints for the work of the ministry"
   b. "edify the body of Christ"
   c. "grow up in all things into Him who is the head, Christ"

3. Yet it is not uncommon for the local church to be used in ways God
   did not intend, such as for political or social activism...
   a. Not that such causes are without merit
      1) As individuals, Christians can certainly participate in such
      2) Using other organizations such as family, community, or
         governmental agencies
   b. But the local church is limited in its resources
      1) It can easily become "burdened" (cf. 1Ti 5:16)
      2) It can be hindered or distracted from fulfilling its true

[Among many churches, innovations have been introduced into the work of
the church.  Though well intentioned, they tend to denominationalize
and/or secularize the church.  One such innovation is...]


      1. The support of human institutions from the treasury of local
         a. "...the doctrine or practice of a church sending money to an
            institution of some kind in order to carry out some work
            that the church has deemed worthy of support."
            - http://www.goodfight.com/notes/Institutionalism.html
         b. "... this may include supporting missionary organizations,
            orphan's homes, nursing homes, schools, other churches, even
            political organizations." - ibid.
      2. Such institutions are often called 'parachurch organizations'
         a. "The parachurch is effectively a new form of religious
            organization that dates from the early 19th century."
         b. "In the first quarter of the 19th century, parachurch
            organizations were abundant in many forms -- Bible tract
            societies, independent educational organizations,
            independent missionary groups, and moral reform
         c. "The defining characteristic of a parachurch is that it
            stands outside of the organizational structure of well-
            established religious bodies."
         d. "Parachurches are often the creation of an entrepreneur or a
            small cadre of people who seek to achieve specific goals."
         -- http://religiousbroadcasting.lib.virginia.edu/parachurch.html
      3. The goal of such institutions are certainly noble:  evangelism,
         benevolence, edification, etc.
         a. The issue in this study is not whether such institutions
            have a right to exist
         b. The issue is whether local churches should support them out
            of their treasury

      1. There is no scriptural support for churches to support human
         a. There is no example of NT churches sending money to human
            institutions as a way of carrying out their work of
            evangelism, edification, or benevolence
         b. The practice began in the 19th century (see above)
         c. In the NT, churches sent money directly to other churches or
      2. It gives oversight of the local church's work to those not its
         a. Human institutions are governed by board members, CEOs, or
            other individuals
         b. Churches 'out source' their work and their oversight by
            giving to such organizations
      3. It turns the local church into a collection agency for man-made
         a. Institutions appeal for churches to support their
         b. The local church thus becomes a mini 'United Way' for human
      4. It tends to denominationalize the church
         a. Institutions usually identify their association with a
            particular group of churches
         b. E.g., a 'Church of Christ school', or 'Church of Christ
            benevolent home', etc.
         c. The use of 'Church of Christ' in such a way contributes to a
            denominational mindset
      5. Additional insights regarding the problems with
         institutionalism come from an article on Parachurch
         Organizations by William McDonald:
         a. "One result is that capable teachers and preachers have been
            called away from their primary ministries in order to become
            administrators. If all mission board administrators were
            serving on the mission field, it would greatly reduce the
            need for personnel there."
         b. "Another result of the proliferation of organizations is
            that vast sums of money are needed for overhead, and thus
            diverted from direct gospel outreach. The greater part of
            every dollar given to many Christian organizations is
            devoted to the expense of maintaining the organization
            rather than to the primary purpose for which it was
         c. "Organizations often hinder the fulfillment of the Great
            Commission. Jesus told His disciples to teach all the things
            He had commanded. Many who work for Christian organizations
            find they are not permitted to teach all the truth of God.
            They must not teach certain controversial matters for fear
            they will alienate the constituency to whom they look for
            financial support."
         d. "The multiplication of Christian institutions has too often
            resulted in factions, jealousy, and rivalry that have done
            great harm to the testimony of Christ. 'Consider the
            overlapping multiplicity of Christian organizations at work,
            at home, and abroad. Each competes for limited personnel and
            for shrinking financial resources. And consider how many of
            these organizations really owe their origin to purely human
            rivalry, though public statements usually refer to God's
            will (Daily Notes of the Scripture Union).'"
         -- http://web.singnet.com.sg/~syeec/literature/parachurch.html

[Whether individual Christians should support such human institutions is
another issue.  There is no authority for local churches to do so, and
it is fraught with problems.  The same is true regarding...]


      1. Where one congregation oversees a work in another area, or the
         combined efforts of two or more churches
         a. "One congregation that especially oversees a project such as
            a mission society, in which other congregations have an
            interest and to which they voluntarily contribute regularly.
            The fact that other churches contribute to a project this is
            overseen by the elders of one church is the central idea."
            - J. D. Thomas, We Be Brethren, p. 355
         b. "A sponsoring church is a congregation which assumes the
            oversight and control of some activity in the general field
            of evangelism, edification, or benevolence." - Kevin Kay,
            Institutionalism: Sponsoring Church
      2. Some examples of sponsoring church arrangements
         a. A church sponsors a foreign work, with its elders overseeing
            the evangelist(s) and the congregation(s) in a particular
         b. A church sponsors a work beyond its own ability to finance
            (e.g., TV, radio), and asks other churches to financially
            support its efforts
         c. A church sponsors an evangelist, with other churches
            channeling their support of said evangelist through the
            auspices and control of the sponsoring church
      3. The sponsoring church concept was developed as an alternative
         to parachurch organizations
         a. Many opposed human institutions like missionary societies
         b. This alternative sought to do the same work through churches
            rather than societies

      1. There is no clear scriptural support for the sponsoring-church
         a. Some point to Jerusalem as a 'sponsoring church' - cf. Ac
            11:29-30; 12:25
            1) Where supposedly the elders of the Jerusalem oversaw the
            2) But the 'elders' in Ac 11:30 are just as likely those of
               the churches in Judea
         b. Some believe Philippi 'sponsored' Paul's support - cf. 2 Co
            11:8; Php 4:15-16
            1) Where supposedly support from other churches were
               funneled through Philippi
            2) But Paul's remarks in Php 4:15 refer to the beginning of
               the work in Macedonia, and 2Co 11:8 can easily include
               support received directly from other churches later
      2. It gives too much oversight to the elders of a local church
         a. Elders were to oversee the flock of God 'among you' - cf. Ac
            20:28; 1Pe 5:1-2
         b. Elders of a sponsoring church have oversight beyond the
            local congregation
         c. They oversee works in other places, even churches in other
         d. Who gave the elders the right to assume such authority?
      3. It violates the NT pattern for local church autonomy
         a. In the NT, congregations were independent, autonomous
         b. Other than the Lord and His apostles, a congregation was
            answerable only to its elders - cf. 1Pe 5:5; He 13:7,17
         c. Elders of the sponsoring church expects churches and
            individuals they 'sponsor' to be answerable to them
         d. Sponsoring churches have sought to control the actions and
            even the property of churches or works they 'sponsor'
            (especially in foreign countries)
      4. It reverses the goal of scriptural cooperation between churches
         a. In the NT, support always worked toward the direction of
            equality - cf. 2Co 8:13-14
         b. In the sponsoring church concept, smaller churches send
            money to bigger churches
         c. Instead of equality, big churches become bigger at the
            expense of smaller churches
      5. It seeks to activate the universal church
         a. The sponsoring church concept was originally developed in
            opposition to church supported missionary societies (e.g.,
            the American Christian Missionary Society)
         b. The missionary society concept was designed to activate the
            universal church
         c. Thus the sponsoring church seeks to accomplish the same as
            the missionary society
         d. Yet such efforts lead to the next problem...
      6. It leads to denominationalizing the church
         a. Attempts to activate the universal church lead to
         b. Invariably, such efforts separate those who support such
            efforts from those who do not
         c. Before long, groups of churches are identified by whether or
            not they support such efforts (e.g., institutional vs.
            non-institutional churches)
         d. People begin asking "Are you with us, or them?", sounding
            like those in Corinth - cf. 1Co 1:11-12

[Both institutionalism and the sponsoring church concept have done much
to denominationalize churches of Christ.  Another innovation has done
much to secularize churches of Christ...


      1. Where churches use their funds to offer social programs
         a. Either for their own members
         b. Or for those in their community and beyond
      2. Social programs such as:
         a. Day care centers, schools, counseling services
         b. Orphan homes, disaster relief, medical missions
         c. Family life centers, gymnasiums, racket ball courts
      3. Through such efforts, using the local church to:
         a. Solve social ills in our society
         b. Provide entertainment for young people to keep them
            interested and out of trouble

      1. There is no scriptural support for the church to support social
         a. The church certainly provided benevolence for Christians
            - cf. 1Co 16:1-2; Ro 15:26
         b. As individuals we are certainly to be "good Samaritans"
            - cf. Ga 6:10; Jm 1:27
         c. But there is no indication that the local church became a
            business that offered such a wide range of services
      2. It burdens the local church with activities for which it was
         not designed
         a. Notice Paul's concern that the church not be 'burdened'
            - cf. 1Ti 5:16
         b. Christians were expected to fulfill their familial duties
            - cf. 1Ti 5:8
         c. Thus limitations were placed on who the church could support
            - cf. 1Ti 5:9-13
         d. The church has its own work to fulfill (e.g., evangelism,
            edification), while the Lord expects individuals, families,
            governments, and society at large to fulfill their duties
            - cf. 1Ti 5:4,14 (family); Ro 13:3-4 (government)
      3. It has the long term effect of secularizing the church
         a. Secularize - To draw away from religious orientation; make
            worldly - American Heritage Dictionary
         b. The effects of secularization on the church through social
            programs are evident:
            1) Elders (shepherds, pastors) become board members,
               directors, managers
            2) Evangelists (preachers, ministers) become staff managers,
               personal counselors
            3) Churches have youth directors, education superintendents,
               family counselors, secretaries, janitors, etc.
         c. Losing its spiritual focus, a congregation becomes:
            1) A business instead of a body
            2) A foundation instead of a family
            3) A corporation instead of a church


1. Again, it is not that there are social causes that do not need to be
   a. As individuals, Christians can and should make an impact
   b. They can use other organizations such as family, community, or
      governmental agencies
   c. Like leaven, their influence may not be as noticeable, but
      nonetheless real - cf. Mt 13:33

2. But do not forget that the local church is limited in its
   a. It can easily become "burdened" (cf. 1Ti 5:16)
   b. It can be hindered or distracted from fulfilling its true purpose
      intended by God

3. History has shown the impact of institutionalism, the sponsoring
   church concept, and church involvement in social programs:
   denominationalism and secularization

Being 'in' the world, there is the danger of becoming 'of' the world
(cf. Jn 17:14-15).  Should we not be content to "let the church be the
church", especially in regards to its work...?
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