The Blessing of Autonomy

Church building in the trees

One characteristic of the Lord’s church that makes it different from most churches of men is autonomy. Autonomous local churches are not linked together in or through some larger organizational structure.

Why did the Lord design the church to be this way? Obviously, we cannot always know every reason behind instructions that have been given in the Scriptures. Our responsibility is simply to follow the Lord’s instructions whether we understand the reason behind them or not. However, we can look to the Bible to see what has been revealed that would indicate certain blessings of autonomy.Continue Reading

Who Were the 7,000?

Elijah

Following the showdown with the prophets of Baal, Elijah was forced to flee from Jezebel (1 Kings 19:1-3). He had just participated in a great victory for the cause of the Lord, but because of the opposition he was facing he prayed for the Lord to take his life (1 Kings 19:4). He explained to God why he felt the way that he did:

I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:10).

Elijah believed he was the only one left serving the Lord. Yet there were others. In fact, God told Elijah that there were “7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:18).

Who were these 7,000 individuals about whom the Lord spoke? More importantly, what lessons can we learn from them to apply to us today?
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Congregational Cooperation

Cooperate

From time to time, it is good to revisit questions that brethren have debated in the past. If we fail to do this, there is a danger that the next generation can fall into the same errors that faithful brethren once opposed. A lack of understanding leads to apostasy. This was what happened to the Israelites after Joshua and his generation were gone: “There arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals” (Judges 2:10-11). We should try to prevent such apostasy through teaching.

The question we will consider here is this: Can local congregations work together? If so, how? This issue has been called congregational cooperation or church cooperation. In this article, we are going to consider what the Bible has to say that will help us answer this question.
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Why Being Non-Denominational Is Not Good Enough

Church steeple

In the past, more emphasis was placed upon one’s denominational affiliation. But for many today, this is less important. This shift in mindset has given rise to the number of “non-denominational” churches we see in the religious world.

For years, faithful brethren have rightly condemned denominationalism. So is the trend toward non-denominationalism a good thing? Maybe not. Why not? Simply being non-denominational is not good enough.

The church in Sardis was a dead church, though they had a reputation that they were alive. Jesus said to them, “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1). This shows us that a church can seem to be good in the eyes of men, but in the eyes of the Lord, their status is completely different. In the eyes of many, “non-denominational” churches look appealing. But like the church in Sardis, many of these churches simply do not measure up to the Lord’s standard.
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Merger

The Christian Chronicle recently reported that the Highland Oaks Church of Christ has recently merged with the nearby Pitman Creek Church of Christ. Yet what is unique about this merger is that each congregation is going to remain where they currently are. They will now be “one congregation meeting in two locations,” sharing “a common staff, eldership, budget and vision.”

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Local Church Autonomy

The Bible teaches that each local church is to be autonomous. That is, they are not answerable to another local church or council of churches. Elders are to shepherd the flock which is among them (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-2). No man or group of men has been given authority in the New Testament to rule or govern any other congregation(s).

Sometimes though, the Bible teaching of local church autonomy is misapplied or abused by brethren. Many believe that autonomy means we cannot be critical of what another congregation practices or teaches. When a concerned brother does speak out against error or apostasy in another local church, “autonomy” is the club used to attack this man. After all, to speak out against the error or apostasy in another congregation is to violate that church’s autonomy. Really?
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