Series on the church of Christ
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST:
Autonomy of the Local Church
1. How churches organize & function is important to Lord - Acts 14:21-23.
2. Local congregation only functional organization of God's people.
3. How are congregations arranged, & how do they function?
a. Are congregations independent, or interdependent?
b. Authority for hierarchy? (Diocese, conferences, council of churches .)
c. Does God even care? (Col. 3:17; cf. 1 Cor. 3:16-17)
4. NT establishes that churches are autonomous - "Self-governing."
-Each local church is subject to Christ & His authority - cf. Rev.1:11; 2:1; et al.
5. To apply autonomy correctly depends upon two fundamental, scriptural principles which define & describe each local church of Christ: Independence & Equality of each local church of Christ.
I. AUTONOMY HAS BEEN GIVEN AS THE FORM OF GOVERNMENT FOR LOCAL CHURCHES.
A. Elders In Every Church - Acts 14:23.
1. Local rule & oversight - Acts 20:17, 28.
a. Not districts or regional (as per the will of Christ - not autocrats).
2. Among you - l Pet. 5:2; Heb. 13:17.
3. Without elders - cf. Acts 6:5 - Agreement of whole church: Not majority rule; Not a democracy -- A working unity born out of mutual submission - Eph. 5:21; Phil. 2:3.
4. The fact that some abuse this pattern does not invalidate it!
B. Pattern Is Set Of Independent Congregations, Not Interdependent Ones (Heb. 8:5).
1. No functional arrangement larger or smaller than local church.
2. Any arrangement which interferes with the independence of a congregation violates local autonomy (rule & oversight).
a. Synods, conferences, councils.
b. Churches of Christ which form inter-congregational alliances &/or centralization (sponsoring churches, pooling funds, common oversight).
3. Each church did its own work directed by its own elders. (History)
II. AUTONOMY EXISTS BECAUSE OF THE EQUALITY OF CHURCHES ESTABLISHED IN THE NT.
A. Equality: Because Each Church Is Independent, Each Has The Same Relationship To The Work Given Them By Christ - Eph. 4:11-12.
1. Responsibility is measured by each church's ability - 2 Cor. 8:10-14.
2. But, each church bore an equal relationship to the work they did.
a. Edification - cf. Heb.10:24-25.
b. Benevolence - Acts 4:34-35.
c. Evangelism - cf. 2 Cor. 11:8.
B. No "Mother Church" Or "Sponsoring Church" In The NT (not Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch, Philippi).
1. No church received & forwarded funds for another.
2. No church assumed a work larger than its ability to do, then solicited money from other churches (Illus. w/radio program - Right & wrong way).
3. May seem harmless, but -- Col. 3:17 (Heb. 8:5).
a. Agency destroys independence & equality.
b. Agency cannot exist without subordination.
4. cf. Error of "sponsoring church" arrangement, or Herald of Truth:
a. Destroys independence of contributing churches - Dependent upon Highland to script, use their $, yet helpless to prevent misuse (Acts 20:28).
b. Destroys independence of sponsoring church - Has to receive $ from churches to continue "H.O.T." (1 Pet. 5:2)!
c. Destroys equality - Contributing vs. Sponsoring churches! (rich & poor, country & city subordination)
d. Such churches have lost their independence & equality, & thus, their autonomy! (A.C. Grider, "Charts", p. 28).
III. CONGREGATIONAL AUTONOMY REVEALED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.
(What is called "autonomy" is perhaps better described as the independence & equality of each congregation.)
A. Edification (l Ths. 5:12-15; Acts 20:7): Independent & Equal
B. Benevolence (l Cor. 16:1-3): Independent & Equal (autonomous).
1. v. 1-2 - Each church made its own fund for its own work.
2. v. 3 - Each selected its own messenger to take their own $ directly to the need (2 Cor. 8:18-23).
2. Each, under direction of their own elders, distributed the aid - Acts 11:29-30.
C. Evangelism (Acts 11:22; Phil. 4:15-16): Independent & Equal (autonomous).
D. Fellowship (Acts 9:26-27; l Cor 5:13): Independent & Equal (autonomous).
1. For autonomy to work, every member must be supplying his part to the work (Eph. 4:16) & every one must be submitting to each other, setting aside personalities for the good of the church & its work (Eph. 5:21)!
2. Autonomy of local churches honors the wisdom of God (to organize & function), not man's!