Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 23, 1958

Institutional Suckers

Jesse M. Kelley, Blytheville, Arkansas

"For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." (Deut. 14:20)

This was the language of Moses as he was moved by the Spirit of God to speak unto the children of Israel concerning their relationship to God and the nations around them. Peculiarity has been a distinctive characteristic of the people of God since the beginning' of time. In every age God's people have been "peculiar" in that they did what the Lord said while others did something else. In Titus 2:14 and 1 Pet. 2:9, both Paul and Peter quote the statement of Moses and apply it to New Testament Christians; and what has been true of God's people in other ages is true of Christians now: they do WHAT God has ordained and HOW God has ordained while all others do something else.

"Religion" is not necessarily Christianity. So-called "20th century Christianity" is not New Testament Christianity. New Testament Christianity is doing WHAT God has said in the WAY God has said. Modern religion has relegated God's ways and God's institution, the church of the Lord, to the background. In the minds of many today the church is no longer important; some human institution, set up and controlled by men has taken precedence over it for doing the work of the Lord. Leech-like institutional suckers have been attached on to the church from every side until many churches have become little more than "feeders," with their life's blood being sucked from them by these institutional monsters that have a death grip on their treasuries.

Modern religion has completely lost sight of God's purpose in the church of Christ. A great many look upon it merely as some sort of a social institution. If a work needs to be done, whether it be evangelism, benevolence, or anything related thereto, some kind of an organization must be built through which to do it. An organizational meeting must be held by all the brethren in the area, a platform adopted, by-laws written and passed upon, a president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer, a board of directors and what have you must be selected. Last but not least, an advertising agency must be set up, a potent one if you please; else how will the churches be high-pressured into "taking on" another institution in addition to the ones already pawned off on them? Then a "champion" will be selected who has "had a hundred debates" to defend the "scripturalness" of the institution by pointing out some "inconsistencies" of some of the other brethren, especially those who oppose the new project. And the new venture is off to a flying start, leaving in its wake the echoing cries of "hobbyism" amid the wreckage of churches and brethren whom it has alienated. The wounded side of the Son of God is torn open again and left bleeding before the unholy world as little men with pigmy minds climb the debris of the destruction they have wrought to plant the banner of their "god" as a shining example of "New Testament Christianity."

But not so the church of Christ, the true Israel of God. She will not be influenced by, nor will she bow down to little men. Her banner remains high, her Lord is supreme, her laws are unalterable. So let them go; they have nothing better to do. The church of the Lord will continue to hold the banner of her Lord high above the works of men's hands, and perform the work her God has ordained that she should do. And in this God will be glorified, His Son honored, His church respected. And when a good work is done no man will be able to say, "Look what we have done," for it will be by the power of God and for His glory that His work is accomplished through His church, a divine and all-sufficient institution.

The church of Jesus Christ is first and foremost an evangelistic institution. Her work is the work of evangelism. True, it may do a work of benevolence when its own are in adverse circumstances, but benevolence is not its work. After listening to some of the "champions" of institutionalism one would think the church is a worldwide social service institution, established for the sole purpose of building and maintaining human organizations to take care of the needy. In the first century benevolence was incidental in the life and work of the church of the Lord. When a need arose it was taken care of, then dropped. It did not set up machinery designed to gather all the unfortunate in the world then appeal to churches every where for help in maintaining such work, nor does it do that today. Some whose names are upon her rolls are doing so we admit, but we repeat, not so the church of Christ. Her laws remain the same today as they were nineteen hundred years ago; they did not admit of such then nor do they today.

May the Lord, when he comes back to claim his own find us striving for that to which we have dedicated our lives. In no other way may the church which cost the Lord his blood be kept free from the works of men who would change her glory to shame by relegating her to a secondary position in doing the work of God. We have "received a kingdom which cannot be moved;" let us therefore serve God by His grace and with Godly fear.