Vol.XII No.XI Pg.4
January 1976

Of Mules And Churches

Robert F. Turner

In the past ten issues of Plain Talk this page has been devoted to the historical background of the restoration movement, with particular emphasis upon congregational independence. We believe genuine congregational independence is absolutely essential if we are to avoid denominationalism; and of paramount importance if we are to avoid sectarianism. But history indicates that while many efforts have been made to avoid the abuses of centralized government, little attention has. been given to the centralizing structure that makes a centralized government necessary.

Ten mules, each pulling its own load, need only single harness each. Ten churches, each doing its own work with its own resources, need only its elders, serving their own flock. When two mules are hitched to the same wagon, a double harness is necessary. A super-government is needed, so that their work can be coordinated. When two or more churches are hitched to the same load — work as a team on the same project — harness is needed that fits the team. This is where we have our problems. Some say the elders of one church can become the harness, the means of coordinating and directing the efforts of all of these churches (in the given project). Others say an executive board may be selected for this job; while others say a benevolent or evangelistic organization, with charter and board, may serve in this capacity.

No one seems to want to tackle the problem of giving Bible authority for the combine. If we never put two or more mules together as a team, we would not need to argue about what type of harness should be used. And if we could be content to let each church do its own work, with its own resources, under its own overseers; there would be no argument here —- no possibility of abuse of power.

Two men, each with a mule and a Fresno, may co-operate in digging a pond, and never need a double harness. Each works in keeping with his own ability, under his own oversight, but toward a common goal. Two churches may thus support the same evangelist; or send alms to the same dependent (in a condition of want) church (2 Cor. 11:8 8:1-14). Problems of super-government (double or larger harness) arise only when the mules, or churches, are hitched together and made to work as a team on some project. Surely we can understand this.

We find a pattern for independent congregational government — and can not seem to realize that we have, at the same time and in the same place, found the pattern for independent church structure. We find no N.T. instructions or pattern for multi-church government for the simple reason that multi-church structure was never intended. The two (government and structure) are inseparably related. New Testament congregational independence rests the twin principles of structure and polity.

Team work gets more work done, we are told. This begs the question of Bible authority, or questions divine wisdom. Let us do Gods work in Gods way; or cease our futile claim to be Gods people.