Vol.V No.II Pg.7
April 1968

Queries And Answers

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

On what scriptural basis do some teach that churches must function "according to their ability"; and how may this "ability" be determined? GS


2 Cor. 8:12 reads, "For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not." This principle concerning the individual illustrates the same principle which is, in the preceding verse applied to the church in Corinth.

Paul writes of "churches" and liberality that caused them to give more than he expected of them. He then reminded the Corinthians that Titus is coming to finish in you the pledge made one year previous; an obvious reference to an earlier promise or plan of the church in Corinth. 2 Cor. 8:11 reads, "Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have."

The real basis for contending that each church should operate according to its ability (and the reason Paul could show the church and individual operate under a common principle in this matter) is the independence each unit has in common. Each individual saint is treated as an independent unit, hence the individual's performance is measured in the light of his capabilities. First there is ability; then response to ability; and finally we give account of our response to our ability. (Matt. 25:14-30) When the collective action of saints is considered, a plurality of saints acting as one, this "one" must also be expected to operate "according to ability" if it is in truth an independent unit.

If God intended each local church to be an independent functional unit; if "organizational structure of the church begins and ends with the local congregation"; if each church is indeed "independent and autonomous"; then each church must operate in keeping with its own ability.

"Independent" means "having a competency" "self-sufficient", "not dependent on others." When there were more needy saints in Jerusalem than could be cared for with their own resources, this unit became dependent with respect to material things; and "alms" were given -- to restore their independence. (2 Cor. 8:13-14; Acts 24:17; Rom. 15:25-f)

We understand that each saint is independent, judged as an individual; hence, judged according to his own ability. We determine his "want" or "need" on the basis of that which is his own responsibility -- and the extent of his own resources. When one's basic needs (for survival) exceed his resources, we give "alms" to restore him to a position of self-sufficiency. WHY CAN'T WE SEE THIS SAME PRINCIPLE WITH REFERENCE TO AN "INDEPENDENT" CHURCH?? We can, or we could, if we were not so conditioned by "brotherhood" (in reality, "churchhood") projects that congregational independence has become more traditional terminology than actual Bible teaching, firmly believed and practiced.