Vol.V No.IX Pg.4
November 1968

On "Church" Loyalty

Robert F. Turner

We have given considerable space of late to articles emphasizing the individual's obligation to Christ and warning about "party" or "church" loyalty that makes Christ second fiddle. This continues to be a current problem and warrants further attention.

But there is no solace here for those who would set the church aside as being of no importance. "Partyism" increases the need for more accurate definition of "church" and a better understanding of the obligations imposed by our association with other saints in the local church. One can not be a faithful follower of Christ, and ignore what the NT says about Christ's church.

Christ is "head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all" (EPH.1:22-23). God is glorified "in the church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages world without end. Amen!" (EPH.3:21) "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;" (EPH.5:25) "the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood" (ACT.20:28). These verses treat of the church in its universal sense — all saints, world-wide — that great "brotherhood" which we are to love and respect (1PE.2:17).

I preached a sermon in Louisville, on Congregational Independence, and a Christian Church visitor commented, "Don't go too far with that, so that churches will have nothing to do with one another". I acknowledged the appropriateness of "love" and "fellowship" — and the possibility of a "separateness" that could endanger such — but told him true "brotherhood" does not mean nor necessitate organic ties among churches. There is even a form of "cooperation" among brethren that does not involve local church action (see GAL.6:6; HEB.13:1-3; ROM.12:15).

Loyalty, first and always, to the Lord, does not negate the obligations of membership in a local church. When brethren function collectively (and even those who ridicule local church "membership" seem to agree they are authorized to so function) or "member of the team" the need to do his part (1CO.16:1-2; 1CO.5:4-5, 14:27-33). Here, loyalty to one-another, and to the common goal achieved in collective action, is within the framework of loyalty to Christ, and not a supplanting of it.

The Corinthians purposed (willed) a year in advance, to supply a gift for the needy saints in Jerusalem (2CO.8:10-11, 9:2-4). Each saint was thereby obligated "as God hath prospered him" (1CO.16:1-2). In the same way, when a church today plans and approves a program of work for the furtherance of the gospel etc., each member of that church accepts an obligation in "team-work" that is wholly in keeping with loyalty to the Lord each saint serves (We must here assume, of course, that the "work" is in keeping with the Lord's will and direction.). One can not be a faithful Christian and, having opportunity, ignore fellow-Christians — another way of saying, "the church" (HEB.10:24-25).