Vol.IX No.III Pg.4
May 1972

Fatal Logical Slip

Robert F. Turner

In many of the past arguments over church organization those opposing the MISSIONARY SOCIETY inadvertently accepted a slip in logic that has been a major gateway for churchhood institutionalism today. See if you can catch the slip.

Campbell conceived of the local church (community) as a unit of the universal church. In reality, the saints are the units of the universal church: citizens in a kingdom, children in a family, branches on a vine, etc. But with this basic fallacy as a foundation, Campbell urged some means whereby the universal church could cooperate. (He meant work as one.) The society was conceived as a media through which many churches could function as one with respect to certain evangelistic projects. It served as trustee for a churchhood (which they called brotherhood) fund, and its executive board directed such activities.

The Anti-s or non-progressives of this earlier day had a lot to say about the abuses of the society; or, when they dealt with the principles of organization, they said that the local church, with its elders and deacons was Gods plan for the organization of the church. Now watch it—the organization of the church. The context of argument was organization in and of the universal church. Then brethren replied that God had not authorized the missionary society (as a media for collective action of churches) but that God had authorized the local church with its elders and deacons — (as the media ——————). Now, you supply the missing links that logically must be understood here, in such a context, and you will see the slip that continues to plague many saints to this good day.

God authorized elders and deacons all right — for the local church. But He did not appoint them, for the local church, as the organizational media for the universal church. They are not the scriptural counterpart to mans schemes for universal church organization. The scriptures leave a great big NOTHING in this place; clearly saying to those who respect His authority, that he did not intend any such universal church function. God authorized elders, deacons, etc., as the means for collective work of saints in a local church. This is the divine counter- part to any human plan for local church organization.

History is filled with examples of religious movements which began with avowed determination to form nothing more than local churches, and keep them strictly independent and auto- nomous. But the party spirit creeps in, and we us and our church take on increasingly wide borders; until our work becomes the denominations work, with need for better and more definitive organizational structure. In our case, the local church with its elders became the stepping stone to area-wide, project-wide organization of churches. A segment of middle- of-the-roaders still contend that thousands of churches may work as one if it is under the elders of a local church. Others have moved on to churchhood work, under an executive board. Apparently, very few haw profited by the slip of the past.