"My People Doth Not Consider"
When God described Israel in her rebellion against Him and determination to follow her own way, He said, "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider." (Isa. 1:3) Failure to recognize God's way as right and to give consideration to what He has said has always led to apostasy.
Israel's defense for wanting a king that they could see to go before them, lead them in battle and judge them was that they might be like all the nations. (1 Sam. 8:20) When men become displeased with God's way and determine to have their own, they are seldom satisfied to stop with one departure. Israel was not long happy with just a king like all nations, she soon adopted their languages and gods. Images were made, groves dedicated and their children made to pass through the fire (2 Kings 17:16-17) in imitation of the idolatrous practices of other nations.
Someone has said that history repeats itself. This may not be true in every respect but it is certainly true that men have made the same mistakes more than once. Students of church history are aware of the fact that the first apostasy in the Lord's church came through an alteration in its form of government. One bishop, rather than a plurality of them (Phil. 1:1) came to rule a local church, then more than one church. With this departure in form of government, spiritual Israel, like ancient Israel, went on to adopt the language and practices of other nations. A distinction was made in its priesthood between the clergy and laity, religious holy days were adopted and substitutions and additions were made in worship services. Likely, there were teachers similar to Elijah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah who cried out against these things but again Israel was too determined to have her own way to give consideration to what God said.
The mistakes of the past were repeated in the course of the restoration movement. Having become dissatisfied with the simple arrangement of local churches as functioning units, men devised another organization, a missionary society, that churches might function through it in evangelism. Other churches had organizations to coordinate their work of evangelism so they could do big things, why shouldn't we? With this alteration in government, there followed the language and practices of others. Religious titles began to be worn by preachers, mechanical music was introduced in worship, and other denominational practices adopted. Again, Israel was too determined to be like others to consider the voices of opposition that pled for the old paths.
Apparently this generation will be compelled to witness another repetition of the mistakes of the past. The "sponsoring church arrangement" for cooperation exists as a result of men's dissatisfaction with God's form of church government. God has ordained that there be elders in every church (Acts 14:23) and that they be limited in their tending (1 Pet. 5:2) to the flock which is among them. An arrangement, like the sponsoring church, that has elders of one church acting as agents through which other churches act, or superintending a brotherhood work, is an alteration of the government of the Lord's church.
Evidences of alteration in God's form of church government now exist in abundance. Take the following as an illustration. "The 15th congregation of the Lord's church in the greater Washington, D. C., area was formed on October 15, 1961, in McLean, Va. With a nucleus of 26 charter members, the church, under the oversight of the 16th and Decatur church in 'Washington, began meeting in the Community Room of the McLean Branch of the Vienna Trust Company. In an impressive service December 3, conducted by elders John Holton and L. Worrick MeFee of the 16th Street congregation, the following men were appointed to the eldership of the new congregation." (Gospel Light, January 1962)
Here is a report that frankly states that elders of one church had the "oversight" of another and conducted services for the appointment of elders in the new congregation over which they had had oversight. This practice may be in harmony with procedures of other religious bodies but it is a far cry from the government of primitive Christianity.
For months, faithful gospel preachers have pointed out that attempts to centralize the work of churches on a district, state, or national plane, as was being pursued by proponent of the sponsoring churches, would result in the formation of additional denominational machinery. Now the brethren engaged in some of these things have become brazen enough to employ the "language of Ashdod" to describe them. In the Nov. 22, 1963 edition of the Christian Chronicle, there is an article and pictures featuring plans for an exhibit at the World's Fair.
Queens church of Christ, Flushing, N. Y., is the sponsoring church and is inviting brethren across the country to pay the bill, first installment of which is only $400,000 for this work! In the article concerning this the writer said that over 80 brethren from 14 states had met in New York and that out of this meeting "came written recommendations to the brethren of the Queens Church of Christ in Flushing, N. Y., suggesting measures to be considered in several important areas." In describing this meeting of brethren, the writer uses the following expressions, "advisory sessions," general assembly session," "the two day conference." So we have over 80 brethren from 14 states meeting in a "two day conference" and acting in advisory sessions" from which "came written recommendations" to the church in Flushing. All that would have been necessary to have completed the nomenclature of denominationalism would have been for the writer to have referred to these 80 brethren as the "delegates" from churches in 14 states.
I am familiar with the expression "advisory sessions," `general assembly session" and "conference," but I learned them from the language of denominationalism, not the New Testament. I'm aware that brethren in the past met in "advisory sessions" and passed along their recommendations" to the churches. I learned this from church history, not the practice of New Testament churches. I, also, learned that these innocent (?) advisory conferences later became councils and synods that formulated canons, church laws, not recommendations for consideration. Why can't they do it again?
Already the form of spiritual Israel's government is being altered and a new language is being spoken. The religious title Doctor is being worn in profusion by preachers. Church sponsored recreation is being substituted for Bible fellowship, and more changes will come as men substitute their ways for the Lord's. And what about Israel? Does she know? Is she considering?
— 163 Dean Drive, Grenada, Mississippi