Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 19, 1957
NUMBER 20, PAGE 1,12

The Individual And The Church

Cecil B. Douthitt, Brownwood, Texas

A mimeographed sheet containing a few questions and a great deal of comment accompanied by a letter suggesting that I answer his questions has come to me from Brother L. W. Hayhurst of Bangs, Texas.

He says that he is "hoping to get more light than has hitherto come my way." However, his own commentary on his questions does not sound like a man who is "hoping to get more light." It would lead a great many people to think that Brother Hayhurst thinks he already has about all the light there is to be had. At least that is the impression he made on me. But I may be wrong in that conclusion; he just naturally may be blunt, uncouth and arrogant without knowing it; therefore I shall comply with his request, and answer his questions, although they have been answered many times in the Gospel Guardian during the past few years.

"1. Does no other organization have a right to exist except the home and the church?"

Many "other organizations," such as the Red Cross, The Ford Motor Company, The State Penitentiary, The School of Tyrannus, and The City of Bangs, have a right to "exist." Does Brother Hayhurst see any difference between an organization's right to exist and a church's right to take money out of its treasury and to donate it to another "organization?" Does he think that a church has a right to contribute money from its treasury to all these "other organizations" that "have a right to exist?"

If so, the man certainly needs 'more light than has hithero come" his way. Brother Hayhurst groups all of his other questions and his own answers and comments under numbers '2," "3" and "4," but they all deal with the same point and may be answered as one question. Therefore, I shall omit his own answers and comments, and present all of his questions under number "2."

"2. Is it right for an individual to set up an organization through which to perform a duty that falls alike on him and the church but wrong for the church to have a like-organization to perform the same duty? If yes, tell us, What gives the individual more room under the duty than it allows the church? Is it said that the Church is under law and must be governed by it? Sure, and what of the individual, is he not under the law too? Does God set stricter limits on the church in its duty to care for needy and teach the world than he does the individual who has the same duty? If so, why? May one member do what all of them are not to do when the command for such is to all of them? What passage authorizes an individual to support an organization to care for the needy or teach the word that would not in like manner authorize the church to do the same thing under like circumstances? Does God turn the individual foot-loose to perform his duty while he binds the church to closer limits when both have the very same obligation? What gives the individual so much more liberty to do his work than it does the church when the work is common to both it and him? If it is wrong for the church to give its money to an organization lest it lose its autonomy (self-government), why is it not just as wrong for the individual to give his money to it, lest he lose his autonomy ? Whoever saw a church lose its autonomy helping an orphanage, except in the diseased brain of some would-be prophet who can't make his own theories work?

These questions reveal clearly that Brother Hayhurst's error is due to a failure to distinguish between a church and an individual in meaning, in fields and scope of service, and in freedom of operation. This error has caused many individuals and many churches to do violence to the word of God, to go beyond what is written, and to disregard the authority of Christ, the one and only head of the church.

If they would open their eyes to three Bible facts, Brother Hayhurst and others of similar views might recover themselves from these erroneous doctrines which are dividing churches and which may cause many souls to be lost.

Before pointing out the three New Testament facts that must be recognized in a study of this subject, I should like to remind Brother Hayhurst that the claim that a church has as much right to do a certain thing as an individual has to do that same thing does not prove that either the individual or the church has a scriptural right to do the thing under consideration. He bases his theory that the church has a right to do certain things upon the contention that the church has the same right as the individual to do those things. Now, he must do two things in order to establish his theory: (1) he must prove that the individual has a scriptural right to do those things; (2) must prove that the church has a scriptural right to do the things that the individual has a right to do. If a man bases his theory that Sister Jones has a right to be an elder upon the contention that Sister Jones has as much right as Brother Jones to be an elder, then he must prove two things: (1) he must prove that Brother Jones has a scriptural right to be an elder; (2) he must prove that Sister Jones has a scriptural right to be. If Brother Hayhurst could understand this point, he would know that he is making his doctrines more difficult to prove, even if they were true, which they are not.

If Brother Hayhurst will give due consideration to the following three New Testament facts, he will find in them an answer to all the questions he is circulating on his mimeographed sheet, and his hope "to get more light than has hitherto come" his way, might end in glad fruition.

1. One Christian is not a church.

The word "church" in the New Testament is never used to designate one person. It is a collective noun like the words "group," "flock," "herd," etc., and therefore is not susceptible to individual application. One cow is not a "herd;" one quail is not a "covey;" one goose is not a "flock;" one Christian is not a "church."

In I Tim. 5:16 the word "church" is used in contradistinction to the designation applied to an individual Christian — "woman that believeth." The "woman that believeth" was one thing, with the duty to relieve a class of widows which the church had no right to relieve; the "church" that should be left able to "relieve them that are widows indeed" was quite another thing, with the duty to relieve another class of widows which both the "church" and the "widow that believeth" had a right to relieve. It is God's will for individual Christians to relieve their own dependent relatives and also "widows indeed"; but it is not God's will for the church to relieve widows who have children or grandchildren able to take care of them. (I Tim. 5:4, 16).

Since one Christian is not a "church" in the Bible sense of the word, it does not follow necessarily that "what a Christian is doing, the church is doing" or has a right to do.

2. The good works that a church may do are not identical with the good works that individual Christians may do.

Every church is restricted in all its activities to only Your fields of endeavor: evangelism, edification, benevolence, worship. This work which the Lord has assigned to the churches is the most important work in which human beings can engage, and no church has a right to go beyond, or turn aside from, these prescribed duties of the greatest importance.

The individual, the family and the state have a right to serve in fields of education in secular branches, entertainment, recreation, politics and secular business for profit, because they have authority to enact legislation creating the work and governing the way it is to be done But it is not so in the kingdom of Christ. Jesus is the head of the church; he is the only law-giver, judge and executive in his kingdom. (Eph. 1:22, 23; James 4:12). No church has a right to go beyond the legislative enactments on the pages of the New Testament, and it contains nothing to indicate that it is God's will for the churches to serve in any field, except the fields of evangelism, edification, benevolence and worship.

3. Even in that work which the Lord has assigned to both the individual Christian and the church as such, the individual is not bound by the same restrictions that bind the church.

For example, the work of evangelism has been assigned to both individuals and the churches. In I Cor. 9 and in II Cor. 11:8, Paul teaches that preachers as individuals have a right to "charge" and collect "wages" for the work of preaching and ministering to the churches. Does Brother Hayhurst think that a church has a scriptural right to "charge" and collect "wages" for services rendered in preaching the gospel? If he can see the point here, he should also be able to see that the individual, though not entirely "foot-loose", is a little more "footloose" than the church, and that the Lord binds the church to closer limits when both have the very same obligation".

In carrying out the "obligation" of evangelism which the Lord has assigned to both individuals and churches, individual Christians have the right to print and sell religious literature through which they obtain money for a livelihood and to carry on their work of teaching the gospel to the lost. All agree that churches have a right to print and distribute gospel literature in their work of evangelism; but does Brother Hayhurst think that the churches have a right to enter the business of printing and selling gospel literature to obtain money with which to do their work? Does he deny that individual Christians may do this? Can't he see that "the individual" is just a wee bit more "foot-loose" in the work of evangelism than the church, "when both have the very same obligation"? What did he say in his last question about "the diseased brain of some would-be prophet who can't make his own theories work?"

I do not think that Brother Hayhurst has a "diseased brain", but I do think it is perfectly appropriate just here to remind him that nearly all the inmates in mental institutions think nearly every body has a "diseased brain", except themselves. I do not know just what Brother Hayhurst's IQ is, but I do know the man personally, and if he should enter an intelligence test with some who he thinks have a "diseased brain", I do not think he would emerge as either the valedictorian or the salutatorian of the bunch.

If Brother Hayhurst cannot find the answer to every one of his questions in this which I have written, I shall he most happy to drive over to Bangs (which is only about ten miles from Brownwood) and show him the answer and explain it to him more fully, if he will give me permission to do so.