Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 16, 1953
NUMBER 49, PAGE 2-3b

The Seed Of Apostasy

C. R. Mansfield, Ranger, Texas

A few years ago, when the battle against premillennialism waged with much vigor by several outstanding men, there were many others who complained that those in that error were being treated unkindly; that it shouldn't be made a test of fellowship, it being in the category of things that could be believed or rejected by the individual Christian without affecting the steadfastness of faith. As brethren became more acquainted with premillennialism they realized that it is a perversion of New Testament teaching and most now know it to be an insidious heresy. The preacher who would deal with it leniently is now considered dangerous to the good of the cause of Christ. This writer so considers him.

There is much lip service given to the New Testament teaching of the local autonomy of the churches of Christ. I have not heard or read anything that openly opposes this teaching. There are, however, issues confronting the churches today. Premillennialism seems to be pretty well branded for what it is and apparently is not now a serious threat from within our ranks. "Cooperative Programs," "Sponsoring Churches," "Centralized Control," "Institutionalism" (orphan homes, homes for the aged, colleges in the church budget, etc.), definitely are live issues. Many who were quite timid in taking part in the fight against premillennialism and some who openly criticized the strenuous efforts of others to expose it for what it is are today quite active in the defense of the so-called "cooperation between churches" in various fields of work. Much indignance is shown against all who would question these things as being authorized by the New Testament, or who would protest that they are destroying the local autonomy of the churches. Yet much, if not all, such schemes are foreign to the New Testament. That they are fast destroying the local autonomy of the churches is evident in several ways.

Recently, I attended a great assembly of members of the church on the campus of one of "our" greatest institutions. Several preachers gave "lectures" that were supposed to support the one great "theme" of the "lectureship." This was but a small part of the activities during the five day program. Thousands who attended may not go back home and be able to explain to their friends and neighbors why the church of Christ does not use instruments of music in the worship, but they certainly will be able to tell anyone all about the various "programs" being carried out by the "churches of Christ" all over the world. Practically everything mentioned before was very much in evidence except, possibly, the putting of the colleges in the local church budget. That one got too hot a few years ago and seems to be somewhat soft-pedaled as of now. What does all this have to do with local autonomy of the churches of Christ? Simply this: when some preacher "back home" doesn't agree to all the recommendations made to several of the members of the church where he preaches while they attended this lectureship at their alma mater, and resists their adoption in the local church, what do YOU think is going to happen? Brother, that preacher is in trouble from there on out. He is very likely to "go out." What if the elders do not happen to believe that they must keep an ear to the ground for wisdom from the same place, but believe that they are capable of planning the work of the congregation that is their charge, what, again, do YOU think is going to happen? There are going to be some elders that are "not qualified" pretty soon. The preacher who opposes those various "programs" (schemes) stands a good chance of learning that "the word" is being passed along and as a result he is supposed to find it a little difficult to locate another place to preach where he can be adequately supported.

Usually we say that things equal to the same things are equal to each other. When the influence of some institution can be exerted to the point where opposition to it means that the congregation shall suffer strife, there is then an organization that can and does determine the "policies" of the churches and their local autonomy is a thing of the past. Why should a "lectureship" be held that has as its "theme" something that has to do with the program of the churches, telling them their duty and how to perform it, unless it is intended to accomplish certain pre-designated "ends"? Where did the right of any institution to assume this work originate? It certainly is not in the New Testament.

Truly, has the time come when something (some institution), or some one (possibly an "outstanding" evangelist, educator, elder, etc.), must take the place of the apostles and have "the care of all the churches"? Would not they then say, "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God"?

Brethren, as long as preachers are "judged" according to whether they will "go along" with those engaged in sponsoring certain "programs"; as long as elders shall have pleasure in the charge of shepherding the local flock only so long as they are careful not to run counter to the aspirations of the alma mater of some of the members; as long as congregations are judged as being faithful in doing the work of the Lord according to whether they will "cooperate" with some "sponsoring" church and support that which is sponsored, or whether they will "support" some institution to do the work that God has commanded the church to do; just that long will the local autonomy of the churches of Christ be a thing to which "lip-service" only is given. It will be destroyed, and almost causing the obscurity of the New Testament church along with it.

It can make no difference in the fact that influences outside the local congregation determine the "policies" of the local congregations whether the "institution" or "sponsoring church" INTENDED to become the "head" over God's house. If the attempted work of such had been intended by God it could never result in the present condition. The very fact that the above described condition is becoming far too universal in the churches is proof enough that the thing is the enemy of the system approved of God, that is, the local autonomy of the churches. Destroy this and the church of Christ is just "another denomination."

Again, let me ask, what are those that attended this great "lectureship" supposed to do when they go back home? Are they not "expected" to do all that they can to install the "systems" in which they received "instruction" during their attendance? I believe that almost every Christian can see that this leads to the ability of an "institution" to become at least the "nominal" head of the churches of Christ. I believe, also, that every Christian that knows the history of the early church's departure from the New Testament pattern can easily discern how closely this resembles the original apostasy. Then, why — why — WHY? Yes, I went, I saw, I heard, and I came away, sad.