Vol.I No.XII Pg.7
December 1964

The "Organized" Church

Robert F. Turner

Dear sir:

1. Is it right to speak of the local church as an organization?

2. Is it right to use these terms when speaking of the local church: a. "Unscripturally organized" b. "Scripturally unorganized" c. "Scripturally organized"?

3. Is the church an "unorganized organization" when it begins to meet and function: later becoming an "organized organization" when it appoints elders and deacons? ETE


The local church may be called an "organization" under the fair and obviously basic meaning of the word. (See Webster's Unabridged Dictionary) Certainly there are many types and phases of "organization" -- and the church will not fit all phases of the definition --- BUT THEN, NEITHER WILL ANY NUMBER OF ADMITTED ORGANIZATIONS FIT ALL PHASES OF DEFINITION.

The local church sends as a unit, (Phi1.4:15) receives as a unit, (Acts 11:30) hears and speaks as a unit, (Matt. 18:17-- all of which demands a collective entity. The local church has overseers (1 Pet.5:2)(who receive on behalf of the group, Acts ll:30). Those who set this function aside and allow collective actions to be determined by "business meetings" have not changed the aspect of "organization"; they have only altered its form of operation. And the local church has servants (Rom. 16:1) and messengers (Phi1. 2:25). All this, and more shows that saints who function as one in a local church comprise an "organization." This is simple application or a legitimate term to completely scriptural functions. " Scripturally unorganized" is a play on words, and would have to be examined in context in order to make an intelligent appraisal. I suspect it is self-contradicting when applied to a functioning church; and probably originated in a misconception of the term "organized" as applied to a local church.

When a plurality of saints begin to function as a unit --- to act collectively-- some kind of "organizing" has already taken place. It may be very loose, and subject to change from time to time, but it is there. As soon as scripturally qualified men are available, the "setting in order the things that are wanting" (Titus 1:5) should take place. This is the result of spiritual growth, and it occurs just as a youth, upon maturity, is expected to take on adult responsibilities and "think as a man." (See 1 Cor. l3:ll) The local church existed before, and by divine approval (Acts l4:23), but it was not fully developed. I fear we have allowed a mechanical and somewhat artificial definition of "organization" to blind us to plain common sense.

The local church is not something "apart" from the saints; but is the saints in a certain relationship with one-another. By agreement they pool resources and function as one in certain endeavors. These functions, requiring oversight, messengers, servants, a common treasury, etc., make up the basic ingredients of "organization" and it is only in this sense that I apply the term to the church.