Vol.X No.XI Pg.7
January 1974

You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Dear bro. Turner:

What are the scriptural boundaries of a local church? How may one distinguish between the work of church A and that of near-by church B?


Local churches are not geographic divisions. They come into existence as a plurality of saints agree to function as a team— to work and worship together, (Cf. Acts 11:20-26 and Phil. 1:1; 4:15). Phoebe was a servant of the Cenchrean church — in Rome, (Rom. 16:l-2; Cf. Phil. 2:25-30; Col. 1:7). One may live next door to a certain church building, and be a member of a church which meets on the other side of town— with valid reason.

The God-assigned work of a church (as indicated by precept, example and inference) naturally divides itself into that which has to do with self-maintenance of the unit (if you dislike my terminology select your own): such as worship, self-edification and discipline, and care of needy members of that congregation; and their obligations abroad: such as preaching and supporting the gospel to the world, and care of needy saints other than their own members. Our query is obviously concerned with this last category. What part of the world-need belongs to church A and what part to church B? Which sinners are the obligations of church A and which must be taught by church B? Sounds rather silly, doesnt it?

If assuming a territory puts one church in charge of that section, it is not surprising that long ago a self-acclaimed mother church called "dubs on the world, and has been trying ever since to get all churches to work through her. There is, however, no scriptural basis for such a concept, either on a world-wide or even a state-wide basis.

Church A and church B each have a world obligation— with a most obviously scriptural limitation. Each is to perform out of that which ye have, (2 Cor. 8:11), or out of your ability. (A.S.V.) There was a level of production which Paul hoped for, (Arndt-Gingrich, also expect) and beyond which he did not expect them to go. (Not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened. 2 Cor. 8:5-f) This does not mean that brethren and churches could not scripturally go beyond Pauls expectations (the churches of Macedonia went beyond; as did the poor widow, Mk. 12:44), and were commended for their self-less liberality. But they went beyond by digging into their own living. It was of themselves that they gave —not funds they had solicited from some others.

And here is the boundary of God-assigned church work: all that you will do, all that the church will do, using her own resources. This is just another way of saying that independent congregations have an obligation to meet God-assigned world needs as they have opportunity and ability. Courtesy and a desire to avoid duplication of efforts may dictate consultation when many churches meet in the same general area, but neither dubs nor geography make church boundaries.