Vol.XIV No.IV Pg.2
June 1977

Free To Serve Christ

Robert F. Turner

I sometimes wonder if we are really ready for the organizational concept of independent, churches which we preach. Would we be satisfied with churches that acted independent of our pet projects, Papers, schools, or offering of personal service? How do you feel about a church that has a preacher you do not know? Whose members do not read your favorite paper, or attend your favorite lecture? Are they suspect before you know what they believe or practice? If you travel enough you may find many such churches — calmly going about the Lord's business: doing their own work, under their own oversight, in keeping with their own ability.

Ignorance is not bliss. Good papers serve a useful purpose, as do good schools. In this day of movement and communication an awareness of the world about as forewarns (and forearms) so that we plan and act intelligently, and keep the church moving on a safe course. But it should be that church's own course — in so far as we have a legitimate say in planning the work of the Lord. There is more than one way to lose that independence.

We abdicate responsibility when we become a contributing church to some "churchhood" project. Collective activities necessitate surrender of independence in the project's realm, as all but the blind and prejudiced see. But we also sacrifice independence when our course is nothing more than reaction to what others say or do. We let them tell us what to preach, establish our priorities, etc. We must learn to fight error without being unbalanced by the battle.

The natural and inevitable "influential" preacher, paper, or even some congregation, can exercise weight in directing the course of others — and be innocent of malicious intent. Influence, of itself, is not wrong. We are expected to affect others by our teaching and example (1 Tim. 4:12). But be wary of attempts to do more than point to Christ, where individual conscience and responsibility take over. "Centers of influence" or "brotherhood voices" may impose their own brand of restrictions or reins on congregational independence.

Will each local church accept the responsibility of planning an aggressive, positive program of study, worship, and concern for the spread of the gospel of Christ? Of supporting that program with time, effort and money? If independence means only that we want to be "left alone" to wallow in errors or indolence we have missed the point. A true church of Christ is never independent of obligations to serve the Lord.