Vol.XVI No.XI Pg.6
January 1980

Preaching And Practice

Robert F. Turner

"You will not find a perfect congregation. Every group will have its problems and your responsibility is to preach the truth, not police it." I nodded in agreement. Both of us knew that the only thing that "enforces" truth is the honesty of a person's heart. I continued to listen as the older preacher warned me against becoming as some "sectarian preachers" he knew, "For example, they say that they cannot work with a congregation that finances social activities (and the speaker agrees that such use of local church funds is unscriptural). Yet, they will work with a group that is not actively involved in personal evangelism, and that is just as wrong as far as God is concerned!" Hold everything — let's back up a bit! I had agreed that no congregation was perfect and that a preacher could teach, but not enforce, the truth. But did that mean I could work with any congregation as long as I intended to preach only the truth? I would have to think and study about that for a while — and I did.

It is true that every local work has its problems. No group is perfect and without differences among its members. But to work with a congregation which is collectively engaging in error (as in supporting social activities with the church treasury) and to work with a congregation whose members are not fulfilling their individual responsibilities (as in lack of personal evangelism) is not the same situation. Let me explain.

A local church is simply a group of saints who have agreed to work together as a team. In this relationship with one-another, Christians agree to join forces and pool their resources in order to carry out the Lord's will. "When brethren function collectively, this imposes upon each 'member of the team' the need to do his part (1 Cor. 14:27f; 16:1-2). Each is also accountable for what he agrees to support, encourage, and promote in this collective activity (as in supporting social activities — ko) (Rev. 2:20f; 2 Jn, 11). It is understandable, and commendable, that one should exercise patience toward those in error — while making an effort to correct the error. But even this does not make it right to jointly participate in that error!" (PT - Vols. 1-10, 2-2, 5-9, 12-2)

Every Christian, in every congregation, sustains a personal obligation to God's will for which he will give an account (Rom. 14:12). In the example of personal evangelism — many of the members of a local work may not be fulfilling this obligation. However, their actions do not commit me to the same actions, as in collective work. I can still choose to personally teach others and encourage my brethren to do the same.

As a result of the "preaching, not policing" reasoning, preachers are being encouraged to work with congregations involved in unscriptural practices. If they have reservations about working with such a group, they are reassured with the statement that no local work is perfect. The Bible teaches that if a Christian supports or encourages anything he doubts or knows to be wrong, he jeopardizes his soul (Rom. 14; 1 Cor. 8). Kevan O'Banion