A lot of loose talk makes the rounds these days about a Christian having no obligation to the church. I can appreciate the need for teaching prior obligation to the Lord—to combat “party” allegiance taking precedence over our allegiance to Christ. This is a real danger; and there is evidence that some are more concerned about being “faithful to the church” than they are about being faithful to the Lord. If those who depreciate church obligations have this in mind they should make this clear—joining hands with the many faithful preachers who have pounded on this through the years.
But some have apparently gotten “carried away” in their zeal—or oratory—and have ignored the essence of congregational activities. A local church is a “team” composed of fellow-Christians who have covenanted together to work and worship as a unit. The fact that a local church can hear and speak (Matt. 18:17) pay wages (2 Cor. 11:8) discipline (1 Cor. 5:4-5) have servants (Rom. 16:1-2) messengers (Phil. 2:25) send as a unit (Phil. 4:15-16) receive as a unit (Acts 11:30) write letters (1 Cor. 16:3) are called a “flock” having shepherds (1 Pet. 5:2-f) and many other “unit” characteristics testify to the team’s collective status. It will take more than ambiguous ravings to remove these facts.
Team work does not remove individual responsibility. In fact, it adds individual duties to meet one’s obligations that grow out of such associations. If I join hands with several other Christians to support a gospel preacher in some needy field, I have (1) my original obligation to teach the truth (as an individual) PLUS (2) my share in the collective endeavor. I will be judged as an individual—on the basis of how well I met both of these obligations.If some tend to ignore their individual responsibilities, under the false assumption that the “team” will do all the work, this is error. But it doesn’t invalidate God’s plan for collective action—the local church.
The overseers of a local church have the right to expect each member to carry his share of the load. This imposes obligations with respect to assembling, assisting with the teaching program, finances, supporting the gospel meetings with enthusiasm—in fact, it can be summed up by saying, being a good team-mate.
Of course this is an obligation to the Lord! Such team work is ordained by the Lord, and when done in keeping with his plan constitutes service to the Lord. But the “team” relation imposes obligations that would not exist in its absence; and THAT is what I mean by obligations to the church.
And a lot of ridicule of “proxy” service misses the mark. In things divinely authorized to be done collectively the church frequently acts through an agent. Epaphroditus worked on behalf of the Philippian church in serving Paul. (Phil. 2:25-f) See also, Col. 4:12; 2 Cor. 8:19-23; 11:8, etc. “Wages” for Paul meant he did these churches a service, as well as the Lord. We won’t help the Lord’s cause by ridiculing His plan for working.Last modified: January 22, 2019