What scriptures prove churches should be independent?

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by IfbReformer, Sep 16, 2003.

  1. IfbReformer

    IfbReformer
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    Hello all,

    I am and IFB. Just want to hear what scriptures my fellow IFBs believe prove the church should be independent and not part of convention or association.

    Even a step furthur, which ones prove a church submitting to some sort of hiarchy is wrong.

    Thanks

    IFBReformer
     
  2. Squire Robertsson

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    For most of us, the very word ekklesia carries with it the idea of independence from any outside authority. Contrary to earlier thinking, evidence discovered since the 19th century shows that the Greek of the New Testament is the Greek of day to day discourse and business of that period. This evidence shows that Koine (NT) Greek isn't some kind of Heavenly dialect of Greek. So, we can look for meanings and applications of the words in the secular writtings of that day.

    In doing so, we find that ekklesia is a word with well known and established meanings and usages to the readers of the New Testament. They knew it</font>
    • in a primary way meaning-the calling out of the citizens (those of a city's population who met certain qualifications) for a specific purpose.</font>
    • later to come to mean the legislative (town) meeting of the citizens. The Ephesian Assembly in Acts is an example of this meaning.</font>
    • with a derivative meaning developed over the years such that ekklesia came to be applied to any organization with a specific purpose. in today's english, I'd problably translate this usage as "lodge" or "club".</font>
    • (more to the point of your question) with the understanding that the Greek city-states did not recognize the authority of any other ekklesia over them save their own. they may ally themselves or confederate themselves from time to time. but, for the ekklesia of Sparta to dictate to the ekklesia of Athens was a cause for war. yes there were over time kingdoms and empires that subjugated the various cities. but, Koine Greek has other words for those types of enties.</font>

    [ September 16, 2003, 04:30 PM: Message edited by: Squire Robertsson ]
     
  3. Gunther

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    I just want to point out that being independant don't make one a fundamentalist and being Southern Baptist doesn't disqualify one from being a fundamentalist either.

    Also, if you think the SBC is a hierarchy, you don't know what you are talking about.
     
  4. Squire Robertsson

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    Gunther, I was not casting my linguistic net quite that wide.
     
  5. Gunther

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    I was referring to IFB's post.
     
  6. gb93433

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    I see the churches in the NT as being interdependent. In Acts 20 Paul addresses the elders/pastors from Ephesus. It seems to me that he mentored those men who were pastors. They were not independent of him. He was their mentor. He instructed those men he mentored to the point where they were independent. They worked together.

    Kind of a sideline note: About 25 years ago I was attending a church that wanted to lead in an evangelistic effort in the city. Several of the evangelical chrurhes participated. There were some of the KJVO and independent churches that did not want to. They did not want to mix with any of the other churches. It was a non-denominational church being pastored by an independent Baptist pastor that led in the effort. Today all of those churches that chose not to participate are nearly extinct. Most of them are at about 25 percent or less of the attendance they once had in 1978. The SBC church is even refusing to let the Korean SBC church use its building. So the Korean church is using the Nazarene Church to meet in.
     
  7. IfbReformer

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    Gunther,

    I was not seeking to attack the SBC. In fact I have attended conferences at SBC churches - I do not think they are evil.

    Really what I am getting at and anyone else feel free to respond - is yes there may may be examples of churches being independent, but then there are examples of not being so independent.

    Take the fact that Paul had Timothy appoint Bishops - it does not say he should "recommend them" and have people vote on them as we sometimes fill in there.

    What I am asking is does the New Testament say that local churches MUST be independant - not that they may be.

    Is it wrong for a local church to submit to the authority of a central ruling body, whether that be a convention, association, or hiarchy? What verses say it is?

    IFBReformer
     
  8. swaimj

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    I don't know that there is a "proof-text" which clearly states that churches should be independent. I find the principle reflected in the actions of the early church and the apostles. Probably the best example is in Acts 15. In the controversy that arose over circumcision, the "mother" church in Jerusalem took great pains to acknowledge that teachers who had gone out from Jerusalem had caused problems and the letter of James takes great pains to word its instructions in non-direct language. James' letter is an acknowledgement that the church in Jerusalem was in no way spiritually superior or politically superior to the church in Antioch (or anywhere else). If a local church possesses the word of God, its members possess the Spirit of God, and it has qualified officers (pastors and deacons), it needs no other spiritual resources to carry out its responsibility to God in fulfilling the great commission.
     
  9. Pastor Larry

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    I can't think of a place where Paul told Timothy to do this. He did tell Titus to "appoint elders" and study of that shows that he was to arrange the process by which elders were chosen for the churches. He was not an outside influence dictating to the churches.

    In the NT, the only external authority over a church was apostolic authority and that remains so today. The apostolic authority has come to us in the NT and that is the only external authority for a church today.

    Associations are a tricky thing and they have been abused on both ends of the spectrum. We should hesitate to condemn churches in "gray areas" of association. We should not hesitate to separate from churches in "black and white areas." To argue that churches who separated have declined is irrelevant. Many churches who have not separated have declined and closed down and many who remained separatistic have flourished. It works both ways and thus that standard cannot be used as a measuring stick.

    Yes. The verses are the NT teachings as a whole and the examples of no external authority. Do not confuse a lack of an explicit verse with a lack of a clear teaching.
     
  10. Pete Richert

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    I am a little confused about the nature of this "study".

    I don't think the NT says one way or another. I think it is clear Paul had an intrisic spiritual authority over many churches, but as Pastor Larry stated we don't have any Paul today. And when the confusion over the gentiles arrose there was no "every church read the OT and decide for yourselves" but they took it to Jerusalem. This doesn't mean Jerusalem was some early popish authority over all churches, but everyone recongized that the spiritual leadership, indead those who walked with Christ were there in Jerusalem and they should be consulted. We don't have anything like this today, and I don't think it is fair to argue one way or the other from the specific examples of the Church being built and defined in ACTS to our more steady state existence 2000 years later. I want to modify this a bit. All churches were expected to read the OT and decide, namely, decide that what James and Peter and the council at Jerusalem was saying was correct.

    I think our sense of isolation and indepedence is party influenced by the gross abuses of more central authority in the past. If we had had faithful church leadership over different churches we all might sing a different tune. There are negative consequences to churches being completely indepedenent, as some slide from the truth and have no one to check them.

    It seems to me that the believers in the early church had a much better sense of the unity of the Body of Christ, despite location, then we have today. Indeed, most on this board are quite proud they are distinct from other gathering bodies. These churches respected each others teaching, thinking, shared with each other, prayed for each other, exchanged membors, letters. How this leads to a practical authority in todays world in unclear, and things are greatly confused when we consider that churches differ on some signifigant doctrine.

    In the early church there was a clear faith and any church that fell out of line was rebuked by Paul or from Jerusalem as all believers were accountable to Christ, but now we have lost that firm foundation in that we can argue from Paul's writings, which are no way systematic, and since we and the presbos can't agree on some important thing then we must remain seperate in worship, practice, and above all authority until Christ returns or otherwise changes the outlook of modern Christianity.

    My conclusion, the Bible doesn't speak directly to it and I am not threatened by hierarcical leadership or independent leadership. I attend an independent church, but one who is very sensative to be connected with other believers in Austin, the US, and the world in as much as possible considering our firm convictions on the Bible's teaching. A Hieracucal (sp) authority is no different at some levels in that we are still going to check every thing said by anyone with the Bible if we disagree to the point of non-fellowship that we will happily remove ourselves. The same happens at the church level. We listen to the pastor/elders but check whatever they say with the Scriptures, and if we come to the point that we differ so greatly that fellowship is not advised then we remove ourselves from the church. (I am going to start a new thread on this last point.)
     
  11. IfbReformer

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    Pastor Larry,

    But this is just my point. Because there is no "explicit verse" I believe there is room for differences on this.

    I attend an Independant Fundamental Baptist Church - I always will.

    Having said that, I will not condemn my Christian brother who goes to a Southern Baptist Church, or North American Baptist Church. In fact I will not condemn my Christian brother who goes to a Presbyterian Church.

    The Bible does not condemn church hiarchies or institutions. I agree with Pete that the independants movement was an overreaction in many ways to the abuses of hiarchies, conventions and associations.

    Having said that, I still believe the ultimate responsibility rest with local congregations.

    What I mean is that if a local church decides to submit itself to the authority of a convention, association or hiarchy and that convention, association or hiarchy is following the Bible and Biblical principles so be it.

    But it is the responsiblity of that congregation to break from that hiarchy, association or convention when it sees that hiarchy, association or convention break with the clear teachings of the Word of God.

    But this would apply even with a Pastor, if a congregation feels its Pastor has broken with the clear teaches of the Word of God they should get rid of him.

    Lets take it a step further,

    If I as the head of my household feel that the church I am attending has broken with the clear teachings of the Word of God I am to leave that church for another.

    I think if we base hiarchies being wrong on what we perceive to be as the absense of them in the New Testament than we open a whole can of worms which we cannot be consistant with.

    I do see some resemblances of hiarchy though in the New Testament:

    Titus 1:5(NIV)
    "The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you."

    Paul does not tell him, "recommend", he says to "appoint". That is very different.

    Acts 14:23(NIV)
    "Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust."

    Paul and Barnabas appointed elders, it does not say they recomemended them for a vote.

    A hiarchy system is never commanded to be put in place(like some churches have taught) in the NT but it is never condemned either(like many independants have preached).

    We see some actions in the New Testament that look hiarcheal in nature, yet no officers are given higher than the elders of local churches.

    If we are consistant about our belief that "if it is absent from the New Testament it is wrong", then that would make Sunday School, corporate singing, owning church buildings and many other things we do today wrong because they cannot be found in the New Testament either.

    My PB buddies are like yeah! Thats right. But the church did not use electricity either - are you?

    IFBReformer
     
  12. gb93433

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  13. Taufgesinnter

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    IfbReformer: Or indoor plumbing, either!
     
  14. rlvaughn

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    If I'm understanding you correctly then, IFBReformer, your version precludes any kind of "top-down" heirarchy, requires congregational government, and allows cooperation within Biblical paramenters, since each individual congregation must be capable of following the clear teachings of the word of God.
    Perhaps the sometimes simplistic "if it isn't in the New Testament" clouds the real issue, which is whether New Testament practice is normative for the church age. Perhaps some do not try to understand the argument. Whether to have electricity and indoor plumbing fall entirely outside the scope of "New Testament practice," and are therefore irrelevant to the discussion. Some of us have discussed this in other threads. Most Baptists accept New Testament practice as normative at least part of the time. I suspect most Baptists observe communion with fruit of the vine and baptism in water, rather than the reverse, not because of an explicit command, but because it was the New Testament practice. Some of us try to apply New Testamenet practice as normative consistently, but I know we fall short of achieving that consistency. That failure doesn't disprove our position.

    [ September 22, 2003, 12:14 AM: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     
  15. IfbReformer

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    rlvaughn,

    Your Statement:
    "If I'm understanding you correctly then, IFBReformer, your version precludes any kind of "top-down" heirarchy, requires congregational government, and allows cooperation within Biblical paramenters, since each individual congregation must be capable of following the clear teachings of the word of God."

    My Response:
    My position does not preclude a "top-down" hiararchy. This is how I would explain my position here:

    Lets take an Anglican church for an example. Lets say the Anglican church plants a new church in Smithville. So this becomes Smithville Anglican church.

    The pastor(priest) here sees his church taking stands which are unbibical.

    He has two choices - submit to the rulership even though it is taking unbiblical stands or is not standing on something it should. Or he can preach to his congregation and try and convince them of the problem.

    If he can convince them, they should break with the parent church, even if that involves loosing property and having to get another building.

    If he cannot, then he should leave that church himself.

    By the way as far as the Anglican church goes, it is long passed due for people to step out of it.

    Having said all this, I just want to reiterate that I attend and independent fundamental baptist church and always will - it is the structure I feel is the best. But I will not tell someone in a church with a different structure that they are some second rate, second class Christian if they attend that church.

    Where I think the IFB structure has it weakness, is that many times we can be too "independent". We don't cooperate enough with other like-minded churches and let petty differences stop us from working together for the cause of Christ.

    IFBReformer
     
  16. IfbReformer

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    rlvaughn,

    Your Statement:
    "Some of us try to apply New Testamenet practice as normative consistently, but I know we fall short of achieving that consistency. That failure doesn't disprove our position."

    My Response:
    I agree that failure to be perfectly consistant does not disprove your or my position.

    But trying to follow New Testament practice in the absense of express commands does not make your practice infallible either - or give you the right to judge others who do things differently than you do(and I am not saying you do).

    It is when we go beyond and above what God had his Apostles and Prophets write and we teach the commands and traditions of men as the commands of God that we have gone off track.

    Every Christian denomination is guilty of this at one point or another.

    IFBReformer
     
  17. GODzThunder

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    I never understood why people feel that the Southern Baptist Convention is a hiarchy like the Roman Catholic Church is.

    Yes there is a president to reside over the association acting as CEO over business and missions affiars BUT let that man try to step in and save a pastor being voted out by the deacons ;)

    There is a cooperative program and a universal belief in doctrine BUT every Church has the right to believe what they want and self govern. No matter what the associations and conventions say, the Church is the ultimate and final word over the affiars of that Church.
     
  18. swaimj

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    The problem with a President/CEO model is that it is a secular model. While I acknowledge that we have freedom to develop methods and means, I think the SBC model goes in a direction with which I am not comfortable. The NT defines church leadership as pastor(s) and deacons. To develop offices in addition to these and particularly in authority over these is a change in essence IMHO, and is a step too far.
     
  19. rlvaughn

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    IfbReformer, I came in the middle of the thread to respond to a couple of specific points, so I feel a need to go back and interact with your original question. What scriptures prove churches should be independent? Probably most will agree that there is no explicit command for a particular type of church government, nor are there any New Testament writings specifying exact forms of church polity. In the absence of this, anyone rejecting New Testament practice as normative or authoritative will probably feel that the church is left to follow that which is expedient and pragmatic. Those who accept New Testament practice as normative will find proof in guiding principles and the consistent New Testament application of those principles through apostolic practice. To give those scriptures to someone who rejects that concept is somewhat of an exercise in futility.

    It is generally accepted that there are three basic forms of church government: (1) Congregational; (2) Episcopal; and (3) Presbyterian. A 4th "form" is that of "non-government" - for example, everyone may just be sitting around waiting for the Lord to "give light" to someone. I believe the congregational or independent type fits scriptural principles and practices. I reserve the right to define what I mean by congregational, because I believe the democratic "whoever gets 50.1% of the vote wins" way of running a church is political rather than spiritual. By congregational or independent, I mean that a church's governance is not subject to outside bodies (whether parachurch organizations or bodies of ministers).

    So here are some of my thoughts:
    </font>
    • Jesus is the head of the church; He is the law-giver. Forms of church government other than congregational put mediators between the Head and the church (Eph. 5:23.24; Col. 1:18).</font>
    • The church is a body of believers, a priesthood which needs no more priests other than their High Priest (I Pet. 2:9).</font>
    • There is evidence in the New Testament of autonomous congregations, not subject to the control of episcopacies, presbyters or other entities (Acts 6:5: 13:1-3; 15:22; Rom. 14:1; I Cor. 5:4-5,13; Gal. 6:1; et.al).</font>
    • Jesus specifically rejects the lordship example of Gentile rulers (Mark 10:42-45).</font>
    • Specific examples and teachings, such as church discipline resting in the church. There is no higher body of appeal (Matt. 18:15-17).</font>
     
  20. rlvaughn

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    Nor is our doctrine or practice infallible even in the PRESENCE of express commands.
    I am loath to call the practices established by the inspired apostles "the commands and traditions of men." Are we to conclude that the apostles failed in their commission to teach the baptized disciples all things that Jesus had commanded them? But even if apostolic practice is not normative for the entire church age, on what basis would we surmise that their instituted practices of church autonomy are inferior to those devised later by other men? No form of church government can be established apart from New Testament practice. Therefore, if apostolic or New Testament practice is not a valid example, God favours no particular form and expediency is the standard.
     

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