(Editor's Note: Brother Robert's wrote this article for the West Side Weekly in November of 1972. We reprint the article now, as it parallels this month's theme, and has a valid point to make.)
On various occasions, when I have had opportunity to talk with brethren in liberal churches, one of the recurring charges is that we have no right to charge apostasy against them because "you are not doing anything among yourselves." The implication is that the liberal churches are the only ones doing anything while the "conservative" (faithful) churches are dead and not doing any work at all.
But the charge needs closer investigation.
The idea that churches which oppose centralized control and institutions and the social gospel are dead is certainly not true and can be shown to be a false charge. But why does it seem this way to the liberals? What gives them the idea that we are not doing anything?
Let us suppose a liberal should begin to ask us what we do. The questioning could run like this:
"Do you support the Herald of Truth?"
But now, wait a minute. Let's look a little closer at this line of questioning. Does it fairly represent the options and alternatives open to faithful churches? I think not.
Some brethren these days seem to have a complex about the kind of work they do. Unless it is a national or international work... unless it is a centralized project... unless it requires a sponsoring arrangement... unless "brotherhood" or "area-wide" elders are required... unless young people are entertained... unless something larger or smaller than the local church is activated, it just doesn't count. Unless a congregation sends to the Herald of Truth, it isn't scriptural. Unless Boles Home is included in the budget, you are not faithful. Unless you support what we have invented, you are just not doing anything.
But who makes up this criteria of judgment? Who gave them the authority? Can you be a faithful church and an active church without these projects?
The New Testament teaches that every congregation is to be independent under Christ (Acts 14:23; 1 Peter 5:1,2). This is an inviolable principle of church organization. Whenever elders begin to oversee the work and/or funds of more than one congregation, it is a sin and a step into apostasy.
Likewise, the New Testament is clear about the work which is to be done by churches of Christ. They are to teach the gospel to the lost, edify the membership (Acts 20:28), and help the needy members (Acts 6, etc.). Along with the worship services, this composes the sum total of what God expects of His people in a congregational capacity.
Now, the manner in which these works are carried out is, in many cases, a matter of judgment. So long as they are done with no violation of Bible precept, we may be extremely zealous in doing these good works.
But our liberal brethren are not satisfied if we do these things! They insist that we do what they have invented. They insist that we are doing nothing if we don't involve ourselves in their projects. It is not enough to preach the gospel privately and from house to house on a local level. It is not enough to send gospel preachers out into six or seven fields. It is not enough if we have good Bible classes in which the truth is taught to young and old alike. It is not enough if your needy members are taken care of. It is not enough that we are an independent body of believers under Christ, actively engaged in working for the Lord.
With these people, you are not doing anything if you are not doing what they say. Those who label us as "anti" would stop doing this if we would contribute $1 per month to any institution. They would stop labeling us as "do-nothing" if we would have our elders subject themselves to some other elders in a centralized project. Many churches among the liberals are just as dead (can one be "deader" than any other?) as what they accuse us of being but since they make a nominal contribution each month to a project, they are touted as being "on the march."
Let me suggest that we have no need to feel guilty about our service to Christ. We may compare it with that of anyone. When we do something and do it right, God is glorified, we are edified and the lost are justified. It is of very little importance if some digressive brethren invent an unscriptural project and then label us as "do-nothing" because we don't participate. We have enough to do with what the Lord gave us and have no time to come down to the "plains of Ono" to complicate matters.