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Lest We Forget

Institutionalism
Larry Ray Hafley


I. Introduction:

    A. Over fifty years ago, a prominent preacher warned:
      The ship of Zion has floundered more than once on the sand-bar of institutionalism. The tendency to organize is characteristic of the age. This writer has ever been unable to appreciate the logic of those who affect to see grave danger in the missionary society but scruple not to form organizations for the purpose of caring for orphans, and teaching young men to be gospel preachers. Of course it is right for the church to care for the fatherless and widows in their affliction, but the work should be done by and through the church with the elders having the oversight thereof. (Guy N. Woods, ACC Lectures, 1939, p.54).
    B. Using commonly accepted terminology as employed in the quote above, the Scriptures shall be our authority in this study of institutionalism (2 Tim. 1:13; 2 Jn. 9; 1 Pet. 4:11; Col. 3:17; Matt. 28:20).
    C. Topics to be discussed:
      1. Is there a Bible pattern?
      2. How is scriptural authority established?
      3. What is the church?
      4. What is the work of the church?
      5. What is the issue?

II. Discussion:

    A. Is there a Bible pattern?
      1. Noah had a pattern (Gen. 6:22).
      2. Moses had a pattern (Ex. 25:8,9,40; 26:30; 27:8; cf. Acts 7:41, 44; Lev. 10:1,2; 1 Sam. 15).
        a. "Works of their own hands" (Acts 7:41 vs. God's, v. 44).
        b. "Obey better than sacrifice" (1 Sam. 15:22).
        c. Cf. Jereboam -"devised of his own heart" (1 Kg. 12:33).
      3. New Testament pattern (2 Tim. 1:13; 2:5; 3:16,17).
        a. For gospel obedience (Rom. 6:17,18; 1 Tim. 1:16).
          1. If not, cannot bind baptism.
          2. If not, cannot forbid infant baptism.
          3. If no order, no disorder.
        b. For worship (Col. 3: 16,17).
          1. If not, Lord's supper on Saturday.
          2. If not, piano, beads, candles.
          3. If no order, no disorder.
        c. For organization (Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5; 1 Pet. 5:2).
          1. If not, one man pastor plan of Protestants?
          2. If not, accept priestly caste of Catholics?
          3. If no order, no disorder.
        d. Some want to pick and choose which patterns they will follow -"Lazy Susan" patternism.
        e. Others use the Bible to show there is no pattern! Is the Bible a pattern for "no patternism"?
    B. How is scriptural authority established?
      1. Direct command, statement -"Take, eat" (1 Cor. 11:24-26) -Observe the Lord's supper.
      2. Approved apostolic example -"Upon the first day of the week" (Acts 20:7) - When to observe the Lord's supper?
      3. Necessary Implication -"Upon the first day of the week" (Acts 20:7; Ex. 20:8) –Frequency of observance.
      4. Generic and Specific authority:

Command

Generic

Specific

Noah

Wood

Gopher

Naaman

Water

River Jordan

Church

Music

Sing

Preach
Edify
Relieve

 
Organization

 
Local Church

    C. What is the church?
      1. Universal body of all obedient believers (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 1:22,23; Eph. 2:16; 4:4; 5:23; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27,28).
      2. Local congregations (Rom. 16:16; Gal. 1:2; 1 Cor. 1:2; Rev. 1:11,20).
      3. Compare the Ethiopian Eunuch and Saul — both members of the church, but a member of no local church (1 Cor. 12:13; Col. 1:13; Acts 8:26-40; Acts 9:26; 2:47).
      4. A plurality of local churches did not move, act or work in concert as a single unit – thus no "church-hood" concept.
        a. If so, cite head, organization, work, treasury.
        b.If so, what are entrance qualifications? Officers qualifications? How appointed?
    D. What is the work of the church?
      1. Preaching (1 Thess. 1:8; Acts 11:22).
      2. Edification (Eph. 4:12; 1 Cor. 14: Acts 11:22-26).
      3. Benevolence (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Tim. 5:16).
      4. Recreation, Entertainment? No Scripture.
        a. "For the church to turn aside from its divine work to furnish amusement and recreation is to pervert its mission. It is to degrade its mission. Amusement and recreation should stem from the home rather than the church. The church, like Nehemiah, has a great work to do; and it should not come down on the plains of Ono to amuse and entertain" (B.C. Goodpasture, Gospel Advocate, May 20, 1948).
        b. "Building recreation rooms and providing and supervising recreational activities at the expense of the church is a departure from the simple gospel plan as revealed in the New Testament" (Gospel Advocate Annual Commentary. 1951, p. 229).
    E. What is the issue?
      1. In evangelism:
        a. The issue is not:
          1.Should preaching be done.
          2. "How" preaching should be done (means, methods).
          3. May churches cooperate.
          4. May a place be maintained.
        b. The issue is: May churches of Christ build and maintain missionary societies to do work God gave the church to do.

Chart 1, Larry Hafley on Institutionalism

      2. In edification:
        a. The issue is not:
          1. Should saints be edified.
          2. "How" edifying should be done (means, methods).
          3. May churches cooperate.
          4. May a place be maintained.
        c. The issue is: May churches of Christ build and maintain colleges to do the work God gave the church to do.

Chart #2 for Hafley's Institutionalism

      3. In benevolence:
        a. The issue is not:
          1. Should needy receive care.
          2. "How" should care be done (means, methods).
        c. The issue is: May churches of Christ build and maintain benevolent societies to do work God gave the church to do.

Chart #3, Hafley on Institutionalism

III. Conclusion:

    A. Compare principles above to church sponsored recreation.
      1. Note a "what if" comparison:

Command

Aid

Addition

Sing

Book, Leader

Play

Lord's Supper

Plate, Server

Jelly

Give

Basket, Server

Sell

Recreation
(Scripture?)

Gym, Toys

Post Hole Digger - Work

      2. Church does the work, provides gym, games, toys, coaches.
      3. Not this:

Chart #4, Hafley on Institutionalism

      4. If the church is not a "home" and must contribute to a benevolent society, as some argue, then since the church is not a gymnasium, must it contribute to YMCA's to play?
    B. The local church is all-sufficient to do the work God assigned it to do.