The plague of parachurch structures
- and the more specific bane of febrile
association forming or 'establishmentitis', as Peter Masters
has described it.
'....That thou mayest
know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is
the church of the living God,
the pillar and ground of
1 Tim. 3.15
Many churches look to societies
and structures outside of their own body for vital support and help
with their witness and to maintain their standing.
Some of these very properly describe themselves as 'handmaidens of the
church' - a comely and appropriate phrase.
with time, many of them have become a curse not a blessing. Missionary
societies are hindering or corrupting mission and sponsoring apostasy rather than opposing it, Bible societies advocate
corrupted manuscripts, denominations and formal associations
leaven whole groups of churches such that they have turned a once
healthy armada of local fellowships into shipwrecks.
Bible schools once renowned for learning and godliness have become filthy
dens of infidelity, stables of wolves,
only famous now for 'ever learning and never [being] able to
come to a knowledge of the truth'.
Evangelicals, even Baptist fellowships, who should historically know better than to concede
their autonomy under Christ, have a wholesome
longing for visible expression of outward unity, but unwisely and
unscripturally seek to express this in a formal association.
too often this becomes a highly effective means for Satan to leaven the
member churches, whether with foul doctrine, as in the case of the Baptist
Union, or foul practice as has sadly become all too evident
with the FIEC
It is our purpose to quickly survey Biblical texts setting out the
precious mandate for each local fellowship, and encourage brethren
to maintain the crown rights of their King as a sacred trust,
to be sold. Many churches in the face of ferocious external challenges
and a sense of inward decay, like Hezekiah foolishly sell off of the gold
and silver of the Temple in the face of Sennacherib's threatened approach,
this delays but only intensifies the eventual conflict with Assyria's
Mould spreads quickly through an unhealthy building
have a precious and vital promise that the Lord Who lays the foundation
in the 'Petra' πετρα (f.) of the testimony of Jesus Christ, will build His
church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it! Yet how
carelessly some builders build on that foundation.
to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I
have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every
man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.' 1 Cor. 3.10
dangerously that the apostle warns them their precious labours will be
all but completely consumed in the Day of testing.
'If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he
himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.' 1 Cor.3.15
the necessary resources for a holy, healthy, vibrant and growing
fellowship are found in Christ in his Word and by His Spirit.
that holds the messengers of the churches in His own right hand. It is
He and He alone that grants and removes the candlestick from
Some may say did not the Apostles appoint elders (Acts
14.3, Tit 1.5), did they not insist on proper church discipline over
the heads of the local church leaders (1 Cor.5.3-5, 2 Cor.10.2,8 2
Cor.13.10), did they vigorously warn against false teachers within the
churches (Gal.1.8-9 etc)? Do these not plainly indicate that churches
can and will enter such dangerous waters that external help is needed.
Indeed, but to those who claim a work of continuing the ongoing
church-governing mandate of the Apostles and their delegates (the
traditional claim of Romanists and Episcopalians but also a claim this
writer has heard from officers of the FIEC) there are grave
warnings in the scripture that the remedy may become much more
problematic than the original malady.
Where is their scriptural mandate for acting as episcopal bishops?
'For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming
themselves into the apostles of Christ.' 2 Cor.11.13
'... thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and
hast found them liars:' Rev. 2.2
What is the singular and proper foundation for each and every local
'For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus
Christ.' 1 Cor.3.11
'And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus
Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
'In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy
temple in the Lord.' Ephes.2.20-21
thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a
stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation:
that believeth shall not make haste.' Isa. 28.16
he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD
unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit,
saith the LORD of hosts.
Who art thou, O great mountain? before
Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the
headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.'
now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before
thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my
servant the BRANCH.
For behold the stone that I have laid before
Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the
graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the
iniquity of that land in one day.'
is an extremely dangerous thing to tamper with the foundation of the
church - it is rooted in Christ and His master blueprint.
'If any man defile the
temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy,
which temple ye are.' 1 Cor.3.17
Even the Apostle John when faced with serious and damaging subversion
of a local church, did not overrule the local elders, but warned
plainly of the dangers, of future judgement and advised the brethren
how to act. (3 Jn. 9-11)
Interchurch cooperation and fellowship is a sweet,
productive and scriptural activity. There a good examples of sending
funds to the needy through established churches (Acts 11.28-9), helping one another's
ministers (Php.2.25,29) and ministry (1 Cor 16.17-18), sending on letters of commendation or warning (Rom 16.1, Phm, 3 Jn 9,12), the
apostolic pattern sets an example of writing circulars and letters
which the early church fathers quickly followed, albeit without
inspired authority, and there are grand examples of synods or councils (Acts 15, Acts 11.4).
However these councils no longer carry apostolic authority and cannot
be regarded as either infallible or binding on local churches, in so
far as they deviate in any particular from the only source and light
either by adding or subtracting from its precepts
However great care should be taken to prevent permanent, formal ties between churches for fear of obstructing Christ Himself !
Levitical Menorah or Temple Candlestick was one stick with seven
branches, one light bearing institution with several lights.
the New Testament candlesticks are different. The seven churches of
are each individual and distinct candlesticks, each held in the
Messiah's right hand, and He walks between them.
He is the only
formal and organisational tie between them. Any other formal bond
or covenant is an obstruction to His passage!
'Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he
that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the midst of the
seven golden candlesticks.'
A Fireship at the Battle of Solebay, 1672
C.H Spurgeon in
the aftermath of the Tabernacle's withdrawal from the Baptist Union
Why not start a new Denomination? This is not a question for
which we have any liking. There are denominations enough. If there were
a new denomination formed the thieves and robbers who have entered
other "gardens walled round" would climb into this also, and so nothing
would be gained. Besides, the expedient is not needed among churches
which are each one self-governing and self-determining: such churches
can find their own affinities without difficulty, and can keep their
own coasts clear of invaders. Since each vessel is seaworthy in
herself, let the hampering ropes be cut clean away, and no more lines
of communication be thrown out until we know that we are alongside a
friend who sails under the same glorious flag. In the isolation of
independency, tempered by the love of the Spirit which binds us to all
the faithful in Christ Jesus, we think the lovers of the gospel will
for the present find their immediate safety. Oh, that the day would
come when, in a larger communion than any sect can offer, all those who
are one in Christ may be able to blend in manifest unity! This can only
come by the way of growing spiritual life, clearer light upon the one
eternal truth, and a closer cleaving in all things to him who is the
Head, even Christ Jesus. (Nov.
1887 Sword and Trowel.)