"Why Have Privately Supported Preaching Institutions?"


     The movement today of brethren organizing and forming privately supported institutions to collectively preach to the lost, edify the saved, and exercise benevolence for needy saints is very evident and well documented.  In fact, we are now witnessing more such entities being formed.  You will have noticed that the mentioned corporate work being performed by such institutions of preaching to the lost, edifying the saved, and benevolence for needy saints is precisely the work God has assigned to his local church (I Tim. 3: 15, Eph. 4: 16, I Cor. 16: 1, 2).  The local church as set up by God provides spiritual leadership and oversight (Acts 14: 23), a treasury (cp. I Cor. 16: 1, 2), edification, and collective structure in which Christians are to work together to corporately effect the influence of the gospel.  Regarding the local church, Paul succinctly wrote:

 "15: But if I tarry long, 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 the truth" (I Tim. 3).

     The descriptive expression, "...the pillar and ground of the truth" is never applied in scripture to any other entity.  Also, we never read of Christians organizing (treasury, oversight, etc.) outside of the local church to form foundations, entities, and organizations through which to collectively do the work God has assigned to the local church.  Based, therefore, on the silence of the scriptures in the circumstance of specific instruction, we must conclude that such entities, albeit privately supported, are unauthorized and constitute a form of institutionalism that many have not addressed or considered (cp. Heb. 7: 14).

     In view of all the division and stir such orders as the Guardian of Truth Foundation has generated (see addendum 1), why do these brethren insist on having them?  "We view these entities as expedients, through which we may preach the gospel," I have been told.   However, the essential definition of "expedient" involves the implementation and assistance of what is taught, in our scriptural application, and such as is advantageous.  In the first place, where are Christians taught to form their own organization, treasury, leadership, etc. in which to corporately preach the gospel?  Even if such humanly devised orders could be shown to expedite the work of preaching and not a violation or substitution of what is taught, in view of the resultant division, they would be excluded as expedients.

     Let it be understood that I cannot speak for all of the promoters and defenders of privately supported orders.  However, I have been dealing with this movement since the seventies and I think I am qualified to make such observations, having personally talked and studied with many of the players of such entities.

1).  I have learned that some have become a part of private institutions to preach the gospel due to the lack of "local demographic definition and hindrance," to use their words.  "By being a part of such institutions, we have no primary local interest, but we can focus on general geographic interests and world-wide, if desired, application."  I do not know that I fully understand such an answer, nonetheless, it is one that has been provided to me through the years.  Some of the adherents of such practices have advocated the benefit of, "...coming together in designedly different geographic locations."  Hence, some of these brethren have a "nebulous" and "fluid" concept of "coming together and working." They see this arrangement as not having the "shackles" belonging to the local church situation.  We must keep in mind, though, the local church is God's idea and seen as a vital part of pristine, First Century Christianity (I Cor. 1: 2, Heb. 10: 25).

2).  Loose and ill defined fellowship.  From a biblical perspective, we understand that fellowship involves primarily two essential elements:  Participation in spiritual matters and approval (cp. 2 John 9-11).  This fellowship is contingent on such matters as doctrinal and moral purity and sameness (I John 1: 7ff.).  "Don, I enjoy the fellowship provided in such institutions because it is relaxed and I can work with brethren that I could not work with in a local church."  Through the years, I have heard such many times, but I continue to be unable to apply biblical truth and thus understand the concept.  In these growing orders, you can find brethren of all sorts of serious doctrinal differences harmoniously working together.  In reality, such fraternities pervert New Testament fellowship and help promote the unity in diversity mentality that is becoming so common today.

3).  Another reason some have provided me for wanting to be a part of privately supported entities to preach the gospel is the freedom they enjoy.  "Don, we experience a sence of freedom in our collective work arrangement outside of the confines of the local church."  At various stages of the development of this movement, some have freely expressed to me the love they have for their orders, love that transcends their affinity for God's local church provision.  "We can do more in our orders that can be done in local churches," I have been told.  "In our circumstance, we do not feel that there are others watching us, governing us, and monitoring our every move," one promoter explained to me.

4). Regarding many with whom I have studied and debated the privately supported institutions to preach the gospel, I have encountered an express dislike and even antipathy for elderships.  We have seen, notwithstanding, that God introduced the concept of certain men, meeting certain qualifications having the oversight in the local churches where they serve and superintend (I Pet. 5: 1-3). "We believe our arrangement of having a president, vice president, and treasury to fund our efforts works well for us," many have said to me.  I realize that we have too many false elderships, however, abuse does not negate the right practice.  I read nothing of a Board of Directors overseeing God's people as they come together to preach and edify one another.  Such is a rejection of God's simple order.

5). Still another reason and rationale for such orders is, "These orders provide a degree of protection for those of us who preach, should we be fired by a local church, our fraternities will come to our aid."  I do not deny this impetus for entity membership. However, how does such scripturally relate?  I have personally known of adulterers and false teachers being given asylum by such entities and hooked up with another local church where they can go preach. Some orders possess a shocking influence and even "control" over various local churches.  They thus form preacher cliques and political associations that go after all their "enemies" in their organized efforts to protect their members.

     As I close, allow me to repeat that I am not saying that every practitioner of these orders believe all the above mentioned. However, I know for a fact that a number have.  The bottom line is that these orders are lacking scripture validation and are without biblical authority, notwithstanding the reasons for their existence and promotion (see addendum 2).

Addendum 1:  I mention the Guardian of Truth Foundation due to the influence and clarity of entity and purpose of this order.

Addendum 2:  In our objection to such privately funded orders that provide Christians the corporate means to collectively organize and preach the gospel, we are not alluding to the simple practice of two or more Christians forming a business for profit that sells books, even religious books.  We also do not necessarily object to two or more Christians distributively working, "outside of the local church," directly viewed, in teaching others, such as appears to be the case with Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18: 24ff.).  However, when Christians organize themselves in forming a Board of directors, President, treasury, mission statement, and even tax exempt status, such clearly constitutes the institutionalism to which we do object!