Neo-Institutionalism, are we Splitting Hairs?

     From the time that I became a Christian, I have been given to detail and particularity.  Some of this is due to my training in the secular field and early experiences in life.  I have asked myself many times if I am too given to detail, to the point of splitting hairs.  I know that on occasion I have been told that I am guilty of this.  However, those who have so told me have been individuals who suffer from the "big picture syndrome" devoid of any particularity consideration.  There is obviously, then, a happy balance between only seeing the whole and excessively focusing on detail.  We must see the whole, but we must also realize that particulars make up the whole and their individual nature and contribution to the whole must be acknowledged.

     I just returned from the south, having engaged in some special work in the area of institutionalism.  I was actually able to preach for a church that has been under the influence of institutionalism for many years.  I was very appreciative of their cordiality and I look forward to doing future work with them (I preached on relevant matters and differences).  In some ways, I am now seeing some better attitudes among those whom we have styled as institutional churches than I am seeing among some having the reputations of being "non-institutional."

     Case in Point:  I received an email advertisement from the Truth Bookstore (see addendum) that read as follows:

"We are a group of Christians aspiring to teach the word of God, to inform brethren regarding the Lord's work in various parts of the country, and to strengthen and encourage Christians. In addition to the bookstores, we also publish Truth Magazine. To learn more about this magazine or to subscribe, click here."

     When I read this advertisement, my response was, "Really!"  Perhaps some of my response was shaped and determined by past experience with some of the neo-institutionally minded promoters of the Guardian of Truth Foundation, the newly re-configured mega religious entity among us.  Their subtle marketing approach has come down to, "We are a group of Christians aspiring to teach the word of God....."  How simple and innocent, it would appear.

     The neo-institutionalism to which I refer is the practice and mentality of forming an entity, separate and apart from a local church entity (Phili.1: 1).  The plan was that much clandestine recruiting was to be done and when the time was ripe, they would emerge as a well formed and organized foundation to corporately influence the brotherhood.  I began to hear talk of such in the making years ago.  This privately funded organization was (is) to corporately preach the gospel and provide edification for Christians.  They would have (do have) a president, treasury, board of overseers, and mission the same as the local church and would provide individual Christians the corporate means of preaching the gospel outside of the local church organization (treasury, elders, structure, etc.).  I was also told, "If you do not join us, we shall consider you an enemy and make it so that you will not be able to hold meetings or even find a local church where you can preach!"  I wanted to cry to high heaven then and warn brethren of what was coming.  I did do what I could by way of anticipation, but the response of many was, "We have no idea of what you speak!"  Alas, the full blown foundation is now a reality for all to see.  However, they continue to be clandestine in their modus operandi and tactics.  Even though all the essential vestiges for constituting an entity as opposed to simply some individual Christians concurrently working are extant, they continue to maintain that they are not corporately preaching the gospel (above advertisement).  Deceit, misrepre- sentation, and the slandering and political maneuvering of any who oppose them remains a chief trait of these brethren.

     Let us now return to our original concern, the matter of splitting hairs. The scriptures clearly distinguish between individual action and collective function (I Tim. 5: 16).  There are, moreover, some matters that are good that the individual may and is actually commanded to do that are precluded when it comes to the local church (Ibid.).  A relevant matter is that the local church is observed in the New Testament as the organization of Christians, having structure, specified leadership, a treasury, and a corporate mission.  There is corporate structure as opposed to individual action (Phili. 1: 1, Acts 9: 26); qualified leaders to oversee the corporate entity and work (Acts 14: 23, I Tim. 3); monies to fund this organizational work (I Cor. 16: 1, 2); and God has assigned the local church entity the work of being the "pillar and ground of the truth" (I Tim. 3: 15).  While we do observe in the scriptures Christians individually, concurrently, and concurrently working in a circumstance of physical proximity, if you please, we do not have them corporately functioning, except in the local church circumstance.  For instance, Philip individually preached the gospel (Acts 8: 26ff.).  Aquila and Priscilla are observed working together to teach Apollos (Acts 18: 24ff.).  Notice, though, no organization is involved.  In other words, Philip did not work through the, let's say, "Reach the Lost Foundation," having its own treasury, oversight, structure, etc.  In the case of Aquila and Priscilla, there is no, "Present the Full Truth Foundation," having its own treasury, oversight, structure, etc.  Again, we only read of the local church providing Christians corporate means to preach the gospel and the local church is the only organization observed in the New Testament.  One obvious reason for this is because the local church designedly has in place the means of providing the requisite guidance and protection for the preaching of the truth (cp. Tit. 1: 5-11).

     Look again at the Truth Bookstore advertisement that is reflective of the thinking in general of the Guardian of Truth Foundation:

"We are a group of Christians aspiring to teach the word of God, to inform brethren regarding the Lord's work in various parts of the country, and to strengthen and encourage Christians. In addition to the bookstores, we also publish Truth Magazine. To learn more about this magazine or to subscribe, click here."

     The truth is they are Christians who are functioning in and through a fully organized foundation, separate and apart from the local church entity, the one to which God has assigned the corporate work of disseminating and protecting the truth (I Tim. 3: 15).  Some have asked, "If we removed the corporate structure, the treasury, president, board of directors, etc., would you then have a problem?"  For sure, the foundation circumstance would not be present.  It is just this simple.  The Guardian of Truth Foundation is not just a group of individual Christians going about to individually teach the word of God, strengthen Christians, and publish a religious magazine.  Such is a total misrepresentation and subtle marketing and they know it.  (The Guardian of Truth Foundation is not simply a corporate business for the purpose of making money by publishing books, as they used to contend.)  IRS certainly recognizes the corporate nature of the Guardian of Truth Foundation.  However, some brethren, even most of the promoters of the foundation do not seem to be able to make such a distinction between corporate and individual work.

     No, I do not believe we are simply "splitting hairs" when we so distinguish between the organization milieu of the Guardian of Truth Foundation as opposed to individual and even concurrent action.

     What is on the horizon?  Without any intent to brag, I have done my share of work among institutional churches.  I now see precisely the same mind-set, rationale, and logistics among many of my brethren, especially those involved with the Guardian of Truth Foundation and many associated with Florida College as I observed with institutionally minded members back in the sixties.  The foremost scary thing that I am observing is a total failure to distinguish between individual and corporate action.  This was the beginning of all the liberalism of our "institutional brethren" and I humbly submit it is also the beginning of a greater and more swift apostasy among those who used to be termed as "non-institutional." Brethren, just because a church treasury is not involved in funding these organizations and foundations to corporately preach the gospel does not justify their existence.  Already, we are seeing the new more open "unity-in-diversity" fellowship mentality as these G.O.T brethren attempt to justify all of them working together while they hold many serious opposing views on such matters as unscriptural marriages. "Just because I am a member of G.O.T along with Joe Blow who essentially advocates adulterous marriage, does not make me wrong, we are individually working."  What nonsense and political gymnastics!  Such is only the beginning.  In closing, God truly knew what He was doing in only authorizing the local church in and through which Christians are to corporately preach the gospel.  To form such foundations as the present Guardian of Truth Foundation is to ignore what is taught relative to how Christians are to organize themselves and such requires acting upon the silence of the scriptures (cp. Heb. 7: 14, I Cor. 4: 6, ASV).  (To read a number of like articles, click on, "The Guardian of Truth Foundation and Florida College" and be sure to consider the article links at the bottom of the immediately mentioned article.)

     Addendum:  The Guardian of Truth Bookstore and Truth Magazine are all a part of the Guardian of Truth Foundation.