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The plague of parachurch structures
- and the more specific bane of febrile association forming or 'establishmentitis', as Peter Masters  has described it.

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'....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.'

1 Tim. 3.15
Face


Foundation stone  Eiffel Tower
Foundation Stone                                                    Tower

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.
However 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'.

Wet mould

Evan
gelicals, 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.   All 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 or Affinity.


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, not to be sold. Many churches in the face of ferocious external challenges and a sense of inward decay, like Hezekiah foolishly sell off 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 ferocity.

Mould spreads quickly through an unhealthy building

We 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.

Toppled building  Minard Hall

'According 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

Some so 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

All the necessary resources for a holy, healthy, vibrant and growing fellowship are found in Christ in his Word and by His Spirit.
It is 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 its place.

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 fellowship?

'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

'Therefore 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:
he that believeth shall not make haste.' Isa. 28.16

'Then 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.'
Zech .4.5-6

'Hear 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.'
Zech. 8-9
Blueprint
It 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)
Menorah

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
(Isa. 8.20).


However great care should be taken to prevent permanent, formal ties between churches for fear of obstructing Christ Himself !

The Levitical Menorah or Temple Candlestick was one stick with seven branches, one light bearing institution with several lights.


However the New Testament candlesticks are different. The seven churches of Asia 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.'

Fireship
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.)



Last modified 14/10/2014

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