Manifold Wisdom in Church Autonomy
Last weekend many of us were in Sevierville attending the Christian Youth Conference. Estimates for total attendants were over 15,000 people. Much can be said about worshipping with a group of that size, but what I find myself thinking about at events like this is the genius in God’s design of the Church.
One of the things that is often over looked within the organization of the Church is the benefits of congregational autonomy. What we mean by that phrase is that each congregation of the Church of Christ is governed by Christ through the Apostles teaching (Matt 16:18, Eph 4:11-14). A local congregation is not ruled over by a convention, society, or papacy in one locale. The local congregation is ruled in heaven (Rev 2:5) with expediencies and local matters left under the care of the elders (Acts 20:28).
In a world where rebellious gainsayers want to say “well what’s wrong with _____”. Events such as CYC, lectureships, and gospel meetings show what is right about governing the Church in the Bible way.
In a room of thousands of people with hundreds of congregations represented, you just keep running into people you know. That is built into the autonomous design of the Church. You don’t have that in denominations. In denominational Christianity the so-called “pastor” is elevated and everyone knows him, in the catholic faith the Pope is all anybody cares to know, but in the Church of Christ everyone matters, and people are treated as such.
In Romans 16 Paul names a number of members of the church in Rome. Besides Aquilla and Priscilla, these are twenty-seven people that were just everyday church members. Paul didn’t plant the church in Rome, he had never been there, but he still knows these everyday Christians. How do you think Appelles felt when Paul greeted him in 16:10? It certainly made him feel like a significant part of the Body of Christ. This is just like us when we attend events with other Christians and we run into people we know.
Because of autonomy, when we are on vacation and we go to church on Sunday, we will have mutual connections with the members there. If we move across the country we have connections in the Church there and have immediate acceptance. When tragedy strikes our brethren, our hearts bleed because they are our family and we are truly connected to them. These things are taken away when you take away autonomy.
Next time you visit a congregation do an experiment. See how long it takes for you to find someone who has a connection to someone you know. It will happen within the first few people you talk to.
"to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the Church" Ephesians 3:10
“to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:21