Local Churches

By Robert Lewis

“Don’t talk to me about a missions office!”

“I don’t need a missions board, our church has it’s own missions program.”

“I don’t believe in anything but my local church.”

These are a few of the phrases I am hearing repeatedly when the subject of a missionary clearing house is brought up. This is in spite of the fact that the GIBF unanimously adopted a clearly thought-out and well-presented Missions policy. It is as if some assume we are attempting to do something unscriptural. The logic that is usually offered is: “Well, you know what happened to the last mission’s agency we were involved in.” With that kind of logic, a man could withdraw from just about everything. He could in fact, justify (in his own mind) not being involved with anybody for anything.

Of course, he still buys his gasoline from unsaved people and pays his utilities to giant corporations, and invests his retirement funds on the stock market, but when it comes to cooperating with other pastors for the cause of missions, brother, he has his convictions! He says these “missions agencies” are unnecessary and that they may go bad as others have done in the past. Often men with this mentality claim they are getting more done for the Lord without cooperative efforts with the brethren. But I say they are hiding behind the dirty skirts of the bad examples of the past. I do not believe their churches are getting more done “without the brethren” than they could with them. Even churches go bad as we have seen repeatedly. It is only by the grace of God that any of us can escape the possibility of going bad.

“And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” – Acts 6:7

The first thing we want to point out in our text is that “the word of God increased.” It did not get bigger: it became greater in acceptance. It did not grow larger:it was more widely accepted;  it was more eagerly investigated; it was earnestly pursued. More attention was given to the Bible. More people were being saved.

The second thing we notice is that “the number of disciples multiplied.” They did not get bigger in size, popularity or notoriety. They got larger in number! Next we notice that, “. . .a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” This was not just unusual, it was miraculous. It was the evidence of the life-changing power of the preached and lived Word of God. In chapter eight we find the account of Stephen being stoned, and Saul making havoc of the church. In chapter nine Saul became a believer, was baptized, and began to preach Christ.

AD 34 -In Acts 9:19 we read, “Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.” We do not know where these disciples came from. Paul did not lead them to Christ, for he was, himself, only a young believer.

“Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Acts 9:31). The churches had rest. The churches were edified. The churches walked in fear of the Lord. The churches walked in the comfort of the Holy Ghost. The churches were multiplied.

AD44 – “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, andLucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.” – Acts 13:1-4

Theses prophets and teachers were called by the Holy Ghost and sent by the Holy Ghost, although the church laid their hands on them and sent them away. The church was acting in concert with the leadership of the holy Ghost. They could not enjoy the blessing of God if they did not have the blessing of the church as well. From here on, the method of obeying the Lord’s command to evangelize the world would be carried out by messengers, called by the Lord and approved by the church. Sometimes we quit reading too soon and assume that this conclusion means that there is no need to recognize, endorse, or cooperate with “other churches.”

Let us look at Paul’s Method:

AD45 – “And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them, They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about: And there they preached the gospel.” – Acts14:1-7

“And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” – Acts14:19-23

“. . .preached…and taught…they returned to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch…confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith…ordained elders in every church and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord” (Acts 14:21-23) and they continued on (Acts 14:24-26).

AD 54 – Paul found certain disciples at Ephesus (again, he did not lead them to Christ, but ministered to them where he found them):

“And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, . . .” – Acts 19:1

AD 60 – Paul Continued working with “Certain Disciples” where he found them:

“And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem. There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge. And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.” – Acts 21:15-17

Paul preached to, taught, confirmed, exhorted, ordained and commended disciples wherever he went. He did not win them all to the Lord. He did not even baptize all of them, but He taught them the Word of God every time and in every place he had opportunity!

AD 60 – Paul raised money for the New Testament missionary enterprise:

“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality” (II Corinthians 8:1-2) This enterprise involved churches (plural).

The physical condition of the churches: “. . trial of affliction, . . deep Poverty.” (verse 1)

The Spiritual condition of the churches: “. . . abounded in joy; . . . in liberality”. (verse 2)

This enterprise required the willingness of the churches to give sacrificially
(II Corinthianas 8:5). They Gave themselves to the Lord corporately (as a a body). They gave themselves to the ministers – individually; to fellowship and to minister. This enterprise required cooperation between the churches.

Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ
(II Corinthians 8:23). Titus is my partner; Titus is my fellowhelper. The brethren are messengers of the churches of Macedonia.

This enterprise was commissioned to examine the sincerity of the Corinthian church:

II Corinthians 8:23: “I have sent the brethren.”

II Corinthians 8:24: show them (The churches of Macedonia!) the proof of your love and proof of our reason for boasting of you. This Missionary Enterprise was supported by other churches that were superior in their carrying the burden! The Corinthians were to increase their faith and their giving.

“Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men’s labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, 16 To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand” (II Corinthians 10:15-16). This Missionary Enterprise was being presented to an inferior Church!

“For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong” (II Corinthians 12:13) They were inferior in taking up missionary offerings.

They were inferior in taking care of Paul:

“Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. 8 I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love” (II Corinthians 8:7-8)

They abounded in “faith” – they believed a lot. They abounded in utterance -they talked a lot. They abounded in “knowledge” – they knew a lot. They abounded in “all diligence” – they worked a lot. They “abounded in love” – they loved a lot. But their giving was substandard!

II Corinthians 8:7: “…See that ye abound in this grace also!”

The Biblical model for evangelism is individual soul winning and church planting. The Biblical model for financing the evangelism is faith promise giving. The Biblical model for missions is a fellowship of churches working and giving and cooperating together in order to get the gospel into the regions beyond.

Let me say here that in this context “fellowship” is more about what you DO than what you  ARE. It is a VERB, not a NOUN.

In the Book of Acts there were messengers from the churches; the messengers visited other churches and they came to be a blessing not a burden; they admonished the Corinthians to get up to speed with their giving, they were to abound in this grace also to prove the sincerity of their love for Jesus and those for whom He died.

Remember, neither Paul, nor Titus, nor the brethren (messengers) were members of the Corinthian church. They came from other churches to partner with him and promote the missionary cause of Christ in this church at Corinth. They may not have gotten in if the pastor had the attitude of some of today ‘s pastors who say, “I don’t believe in anything but my local church.”

I have a hard time believing in the sincerity of those who make these statements. They do not usually educate their own ministerial students. No, they send them to a Bible college in another place and get excited about it. The truth is, not all colleges are good and not all missions agencies are bad. Think about it. We hear of men changing their college affiliation, but dropping their missionary affiliation(?).

All churches need some kind of help from other churches. What if your missions program doesn’t work? Then get on board with one that does! It is not honest to think there is no need of messengers from the other churches to encourage you. It is not honest to think that you have the world’s only God-blessed missionary program. It is not honest for a man to think he is the sole faithful servant appointed by God and to hold the rest of the brethren in contempt by his self-visualized superiority. The Bible doesn’t teach the “universal church.” When we say “the church” we mean local, visible, autonomous, independent, Baptist, churches.

I think it is a mistake for a pastor to conclude that every church, other than the one of which he is the pastor, is somehow flawed; inferior; unworthy of his attention. In the Bible you have churches: churches that help one another; churches that reproduce themselves; churches that cooperate in the cause of Christ.

I got hurt by a fish hook one time. I mean I anchored it deep in one of my fingers till I thought I would surely die with it. Can you imagine the next time that I went fishing. . .I still used a fishhook. Not the same one, not a crooked one, not a rusty one but ANOTHER one! Can you imagine a man who got injured by his fish hook saying. “I am never going to use a fish hook again! I don’t believe in fish hooks. They are dangerous. You can get hurt by them. You don’t need fish hooks to catch fish anyway. In fact I am not so sure that we should be catching fish with fish hooks. I think I will just let the fish which want to  – get in the boat. I may use a net. I may use a stick of dynamite, but I will never use another fish hook!”

That is no more ridiculous than a man saying “We don’t need a missions board; I got hurt by a missions board; I don’t believe in missions boards; you can get hurt by them. I am going to do my own thing; I am not going to risk getting involved with inferior people any more. My missions program is just about my church.”

If you say these things, you may be among those who exclude most of the missionaries and keep the money in the bank for “special projects.” The questions I have is: “Do you want the Word of God to increase? Do you want the number of disciples to multiply? Do you want the churches to be multiplied?”  If you do, then you cannot let the failures of others, your feelings, or your own personal opinions keep you from doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way.

We do not know how much time we have before the end. We need Biblical partnering Churches! We need Biblical preachers who will mentor the next generation in Bible methods as well as doctrine! Biblical churches reproduce themselves. Paul’s Biblical method is the best way to continue doing the job no matter what anyone or everyone else says and does.

Everybody loses when we are unwilling to do God’s work God’s way.

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