*

Queenstown Assembly Elders response to the proposed Christian Community Churches of New Zealand

We do not find a Biblical mandate for any official grouping of Churches –

We do not believe we have any God given authority to commit an Assembly under our care to such a scheme –

We therefore will not become a member of, or in any way be linked to, Christian Community Churches of New Zealand –

What we generally believe as an Assembly is clearly indicated in our Statement of Faith, Books promoted and Articles listed –

Please refer to extracts below and to QBC bookshop for books and further articles.

Assembly Distinctives – H. G. Mackay. Sub-heading. 5. Many today are forsaking these truths.

It is sad, indeed, to witness the fact that some today are forsaking the truths which they once preached and practiced, and building again the things which once they destroyed, Gal 2:18.

It is not for us to judge the motives of these brethren. The Great Searcher of hearts is alone competent to do this. “Every way of man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the heart,” Prov. 21:2. However, their forsaking of a position and of principles once held to be the Scriptural pattern for His people raises questions as to the depths of their former convictions.

“Buy the truth and sell it not,” is the divine exhortation in Proverbs 23:23. What costs us little is lightly held and readily relinquished. What we have paid dearly for we prize and refuse to part with. Our spiritual forbears, who pioneered the way back to Scriptural simplicity in church matters, paid a high price for the stand they took, and as a result, prized highly the recovered truths. One fears that today there are many who have paid very little for the truth they profess, and, therefore, are quite casual about it. It is a matter of convenience not conviction. There is very little commitment to firm convictions and principles. Devine truth is, like its Author, unchangeable. If we relinquish some truth, then we either were wrong in our apprehension of it, or we are wrong in turning our backs on what we had correctly comprehended.

Pressure for Change – Frederick A. Tatford.

Change is upon us, affecting every sphere of life, including the religious, and assemblies are not exempt. There are, of course, those whose mental processes ceased to function a long time ago and who are consequently strongly resistant to change, and who may possibly obstruct the work of God by their obscurantism or spiritual obtuseness.

There is an increasing number, however, who demand change because principles and procedures have remained unaltered for an appreciable time.

A constant review of methods is patently desirable, but no sensible person will jettison means that have worked well for years, unless he has found a demonstrably more efficient way of carrying out an operation. So also, one does not, without careful thought and prayer, impose changes in spiritual modes or activities which have stood the test of time and of the study of the Scriptures. Some of the changes being introduced into assemblies today, even although sponsored by well-known teachers, may be found, on closer scrutiny, to lack the impress of the Biblical hallmark so essential to their justification.

In the Forward S. E. Robinson says, Methods should change and, in fact, over the years there have been many changes in the methods and means employed by local assemblies and missionaries abroad. But we have no license to change the principles prescribed in the New Testament. They cannot, they must not be changed!

Any pressure for change should be directed not towards the New Testament principles which have withstood the test of time but towards ourselves. As Christians, it is time to change our priorities, it is time to recognize our responsibilities to our local assemblies, it is time to reaffirm our obligation to our Lord to spread the good seed of the Gospel and to declare His glory among the nations.

It is time to guard the autonomy, guard the simplicity, guard the liberty, and guard against pressure for change in assemblies that would weaken their testimony and dilute their effectiveness and corrupt their principles.

To What Should We Be Loyal? – William MacDonald. Sub-heading. Each Assembly Independently responsible to Christ.

There is another principle in the Word of God that should guide us in connection with the assembly, namely that each assembly is independent and responsible only to Christ. There is no such thing in the New Testament as a denomination, a federation of churches, or a circle of fellowship. There is no headquarters on earth, exercising authority of any kind over local assemblies.

The headquarters of the church is where the Head is – in heaven.

Every local church should carefully avoid anything that might lead to centralized control on earth.

This centralization is the evil that has hastened the spread of modernism. The liberals have seized control of the denominational headquarters and of the seminaries. They knew that if they could control the headquarters, then eventually they could control the churches.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   God’s Building – A.E. McKenzie. Sub-heading. The Independence of the Local Churches.

Whilst Scripture makes it abundantly clear that the Church is essentially one, it also reveals that this One Body is to be represented on earth by local churches, which are separate independent units. Each local church knows no higher earthly authority than that of its elders and deacons, who are solely responsible to the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ. The local church-unit which is brought about through the residence of the saints in various localities, is both the smallest and the largest unit authorized by the Word of God. Any federation of the churches of a district or a country is nowhere taught in the New Testament. Each local church of apostolic days was entirely independent of all other local churches as far as earthly administration was concerned, but on account of their unity in the One Body and their holding to the One Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, there existed a wonderful family fellowship amongst them. This fellowship was based solely on their unity in Christ and not on any membership of an earthly federation. Neither racial nor social barriers could disturb it, for the nearer individuals and local churches came to Christ, the nearer they came to one another.

The universal Church which is the Body of Christ is an organism and not an organization, being made up of living members. As the different members of the human body know no other unity one with another, except through the head which controls each and every member, so too, the Word of God reveals no other plan of unity for the Church. Gods plan for the Church reveals that each individual member and each local church is linked to every other individual member and to every other local church only through unity with Christ, the risen Head of the Church (Eph. 4:15-16; 1 Cor. 12:12-14). Any other man made federation of churches must only result in division and bring chaos and confusion into the Church of God. Suppose in the human body, the arms and legs should organize a “Federation of the Arms and Legs,” pledging themselves, to obey a council of duly elected members. Then several other members of the human body form a similar but separate union among themselves, until at last the body is divided into five or six such groups. Can you imagine the confusion and conflict that would result? Such confusion and conflict exists today in Christendom, because some have gone beyond the Word of God, in establishing man-made federations, instead of “growing up into Him in all things, which is the Head even Christ.”

May the Lord help us to examine our practices in the light of the Word of God and to seek for enabling grace to rectify those things in which we have erred from His revealed will, which alone is able to bring us into blessing and make His true churches a power for good in this dark world. Let us draw nearer to our Lord and His Word, and in doing so we will draw nearer to one another. 

The New Testament Church In The Present Day. Sub-heading. The Local Church In The New Testament, F.F.Bruce. (and this in spite of his sometimes liberal tendencies)

Whether there is one local church in a city or several is a matter of history and other circumstances, not of Scriptural principle.

Each city church in New Testament times appears to have been administratively independent of any other city church, and equally independent of any grouping of churches. To be sure, they were encouraged to practice the fullest fellowship with each other and all were bound to submit to the authority of the Lord and His Apostles. Some elements in the Jerusalem church would no doubt have liked to assert their authority over the Gentile churches of Antioch and elsewhere but no apostolic countenance was given to any such metropolitan jurisdiction and nothing of the sort is implied in the account of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. The churches of Galatia were evangelized from Antioch but it is nowhere suggested that Antioch exercised any authority over them. Whether the church of a city exercised any kind of control over the Christians in the surrounding countryside, or whether the “mother church” in a city like Corinth exercised any kind of control over the church in the suburb like Cenhreae (Rom. 16:1) cannot be determined from New Testament evidence.

This combination of the utmost Christian fellowship and mutual help with the administrative independence of the several local churches is not always easy to maintain, but it is a barrier against sectarianism (which is inevitably involved whenever a formal or even informal circle of local churches is recognized) and also against State control, which can be much more effectively exercised over a centrally organized federation of churches than over a multiplicity of independent congregations.

Assembly Service – P. W. Petter. Sub-heading. The Oversight Of The Assembly.

I would here deal with a matter of very great importance in connection with these assemblies of Believers, and that is their essential independence. There is no suggestion in the New Testament of any association of Assemblies, or of any joint control or responsibility in connection therewith. And this is very remarkable because from the days of the tower of Babel the human idea has tended towards association and confederation, the gathering up of control through a great organization in the hands of a central authority. In the world it is considered that this makes for strength. It is the form of organization that was adopted by the Church of Rome in a great endeavour to bring all Christendom under its sway, and it has been adopted by many other Churches also, and by a once large section of those known as the “Brethren,” whose experience has proved it ultimately to be, not a bond of union, but an endless source of division.

The essential independence of the Churches is implied in the New Testament. It is implied in all the Epistles, where there is no suggestion that any local Church should interfere in the affairs of another local Church, and there is no suggestion of confederation or of central organization.

In the Letters to the seven Churches in Asia in the book of Revelation, no Church is rebuked for another Church’s shortcomings, neither is any Church deputed to interfere or act in relation to the affairs of another Church in view of such shortcomings. The Lord who walked in the midst of the seven candlesticks awards praise or blame to each Church independently, according to what He saw of its service or failure. The Lord is still in the midst of the Churches. He sees and knows all that is going on. Responsibility is direct to Him, and He will act, if needs must, even to the removal of the “Lampstand.”

Every Church should jealously guard its independence. No other Church and no central authority has any right of interference. Organization and centralization lead inevitably to a more or less pronounced Popedom. The Divinely appointed independence of the Churches, which is, from the human point of view a weakness, is the kind of weakness which God has chosen, and which He endows with divine strength. It is protective against the rapid spread of heresy. It is also protective, in countries where government is hostile, against the efforts of rulers to crush the Assemblies. It is comparatively easy to deal with a centralized organization, it is almost impossible to stamp out a multitude of independent units, especially as new independent units may be formed as quickly as others are destroyed. Lastly, it is a great protection against the spread from one Assembly to another of those troubles and causes of division, which alas, arise in Assemblies. Let us, therefore, guard the independence of the Assemblies. If in large towns or cities there are several Assemblies, the independence of each should be similarly respected.

While I emphasize so strongly the importance of independence so far as authority in the Assemblies is concerned, I would as strongly emphasize the importance of love and fellowship in the mutual relations of all Assemblies which are seeking to walk according to the New Testament pattern. Such fellowship may result in joint action, as for instance, in the arrangement of joint meetings or conferences or in joint contribution of funds for some special purpose, only it must be clearly recognized that any such joint action is the act of independent Assemblies working together for a special purpose.

Choosing a Church – Emmaus – L. G. Smith. Sub-heading. Bible-based churches are independent.

There is no evidence in the New Testament that leaders were placed over groups of local churches, 3

Bible-based churches remain independent from each other.

This does not mean that the different churches have nothing to do with each other, it simply means that their relationship is one of informal fellowship – not administrative control. The fact that Bible-based churches have no central leadership also means that they are better equipped to survive persecution. Churches with centralized professional leadership and complex leadership hierarchies quickly collapse when their top leadership is removed.

CHOOSE A CHURCH THAT IS 

INDEPENDENT AND LED       

BY A TEAM OF ELDERS!

3 Centralized leadership over groups of churches did not evolve until after the New Testament period and has no biblical basis. Bible-based Churches are independent (autonomous). Many today have one Bishop over several churches, but in the Bible each Church had several bishops (overseers or elders)!

THE CHURCH AND THE CHURCHES – W. E. Vine. Sub-heading “THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT” Eph 4 —-

That unity is not formed by man, nor by any ecclesiastical organization on earth, Human arrangements and institutions may have devised, something which possesses a show of uniformity from the natural point of view, but the unity of the true Body of Christ of which Scripture speaks, is spiritual in its course of development and heavenly in its position and character, its design and destiny.

Believers then, are not exhorted to make the unity but to keep it.

AN UNSCRIPTURAL UNIFICATION

There is no hint here, or anywhere else in the New Testament, of anything like a unity consisting of a number of communities, or assemblies, delimited by geographical conditions, or formed into earthly associations or circles of fellowship, nor is there any hint of a number of churches bound together by the bonds either of formulated religious creeds or human tradition. No matter whether such communities are organized by mutual consent or under a church council or any form of ecclesiastical authority centralized in a given locality, all such combinations are a distinct departure from the plain teaching of Christ and His Apostles. They do not constitute the unity spoken of in this passage or any other in the Word of God. They are the outcome of human conceptions and operations. They satisfy the aspirations of men but are contrary to the mind of the Lord.

Spiritual Balance – or the Perils of Unscriptural Extremes – William Bunting.

“We believe, however, that for churches, no matter how scripturally gathered, to claim that together in their aggregate, they form “anything” regardless of what the “thing” may be is sectarianism, pure and simple.” Scripture never contemplates an organized visible union, ring, or federation of churches as forming a community, Fellowship, Body, House, Flock or Church.” Dr. R. C. Edwards of New South Wales clarifies the scriptural position by saying, “Each New Testament Church is itself, a unit: it is not part of a larger unit. This is readily seen in the first chapter of the Revelation. There the Lord is in the midst of certain churches in Asia. They are likened to seven stands on which lamps are placed, There is no hint of these churches of Asia being combined to form the Asian Church, one throughout the province; and the churches throughout the world are not combined to form a visible body, ‘the church on earth’.” So that “no scripture teaches that there is ‘a church on earth, in addition to the complete church which is Christ’s body, and in addition to the existence of local churches or assemblies each of which is an entity apart from any amalgamation or association of churches” (W. E. Vine, “The Believers’ Magazine”, Nov. 1949).

Straight Paths – A. M. Sub-heading. “You Are Also A Sect

It is asserted by some that Christians who seek to carry out the principles we have enunciated, are “as much a sect as any other.” If sects are condemned in Scripture, are believers compelled to disobey the Lord? The Greek word rendered “sect” in the A. V. of the N.T. is the word “haireses” (See Acts 15:5; Acts 24:5; Acts 26:5; Acts 28:22). Writing to the Corinthians, the Apostle says, “For there must be also heresies among you” (Hairesis,” 1 Cor. 11:19, “sects”).

Among the “works of the flesh” mentioned in Gal 5:20, are adultery, fornications, “heresies” or “sects” (“hairesis”). “Denomination,” as one has observed, “is a specious word invented by shame to conceal the nakedness of the fall of Christendom. That which erring and bewildered Christians call ‘denomination’ is in Scripture called ‘schism’ (see Greek in 1 Cor 1:10-12; 12-25, ‘schismata’), so that whatever we may now hear concerning ‘denominations (that is, sects and schisms), and however these divisions may be applauded and admired, and however it may be a fashionable virtue to speak well of them all, yet this is certain, if there be any truth in the Word of God, every ‘sect’ is a sin and every division is a proof of disobedience. “There is one body’ (Eph 4:4) is a proof in the Word of God. To speak of ‘various denominations’ is but after all saying that there are various ‘schisms,’ for Christ and His Church have but one name (1Cor 12:12), one body (Eph 5:29,30), and one Spirit” (1 Cor 6:17).” * “Ministry” by R.M. Beverly.

If “schism” in the body is sin; if divisions are to be avoided, surely there must be a remedy. Was the multiplication of churches in apostolic times the multiplication of sects? Assuredly not. If, then, Christians, however few their number, go back to the rock-fast position in the Scripture, gathering to the name of the Lord, receiving those who He has received, owning no sectarian name, or terms of fellowship’ are they thereby constituted a sect?

God’s Principles of Gathering – George Goodman Sub-heading. The Simplicity that is in Christ. A Review of Church History and “Church” Making Down through the Ages.

“I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11.3).

Great Amalgamations of Assemblies

(they would in the business world now be called combines), under systems and governments as varied and diverse as the mind of man can invent, held together by creeds, ordinances, and commandments, admittedly “of men,” many of them making no distinction between regenerate and unregenerate, but admitting all who care to join them. These amalgamations are called “Churches” but the word, if it is to be allowed its Scriptural value, cannot be used of such systems.

Many of the Assemblies forming parts of such amalgamations are no doubt true “Churches of the saints,” but the system – the amalgamation itself cannot rightly claim that name, nor that of ”the one body.”…

We find none of these things in Scripture, and while we do not deny that many who remain in these systems “hold the Head” and gather to the Name of their Lord and ours, yet the confederations, amalgamations, and systems themselves are contrary to the mind of God, and subversive of the government of the living Lord whose place and authority they usurp, and those in them are correspondingly deprived, in measure, of the liberty, unity, and blessedness, they might and should enjoy.

Three Crying Evils.

Engendered by it, indeed inseparable in their nature from it.

They are:

1. Sectarianism. Directly such an amalgamation or confederation of Churches is formed, being in the nature of a ring or combine, it, ipso facto, cuts itself off from those who do not see their way to join it.

“Exclusive” Rings

and central governments, find the same principle at work.

Man-made Ordinances

In the beginning we find assemblies, meeting in various places, of those who had been added to the Lord by the preaching of the Gospel. These gathered together in the simplest manner, yet with Godly order; the elder among them being overseers and shepherds, and others ministering according to divinely given gifts as the Spirit guided them. Thus they walked in love and the comfort of the Holy Ghost.

No amalgamation was formed, no system embracing all Assemblies. The Apostles moved from one to another as the Spirit led them, teaching and admonishing as the need was; but never organizing nor claiming any central authority. But even in those early days we find evidence of evils to come. The Lord Himself gave several solemn warnings. As for example in Mark 10. 42, “Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them; but so shall it not be so among you.”

What could be clearer?

The Worldly systems of Government,

Lordships, great ones, and authorities are not to be among the saints of God. Yet this is exactly what we see on all hands to day, and because some refuse them allegiance are termed schismatic’s.

Again in Matthew 23.8, “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in Heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.”

Lords over God’s Heritage,

Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” Paul warns the elders of Ephesus, whom he says the Holy Ghost had made bishops (shepherds of the flock), that after His “departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. Therefore, watch,” But in spite of these solemn commands the very evils warned against began to show themselves among the Assemblies.

IS THERE A WAY OUT ? – J. Foster Crane. Sub-heading. The Christian Assembly.

But in finding a common meeting ground for all members of Christ’s body on an undenominational basis, was I building another sect or denomination? No, definitely No. There is, there must be, such a thing as a local church – surely believers have as much right to meet together today in the same way as did those in New Testament times? Surely the risen Head of the church through the Holy Spirit, is able to guide and direct the affairs of His people today, if we but allow Him to do so.

Christians redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, regenerated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, recognizing Christ as Saviour, Lord, Head and High Priest, living in a manner that is pleasing to God and holding no doctrine that dishonors Christ, have a Scriptural right to gather as a local church, baptize converts, meet around the Lord’s table, recognize and respect their elders, openly teach and minister the Word of God, and receive to and put away from their fellowship.      An autonomous self-governing, self supporting church can function at any time, anywhere; it can meet in any place or building; it requires neither wealth, influence, nor numbers; its discipline and gift; its open Bible and freedom of thought provide a safe guard against the entrance of error; its direct submission to Christ and dependence on the Holy Spirit permit liberty in public witness and evangelism.

Such a church becomes a SECT only when it erects a barrier around itself and refuses to receive fellow-members of the body, or it becomes a DENOMINATION when, in order to preserve some special feature of its teaching or practice, it forms an organized union with others of a similar kind. This is always a subtle danger and has been the downfall of many promising movements. On the other hand, of course, if the local church becomes too lax in its ministry and discipline, too careless about its doctrines and church behavior, too free and compromising with everything that professes the name of Christ, it will cease to be a true witness to Christ and the Gospel and will become an unreliable bulwark against the almost unbelievable error and heresy that is rocking Christendom today.

Once the local church is established, however weak it may be, its spiritual welfare and prosperity must be given ABSOLUTE PRIORITY in every function of the church within its own life or in its witness in the world outside.

This will require from every member full dedication of heart and life to the Lord Jesus and a willingness to devote time, talent and possessions in a united effort to make the church a shining “lampstand” in the community. The enemy of the church will do all in his power to hinder and mar the effective testimony of the assembly, hence it behoves all members of the “household” to maintain at all times a mutual spirit of love, kindness, sympathy, forbearance and gracious to each other. The non-Christian world is not going to be impressed by the efficiency of the church’s organization, the architecture of its buildings, or the beauty of its “services” but it will sit up and take notice when redeemed men and women reflect in their lives the likeness of the One whom they profess to follow.

The setting up and continuance of a church of believers of this nature require courage and conviction, vision and venture, but for me, at least, it has become the only way out of the tangle of modern Christendom. 

The MINISTRY OF THE WORD – Stephen S. Short. Sub-heading. SUMMARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH.

What is so exceedingly evident is that the point which this thesis has been aimed to establish is not something which is deduced merely from one or two isolated ‘proof-texts’, but which is a matter which is ‘writ large’ over the whole of the New Testament. One is impressed both by the immense bulk of the evidence, and also by its wide distribution through these sacred writings, it being clearly set forth in Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, James and 1 Peter.

Here, surely, lies the answer (or part of the answer), to an objection which some would lodge against the argument propounded in this thesis, that almost any set-up of the present-day could claim to be modeled on some churches of Apostolic times. In reply to that claim, however, the following considerations may be cogently advanced:

(1) The Scriptures to which reference has here been made show a degree of uniformity in the organization of churches of the New Testament times which is quite remarkable.

(2) It would, surely, in the nature of the case, be unlikely in the extreme that a person such as Paul, for instance, would constitute different churches on different patterns, as he travelled hither and thither throughout the Roman Empire.

(3) The Apostle Paul in various passages in his letters, claimed that the arrangements in one church were precisely those, which he was establishing in all the other churches he visited. He wrote, for instance, in 1 Cor. 7:17: ‘And so ordain I in all the churches’: and in ch. 11 v. 16: ‘But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God’: and in ch. 14. V. 33: ‘As in all the churches of the saints’.

GREAT IMPORTANCE OF LOCAL CHURCH ORDER AS AFFECTING GOD’S HEAVENLY ORDER

In Eph. 3:10. Paul stated that it was a divine purpose ‘that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be made known through the Church, the manifold wisdom of God, which means that as these heavenly intelligences look from above on the workings of the Church, it is God’s intention that they should appreciate how wise God has been in ordering things as He has. That – through human failure – the out-working of His purposes in the Church has been frustrated in measure, is sorrowfully conceded. This however, constitutes no indictment of God’s plan; and if this thesis has deduced from the Bible the nature of God’s plan accurately, it would seem incumbent on faithful Christians to endeavor, in His fear and with His Spirit’s enabling, to implement it.

‘Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? Prudent, and he shall know them: For the ways of the Lord are right: and the just shall walk in them’.