Sunday, November 12, 2017 am                                            NT Church 2017 Index

New Testament Church 2017
The Work of the Church (2)

 Today we continue our study of the New Testament church.  Last week briefly reviewed what the church is and began to address what the work of the church involves.  We noted there are 4 different works of the church -evangelism, edification, benevolence and worship.  We emphasized how each congregation is independent and autonomous in its government and work.  Elders are appointed in a local congregation and limited to overseeing that particular flock (cf. Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2-3).  We must keep these things in mind as we discuss how a congregation does its work in each area. 

We also began to add the work of evangelism, noting that the church has a part in reaching the lost.   The word “evangelism” is based upon the Greek word for the gospel and evangelists are proclaimers of that good news.  While Christians will carry the gospel to others, congregations were involved in supporting that work. 
1 Thessalonians 1:8, Acts 11:22, 13:1-3, 1 Timothy 3:14-15, etc.  Congregations sent preachers to other locations and at times supported them in that work. 

 I.                     HOW did Churches Evangelize?

In the New Testament churches were involved in evangelism in 2 different ways.

a.       They edified the saints – built them up spiritually and in knowledge (more on this next week) – Ephesians 4:11-16 so that they could defend and teach the word of God.  They were taught to teach (cf. 2 Tim. 2:2).  That is why we emphasize studying God’s word so much – so that we will be ready to “give a defense for the hope that is in us” (1 Peter 3:15)
This is one of the primary ways a church is involved in sending the gospel to the lost.   

b.       They supported efforts to preach the gospel

                                                   i.      Congregations can support one who is preaching the gospel. 

                                                 ii.      Locally – again note 1 Thessalonians 1:8 – throughout the region would have included the city of Thessalonica.
NOTE: This is an example of a congregation doing what it could to reach the lost locally.  This could include supporting a preacher (more in a moment), preparing or obtaining materials to distribute to the community (fulfilling the “great commission” in the form of the written word – Mark 16:15), events such as gospel meetings, maintaining a website and other social media platforms, media programs – television, radio, newspapers, etc.  As long as we respect God’s boundaries in what we do, we are free to choose what methods we use to evangelize (i.e. generic authority). 

                                                iii.      Considering the growth of the church in Jerusalem we see the local congregation involved in evangelizing the lost.  Acts 2 records how they met daily in the temple and from house to house (Acts 2:42, 46).

                                                iv.      Locally -  Acts 20:31 – Paul was in Ephesus for 3 years (cf. Acts 19:10).

                                                  v.      Locally - Acts 18:11- Paul works in Corinth for 18 months, with the church there. 
1 Corinthians 9:3-14 finds Paul addressing the support of a preacher.  Interestingly, while Paul does NOT take support from Corinth (lest he be falsely accused), he makes the case for a local congregation supporting its preacher. 

c.        They supported preachers as they carried the gospel to the lost in other places

                                                   i.      Philippi supported Paul – Phil. 1:3-5 – Paul commended them for their fellowship in the gospel.  Phil. 2:25-30 – they accomplished this by sending funds to Paul through Epaphroditus.  Phil. 4:14-20 – more than once they sent to his aid – while in Thessalonica and at times they were the ONLY church supporting him (in Macedonia). 
Concerning this note that:

1.       NO human organization (such as a missionary society) or “sponsoring church” was utilized to accomplish this work.

2.       They sent the funds directly to Paul to preach – NOT to the church, which in turn wrote Paul a check.

3.       They maintained their independence and autonomy at every step of the process.  No human organizations or sponsoring churches. 

4.       This is corroborated by the context of our passages.  
NOTE: Some say that Philippi was a “sponsoring church” in this work, but that is not indicated in the text. 
What is a sponsoring church? A congregation that takes on a work either evangelistic or benevolence, and “sponsors” the work by soliciting and/or receiving funds from other congregations to do the work.  In essence, they become managers of the work – whether evangelistic or benevolent

5.       Consider that IF that were true, then all the churches sending funds to Philippi had no “fellowship” in the work.  The word “shared” in Phil. 4:15 has a base form of κοινωνέω, (koinoneo).  This is the word for “fellowship” and means to share with.  When Paul commended Philippi in 1:5 he used the same word and commended them for their “fellowship.” 
IN addition to this, Phil. 4:17 speaks of “the fruit that abounds to your account” speaking again ONLY of Philippi.  IF other churches sent to Philippi, they did not benefit in God’s eyes from it based on this text.
Understanding this fellowship NEGATES the whole premise behind establishing a “sponsoring church” (at least the pitch that is made to receive funds).

6.       Furthermore, sending funds to a “sponsoring church” or other organization to do the work God intends for a local church is surrendering autonomy and independence with that work. 

                                                 ii.      Several churches supported Paul while in Corinth – 2 Cor. 11:7-8.  The expression, “robbed other churches” does not mean he was a thief.  He is using sarcasm to note that other churches supported him to preach in Corinth so they could not accuse him of profiteering. 

 II.  Examples Today  

                                                   i.      The PROBLEM with the sponsoring church or human organization is that we have created something larger than the local church.  Denominationalized her.  The problem with denominationalism is that it creates an extra intermediary level between God and the local congregation. 

                                                 ii.      In this age of electronic media, we have many more avenues through which to evangelize.  They can be useful, and some are very effective.  BUT we must still respect God’s authority in HOW we carry our evangelistic efforts.  Not all do this.

                                                iii.      Among churches of Christ today there are several broadcast programs that are televised in multiple markets.  Many of them solicit and receive funds from other churches (and individuals) and become a sponsoring church of the work.  Examples include: The Truth in Love broadcast (,, (Edmond, OK) and (Southhaven, MS), etc.  These works are either soliciting and receiving funds from churches or they have in the past.   WHILE the works are good, and they even preach the truth (for the most part), the question is if such an organizational structure is scriptural.  The answer is NO! 

NOTE: There are local churches that have solely aired programs (radio & television) while respecting the autonomy and independence of a congregation.

                                                iv.      Sometimes a church will take on the work of evangelizing in a specific area of the world.  Doing such is not wrong within itself.  Paul and Barnabas were sent out by the church at Antioch (Acts 13:3).  But what often happens today is a congregation takes on the work of selecting, sending and monitoring the preaching in a given area.  They solicit funds for the work from other congregations and give reports, etc.  They determine who goes and who does NOT go, etc.  The problem with this is there is no pattern for it in the New Testament.  All we find is the examples above and other similar examples.  Churches sent DIRECTLY to the preacher and supported him, even in places where the church needed correction (cf. Corinth).

e.       Why should we be concerned about this?

                                                   i.      Do we respect God’s pattern? (cf. Ephesians 3:10)  What happens when we add to or change God’s pattern?  What are we saying about His wisdom?
Example: Sponsoring churches extend the work of elders beyond the limitations of the local church – cf. 1 Peter 5:1-4 and Acts 20:28, etc.
NOTE: We do not question whether or not the works being done are good.  The preaching of the gospel is a good thing.
The question is: Is it authorized?  Some rationalize that the end justifies the means.  NOT if it involves sin!  Romans 3:8.  Remember Paul taught the same thing in every church – 1 Corinthians 4:17 (cf. vs. 6 – not to think beyond what is written). 

                                                 ii.      These are divisive practices.  A study of the history of the Lord’s church over that past 80+ years shows this division.  Toward the middle of the 20th century, churches created and promoted works, and made recognition or participation in these works a test of fellowship.  When brethren questioned the authority for the practices they were “quarantined”. 

                                                iii.      When we disregard God’s pattern in one area, it often leads to the same in other areas.  Typically churches that dismiss God’s pattern in how to evangelize (and benevolence) will be more LIBERAL minded in other matters as well.

                                                iv.      There are doctrinal concerns as well.   Suppose a church chooses to adapt the evangelistic work in a given area and you determine to support it.  What if they demand those they send teach error?  You become complicit in the error OR pressuring the preacher to conform to the error (because now all of his support comes from ONE congregation).  God’s way prevents this, as one stands for the truth and is “cut off” by congregations in error, but those standing for truth will continue to support him and may even increase their support so he can preach the whole counsel of God.

                                                  v.      Often when works gain a larger following they are sanitized of the truth in particular divisive areas. For some these “works” become more important than the truth being taught.  Preserving the work becomes the priority.  You will be less likely to hear lessons on controversial moral issues, or even the one true church, instrumental music, etc. 

                                                vi.      There are also the administrative costs of larger works – including advertising and soliciting funds.  While administrative costs do not make something wrong within itself (much of what we do has administrative costs – e.g. promoting a gospel meeting, purchasing tracts, etc.), they can call into question stewardship.  The bigger project the larger the administrative efforts behind it. 

                                              vii.      NOTE: Some of these arguments do not always apply, but they are potential concerns facilitated or enhanced by the sponsoring church arrangement.

f.         One more concern.  There is a problem with many congregations simply failing to carry out their responsibilities in this area.  Some do not encourage or engage their members enough, and others are just plain indifferent.  Such an attitude is wrong and needs to be addressed and repented of.  BUT, failures in various congregations to do and be what they ought to is no reason to dismiss God’s pattern.  The truth is, it WILL work if we seek to do it. 


And thus we can see the work of the church in the area of evangelism.  It is very important and it is often neglected and limited because of the lack of resources.  But that does not have to be.  May we strive to follow God’s pattern and will as we seek to reach the lost.