Perhaps our emphasis on local autonomy and strong opposition to centralized control is an environment in which isolationism can result if we're not careful.
Needless to say, I am not advocating a departure from the biblical concept of local autonomy--only that I fear some have become extreme in the application of it. Whether consciously, or unconsciously, some seem to have adopted a “none of our business” attitude.
Allow me to supply some examples which illustrate my point:
Gospel meetings afford Christians opportunities to recharge their spiritual batteries. If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where there are other congregations within reasonable driving distance, your interest in worshiping with them will encourage them, and you will be edified. However, the vast majority of Christians don't have enough of a “kingdom view” to make the effort. Then they wonder why Christians from other congregations aren't motivated to come encourage them when their local congregation is having a series of meetings.
Frequently I hear of Christians lamenting about “their” preacher being away from the local work too much. “After all, we pay him to preach here!” Of course, if the preacher is abusing his privileges with excessive vacationing, the criticism may be justified. Or, if he is in great demand to preach in gospel meetings at large, able congregations, and has not learned to limit his schedule, he may be failing to recognize the negative impact his absence is having on the local work. However, if a preacher has an opportunity to help out in places where Christians are few and far between, or where the gospel has not gone, the local brethren need to adopt a “kingdom view” and send him with their blessing.
There are many congregations which have been blessed with contributions that far exceed their budgets. Before they know it they are sitting on a large and growing treasury. Without a “kingdom view” the tendency is to “tear down their barns and build bigger,” whether they need to, or not, overlooking the spiritual opportunities elsewhere.
A growing number of large congregations have opted to “hire” a second preacher. Obviously, they have every right to do that. I just wonder if it is in the best interest of the kingdom of Christ. Don't get me wrong! I am not opposed to two preachers in one location, but let me ask a pointed question: Which do you think most needs two preachers: 1) a large congregation with elders; or 2) a small, struggling congregation lacking elders? If we adopt a “kingdom view” the answer is obvious.
A “kingdom view” deficiency has resulted in some churches actually drawing back on support of gospel preachers in needy fields. Furthermore, many congregations that continue to provide outside support have a double standard regarding the amount of support they will provide. Often their local preacher is learning how to “abound,” while the preachers they support in needy fields must learn how to “suffer need” (Phil. 4:12). This has resulted in preachers being forced to go where they can support their families, and small churches losing out on effective edification.
The work in the local congregation ought to be a high priority in our lives, and certainly must not be neglected, but at the same time we need to open our eyes and our hearts to the needs of our brethren in other locations.
The kingdom is much bigger than one congregation.
by Al Diestelkamp
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