Dec 07

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Some years ago, a book was published which taught that the New Testament reveals that each city was to have one eldership, not each congregation. These elders would oversee all the congregations in the city. Just take Oklahoma City for example and look at all the congregations that are in it. Then, seeing that one group of elders, one might conclude that they would be centrally located; thus, they would be able to reach each congregation on the same level. In fact, one elder could be sent to each congregation, if not all the time, at least some of the time. One might ask, where does such an idea come from in the New Testament? The idea would come from what Paul wrote to Titus: “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee” (Titus 1:5). The key words are, “ordain elders in every city” and not in every congregation!
The idea is missed that the thought of looking at Crete, it was written by Homer, “that the island had a hundred cities” (F. Wagstaff). Understanding that the island was not above fifty miles in breadth, and two hundred and seventy in length. Crete was full of cities! Yet, the idea expressed above, is not without support, writing of Titus in one commentary has, ”to ordain elders in every city, to be bishops over the several churches” (Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible). But I was not able to find others teaching such, nevertheless, my research was done in haste. Coffman wrote in his commentary the following; “This actually means a plurality of elders in every church in each city of Crete, (Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible). Nevertheless, we would be amiss if we failed to notice what Luke wrote of the action of Paul: “And when they had ordained them elders in every church…” (Acts 14:23)
I have a plan that would go something like the following: the largest congregation is Oklahoma City, desiring to grow and in need of money, would send a few members to a small congregation without elders; thus, during a “business” meeting these fellows would bring up the idea, the congregation being so small, that they should sell their building and become members of the larger congregation. The “moved in” folks would then call for a vote and being in the majority, would out vote the brethren who had been there before. This would be done several times; thus, the larger congregation would become larger and larger and have more money when the old building was sold. Stop and think for a moment, what this would do to the cause of Christ! The work of Christ would be removed from each area where the old small congregation was in Oklahoma City where this plan was put into action! But, let us not forget, the small congregations are unable to do much to start with!
Let us look a little closer to the plan, the brethren would continue to meet in the old building, as they waited for it to sell; and the older congregation would become a “settle light” church as they would be under the elders of the larger congregation. This would be done all over Oklahoma City, one congregation at a time! Just how big would this larger congregation become? Well, it is easy to see that they would out grow their building and need a much larger one! Here is how one set of elders could become, in time, over all of Oklahoma City! This larger congregation, which may have “settle light” congregations under their oversight, as in one eldership, would be able to do a lot more work, right? This is really the motivation for such action; more money, more power, but wait, would this newer congregation really do more work authorized by the inspired writers of the New Testament? Seeing how many congregations have turned inward today, in serving themselves, may I strongly suggest that it would not result in more work being done authorized by Christ and his inspired “ambassadors” (2 Cor. 5:20).
In a second article we shall look at this idea as it is now being put into practice in at least one place.

— Frank R. Williams

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