Page 10 - September 2021 - Truth & Tidings
P. 10

Autonomy and Accountability           and D decided together, or exerted pres-

          We’ve seen assembly autonomy in Mat-  sure on one another, to have nothing to do
        thew, Acts and the Epistles. Coming now   with assembly B. Each assembly is called
        to the Revelation, John addressed “the   upon to make its own decisions before the
        seven churches that are in Asia,” telling   Lord regarding the associations it has with
        them how in the Spirit he saw them as   other assemblies.
        “seven golden lampstands” (1:4,12,13,20).   Autonomy: Encouraged or
        The Lord Jesus then revealed Himself as
        walking “among the seven golden lamp-  Undermined?
        stands” (2:1). Chapters 2 and 3 make plain   It’s clear the NT teaches local church
        that each of the seven churches was being   autonomy. The question is now: Am I
        assessed individually. It’s sobering to see   respecting it? I encourage autonomy in
        that each assembly is being reviewed for   the assembly by submitting to the Word
        their own works. None is accountable to,   of God and to leadership of my own
        or for, the others. All are accountable to   overseers (Heb 13:17). I undermine it by
        Him.                                  appealing to the authority of men outside
        Autonomy and Other                    of my local church. If I’m involved in the
        Assemblies                            planting of assemblies, or if I’m teaching
                                              among assemblies, I encourage assembly
          But autonomy does not mean assembly   autonomy when, like Paul, I clarify the
        isolation. While the NT presents indi-  limits of my authority and I support lo-
        vidual, local churches being governed   cal decision-making (1Co 16:1-3). I will
        from within, it also identifies assemblies   see mistakes made, but I will do greater
        collectively, ideally united in doctrine and   damage by disregarding autonomy and
        exercise. For example, when it came to the   undermining the local government of an
        doctrine of head coverings, Paul pointed   assembly.
        to the unity among “the churches of God”   Finally, as elders we maintain autonomy
        (1Co 11:16). When it came to an exercise   by overseeing with accountability to each
        for the needy in Jerusalem, the “churches   other and before the Lord, and by respect-
        of Macedonia” were recognized for their
        collective generosity (2Co 8:1-2). But no-  ing the autonomy of all other assemblies.
        where is unity between assemblies taught   We undermine it by involving ourselves in
        at the expense of autonomy. The pattern   issues that are not our own, or by allowing
        seems to be each assembly desiring to   the decisions of other assemblies to over-
        be in unity with every other assembly.   ride what we would have done before the
        But if doctrine or practice at local church   Lord. May the Lord give us all a greater
        B truly undermines the ability of local   appreciation of the value He has placed on
        church A to function faithfully before   each local church and its autonomy before
        the Lord, hampering assembly A from   Him! (Act 20:28; Rev 2:1).
        governing from within, in submission   ² Space doesn’t allow an adequate treatment
        to His authority, then assembly A would   of these issues here. Tom Bentley gives a more
        lose autonomy through an association   detailed consideration in his article “Assembly
                                              Autonomy,” Truth & Tidings, January 2002.
        with assembly B. It would equally violate
        assembly autonomy if local churches A, C   truth-assembly-autonomy/

        266 TRUTH kTidings   September  2021
   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15