The Game Show Network and Church Autonomy
One of the greatest blessings that God has given us in the Church of Christ is autonomy. Our autonomy provides us with a tremendous advantage over some other religious groups. The privilege that we have in each congregation to take our Bibles and believe and practice what we understand it to teach is both thrilling and freeing. Not being governed by any outside group or hierarchy is a blessing that we far too often take for granted. Jesus is the head of each local church and that is it. Therefore, no outside person, church, group, paper, or school has any kind of “control” over the local church. I do not have to believe everything other churches believe, nor do I have to practice everything other churches practice in order to please God and be a faithful member of His church. There can be and are differences in the way we understand/interpret certain passages of scripture as has been proven over and over and over again. Cultural differences, worship preferences, background, and a host of other matters make each congregation unique. We all enjoy “fellowship in Christ” in spite of the many and various differences that may exist among us. In my judgment the “Restoration Plea,” especially as it was practiced in the beginning, is still the best thing going in our religious world today. Each congregation seeking to go back to Bible and to the “church” that Jesus built as revealed in the New Testament has to be the right thing to do.
But we must all realize that, like all other families or groups, there will be disagreements, dissension, and sometimes divisions among us. We can all be united in our “purpose” (loving Jesus and the church), but we have never had and never will have unity in all of our “perceptions” as to exactly how that is done in all cases. Therefore, we need to understand that all of us are “baptized believers” and are in “fellowship” with Christ and each other simply because we are “in Christ.” If you are “in Christ” and I am “in Christ” we have fellowship in that relationship in spite of the other issues and differences that we may have. Anyone who has studied the New Testament knows that there were serious doctrinal differences on any number of issues in the early church for various reasons and for extended periods of time. For example, the believers in Corinth were experiencing all kind of difficulties in both doctrine and practice. Yet Paul said to them, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). There were numerous errors and misunderstandings among them at the time Paul made that statement. (And if one thinks that the Corinthians read Paul’s letter one time and then all of them just “straightened it all out”—they have never preached to or been around our people for very long.) It takes time, patience, compassion, and understanding in dealing with others in the Church (Eph. 4:1-4).
But what does this have to do with the “Game Show Network?” Simply this, God has promised to save the church and I am “In It to Win It.” In spite of all of our differences, I believe that we are all in the family which presents us with a lot of “American Bible Challenges” that may sometimes seem more like we are in a “Family Feud” than in the Father’s family. But we all have our “Baggage” (errors and sins) and, thankfully, most of us are “Smarter Than a 5thGrader.” I know of course that there are, and always have been, a few who want to “police” the movement and turn us all into a “Dog Eat Dog” brotherhood and that can sometimes cause a “Chain Reaction” for some of their followers who might not think for themselves. But in most cases our people know that it is impossible to “Catch 21” every time (be right about everything) without getting beat or going busted. And remember, because of our congregational as well as our personal autonomy, I only speak for me and where I am. Others in the church are free to follow what they believe is right and do what they think is best. As for me, I will believe and seek to follow the Bible as I understand it at any given point in time regardless of what others think, say, teach, or believe, and regardless of where it may lead or what I myself may have taught previously. I am not like those in the “Newlywed Game” who are just now starting in this relationship. I have been committed to Christ and the church for over forty-four years and I have no intention of changing. After all, what could be better than going back to the Bible and learning what God teaches about the church before there was any denominational bias including the sectarian concept of “Church of Christ-ism” that exists in the minds of some of our own people?