Question:

I recently was baptized into the church of Christ. I have been attending services at a local church of Christ for over three years, but being raised in a Catholic environment I wanted to learn more before being baptized. Within the past year I joined the Christian Student Center at the college I attend, a college group which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays to have devotionals, sing songs of praise, and have a Bible study. The Christian Student Center meets and is recognized byour local church of Christ.After Wednesday evening services we meet as a college group for Bible study while other members of the church go to different classes as well. In the spring, we are planning a mission trip to Brazil and every year we have afall retreatin which we studythe Word of God and praise our Lord. I have heard that there are manychurches of Christ which are falling away, now including instruments inpraise as well as having women lead worship. I understand that these are both things which are not taught in the NewTestament to be okay.Is our church wrong for supporting and allowing this college group (youth group), the Christian Student Center?

Answer:

Much depends on how the group is organized. What needs to be avoided is creating an organization that replaces the church in all or part of its duties. For example, a church may decide that one way to reach college students is to have an on-campus Bible study. They may advertise it with a generic name so that people won't think it is limited to members of a particular religion. Still, the study is a work of the church or the work of individuals within a church.

Where it can get off track is when the group creates its own treasury and starts funding projects of its own choices. It can quickly switch from being a work of the church or the work of a collection of individuals to an independent organization for which there isn't biblical justification.

This problem has plagued members of the church for hundreds of years. In the 1800's brethren pooled their resources to get colleges operating which taught in a biblically acceptable way. As years progressed, the colleges switched from brethren working together to independent organizations which then asked (or in some cases demanded) that churches fund their operations. In recent years they even went so far as to send out preachers. They are becoming like a church without being a church.

Also in the 1800's brethren pooled money to help support preachers. Instead of the money being sent directly to the preachers, a "society" was established to collect the funds and then distribute them. Soon churches were urged to send support money to the society and the society would then see to the distribution. Thus once again, a man-made organization began taking over an obligation the Lord had given to his church. This, by the way, is one of the contributing factors which led to the split off of the Disciples of Christ and the Christian Church from the churches of Christ in the late 1800's.

The core problem is that in the Scriptures you read of congregations pooling funds from members and then sending them directly to needy saints or to a church which has many needy members. What develops in man-made organizations is a intermediary organization that then isolates those helping from those receiving help. In reality the work becomes a work of the organization and not a work of the church or its members.

Because there is a central organization in control, it becomes a target for false beliefs. For example, if a thousand churches funded a college to teach preachers and basically only hired men who came from that college, then all Satan has to do to corrupt a thousand churches is to get some of the teachers at that college teaching false doctrine and that doctrine will spread like wildfire. You can see the wisdom in God's design as a result. Each congregation teaches men to preach the gospel and sends them out. If a congregation strays, then only a few congregations are affected. The rest continue in the truth.

I can't really answer your question about your group because I don't know enough about it. Is it seen as a work of the congregation, or a group of individuals, or as a separate entity? When you have retreats, is it funded by those attending the retreat (which would be proper) or is it being funded from the church's treasury (something there isn't authorization to do)? Is the trip to Brazil actual funding for teaching the gospel or is it more a tour where some teaching might be done on the side? These are questions you would have to address.