Blog: Max Dawson
November 28, 2016
I am convinced that both things mentioned in my headline are harmful to the cause of God. They both hurt the local congregation. Before I explain how that is so, I need to put some definition to my terms.
By institutionalism, I mean local churches working through human institutions. That is, giving part of their work over to human institutions. A missionary society would be one example of that. A church sends money to the society, and then the society sends preachers into the field. Another kind of institutionalism is found when a local church decides to form a collective of churches. That is, one congregation decides it will oversee a given work (like provide relief to hurricane victims), and then collects funds from several churches, each of those churches urged by the sponsoring church to “do their duty.” Thus, you have one church overseeing funds and work of many churches. It has instituted a collective of churches.
By individualism, I mean individuals within a congregation choosing not to support the congregation. They see themselves as autonomous, and not accountable to the group. They view themselves as independent from the oversight of shepherds. They may choose not to put funds into the collection plate. They may even question whether elders have authority over the group. They will only cooperate with the church when they agree with what is being done. If they don’t like something the church is doing–whether it is evangelism, Bible classes, or whatever–they don’t participate. They see the individual as having complete autonomy. He can do whatever he wants and no one has a right to question him or hold him accountable.
Both hurt the local congregation.
Institutionalism is an affront to the autonomy of the local church. Whenever any entity becomes part of a collective, that entity, of necessity must surrender at least part of its independence. One of the all-time great oxymorons is seen when a Baptist Church advertises itself as part of an “Association of Independent Baptist Churches.” The words Association and Independent don’t work well together. What do we call it when churches of Christ become part of a collective and then claim to be totally independent and autonomous?
Individualism also hurts the local church. It is easy to see that it destroys the cohesiveness and working arrangement of a congregation. If everyone did as the individualist did, there would be no local church at all. A study of the Scriptures will reveal that a local church consists of a plurality of saints who agree to act as one under a common oversight and with a common treasury to accomplish the work God intends them to do together as a body. Individualism resists this.


I realize that some folks might not agree with my definitions, nor with the principles discussed. In my definitions, I am simply trying to explain what I mean. In the principles discussed, please let me know if what I have taught is flawed.
With respect to institutionalism, elders of churches are limited in their oversight. They have no right to oversee the funds and works of many churches.
“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you…” ().
With respect to individualism, it was never God’s intent that we just free lance as Christians, having little or no commitment to the local church. Even the Apostle Paul, when coming to Jerusalem, sought to be a working part of the church there.
“And when Saul came to Jerusalem, he tried to join himself to the disciples…”().
Let us be content with what God has given. Let us do all to the glory of God.
Blessings to you my beloved friends.

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