How Are Local Churches Organized?

Churches of Christ are free from denominational rule. They are striving to go strictly by God’s plan for the church in the Bible. They are pleading for an exact reproduction of the church as it was in the New Testament. They are working to restore every part of the Lord’s plan for His church. One of these important parts to be restored is the Scriptural organization of the local churches. We must follow the true pattern of government for the church which is given in the New Testament. All Scriptural officers for the church are in the local congregation today. These congregations are under no board or ruling committee. Each is supplied with its own officers from the congregation itself. Committee or officers outside the local church are not found in the Word of God.

The word “autonomous” means “self-rule.” An autonomous church is one which governs itself. It has no outside organization over it. It selects its own officers. It arranges for its own evangelist. It manages its own finances. It disciplines its own members. It is subject only to Christ. Its only book of authority is the Bible. It conducts its own worship services, business meetings, and work. Each local church must be autonomous (independent) in order to restore the New Testament church today.

One of the first departures from Scriptural church government came when officers began to rule in more than one congregation. This change from the Bible plan soon led to district officers over churches in certain areas. This practice later led to a Pope. God’s plan prevents the departures that led to the Roman Catholic Church. Most Protestant denominations also have officers who rule more than one church. They may supervise several local churches. They travel from church to church in their assigned district. But Scriptural officers rule in only one local church. Larger churches of Christ may be tempted to rule smaller, newer congregations. Township churches may try to govern the affairs of nearby churches in the bush. But this is a denominational plan. It is a step toward corrupting the church organization. A church cannot be truly independent if officers from another church try to oversee it.

Many members of the churches of Christ are former members of denominational churches. This experience may keep them from understanding the true church organization. They want churches of Christ to be organized together as their former churches were. They want to have big conferences to plan the work of the local churches in the area. They want to organize committees outside the local church with separate officers and treasury. Congregations in the New Testament were not joined together in this way. Each was completely independent in organization. Christ wrote seven letters to the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 1:11). Each church was sent a separate letter. Even though the congregations were in the same area, there was no organization over them. Each congregation in each city was independent. When the New Testament plan is followed, congregations will never be organized together.