Concurrent Cooperation Among Individuals

by Bob Lovelace

April 10, 2000

     In considering concurrent cooperation among individuals" I'd like for us to look at things done on an individual basis acting with others. And especially so in the work of evangelism.

     The distinction between individual action (pray and sing privately, Jas. 5:13), and together action with others (pray or sing together, two or more, Acts 16:25) is clearly drawn out in the scriptures. By changing the subject from worship to preaching, the same point may be made. Philip is an example of one preaching "alone." He went by himself in Acts 8 to Samaria and preached Christ. He had no one there working "with" him at the first. He was alone until the apostles were sent in order that they might receive spiritual gifts.

     We also know that Barnabas & Paul went out to preach. There were groups that included several such as Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke identifies himself as being present at times. Barnabas and John Mark went out together. May things be done in unison with others that in no way involves an organization like the Local Church? Yes, brethren can do things in a systematic and orderly way, agreeing with each other, without forming an organization.

     Turning now to scriptures for concurrent cooperation of individuals in worship and evangelism. For "worship" I have already mentioned Acts 16:25. This was hardly a "prison organization" for worship. (It does appear there was a captive audience listening. ) What about evangelism? Barnabas and Paul were sent out on their first journey as recorded in Acts 13:1-4. Acts 13:5 says, "They also had John as their assistant." Someone says, "Well there it is! They had an evangelistic organization." The word "assistant" means an "under-rower" hence a servant. The word is translated "helper." The context where I read it, Acts chapter 13, indicates to me that Barnabas and Paul were the one's preaching. Whatever "assistance" John Mark provided it doesn't say.

     Anyone traveling extensively knows there are many material things to take care of. I think they could have used a helper. Could John Mark have "agreed" to be such without them forming an organization? Yes! and that's my point. In Acts 13:13 John Mark departed. He agreed to go and they agreed for him to go. He decided to go no farther! That was his right. We've used that to show this was concurrent cooperation of individuals. He retained his individuality.

     Brethren, he did not quit the Barnabas & Paul Missionary Society that was supported as a "unit." Concerning his being their helper for a while, I think no more of that than Paul saying to Philemon that Onesimus was useful to him; that Phoebe has helped him. Did Paul and Onesimus have an organization? Phoebe & Paul?

     Notice now that Acts 14:23 shows that the "outcome" or purpose of the mission was the establishment of local churches. This is very important. And then ordaining elders in every church. In others words efforts like Barnabas' and Paul's produced this-- the local church! They did not have an organization in competition with the local church. That can be illustrated simply as two or more working together the outcome of which was the stablishment of local churches of Christ!

     As for the Second Journey and Acts 15:36-41, here Paul's & Barnabas' disagreement shows a lot. They could, if they chose to, go out together again and maintain their own individuality. However, they disagreed on who would go. Barnabas did not submit to Paul's "desire" here! I can't say his "leadership" as if Paul was a corporate president. There's no such concept here. Barnabas was right in his taking Mark because Paul had to admit later that John Mark was useful to the ministry. Paul being human might have been a bit testy at times, you suppose?

     What is the "purpose" for their going out once again? As stated in Acts 15:41, the whole purpose is preaching to the lost and the well being of the churches. Acts 15:41, "And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches." The purpose is not to start an organization separate and apart from the churches, but to strengthen the churches: Acts 16:5, "So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily." Nowhere do we find the idea or concept of another organization built by evangelists that competes with God's divine plan of the local churches as the pillar and support of the Truth. Other organizations would depreciate God's wisdom in giving the local church. I believe that brethren can easily see, if they want to, how stationary organizations (centrally located) which receive funds from christians for evangelism and benevolence actually rob the churches in the sense that "funds" contributed to human organizations deprive the churches of our Lord of the ability to do the same works with the approval of Christ.

     In Acts 16 Paul received a vision. The Holy Spirit was directing them to go into Macedonia. Did Luke say that God called Paul or "us"? Direction by Spirit, Luke says, was God calling "us" i.e. all of them, Acts 16:10. Paul is not the President of a human organization here. In Acts 20:7 (Third journey), they come to Troas. Many had waited for Paul at Troas. Luke is there "now." Where has Luke been? I don't know. What's he been doing? I don't know. Perhaps he's been doing work for Luke! We read about the Lord's Supper.

     Where do you find it? In the assembly of the local church where brethren assembled for that purpose. This is where God put it! What does this show? That God has an organization for collective worship and God chose to put it there. I certainly don't advise others or recommend to other Christians that the Supper, at their will and choosing, can be an option for individuals in a group in their activities or even speculatively and option for an organization that Christians might choose to build other than the local church. I recently heard (passed on) that members of one church were referring to their church with the designation of "the group." I certainly hope that no such designation is being given to a local church. I know things can get changed in the process of asking others if something that has been said is right according to the Scriptures, but do some of us now think of the local church as just a group and no different from any other group of Christians? If so what possibly could be leading (programming) minds that direction? I've seen posts on ML indicating the church does nothing as a church as only individuals do the work. Go work secularly for a Corporation and tell your boss that! See if he will buy it when you do the wrong thing and the company calls you into question. I don't think they'll buy that do you? "Oh boss, you have to understand the company doesn't do anything as a company so the company can't do anything about this." Think of how ridiculous you'd look in making that argument. That's wrong!

     As we study these groups where evangelists went out together to preach, or where some came together while out there like in Luke joining them, there are many statements like "I urged," "we sent," "I sent," "we desired," "our appeal," etc. In 1 Tim. 1:3, "As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine." The word is "besought" or "urged." If Timothy had no volition then why the necessity of asking him to? Please compare 1 Cor. 16:12, "As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time." Ultimately, it was up to his "will" and whether it agreed with Paul's "desire." But I note that Apollos chose not to agree with Paul's desire! Just like Barnabas chose not to agree with Paul's desire. In Titus 1:5, "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee." Does this mean Titus had no volition of his own? Paul directed Titus as to what qualifications an elder must meet. (He did the same with Timothy, I Tim. 3.)

     In 2 Cor. 8:6, 17 we find more of Titus' work. The description is, "Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also." And also, "For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest, he has gone to you of his own accord." They encouraged Titus to finish this among the Corinthians. He accepted their encouragement. We can agree and there be acceptance of responsibility without an organization. They sent someone else with Titus. Does that mean Titus and those who went with him had an organization within an organization? Paul says in 2 Cor. 9:5, "Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time..." So now we have Titus going on his own, they sent someone else with him, and they sent with them another brother. In what sense? Paul says they "exhorted" the brethren and obviously the brethren accepted the exhortation. Exhortation isn't always a command: Philemon 8, 9. Sometimes it is an "appeal" to the other with the desire that they see what is necessary in the matter along with you.

     How do we know Paul was supported? He tell us in 2 Cor. 11:8, "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service." Now, a local church can support an individual in a group just like Paul says here. It doesn't support the group as a "unit" but the money goes from the church to the preacher. A local church can support every preacher in the group as long as it does it that way! That's the pattern. When you have individuals or local churches supporting them as a "unit" then you've got something that is outside the pattern for concurrent cooperation among individuals.

     When others were with Paul and had necessities what did Paul do? Paul tells us in Acts 20:34-35, "You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. [35] "In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' " What is this? This is an individual (Paul) "giving" to those who needed assistance who were working along with him. This is one individual giving to another and "not" pooling of resources into a common treasury out of which to meet the necessities of those who were working together. In concurrent cooperation of individuals one evangelist would help or assist another financially should he need it. There is no evidence of a collective treasury in all of this work. Nowhere in concurrent cooperation among individuals does it say they "took up a collection" to be put into the common treasury belonging to the group of evangelists. I wonder how far some are from that?

Bob W. Lovelace

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