Warren E. Berkley (From the Expository Files Archives, 2001)
Ruled By Threat:
“Corruption” Is The Word!
One danger that must be recognized in the work of a local church is, the peril of being ruled by threat.
A local church is a group of Christians in a certain place, who have agreed to work as a team under the authority of Jesus Christ. Everything found on the pages of the New Testament shows – the local church should be governed by the teachings of the apostles of Christ. It was said of the very first local church, “…they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine,” (Acts 2:42). We have more than this (many other passages making the same point), but if we only had this verse – it would be sufficient basis for affirming that the local church should be governed by the teachings of the New Testament. On the pages of the New Testament there is ample instruction about worship, work, teaching, leadership, use of collected resources, etc.
But some local churches reach a place where they are ruled by threat instead of Christ. Someone may use their wealth to exert power they covet. I am familiar with a case many years ago where a man made hefty contributions to the local church, but there was no devotion to Christ in his daily life. When confronted with his worldly ways he would offer up his defenses and make some reference to his “generosity” by which the local church was able to operate. (Let me mark this as the exception rather than the rule. In my experience, 99.9 % of the Christians I’ve known who have been generous givers were acting out of a good and honest hear.)
The reality is, some will use money to buy power. This is corruption! Whether you are talking about national politics, corporate power, local politics or local churches, this is corruption. And to submit to it is to give leadership to corrupt men! When brethren let this happen, they tacitly agree that the local church can be governed by the power of monetary donations, instead of divine authority. The truth is, nobody can buy favor from God with their money, and no local church should stand for such corruption. Let these kind of “detonators” (should that be donors) go. Send them away. (See 3 John 9,10 and 1 Cor. 5:11 and note “extortioner” and “covetous.”) “The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable – how much more so when brought with evil intent,” (Prov. 21:27).
Another form of this is for someone to intimidate the brethren by saying, “I’ll go somewhere else! I’ll ‘move my membership’.” In some cases elders and brethren ought to respond to this by saying, “Bye!” Principles and peace cannot be sacrificed on the altar of numbers! To coddle cry-babies and be “terrorized” by the prospect of a mal-content leaving is not wise; certainly not pleasing to the Lord. In some cases what ought to happen is – we should deal with them and withdraw from them before they leave – after a first and second admonition (see Titus 3:10 and Titus 1:5-11). “Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; Yes, strife and reproach will cease,” (Prov. 22:10). Let Christ be in charge, not immature, covetous men.