Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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The Patternists: Applications of the Pattern – Church Autonomy

patternist-2.pngIt is common for denominations to have a centralized authority structure and organization. The Catholic Church has a supreme authority figure in the Pope. The Mormon looks ultimately to Salt Lake City for direction. Even Southern Baptists have an annual convention, the expressed purpose of which is “…eliciting, combining, and directing the energies of the Baptist denomination of Christians, for the propagation of the gospel, any law, usage, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding” (

In this, these and others depart from the New Testament pattern. In scripture, each congregation was responsible for its own benevolence, edification and evangelism. There was no hierarchical structure. Each congregation was autonomous. Outside of the authority of Christ Himself, and the finished work of the apostles, the highest authority found in New Testament churches was the work of oversight, where a plurality of qualified men (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) guided, protected and fed the congregation of which they were a part. “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God WHICH IS AMONG YOU, serving as overseers…” (1 Peter 5:1-2a).

The word “autonomy” is commonly defined as self-government. As applied to local congregations, this does not mean that every congregation is free to do as it wishes. Rather, autonomy ensures that no outside agent will compel any congregation to depart from Christ’s will (cf. Matthew 28:18).

Man’s compulsion to centralize authority has always led to apostasy. It is unscriptural – an example of men exalting their wisdom above God’s (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:25).

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Sermon: The Uniqueness of the Church

The Lord’s church is unique. The sermon discusses its nature. Both universal and local, showing Christ’s lordship, the pattern established by Christ, and the concept of local autonomy.

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Sermon Audio: Click Here .

Sermon: Church Autonomy

The sermon seeks to explain what is, and what is not Autonomy, as revealed and defined in the Scriptures, especially regarding the Lord’s Church.

Sermon Audio: Click Here .

Sermon: The Pattern of Church Organization

The New Testament reveals an explicit pattern for the organization of the local church. It is to be autonomous, with elders and deacons. The lesson details that pattern established by God.

Sermon Audio: Click Here .

Sermon: Congregational Autonomy

The scriptural concept of congregational autonomy protects God’s people from abuses of power, and doctrinal apostasy. It does not, however, allow any congregation to determine to disobey God. The sermon discusses the parameters and limits of autonomy as revealed in the New Testament.

Sermon Audio: Click Here .

Church Autonomy

In Matthew 16 the inspired historian revealed a promise made by Jesus to Peter and his other disciples. The promise concerned a significant aspect of God’s plan of redemption for mankind. In verse 18 Jesus said, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” The church of Christ is a divine institution, formed by Christ, and governed by principles established by Him and His ambassadors, “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).

Unfortunately men have continually shown themselves unwilling to acquiesce to Christ’s will regarding His church, and have altered the divine plan. Departures have been seen with regard to the worship of the church. Men have promoted innovations such as instruments of music to accompany the singing which is commanded in scripture, and have altered acts of worship such as the Lord’s Supper to the point where they are almost unrecognizable distortions of the divine plan. Men have distorted the work of the church as well, a common example of this is the present emphasis on the church as an agent of social change. This social emphasis is a far cry from the work of evangelism and edification indicated by Paul when he declared the church to be “the pillar and ground of the truth” (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15). Men have changed at their whim the organization of the church. There has been the activation of the “universal” church, the centralization and consolidation of authority; and the alliance of the church with human institutions, councils and societies. Among the distortions of God’s blueprint for the church, and the focus of this article, is an assault on the concept of church autonomy as revealed in scripture.

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