This is a long post, which itself is a summary of three long posts (which is the basis of a 126-page book).
It’s worth reading, though, if you want to get at more of the rot that is killing the church in America… and burn it off with the fire of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.
Bojidar Marinov has made a notable advancement in his attack on the ministry-industrial complex, attacking an innovation that a fearful church has erected to increase the control of the church by men (as opposed to the Holy Spirit)… and so further gutted the Church’s power and influence in the West.
(And for once, I am not talking about that ungodly and unbiblical institution, the seminary!)
You can buy his book on the subject, “One Holy Local Church”? The Ghettoization of Protestantism: and I recommend that you do so.
But I will be commenting on the chain of blog articles he published on the same subject, published at Christendom Restored.
From the first (of three) blog posts:
Jeff’s direct words are as follows:
Facebook is filled with “Facebook Prophets”. These are people who aren’t a part of the local church but insist on giving biblical insight and wisdom to those who are actually a part of God’s design for believers: corporate worship, communion, under the care of pastors, etc. The Bible can be a dangerous thing in the hands of those who despise authority, aren’t involved in the life of the body, and act like renegades. We are wise to avoid the “insight” of people who refuse to participate in the most fundamental part of the life of a Christian: the local church. God gave us one another for a reason. If we don’t love the church, we don’t love Jesus.
The sentiment is not something new (although, it is relatively new in church history, as we will see), and it is accepted by inertia by almost every single person today who in one way or another attains to some position of authority in the church—or, rather, to be more precise, some position of legal power in the church.1 This sentiment is based on several assumptions made by the modern churchian faith. First, it assumes that the local church is the same thing as the church—hence the concept of being a “part” of the local church. Second, it assumes that the visible and the invisible church are identical. Third, it assumes that being under formally ordained church government is mandatory—and if one is not, therefore he “despises authority.” And fourth, and the most arrogant and prideful assumption of all, it assumes that God will only correct His Church through formally instituted human bureaucracies within the church, and never through external means.
All these, in the final account, rest on one single concept: the so-called “local church membership.” Or, as it is known in some Reformed churches today, “local church covenant.” Remove that concept, and the above four assumptions disintegrate. So I will focus my analysis on the concept of mandatory “local church membership”—its history, its theology, and its consequences—and then will also cover the above assumptions. And more. So, let’s get started.
In his insistence on local church membership, or, “being part of the local church,” on the surface, it looks like Jeff Durbin is in accord with the Baptist tradition and Reformed Baptist confessionalism. Mandatory “local church membership” is indeed an integral part of the Baptist tradition. And it’s not just tradition, it is in fact specifically codified in what we can call The Last Great Reformed Baptist Confession, namely, the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. […]
Contrary to what many assume, Presbyterianism allows for much more liberty when it comes to ecclesiastical forms—and we will see later that modern Presbyterian denominations differ substantially in their view of church government and membership. As to Baptists, they are confessionally bound to a very specific view of church membership, by their own Confession. The language of the London Confession is particularly strong in this regard:
In the execution of this power wherewith he is so intrusted, the Lord Jesus calleth out of the world unto himself, through the ministry of his word, by his Spirit, those that are given unto him by his Father, that they may walk before him in all the ways of obedience, which he prescribeth to them in his word. Those thus called, he commandeth to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for their mutual edification, and the due performance of that public worship, which he requireth of them in the world (LBCF 26:5).
The Confession doesn’t offer a single Biblical verse which plainly teaches such “command.” Later Baptist theologians admit that there is no such Biblical verse. (Even John Macarthur, for all his insistence on “church membership,” admits that the Bible never speaks of it.) Modern Presbyterian theologians who support the concept of mandatory “local church membership” also admit that there is no verse that explicitly teaches such “local church membership.” The strongest Biblical argument for such “membership” that was used at the time was Acts 2:41-42; but the text clearly does not speak of such local church covenant. (How exactly did they organize a “local church” of thousands of people within the narrow constraints of Jerusalem?) Nowhere else in the Bible is there anything to suggest any form of special covenantal commitment to a local body that is different, separate from, or superadded to the Covenant of Grace made with the universal church in general, in baptism.
It would be nice if Christians would kindly stick to the Bible, wouldn’t it?
For one thing, it would give the Holy Spirit far more tools to work with, which means far more victories for us: victories paid for with pain and tears, yes, but real, durable victories nevertheless. And lots of ’em!
As opposed to the parade of pathetic losses we are supposedly expected to offer to God Most High, the King who gave us everything we need to smash all the chains and walls and powers of Satan and his cruel-yet-insipid band of followers.
Followers who love blindness, delusions, and death, by the way.
“And we are supposed to be afraid of these losers?”
Actually, no. God does not expect us to be fearful of these walking, delusional, and increasingly powerless dead men.
And this was written by the same group which rejected infant baptism because they did not see any specific command for it in Scripture. It sounds schizophrenic that they would mandate local church membership without an explicit command in Scripture. Indeed, it is schizophrenic, and we will see later why the English Baptists had to go down this road. For now, let’s remember that Confessions, while important, are not perfectly reliable. They are always a mixture of correct and incorrect interpretations, they often have current pragmatic considerations included in them, and they are often self-contradictory, especially in those parts where they deviate from the Word of God, or try to force an interpretation on it.
The tale will get very, very interesting.
In fact, if we need to be even more general, the concept of “local church membership” has never existed in the church before the 17th century. Yes, the concept of “church membership” has existed from the very beginning. The concept of “local congregation” has existed from the very beginning. The theology of “there is no salvation outside the church” has existed from the very beginning; hence, the command for Christians to “join the church” in a covenant, which is the Covenant of Grace. That joining the Church, though, was done through the same means through which man joined the Covenant of Grace: baptism. And through baptism, man joined the universal Church. That is, the same Church mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed, and then the Nicene Creed, and then in all the other great Creeds of Christendom:
We believe also in only One, Universal, Apostolic, and Holy Church; in one baptism in repentance, for the remission, and forgiveness of sins; and in the resurrection of the dead. . . .
The individual believer (or, “confessor,” in the early centuries of the Church) automatically became in baptism a member of the universal Church, and through it, of all the “local congregations.” He needed no additional oath, or ceremony, or covenant to “join” a local congregation. Most people would stay within the same congregation, and some may even take voluntary vows of loyalty to each other: such is the way the first monasteries in Ireland and Scotland started. But such vows were never required for a believer to be considered a member or part of the church. A person could travel from place to place, join or attend or co-operate or worship with different Christian communities, or decide to remain for a long time alone, in the wilderness, or among heathens, and he was still part of the church. Now, we can have legitimate objections to asceticism, but this historical fact is incontrovertible: the early church highly valued ascetics. There is not a single line in the writings of the Church Fathers where ascetics were rejected because they “didn’t join a local church.” The Father of Orthodoxy, St. Athanasius himself, wrote a high praise of St. Anthony, for example. For all practical purposes, the early church was much more faithful to the principle of “by faith alone” than modern Reformed Baptists. One became a member of the Church by faith and creedal confession. Nothing else was needed. There may have been at times different stages of membership, but there has never been any concept of “local membership.” A member of the church in Jerusalem was also a member of the church in Corinth, and a member of all the churches everywhere. Modern Baptists who claim that they just want to follow the early church, and yet impose church-membership, are simply being schizophrenic.
Too much human command’n’control: not enough Holy Spirit might and authority.
Too much Will of Man; not enough Will of God.
The background of this Confession—which was originally written as the personal confession of Heinrich Bullinger—is important to our understanding whence the concept of mandatory “local church membership” came from. It obviously didn’t come from the early church. It obviously didn’t come from the other Reformed traditions. In 1566, when Bullinger wrote the above lines, his main opponents were two groups, coming from two opposite ends of the spectrum. At one end were the Papists. At the other end were the Anabaptists. On the surface, they were opposed to each other. In reality, however, Papists and Anabaptists has similar views on the question of membership: and it was that a true Christian must be part of the visible church. And while for the papists the visible Church was the Roman priestocratic bureaucracy, for the Anabaptists, it was their local “brotherhoods.” Only membership in the local brotherhood made a person a true Anabaptist.
Now, I know that my Reformed Baptist brethren would respond that the real origin of modern Baptists is with the English Separatists. Fair enough, I don’t disagree with this, when it comes to theology. But when it comes to ecclesiology, and especially to the question of “local church membership,” modern Baptists—and even modern Reformed Baptists—are closer to the Anabaptists, and to other cultic sects.
One thing is perfectly clear: The more we move in the direction of traditional, confessional, orthodox, creedal Christianity, the more the universal nature of the Church is emphasized (as in the Creeds), and the lower the standards for membership and participation in it. At the general level, baptism and public profession of faith are sufficient to make one a member of the Church—and by default, a member of any and every professing creedal orthodox congregation anywhere. There is no need for additional commitment to local bodies; such commitment is not sinful, but it is superfluous, and making it a requirement is anti-Biblical and anti-Confessional. On the other hand, the more we move in the direction of heterodoxy, heresies, and cults, the more the requirement for “local church membership” becomes mandatory, and the higher the standards for being a “member” of the church. In this, our Baptist brethren are straddling the fence: their theology is orthodox, but their ecclesiology rather matches that of the Anabaptist sects and the cults.
However, despite their ecclesiology being un-Biblical, non-orthodox, self-contradictory, originating from the Anabaptist sects and peculiar to all the pseudo-Christian cults, our Baptist brethren can feel triumphant and claim victory in one thing: today, most Reformed denominations and groups in the US have adopted the same Anabaptist ecclesiology, and the same non-Confessional standard of mandatory “local church membership.”
So, why this requirement for local church membership?
Marinov convincingly demonstrates that it is because of a command’n’control government law establish in England — the Act of Toleration of 1688 — that is the basis of the “requirement for local church membership.”
So, we are now supposed to jump through the hoops that Pharaoh commands?
In the name of Pharaoh’s extension of State Power?
The proper Christian response is, “Forget about it!”
Too bad that most Baptist, Reformed, and Calvinist denominations have no idea what God expects in this area of church governance.
While a study of the influence of 501(c)3 on modern ecclesiology doesn’t fall into the topic of this article, it would still be relevant here to point out that the dominance of this Anabaptist ecclesiology in modern America coincided with the new Tolerance Act of 501(c)3. Just like in 1689, today, it pays for the individual churches to forsake the Reformation doctrine of the invisible church, and to go full visible, mandating “local church membership.” The same practice of offering perks for visibility, incorporation, registration, etc., have been used by governments throughout history every time they had to deal with movements under the government’s radar. Gun registration in the US is one example of this practice; government aid to homeschooling families is another. In Eastern Europe in the 1980s, the Communist government started offering registration and legalizing of different dissident movements, with the purpose of drawing them in open. In the 1970s and the 1980s, even Protestant churches were tolerated under Communism if they were incorporated (visible), while a simple prayer meeting behind locked doors could easily land the participants in prison. In all these cases, taking the government’s bait has led to compromise and even betrayal of the ideology and the purpose of the movement. The Toleration Act of 1689 was such a bait. And Reformed Baptists fell for it hook, line, and sinker. For the next 200 years, they continued to exist in England but their cultural influence waned. This influence had a short culmination in the ministry of Charles Spurgeon—who actually had to compromise on the question of membership in order to attract new attendees. After the removal of the disabilities, English Baptists never again played a notable part in the history of England.
The Establishment laughs, and laughs, and laughs.
The Eschatology of Self-Encapsulation
It is still true, though, that while the Reformed Baptists and a few more Non-Conformist groups surrendered and abandoned the Reformed doctrine of the importance of the invisible Church, other Reformed groups did not. Presbyterians and others continued registering membership automatically upon baptism, with no requirement of additional commitment to a local body. As I pointed above, from William Glasgow’s History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian ministers considered as “members” people who had no local congregation to be members of. They were obviously not so concerned about “submission to elders” and “church discipline.” The concept of mandatory “local church membership” remained a characteristic only of the Baptist churches. While the political pressure for visibility of the local congregations broke the Baptists, it didn’t break the others. This means that some other factor was at work as well.
That other factor was eschatology. Specifically, pessimistic eschatology.
In his major treatise on the rise and fall of civilizations, the British historian Arnold Toynbee made an interesting observation about civilizations: that while a civilization has faith in the future and is expanding, it keeps open borders and builds its roads in a radial shape, from the center to the borders. Once it loses its optimism, it starts to encapsulate and focuses on building walls along the borders. The Roman Empire is a good example, for in its years of expansion and optimism it built very few defensive facilities—only walls of a few strategic cities. Once it reached what was considered the farthest possible limit of expansion, and once pessimism became the ruling sentiment about the future, the Empire poured huge amounts of money into building gigantic defensive structures. Two still exist today in Britain, there are remains of around 10 walls and dykes in Romania only, of lengths between 30 and 100 miles, etc. Once a civilization or culture turn to fear of the future, it begins to encapsulate itself, even if previously it had no identifiable borders at all.
The Laughing Ones love it when Christians fear the future.
The church followed the same policy of openness throughout the centuries. When we today, in our populated world, have a baptism service for 30 people, we think it is a big event. Baptisms for hundreds and even thousands of people were a normal thing in the age of early missions in Europe. From our modern perspective this sounds strange: How did they know every person, and how did they know he was a real convert? The truth is, they didn’t. They didn’t need to know. From the perspective of those early missionaries, people were not baptized into a local church—such a concept would mean absolutely nothing to the early church. These people were baptized into Jesus Christ, and thus into His universal Church. And through the universal Church, they were baptized into Christendom, that is, a comprehensive civilization that included everyone, including the false converts, and even the unbelievers. Yes, many of these baptized people would know nothing of their new faith, and not all of them would be attending church. But the optimism of the early church told those early missionaries that no matter what happened after baptism, things were going to get better, and the society and the individuals in it would be growing in the faith, with or without churches or teachers. Yes, they worked to establish centers of learning and churches. But the Church was greater than the local congregations, and included all those who were baptized; and the Kingdom was even greater than the Church. So the churches kept their doors opened, and acknowledged as members of the Church all those who believed and professed Christ. For many centuries, a significant share of all Christians in the world were not under the direct “care” of ecclesiastical ministers. A growing civilization needs no encapsulation.
It was only the cults who kept their ranks closed, and demanded strict rules for church membership and an exorbitant focus on submission to human authorities. The reason, again, was eschatological. Unlike the historic Church, cults and heresies never understood themselves to be bearers of a civilization the way the Church understood itself to be the bearer of Christendom. A cult is always busy separating itself from the world, it always views that separation from the world as so radical as to make it its defining characteristic. Cults and heresies, by denying one or another tenet of trinitarianism, are by default dualistic. And a dualistic religion is by default pessimistic about history and the world, because it doesn’t have presuppositional foundation to apply spiritual principles to the material world. Cults and heresies do not see the world as conquerable; and therefore they do not expect to conquer it. They expect to remain small ghettos of the “true faith” against a world of growing darkness. Thus, building walls around those ghettos is mandatory. They need to clearly separate the insiders from the outsiders, through a specific “covenant” of belonging, not just to a faith but also to a specific visible body.
Winners act like winners, and fear nothing and no one but God Above.
Losers act like losers, and fear everything and everyone, far more than they fear the price of disobedience to the direct commandment of Jesus, to expand His Kingdom.
Thus, the Biblical optimist knows, reasonably deducted from his Bible and from the Confessions, his involvement with a local congregation must be reasonably limited. Many factors can influence such limitation of involvement: the significance of that local congregation in the larger picture of the Kingdom of God, the faithfulness of the people and the leadership of that local congregation to the Word of God, the nature and scope of his own gifts and calling, the realistic expectations for the future of that local gathering, etc. Long-term relational and economic investment, for example, in the church in Jerusalem before AD 70 would have been unreasonable, as would be the same in a local church in some mining town of declining population and no future. Also, for someone of the gifts and calling of Apostle Paul, undue commitment of time and effort and resources to some local gathering of Christians as over against commitment to the broader church community would be a gigantic waste of resources; imagine Paul in our modern “local churches” today, forced to change diapers to prove he is a “true” Christian. For the pessimist, such consideration of the future and accounting of resources are useless; no effort of man has any meaning in the greater picture, because there is no greater picture to start with. An optimist first sees the greater picture; he first sees the future, not the current static conditions; and therefore his strategy is from the greater to the smaller, not the other way around.
Thus, it is not a surprise that mandatory “local church membership” became a dominant principle in the church in the 20th century, when pessimistic eschatologies like premillennialism and amillennialism made the Church abandon its commitment to building the Kingdom of Christ, and replaced it with withdrawal from the world. But Reformed Baptists lost that commitment as early as 1689. During the English Commonwealth, they were still carried along in the optimism of all the other Reformed groups. After the Restoration, Reformed Baptists never again thought of themselves as conquerors who would create a new world order for Christ, or would mandate the moral, ideological, and social terms of the society. Even for the most optimistic of them, “victory” was not in changing history, but only in remaining faithful in their isolated communities against a hostile and powerful world. Even today, in any Baptist church, the history of the Baptists is told in terms of survival against all odds, not in terms of conquest against all odds. Even where Baptists were able to achieve numerical superiority against all the other faiths—as in the American South in the 20th century—they still did not create a dominant Christian culture.
Those who desire a tiny little church — to better control it, or to more easily crush it — loves those ties to “local church membership’…
…instead to the universal church, the Church that Conquers All, that Christ established as His Agent, to push forward His Kingdom.
A Universal Kingdom demands a Universal Church, with no ungodly restrictions regarding “local church membership.”
Also, read Part 2 of the series:
“God of Lone Rangers, Destroyers of Systems”, where all sorts of Biblical Leaders who were not tied to “the local church” are introduced; and the critical issue of The Priesthood of All Believers and the Right and Duty of Private Judgment is brought into play — and not just for so much lip-service, either!
A little snippet:
So the only solution for the modern ecclesiocrats is to conveniently forget about the distinguishing mark of the Protestant Reformation—the doctrine of the right and duty of private judgment—and never mention it to their flocks. And instead, return to a Papist and cultist ecclesiology which elevates the elite and frees it from any sanctions, while subjecting the individuals in the church to its power. In Rushdoony’s words,
. . . where a strong doctrine of the Spirit is not operative and governing, a strong doctrine of the church replaces it, so that institutional controls and government replace the Spirit.13
And conversely, in order to replace the Spirit with institutional controls, the churchian elites need to rule out of the church the only way through which the Spirit has always been operating in opposition to the elites: through the individual consciences of men.
Thus, when John MacArthur complains about people moving from church to church, “never submitting to the care of elders,” he accuses these people of “misunderstanding of the believer’s responsibility to the body of Christ.” The truth is, MacArthur only shows his ignorance of the Biblical teaching and of Reformed theology. Under the principle of the right and duty of private judgment, this is exactly what people should be doing: listening to sermons in the churches and judging the preachers according to the Word of God. What MacArthur wants is to be free of accountability to the Holy Spirit acting through the private judgment of the individual believers. In the same way, when Jeff Durbin wants to silence the “facebook prophets,” he is not speaking for God, and he is certainly not speaking as a Reformed minister. All he wants is to be free of accountability before the court of private judgment, which court was the most distinguished characteristic of the Protestant Reformation. In that statement Jeff Durbin was not speaking for the Church, and was not speaking for the Holy Spirit. He was speaking for the interests of the modern corrupt church hierarchy, which, to borrow from Tertullian, “has driven the Holy Spirit out of the Church.”
and Part 3 as well
The early church, as described in Acts, operated without the ecclesiastical office of elders most of the time. In many situations, Paul would create many disciples in a place and wouldn’t “plant a church” with elders (see, for example, Acts 14:21). The requirement that the churches have elders can’t be seen anywhere in the New Testament. Sure enough, elders are mentioned, and the requirements for an elder are mentioned, but that is different from a mandatory establishment of elders or local church hierarchy. In all his epistles, Paul speaks to whole congregations without mentioning elders, even where he speaks on issues of church discipline, as in his two epistles to the Corinthians. He sent Titus to Crete to appoint elders, but even in this action, two things are obvious: first, Crete had legitimate churches without elders before the arrival of Titus; and second, there was a very special reason for the necessity of ordaining elders: the immorality of the Cretans and the divisions in their churches (Titus 1:10-16). Logically, even the very instructions Paul gives to Titus for what an elder should be already show that Titus might not be able to ordain elders in every city: There was no guarantee that every city would have at least one believer who fitted the description in Titus 1:6-9.
The modern concept that the universal Church should be becoming more and more visible in the growth of its power and jurisdiction is therefore nonsensical in the light of the Biblical message. The growth of the institutional church in power and influence—as an institution—will be a testimony not to the success but to the failure of the New Covenant. The promise in the Bible is not that the institutional church will grow but that the Kingdom and the knowledge of God will grow, until there is no need for teachers, and therefore no need for an institutional church. The more the institutional church insists on growth and power, the more it declares that it expects its members to remain immature and incompetent. That’s where the American church is today, after over 100 years of dominance of the concept of mandatory “local church membership”: millions of sermons, lectures, conferences, Bible camps, crusades, etc., have produced nothing of value, and the church continues losing the cultural war. Why? Because the churches do not see themselves as servants for the maturity of the people but as rulers over flocks that are expected to remain immature throughout their lives. “Under the care of elders” sounds like something very godly and righteous; the reality is, it is the killer of maturity, and the birthplace of that concept is hell, not heaven.
The Biblical Way of Church Discipline
The last objection we need to take care of is this: “What do we do with church discipline?”, if we don’t have mandatory “local church membership”? In the mind of the modern church-goer, the only way to do church discipline is through the “local church” and through “membership in the local church.” So, how do we do it when such “membership” is not mandatory?
We already saw above that historically, there is absolutely no reason to believe that “local church membership” ever helps with church discipline. To the contrary, we have ample evidence that the rise of this doctrine led only to the destruction of discipline in the churches. And there is a good reason for it: the very idea that church discipline can be maintained through local churches is utterly absurd, and makes no sense whatsoever. It’s not that we have not applied “local church membership” correctly, and that’s why we don’t have the results. It is that the very concept leads to those undesired results. Just like government schools: it’s not that they have failed; they have succeeded in what they were meant to do. In the same way, it’s not that “local church membership” has failed in its task of maintaining discipline. To the contrary, it has succeeded in its task to destroy it.
Church Discipline Is Learning, Not Punishments
The first thing we need to understand about church discipline is that the modern obsession with punishments—and especially with excommunication—is not Biblical. While excommunication is mentioned in the Bible, it doesn’t constitute such a great part of the life of the church as it is assumed today. We have only three passages dealing with excommunication, Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:9-13; and 2 Thess. 3:6-13. The three passages are certainly not exhaustive in detail; to make them the foundation of the modern doctrine of excommunication as “church discipline” means that we need to impose on the text our pre-conceived ideas. When we get to the modern detailed books of church courts and discipline—full of details that can’t be found anywhere in the Bible—the deviation of the modern churches from the Biblical teaching is clearly evident.
The reason for such deviation is that the modern churches have adopted an essentially pagan view of discipline: that discipline is the same as punishment. It is under the secularist “natural law” worldview that a man is considered “disciplined” when he is mindful of the punishments his superiors may impose on him. Paganism has no trust in the self-government of individuals, so individuals are always kept in line through being constantly threatened when they go exploring outside the limits set by the dominant institutional hierarchy. Thus, in paganism, there can be no discipline without institutional control; a person is either under the power (“under the care”) of institutional superiors, or he is “anarchistic” and “undisciplined.” That a person can be disciplined simply based on his self-control under God is an unacceptable notion in any paganism.
Modern churches, having accepted this pagan idea of “discipline,” boast with having “discipline” when they have a system of taking their members to court and punishing them. Take any Book of Church Order and read the chapters on discipline. They always have to do with court procedures and punishments. Outside court procedures and punishments, outside institutional power and control, there is no discipline. Thus, only people who are under such control – “members”—are “disciplined.” Punishments make discipline.
R.J. Rushdoony picked on this pagan nature of the modern notion of discipline and called it “not discipline at all.” He pointed to the problem directly:
Failure to understand this distinction between discipline and punishment is responsible for much of the disorder in the church. In almost every church, where discipline is spoken of, in reality punishment is meant. In the confusion of the two, it is discipline that is usually lost.5
And then he gives the correct, Biblical meaning of “discipline”:
. . . discipline comes from disciple, which is the Latin word discipulus, in turn derived from disco, learn. To be a disciple and to be under discipline is to be a learner in a learning process. If there is no learning, and no growth in learning, there is no discipline.6
He continues by pointing out that “an undisciplined church is a church where there is a failure in the proclamation and teaching of Scripture.” Thus, “membership” in such a church doesn’t lead to discipline; it is destructive to true Biblical discipline. There is more true discipline in a lone man with his Bible and the Holy Spirit than in a church where the Word of God is not preached, or is only preached at a very rudimentary, fundamental level, keeping the hearers fed on milk (Heb. 6:1-2) and constantly immature.
And this self-governance, this self-discipline, is what we need today.