In some assemblies, some elders tend to set the standard of Christian living according to their own. I remember a new assembly established in Africa. Many brothers from Canada were happy when they found out that brothers in this new assembly were wearing suit and tie like them. However, they forgot about the hot weather and the hardship these brethren had to go through because of the clothing imposed on them. I believe that the motive could be good, but the result can be very dangerous--way more dangerous than fainting from heat and dehydration!
Setting an invisible standard or guideline that is no where to be found in the scriptures may not only destroy a person, but worse, it can divide Christians inside the assembly and inevitably, ruin the unity in diversity. In the passed 28 years, I have seen many assemblies that suffered and were destroyed because of this plague. Needless to say, the ones who are primarily responsible for that are the elders who set their own rules beyond the scriptures.
When elders set things that everyone should live like the way they do, that, in itself, is the beginning of LEGALISM. This happens when doctrinal faith is confused with personal faith. Hence, it is very important to differentiate the two from each other.
Personal faith is a faith in progress, growing from being an infant to a mature Christian, and is different from each individual. Whereas, the Doctrinal Faith is an absolute truth in regards to the assembly meeting. Here are some examples of the difference between the two:
- Celebrating special occasions
- Buying things (i.e. cars, house, clothes, etc.)
- Travel and vacations
- Colors of clothing
- Facial hair (beard or mustache)
- and other personal concerns
- veil on the head and silence of sisters during meeting
- male taking part during public meeting
- breaking of bread
- elders as leaders in the assembly
- and other doctrinal aspects
Therefore, from simple things like what color to wear to big decisions in life (i.e. marriage, child raising, etc.) should not be imposed by elders to the believers in the assembly based on how they live. It does not fall under their job description anymore. Doing otherwise would mean stepping out of the line. In any case that an elder does this, the other elders should rebuke and reprimand him. 1 Timothy 5:20 says, "...those [elders] who are sinning, in the presence of all be rebuking, in order that the rest may be having fear." This is why there is always more than one elder in the local assembly, to prevent a one-man leadership (or dictatorship). Sad to say, I have never seen this into practice yet. In contrary, I have seen a lot of elders going above other elders and taking the lead and pushing their own views--resulting into LEGALISM. If these elders would have been rebuked in time publicly, many believers in the assembly would have been preserved and still be in the assembly until today.
IMPORTANT! Believers should be aware and be warned against anyone, elders or not, who push and add things that are not written in the scriptures. The standard of a Christian life is set in black and white by the scriptures and not by men.