Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 22, 1959
NUMBER 24, PAGE 9-10a

A Way That Is Right And Cannot Be Wrong In Church Cooperation

Cecil B. Douthitt, Fort Smith, Arkansas

From "Park Hill Church Of Christ" Bulletin, September 30, 1959

The term "co-operation" is composed of two words: "co", meaning together or with; "operation", meaning a working. It means a working together of two or more units in the production of a common effect or the achievement of a common purpose.

Some methods and kinds of church cooperation are scriptural and right; some are unscriptural, anti-scriptural and wrong.

Some marriages are scriptural and right; they are of God (Gen. 2:18-25). But this does not mean that every kind of marriage is of God. Some are unscriptural and wrong (Matt. 19:9). Baptism is ordained of God (Acts 2:38), but the Bible does not teach that every kind of baptism is acceptable to God (Acts 19:1-5). Objection to certain kinds of marriages and to certain kinds of baptism does not justify the accusation that the objector is anti-marriage or anti-baptism. Objection to certain kinds of church cooperation does not justify tilt accusation that the objector is anti-cooperation.

The New Testament contains only two examples of churches' donating money from their treasuries to other churches. In both of these cases the receiving churches were unable to provide adequately for the needs of their own members, and the design or purpose of the donations was "that there may be equality" or mutual freedom from want. Without exception, the receiving churches were objects of charity.

In order to supply the needs of poor saints in Judea when the churches in Judea were not able to provide for their own poor, the church at Antioch sent relief by the hand of Barnabas and Saul who delivered it to the elders of the churches where the need existed (Acts 11:27-30).

During a long famine the church in Jerusalem received help from several other churches for the poor saints in the receiving church "that there may be equality" or mutual freedom from want (I Cor. 16:1-4; II Cor. 8 and 9; Acts 24:17; and many other passages).

Therefore it is right and cannot be wrong for churches to cooperate in sending contributions to a poor church to enable the receiving church to care for its own indigent. But it is anti-scriptural and wrong for churches to contribute funds to enable another church to operate a brotherhood benevolent project maintained by a predetermined and perpetual begging campaign for the control of the resources of other churches, as several of the "sponsoring churches" of ecumenical benevolence are now doing. It is far better for a church to be anti-cooperative in a project of that kind than to be anti-scriptural in supporting it.

New Testament churches cooperated in preaching the gospel in distant places. While Paul preached in Corinth, "other churches" cooperated with one another and with Paul by sending "wages" to him (II Cor. 11:8). They sent their contributions directly to him (PM!. 1:5; 2:25; 4:15-18; II Cor. 11:8-9).

The Park Hill church of Christ in Fort Smith, Arkansas, is sending $80.00 per month to one preacher and $200.00 per month to another preacher and thereby cooperating with other churches and preachers in the work of preaching the gospel in precisely the same way that Philippi cooperated with other churches and with Paul in the field of evangelism. This kind of cooperation is so obviously right and scriptural that it cannot be questioned, causes no trouble, sows no discord among brethren and is never the cause of dividing a church.

New Testament churches did not cooperate in surrendering the control of their funds to a "sponsoring church" to use in the work of preaching the gospel, thereby making the receiving church the sole authority of a work which the Lord had assigned to all the churches. Several things render such centralization of church resources anti-scriptural and wrong. (1) In all that is revealed in the New Testament of the missionary activities of the churches, there is nothing that even remotely resembles it. (2) It violates the New Testament principle of local church autonomy. (3) It sows discord among brethren, splits churches and shows a lack of respect for the authority of God's word and the Savior's prayer for unity. (4) It is the same kind of cooperation — centralized control over a work to which all the churches are related equally — that inevitably developed the "man of sin", and which Paul clearly condemned in II Thess. 2:1-7).

The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to teach and preach the word to the church and others in Antioch (Acts 11:22). The Park Hill church of Christ sent a man to teach the church and to preach the gospel to others in McAlester, Oklahoma, and is at this time sending "wages" to him. This kind of cooperation is scriptural and is not the cause of division among churches.

A church's selecting, sending and supporting a preacher while he preaches in Corinth or Laodicea is scriptural; but no church has any scriptural authority at all for donating funds from its treasury to the church in Corinth or Laodicea or any other place to be controlled and used by the receiving church in the work of preaching the gospel in any way it may choose. What kind of preachers would Corinth and Laodicea have chosen?

Sending a preacher to a church is not analogous at all to sending funds from a thousand churches in order to enable the receiving church to control and maintain a preaching project for the brotherhood. Preaching the gospel is a work assigned by the Lord to all the churches and to which all the churches are related equally.

Sending wages to Paul while he teaches the truth in the school of Tyrannus is not analogous at all to surrendering the funds to the control of the school. Philippi's sending to Paul while he preached in the synagogue at Thessalonica is not the same thing as sending funds to the synagogue.

Churches may cooperate scripturally in sending contributions to a poor church to make it possible for the receiving church to have a meeting house or a place to worship; but it is anti-scriptural and wrong for churches to send donations to a church in order to make it the sole authority in a nationwide meeting house building project for poor churches all over the world.

A church's supplying a church with song books, Bibles, and other literature which the receiving church needs for its own work is not analogous at all to sending contributions to make the receiving church the controlling power in the selection and distribution of gospel literature for churches all over the world.

A church's buying the products or services of a human institution is right and never divides a church or causes any trouble at all. But a church's donating its funds to a human institution is wrong, sows discord among brethren and divides churches.

The scriptures teach that every local church must be its own missionary and benevolent society. Poor saints in the church at Jerusalem were being neglected in the church's daily distribution of food to the poor. The apostles called the church together and commanded the church, saying, "Look ye out therefore, brethren, from among you seven men of good report, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will continue steadfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose" seven men "whom they set before the apostles" (Acts 6:1-6). That is the way the apostles commanded that it be done. This shows clearly that it is God's will for every church, through its own qualified and chosen deacons, under the oversight of its own bishops, to administer its own resources in providing food, clothing and all other necessities to its own poor. The Lord did not legislate as to the details and methods employed by the deacons and elders in caring for the destitute, but his legislation does require that the work be controlled by duly appointed workers in the congregation — "from among you" — under the oversight of the local church's own bishops, where the recipients of the charity are members.

The Park Hill church of Christ, right here under the oversight of its own bishops, will provide the care for all the widows, orphans, aged, and other indigent for whom it is responsible, just like the Jerusalem church provided for its poor (Acts 6:1-6). When it learns of another faithful congregation that is not financially able to provide the needs for its own members, Park Hill Church will cooperate by sending relief to the elders of the poor church, just like the churches of Galatia, Macedonia and Achaia cooperated in sending relief to Jerusalem when the Jerusalem church became an object of charity, "that there may be equality" or mutual freedom from want (II Cor. 8 and 9; I Cor. 16:1-3). If Park Hill Church should become unable financially to care for its own poor for whom it is responsible, and becomes therefore an object of charity, it would be happy to receive contributions from other churches that were not objects of charity, just as Jerusalem received it when it became an object of charity (II Cor. 8 and 9). This is the scriptural way for churches to cooperate in benevolence. It is the way the apostles commanded it. It is the way that is right and cannot be wrong.

If every church had retained control of its own work and resources, and had respected the divinely prescribed conditions under which one church may contribute funds from its treasury to another church, the Roman Hierarchy could never have come into existence; because centralization and control of the work and resources of churches is the very foundation and essence of Romanism. If the New Testament examples of church cooperation are not restrictive and binding, then the Lord has not legislated at all as to the conditions under which one or a thousand churches may turn the control of their work and resources to another church, and the churches of Christ are at sea without chart or compass, and there is no stopping place this side of Rome, the fully — developed "man of sin".

In their desperation and failure to find any scriptural authority whatever for their "sponsoring church" type of cooperation, some have pointed to I Cor. 16:1-2, then have argued long and loud that since this passage says nothing about using funds from church treasuries for any work except benevolence, that there is just as much scriptural authority for churches' sending it to a "sponsoring church" for evangelism as there is for taking from church treasuries to pay a preacher's wages and to supply the things he needs for himself, his family and his work. But they ignore or "willfully forget" this one thing: Every passage of scripture must be read and studied in the light of all other passages bearing on the same subject. There are many other passages that teach the churches to pay preachers and supply their needs (II Con 11:8-9; I Cor. 9:1-14; Phil. 4:15-18). But there is not one line in all the New Testament that even remotely indicates that the "sponsoring church" type of evangelism is scriptural.