(In)Direct Support Missions
(Editor's note: "The Pattern" is published by the instrumental music "church of Christ" in Vancouver, Washington, and edited by Charles Daily. There are a number of these congregations in Washington and Oregon; they even operate a college in the church where Archie Word preaches. This congregation does not accept money from other churches to support their school, but consider it exclusively the work of the church. They consider the "Herald of Truth" Churches of Christ far too liberal for them, and have nothing to do with Columbia Christian College or other "liberal" non-instrumental churches in that area. However, when conservative brethren attend their services they are willing to forego the use of their instruments.)
There is a lot of talk about Direct Support missions. We have heard much of this over the last several years. Indeed for nearly forty years this has been the most overworked of terms, with a sizeable segment of the Restoration Movement. What this refers to apparently is any mission, benevolent, evangelistic, or educational work done in the name of church, but not done under the auspices of the United Christian Missionary Society (Disciples of Christ central agency).
What we have begun to wonder is, where is some of this "Direct Support" work? A survey of the nation finds a great deal of so-called mission work going on, yet most of, particularly the support of evangelistic endeavor in the U. S. , is done through some sort of organization which is in effect a "Missionary society. " Many the preacher and the church which has raised the cry against the U. C. M. S. , and then jumped on the bandwagon of some lesser organization. We wonder if there are not a large number who have been thrashing the Disciples denominational system because it was the popular thing to do without giving any thought to the principles that are involved.
Make no mistake about it. We are as opposed to the error of denominationalism, any denominationalism, as anyone; and we do not mean any defense whatsoever of the U. C. M. S. However, we wonder what the difference is, in principle involved, in one unscriptural, man-made organization acting as a substitute to do the work that the church is to do and another such organization. Once the bars are let down and unscriptural practice creeps into the church then further such practice is bound to follow.
We have rummaged the books of the Bible, but can find no mention of such organizations. For instance, in the sixth chapter of Acts where we read of some financial needs of the widows in Jerusalem arising, we do not read that a JERUSALEM AREA MEN'S FELLOWSHIP was formed to take care of the problem. Nor do we read of Paul being sent out to preach by the ASIA MINOR EVANGELIZING ASSOCIATION or the MACEDONIAN MISSIONARY BOARD. Nor did the apostles and elders who gathered in Jerusalem in the fifteenth chapter of Acts to discuss matters relative to the Lord's work adopt by-laws and incorporate as the JUDEAN CHRISTIAN CONVENTION. Can you imagine the apostle Peter as chairman of the committee on committees? No, such contrivances came many years this side of the first century and are somewhat less than divine in origin.
Either the church is sufficient to do the work God has ordained for it to do, or else the Lord has given us an imperfect revelation.
We have been a part of such organizationalism and have seen the bitter fruits of it first hand. We have seen an operation, indeed have been a part of it, that causes friction, chaos, rivalry, and gross inefficiency in doing the task of evangelism. It takes a dozen churches, through such groups, to do the work that one should be doing. There is inevitably a struggle to see which personality will control which position. There are always problems that arise in trying to handle funds sent from someone else, and to handle them to the satisfaction of all.
It appears to us that all this red tape and organization mess, can, even in this day and age, be eliminated. The work of the Lord can go forward in a speedy and successful way. This will come about when churches do what they are supposed to do.
The prevalent system today is for the members of the church to give only a small amount of their money to the church and then demand that most of the Money be spent for their benefit. Congregations hire a preacher, a youth minister, a choir director, build in a kitchen and dining hall, air conditioning the building, carpet the floor luxuriously, buy an expensive organ, build a gigantic meeting house and a preacher's home, support a scout troop or two, and send a donation to some college to pay some denominationalist's or some modernist's salary. When all this is done, some fellow with a "zeal, but not according to knowledge" starts a missionary society or some fellowship or association to go around and collect the scraps of money that are left over, in as many congregations as he can, to send a preacher to start a new church in a needed area somewhere else and perpetuate the same system there.
If this is Bible Evangelism, then we have been reading the wrong book. There are many churches, by their size and income, that could be completely supporting several gospel preachers to do a scriptural work at home and abroad. But most of them prefer to spend the Lord's money on their own comfort.
We realize that many who decry unscriptural organizations as methods of doing the task of evangelism do so because they really don't want to do anything at all. This is equally an unscriptural idea. The New Testament knows nothing of a church that is not busy carrying out the great commission.
However, in our study of the New Testament, we have yet to find a single thing that the Lord commanded us to do that cannot be done by individual Christians or by a local congregation of the church. In any event, it is obvious that the Lord did not make us dependent on "Missionary societies" not mentioned in the Bible.
It is our prayer that the Lord will deliver us from being beaten to death by man-made "clubs."