Thrust Toward Centralization - 1946
One of the most significant publications relating to the sponsoring church controversy is "The Lubbock Lectures on Mission Work" published in 1946 by the Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas (The book is now out-of print).
The book tells the story of the thrust forward into sponsoring church arrangements. Historians who cover the 20th century controversy over sponsoring churches will surely see in the 1946 Lubbock lectures a major thrust forward into centralization...and into strife and division.
What happened in those lectures? First, consider the background. During World War II there was considerable discussion on "preparing for foreign missions." The Broadway Church established a fund for "foreign missions." Germany became the focal point in the interest of the Lubbock brethren. The lectures to discuss overseas opportunities were held August 25-28, 1946.
Reports on work and proposed work were given, covering Europe, China, Australia, and India. "Round Table" discussions offered the opportunity for brethren to get things moving toward centralization. The idea of "pooling our resources" was introduced. Someone responded, "I have believed in centralization of church work for a long time." (Page 40) Enthusiasm began to swell and another observed, "Our brethren have been so afraid in some cases, of two or more churches working together. Brethren, that is one thing that has hindered our mission program. More than one congregation helped the apostle Paul. Rather than every congregation sending its two bits to a different place, let's pool our resources and send to one locality." (Page 41)
The problems concerning "mission work" were discussed freely with various opinions and solutions offered. It was generally agreed that the "societies" through which to do the work were wrong, but the drift of sentiment was toward one church sponsoring overseas work with other churches providing the funds.
But there were expressions to the contrary. One brother observed, "The trouble with many churches is that they want to sponsor and let someone else support a man in the field. I believe that churches should support rather than sponsor men in the field. Many churches that divide their collection forty different ways should concentrate their effort and support and really oversee a work. It is all right for one church to help another do a good work. However, many churches are able to fully support a work without outside help." (Page 62) (We note here that the same brother who said the foregoing, also observed, in the same speech, "So far as I am able to ascertain, there is no provision for feeding men's bodies [by the church] except in emergency. Then this provision extends to the brethren." (Page 64)
Words of caution were offered: "This thing must be done definitely in harmony with the New Testament pattern of teaching and practice." (Page 82) But a more liberal sentiment prevailed: "...I wish we had a pattern to follow. But that old trial and error method will have to rule." (Page 84) As enthusiasm for the centralization "method" prevailed someone observed, "I'm mighty glad to see this church at Lubbock and other churches over the country taking the supervision of missionary work in different places." (Page 93). The same man that uttered this also expressed a word of caution about new churches being subject to a parent church.
The greater part of the deliberations of the "lectureship" centered around the proposed work in Germany and the part to be played by the Lubbock church. The event closed with a newly created momentum toward the sponsoring church concept of evangelism.
The appeal of the opportunities in Germany, the enthusiasm of the Lubbock lectureship for some kind of "co-ordination" (Page 83), and the failure to see the missionary society error in the sponsoring church, gave centralization a great push forward. The Lubbock lectureship of 1946 was something of a beginning, if not the origin, of the troubles which have plagued the church for 25 years, as regards controversy, division and error relating to sponsoring churches. There were instances of sponsoring church arrangements before 1946, to be sure, but the Lubbock event gave the movement propulsion.