Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 21, 1956

"Cooperation Between New Testament Churches"

Cecil B. Douthitt, Brownwood, Texas

Chapter I "The Proposition"

In defense of the sponsoring church type of centralized control and oversight of church funds, Brother Thomas B. Warren wrote a tract which he calls "Cooperation Between New Testament Churches."

Since more than two churches are involved in the kind of "cooperation" he advocates, the word "among" would be better in his caption than the word "between."

1. "The Proposition."

Under this topic heading Brother Warren writes as follows:

"Following is the proposition which it is proposed to prove:

"The scriptures teach that one church may (has the right to) contribute to (send funds to) another church which has assumed (undertaken) the oversight of a work to which both churches sustained the same relationship before the assumption (undertaking) of the oversight."

2. Two False Impressions. Brother Warren is vague and obviously uncertain in nearly everything he has written in his tract. And the equivocal structure of his sentences makes his meaning doubtful and difficult to readers who are not informed already on the centralization issue, and who do not know in advance what he is trying to prove.

For example, the introductory statement to his proposition contains the pronoun "it." But what is the antecedent of "it"? Does "it" have an antecedent? If any reader thinks he knows the antecedent of "it," just let him try replacing "it" with its antecedent, and hear how the sentence sounds. Sentences similar to this run throughout his tract; therefore, he may be misunderstood easily. "Following is the proposition which it is proposed to prove:" Who or what is "it"?

Since the purpose of Brother Warren's tract is to convince his readers that a church may contribute funds to another church for the work of evangelization, why doesn't he state clearly his proposition like this: "The scriptures teach that one church may contribute funds to another church for a work to which both churches are related equally," then present a passage of scripture that teaches it? For two reasons he does not do that: (1) there is no passage of scripture that so much as remotely indicates that one New Testament church ever sent a contribution to another church for a work of evangelization, or for any other work to which both churches were related equally; (2) a clear and unequivocal statement of the issue would not help his unscriptural theory at all; therefore, like other advocates of false doctrines, he resorts to superfluous, parenthetical, equivocal, complicated utterances which are of no value at all in the study of any subject.

In his "proposition," Brother Warren shows that he is laboring under two erroneous ideas regarding the work of the overseers in a church of God.

a. He thinks that the elders of a church may "assume" at their own discretion the oversight of a work to which all the churches are related equally. That is not true. He must learn these two facts: (1) all the work to which all the churches are related equally was assigned by the Lord to every church on earth, simultaneously with its establishment, and its responsibility to that work is coeval with its existence; (2) elders may neither "assume" nor "undertake" at their own pleasure or discretion, at some future time after their appointment, the oversight of any work to which all churches sustain the same relationship; because the oversight of all the work which the Lord has assigned to a church was assigned to the elders of that church simultaneously with their appointment, and their oversight of that work is coeval with their tenure of office.

b. He thinks that a church's "assumption (undertaking) of the oversight" of a work to which all churches sustain the same relationship automatically changes the relationship that the churches sustained to that work "before the assumption." He thinks that "this work then becomes, peculiarly and exclusively the work" of the "assuming" congregation, and so declares in his "Elements of the Proposition" which will be examined in the next chapter of this study.

According to the theory of Brother Warren's proposition, congregation "A" may "assume" the oversight of evangelizing a certain city, or county, or state, or nation, or the whole world: by that "assumption" the work of evangelizing the selected area "becomes, peculiarly and exclusively, the work of congregation 'A' — congregation 'A's' own work"; congregation "A" then sustains, "peculiarly and exclusively," a relationship to that work, that no other church sustains.

If that is not a defense of the diocesan concept of the work of evangelization, then no man has ever made a defense of it. If a church can say "dubs" on one city, and thereby create a relationship, rights and privileges that other churches do not possess in the evangelization of that city, then that same church certainly can say "dubs" on the whole world and from henceforth sustain a relationship to the entire field of evangelization that no other church sustains.

In his tract Brother Tom Warren frequently makes a statement and then turns right around and teaches the very opposite. He says, "Every congregation has the right to preach the gospel in any geographical area of the world," and he warns against taking "a position which would base all cooperation upon geographical area — a diocesan concept of the Church." Yet his proposition declares the very thing he warns against.

On page four of his tract Brother Tom presents what he calls an "illustration." He says that congregations "A" and "B" sustain the same relationship to the work of evangelizing "area (field) 'D'." So far neither "A" nor "B" has done any evangelizing in this "area (field)." But congregation "A" "decides to undertake" the task; then congregations "A" and "B" no longer sustain an equal relationship to "area (field) 'D'." According to Brother Tom, when congregation "A,' began work in "area (field) `IF'," it became "peculiarly and exclusively the work of congregation 'A'." Here are Tom's own words:

"Note this point carefully: at one time the two congregations sustained an equal relationship to this work; at a later time, they did not sustain an equal relationship to that work, but it became the exclusive work of congregation 'A' — its own work!"

What had congregation "A" done to make that "area (field)" the "exclusive" diocese of congregation "A," and to change the relationship of all other churches to that "area (field)"? Tom says that congregation "A" decided to build a meeting house in that "area (field)"; that's what did it! If congregation "A" decides to build a meeting house in every unevangelized "area (field)" in the world, then according to Tom the evangelization of the whole world by building a meeting house in every "area (field)" becomes the "exclusive work of congregation 'A," and congregation "A" can say to all congregations from "B" to "Z," "This is our work — not yours; we cannot do our work; we bit off more than we can chew; but Tom says it is scriptural for you to send us your money so we can do our own work; therefore rush it to us, brethren, for it's a good work; please don't cut out every single bit of cooperation between churches; don't be an anti; we have the ability and leadership; do you have the money?"

3. Why the Egregious Blunder?

Why did Brother Warren plunge head-long into the abyss of diocesan oversight in the field of evangelization?

The reason is obvious: he knows the scriptures authorize contributions from a church to a church for a work to which the receiving church sustains a relationship that the giving church does not sustain, when the receiving church is unable financially to do that work; he knows also that the scriptures do not authorize donations from a church to another church for a work to which both churches sustain the same relationship. Therefore, in order to produce any semblance of defense for the sponsoring church hobby, he first must "assume" that an eldership can say "dubs" on an area, and thereby create a relationship to the evangelization of that area that other churches do not have; and therefore other churches may send donations to the church that said "dubs" on the area, since the work is "peculiarly and exclusively" its own.

Of course, Brother Warren did not know when he wrote his tract that he was advocating diocesan oversight in evangelization work, and he may not know it yet; but others do know it, and he could learn it if, instead of playing games with Brother Roy Deaver, he would use more time in meditating on these two passages of scripture:

Acts 20:28, "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood."

I Peter 5:1-3, "The elders therefore among you I exhort, who am a fellow-elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Tend the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according to the will of God: nor yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves ensamples to the flock?

By a careful and sincere study of these two passages, every student should be able to learn these four gospel fasts:

a. The Holy Spirit made the elders to be the sole overseers of all the work and resources of the one congregation of which they are members, and of nothing else; therefore they have no right either to "assume" or to accept the oversight of any work of any other church.

b. This obligation to exercise the oversight of all the work and resources of that one congregation was assigned to them simultaneously with their appointment; therefore they can "assume" nothing later at their own discretion.

c. They have no authority whatever to limit or to restrict the evangelistic rights and obligations of any church in any area anywhere in the world; therefore the diocesan or geographical concept of an eldership's jurisdiction in the work of evangelization is totally false and Romish to the core.

d. Since "filthy lucre" is ill-gotten gain, when elders use their office to obtain money for themselves or for the church in any way, except as the scriptures authorize, they violate God's prohibition — "nor yet for filthy lucre"( therefore they sin against the Lord and his church when they lead the church into the operation of secular business for profit, or when they solicit and accept money from other churches for evangelistic work, or when they obtain money for the church in any way for which there is no scriptural authority.

(To be continued)