"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.X No.VIII Pg.12-13a
August 1948

A Begging Traffic

W. Wallace Layton

These remarks are not directed toward congregations who are overseeing a work in a mission field, and who are helping that field buy a building, or even asking other congregations for cooperative help. But there exists a begging traffic that has become a racket among the churches as annoying as it is degrading. Unlearned and overly-zealous young preachers have gone out into the mission fields, rounded up a few members and straightway plunged them into a building program and a building debt beyond their needs and means. Such a program tends to stifle the group before they have caught their first Christian breath.

The spirit of this begging campaign is not confined to young congregations. Some churches 20 to 40 years standing have caught the spirit of the racket and now their appeals are pouring in also. These letters are based on the appeal that they just never will be respected in their community until they build a modern, up-to-date meetinghouse. And they want someone other than themselves to do this for them.

Just to illustrate what I mean we will note a few examples from the hundreds of such appeals that I have filed.

"The church here had its beginning in June with five members. We now have 25. We have bought a lot and need a building. The contractor needs $1000.00 before he will start, and then of course it will take much more than that to finish the building."

The above letter relates of the progress made, of the opposition the little band has overcome, of the public attention they have drawn. It seems to me that if they have all the zeal and public attention described, they can surely muster enough congregational pride to build a meeting house, or rent one until they grow stronger. Truly, brethren let their enthusiasm run away with them.

Another church up north writes that a year ago they had "faith enough in every one to buy a property. But now there is a pressure of a $5500.00 balance due on the property that must be paid." "We have faith now," the letter continues "that churches with a missionary spirit will send a donation."

This is typical of the "faith pressure" letters. In other words they do not take into consideration that those to whom they appeal may be actually supporting several preachers in actually preaching the gospel (not running up blind indebtedness.) It implies that if we don't send a contribution to help them overcome the embarrassment of poor management, and short-sightedness, that we are not a church with a "missionary spirit." While the word "missionary" is a misnomer, still I think I know what the common use of the term means. And accepting that meaning, I fail to find where building elaborate buildings falls into the category of mission work anyway.

Here is another from a church of several years existence:

"We the church in ........................, a town of 500 population, have a membership of 10 women and 5 men. We have a lot and most of our building material on the lot. But we must have a little over $2000.00. We are now meeting in a tin building which is very hot."

So to get them out of the "hot tin building" they expect the churches over the land to fall over themselves to rush two thousand dollars up there. It seems to me that if such a place had a lot clear of indebtedness, and practically all the needed materials, that if the five men amounted to anything in the community they could put up enough collateral to finance the building of the church house. Truly such appeals are efforts to ease their individual responsibility, at the expense of the larger churches who are what they are because they grew by congregational pride and responsibility from their own "tin house" to what they are today.

Another elaborate appeal comes in as follows:

"The membership is small but we have had an encouraging growth. Have been meeting in an old dwelling. By a great sacrifice (didn't say how much) we bought a piece of property in the heart of the city. We have a fifteen year loan and will sacrifice to meet the payments. But the property cannot be used in its present state. The necessary improvements will be around $20,000.00 so we are asking you for a liberal donation................"

Here is a picture of a small group of brethren, who obligate themselves head over heels in debt for the next fifteen years, for a piece of property that, in its present state, is as worthless to them as though it didn't exist. And all they want out of the brotherhood for this leap in the dark, is just $20,000.00. A deduction of the foolhardiness of this appeal is too apparent for any further special mention here.

Another illustrative appeal comes revealing the tragedy of not counting cost ahead of time.

"We have the lot, the walls of the building are up, and we have materials for the roof. But we cannot go on. We must have $2000.00 to enable us to move into the building. Without help the unfinished building will become a laughing-stock in the community."

Well, is not that kinda like the story Jesus told, when he said men wouldn't start a tower until they had counted the cost"lest when he lays the foundation, and is not able to finish it, men will mock." But why should the church try to jeopardize the good name of others by trying to make them feel they are obligated to pay through the nose for this short-sightedness and poor management.

Thus it could go on, but the above are typical the best way to put a stop to this campaign of begging and shirking of responsibility, is for churches to ignore these matters. As long as these appeals are answered, the traffic will increase to chain-letter proportions. But when brethren find out they must paddle their own canoe, there will be a little more caution, and congregational responsibility displayed.

These are but samples and they all run true to these forms. It is these kinds of appeals that we are striking at in this article. Certainly the congregations with a competent eldership who launch a new work in some mission field, and then seek assistance on building a building (getting the money before the leap is made), do not fall under this indictment. It is a matter of sound business policy, caution and good judgment that is needed in matters of this kind.