"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.VIII No.I Pg.19
June 1945

The Problem Of Organized Cooperation

O. C. Lambert

A great many Christian duties are to be performed by individual Christians. The only cooperative organization divinely authorized is the local congregation. There are some duties that may be performed by a congregation or by individuals. After we have done our full duty as congregations or individuals there may still remain much to be done but our responsibility is coextensive with our ability. We have a responsibility to feed the hungry but when we have reached the limit of our ability in that respect we are not held responsible for the millions who may be just as hungry and just as deserving. In a like manner there is a limit to the ability of a local congregation and beyond this the Lord does not expect us to go.

Pooling Resources

I have no right to assume more than I can do and demand of my brother that he help me, for he has a right to assume his own duties. Just suppose that every Christian should decide to assume more than he do. Do local congregations have a right to assume more than they can do? Do they have a right to assume burdens for other congregations? If the Lord had intended that his work be done on a bigger scale than can be handled by a local congregation would he not have designed a 'bigger organization? Should congregations or Christians who have done all they can as congregations or as individuals worry or have an uneasy conscience because much remains to be done?

There is not the necessity for pooling the resources of congregations as is sometimes thought. It is usually because congregations have no conception of their abilities and responsibilities. They are seeking to make things too easy for themselves. It is usually admitted that a Christian has responsibilities at least equal to that of a Jew. Having a better covenant and better promises it seems to me that if there is any difference, a Christian's responsibility would be greater. Every Jew was required to give a tenth for the support of the priests. A tenth was not all they gave. What they gave for the poor and for their many offerings seem to have been in addition to the tenth. Nine Jewish families according to the divine plan could support a priest and his family. Eighteen families could support two. Forty-five families could support five priests and their families. If we do no more, forty-five Christian families could support five preachers of the gospel. We no doubt have many congregations containing ninety families which could support ten preachers and their families. We may have a few which could support fifteen or twenty! Is it not a reflection on us when we have to comb the brotherhood in order to get a sufficiency to support one brother? When a preacher should go to a certain destitute place to establish the cause, there are hundreds of congregations which could assume the responsibility for his entire support and besides this send other men to other places. It is my judgment that when congregations begin to talk of "cooperating" with other congregations they are trying to avoid doing their full duty.

Interlocking Machinery

When New Testament churches contributed to the support of Paul or to the relief of the distressed they did so as individual congregations. They had no get-together meetings, no interlocking committees nor any other machinery tying the congregations together.

Last year twenty-five thousand people applied for orphans for adoption in the United States and seventeen thousand failed to get them. This shows that there is now only one orphan for every three persons who would be glad to provide a home. A childless home needs children just as badly as an orphan needs a home. I know of one congregation where this was emphasized to some extent and as a result eight or nine children were adopted. There were no orphans available in that particular locality and practically all the children had to be secured in another state. One lady traveled over several states before securing a child. The number of homes needing children probably about equals the number of children needing homes and the reason for the dearth of children is probably the practice among religious institutions of maintaining orphan homes. These homes then have an excellent pretext for scouring the country for funds. These funds are collected by people who have never been heard of before by the congregations. Regardless of the misgivings a Christian may have with reference to the scripturalness of the institution or of the management of it, he usually is loathe to voice them for fear of damaging the innocent children. It is parallel to the bank robber who carries away with him the young lady bookkeeper. He knows that everyone will hesitate to shoot for fear of hitting the young lady.

A Nominal Eldership

Since the brethren have begun to follow the nations around us in establishing institutions of this character, they have vacillated between two plans of operation. One plan has a board of regents residing at different points. The other plan is to put it nominally under the eldership of some congregation; neither plan is satisfactory. If there had been any need for either plan surely the Scripture would give us some hint of it.

The first mentioned plan creates an organization which does not even profess to be a congregation through which to do work which should be done either as individuals or as congregations. It is "taxation without representation." This board decides to spend several hundred thousand dollars for buildings. The congregations that are expected to support this have no voice in the matter. The local congregation is no more than a filling station for this unauthorized organization. If a congregation should fail to be ready when they drive up, it would be considered lacking in spirituality. The longer such institutions are borne with the more demanding they will become.

When these homes have been operated nominally by the eldership of some congregation, it looked more like an arrangement made for the purpose of avoiding criticism than anything else. The management under either plan in reality is about the same. The superintendent receives and disburses the money. He receives and disposes of the thousands of dollars worth of supplies. It is possible for things to be mismanaged with the result that the elders of the congregation who are dumb enough to be rubber stamps for this sort of thing are liable to wake up and find themselves ruined financially and the brotherhood disgraced in the eyes of the world.