Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 6, 1958
NUMBER 27, PAGE 2-3b

The Sponsoring Church

Billy W. Moore, Nimmons, Ark.

In the July 3, 1958 issue of the Advocate, Harold S. Baker had an article entitled "Lift Up Your Eyes unto the Hills of East Tennessee". I do not know Brother Baker and I have nothing personal in that which I shall say, but I believe his thinking manifests the attitude of many toward the sponsoring church. I am confident that Brother Baker means well and is really interested in the church of which he writes. Following are some statements from his article: "Unto These Hills is a drama of the Cherokee Indian produced throughout the summer tourist season in the Mountainside Theatre at Cherokee, North Carolina .... The purpose of this article is not to direct your attention to the Indians particularly, but to direct it unto those hills of East Tennessee .. . . The little mountain city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee . . .. A large number of those tourists were members of the Lord's church who were disappointed at the lack of facilities for carrying on the Lord's work in the area. A weak and struggling effort was underway to build a meeting house in an out-of-the-way place. The work was not under the oversight of an eldership and little permanent good was accomplished . . . . the property has reverted to its original owners. This leaves the church in Gatlinburg free to begin anew . . . . The Laurel Avenue elders of Knoxville have agreed to sponsor this work until a congregation can be firmly established. Creed Spurgeon is working on the local scene as minister and full-time personal worker. He is presently being given $25 per month by the Eastview congregation in Nashville . . . . Send your contributions for Brother Spurgeon's support, for site purchase or for building erection to the elders of the Laurel Avenue Church (Seventeenth and Laurel) and mark it for the Gatlinburg work. The elders THERE WILL OVERSEE THE USE OF THE MONEY CONTRIBUTED IN GATLINBURG and by the brethren and churches EVERYWHERE (Emphasis mine, BWM)."

On June 15 Brother Baker met with the church in Gatlinburg and reports that "over one hundred met to worship .... and the contribution was $127". And toward the close of his article he writes "Unto these hills send your prayers, your money, and your preacher".

These quotations are long but give the gist of the article.

Brother Baker's statements, though sincere I am confident, are a serious reflection on the brethren in Gatlinburg, as well as other congregations who do not have elders. He infers that the brethren at Gatlinburg do not have the ability to see after their own affairs. That they could not oversee the building of a meeting house, and do not even have the ability to oversee the money which they themselves contribute, for even their own contribution will be under the oversight of the elders of the Laurel Avenue church in Knoxville, along with that contributed by brethren and churches everywhere. Brother Baker, by what authority can the elders of the Laurel Avenue church control the contribution of the church in Gatlinburg? If they have a right to "oversee the use of" the contribution of the Gatlinburg church, could they not "oversee the use of the contribution of another church in a different city where there were no elders? And by the same authority could they not oversee the contributions of all churches where there are no elders? Why not tell us these things? Of course some brethren will still tell us that the Gatlinburg church has not lost its autonomy for after all they could stop surrendering their contribution unto the oversight of the Knoxville elders anytime they choose (or could they?).

When the Gatlinburg church attempted to build a meeting house "the work was not under the oversight of an eldership and little permanent good was accomplished." Does Brother Baker think that permanent good cannot be accomplished by churches that do not have elders? He attributes their failure to that fact. We all know that having "elders in every church" is God's arrangement. But there have been many congregations started which did not have men qualified to be elders, and these congregations have grown and have built comfortable meeting houses, converted many souls (which I consider to be permanent good) before they had elders, and they didn't have to surrender their contributions to the elders of another church either. If he doesn't know of churches like this let him contact this writer and I shall be happy to put him in touch with many of them.

Brethren, if any should desire to help the church in Gatlinburg, Brother Baker says "Send your contributions for Brother Spurgeon's support, for site purchase or for building erection to the elders of the Laurel Avenue Church .... and mark it for the Gatlinburg work". Why not send it to Gatlinburg or to Brother Spurgeon? That is what they did in the New Testament. (Phil. 4:15-18). But the Gatlinburg church has a "sponsoring church" whose elders must oversee the funds sent. I, too, think it is a shame that Brother Spurgeon should serve as local preacher and as "full-time" personal worker and receive only $25 a month, and that from a church in Nashville. I wonder what the brethren in Gatlinburg are doing with their contribution, which was $127 on June 15. Oh yes, their money is controlled by the Laurel Avenue elders in Knoxville! Well, why don't they support the preacher who is preaching for the church they are sponsoring, since this sponsored church lets them control their contribution.

Near the close of the article Brother Baker asks us to send our prayers, money and preacher "unto these hills". Now I'm really mixed up. He first tells me to send my contributions to the Laurel Avenue elders in Knoxville, now he asks me to send them "unto these hills" which in the beginning he used to refer to Gatlinburg. Just where should we send them? And what about the preachers that might be sent? Should they be sent to Gatlinburg or to Laurel Avenue? Could they preach for the "sponsored church" without being examined by the elders of the "sponsoring church"? Or should they write the elders of the "sponsoring church" to see if they might preach for the "sponsored church". After all, if the brethren of the "sponsored church" have not enough business ability to oversee their own contributions would they be able to schedule preachers for an entire summer? (Brethren this would be amusing if it were not so serious.) Now what about our prayers ? Brother Baker said "Unto these hills send your prayers ..." I do not think he meant for us to send our prayers to Gatlinburg, Knoxville, or to Nashville, but rather unto God for the work at Gatlinburg. But he was so enraptured with the caption of his article that he asked that our prayers be sent "unto these hills". I really don't think he meant that, but he said it.

How our thinking, writing and preaching has changed within the past ten years. When brethren feel that congregations without elders should have a "sponsoring church", and elders of one congregation take the oversight of the contribution of another, perhaps it is time for us to change the oft repeated expression "Brethren we are drifting" to "brethren we have arrived".