Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 30, 1960
NUMBER 9, PAGE 2,12b

Centralized Control

Homer Hailey, Tampa, Florida

At the time of this writing the writer is in Lexington, Kentucky, near old Cane-Ridge meeting-house, the birthplace of the restoration movement on the Western Reserve, and the city in which the Kentucky Christian Missionary Society had its birth in 1850. In his book, The Disciples in Kentucky, A. W. Fortune gives a very interesting account of the development of the society from meetings of Christians and delegates from congregations who met to discuss plans of evangelization and cooperation of these churches, to its full growth into a State society. The interest of the society was extended to include not only evangelization, but also schools, orphan schools (the forerunners of our present day institutional orphan homes), Sunday schools, and other phases of church life and work.

From the beginning of its history last century the restoration movement has been torn by the disposition of some to organize into certain kinds of societies which invariably give authority and preeminence to men or groups of men. Every effort of men to foster such movements, regardless of the loftiness of their aims or the purity of their motives, has been met with opposition from those who have held to the all-sufficiency of the scriptures as authority and of the church for doing her own wrk. Further, these movements have invariably led into departures from the faith. Fundamental principles are at stake in the centralizing of control of funds or work of the church.

The Question Of Authority

Basic and fundamental in the establishing of any kind of society larger than the local church is that of authority. Throughout His personal ministry Jesus claimed to speak as the Father taught Him, or gave Him a commandment (John 7:16; 8:28; 12:49-50; etc.) His word, therefore, was the word of the Father.

When He prepared to send the apostles He said, "As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you." (Jno. 20:21.) This meant that as He was limited to speaking and doing only that which the Father gave to Him, so were they. Further, He had said to them. "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven." (Matt. 16:19, literal translation.) They should speak and bind only that which had been fixed in the mind of God from before the foundation of the world (Rom. 16:25-27; 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:1-5); and this as Christ gave to them through the Holy Spirit, who should guide them into all the truth. (Jno. 16:12-14.) Their words were authorized by Christ.

The following question of the Pharisees to Jesus was legitimate, though the motive was wrong, when they asked, "By what authority doest thou these things?" (Matt. 21:23.) One has the right, yea, the responsibility, to challenge the authority of anything in the field of religion. He has not the right to do so with an ulterior motive; this was their fault.

The question of organization, then, is one of authority: Did Jesus Christ or the apostles authorize the setting up of human societies through which to do evangelistic work, benevolent work, or educational work, which organizations are to be supported from the treasury of the church? If authority for their existence can be established well; if it cannot, then they have no right to exist. The authority for them has never been established.

Reflection on Divine Wisdom The entire plan of human redemption, from its inception in the mind of God from before the foundation of the world, to its consummation in the eternal inheritance, is a product of divine wisdom and revelation. (1 Cor. 2:513.) To digress from this or to rely on man's wisdom is to reflect on the divine. In the wisdom of God provision was made for every aspect of church extension, growth and ministration. The apostle wrote, "Wherefore he saith, When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men ... And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ." (Eph. 4:8-12.)

The gifts of the passage are not miraculous gifts, but the gifts of office, or of function and service. The apostles and prophets pertain to the foundation; the evangelists to the extension; and the pastors and teachers to the edifying or building up of the saints. Here is the divine provision made for the work the church is to do: "perfecting of the saints," i. e., the building up or bringing to maturity of the saints by service and discipline; "the work of ministering," i.e., the caring for the needs of the saints, whether old or young, whether widows or fatherless, whether permanent or in an emergency; and "the building up of the body," numerically and spiritually by evangelization and instruction. This is sufficient to enable the body to "grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ." The demand for anything beyond this is to reflect on the divine wisdom of Him who purposed and carried out His divine plan, and provided for its perfection and glory.

In this divine arrangement for the church there was left no need or place for missionary societies, educational institutions benevolent homes as adjuncts to the church, or which would make the church an adjunct to him. Nor was there, in this divine arrangement, provision made for one congregation to become the headquarters of operation in any kind of endeavour for other congregations.

Places Of Preeminence

Once for all Jesus answered the question of the preeminence either of men or of groups of men when the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Him asking that her two sons might sit, one one the right hand and the other on the left, in His kingdom. To the ten, indignant over the incident, He said, "Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you; but whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister (servant): and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant (bondservant)." (Matt. 20:20-27.) This leaves no place in the kingdom of God for an individual or organization to rule over men or to exercise authority over their responsibilities, in an ecclesiastical way, after the manner of men.

When institutions or organizations are set up to do a work wherein the institutions are dependent upon the offerings of others for their support. it follows almost in variably that those responsible for the raising of such funds resort to the bringing of pressure upon others to support their effort. It usually takes the turn of "line up or be castigated." One need but go into certain sections of our country to be made conscious of tactics contrary to the methods of Jesus. One need not necessarily become militant in his opposition to these movements, it is sufficient merely to question their right to operate in order to bring the wrath of the mighty upon him. This, within itself is sufficient to mark such operations as outside the pale of the methods of Christ.

The Lord put the responsibility for His work upon the hearts and shoulders of individuals and congregations, under the oversight of elders of congregations. No provision was made for anything beyond this. To set up missionary societies, or to make a congregation the centralized point from which the funds of other congregations are to be disbursed, or to set up benevolent institutions under boards, to be supported by churches, is without authority, reflects on the wisdom of God, and rejects the divinely appointed order of the Lord.