Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 30, 1951
NUMBER 17, PAGE 10-11c

Churches Can Cooperate In Doing Mission Work

Geo. B. Curtis, Poteau, Oklahoma

"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches in Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gathering when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me." (1 Cor. 16:1)

Here is definitely a piece of work in which churches under the direction of inspiration did cooperate in the doing of it. Undoubtedly the caring for the destitute saints in Jerusalem was a task too great for any one single congregation in the first century. By the pooling of their resources they were able to accomplish that which a single congregation could not think of doing alone. This they did without the formation of Missionary Societies, wrangling and fanfare. It seems to me that the methods upon which they proceeded are pretty fully set forth in these scriptures.

At least the churches in Galatia—however many there were—and the church in Corinth engaged in the common cause of bringing aid to the Jerusalem needy. I think that it will go without arguing that whatever is scriptural in the helping of the poor in the matter of raising and disbursing funds would also be scriptural in the raising and disbursing funds for the preaching of the gospel to the lost. This case poses, also, the matter of distance and time in the carrying out of the work. It was a long range program. It was not simply an emergency. Jerusalem was in the land of Palestine; Galatia in what we know as Asia Minor; and Corinth in Europe. In the point of time these were much farther apart than America and any other spot on the globe. How did the early church meet and solve these problems in the first century?

Paul, an inspired man, gave the orders. The same orders applied to the Galatian churches and the church in Corinth. Here are the orders: (1) Make your collections in your regular assemblies—on the first day of the week; (2) Every one is to have a part in the giving; (3) Put this collection in store—Gr. the-saurizon, common treasury of the church; (4) The amount that each one was to put into the treasury was commensurate to his prosperity; (5) This will eliminate the necessity of making the collections after Paul's arrival. This takes care of the matter and manner of the collections. Notice next how this bounty—collections—was to reach the place of its use.

Here, it seems to me is the bone of contention among us today—How is the money to be handled? Who is responsible? Who shall have the honor? Under whose authority is all this to be done?

"And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem." (Verse 3)

We would notice these facts: (1) The money was collected by the local congregation; (2) Each member was to contribute to the common fund; (3) The amount was placed in the church treasury where collected; (4) Men were to be selected by the church making the collection and approved by letters for the purpose of looking after the proper disbursing of the money collected; (5) It goes without saying that those thus selected would be amenable to the congregation selecting them; (6) The ones selected and approved by letters from the Corinthian church were responsible for seeing that the money collected by the Corinthian congregation reached the place of need and was applied as the Corinthian church intended. It is just that simple. What is said of the Corinthian collections can also be said of the Galatian collections. The whole authority was kept within the hands of the local congregation. In this case the Jerusalem elders were on the receiving end for the spending of the funds thus collected. A number of churches furnished the funds; the elders of the Judean churches applied the funds.

That the selection from the contributing churches of men to look after the funds collected by these churches is set forth in the Second Corinthian Letter. We quote here from 2 Corinthians 8:16-22:

"But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you. And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches; and not only that, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and the declaration of your ready mind: Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us: Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you."

Let's make a careful study as to methods here. We note: (1) God put into the heart of Titus an earnest care for the Corinthians; (2) Titus accepted "the exhortation" —calling—to the work of arousing the Corinthian church to the need of this giving; (3) Titus was eager for this work also; (4) He went unto Corinth to help in this work; (5) Paul sent with Titus "the brother whose praise is in the gospel in all the churches; (6) This brother was chosen by the churches to travel with Paul and his companions to look after the matter of collections; (7) All this was to avoid the charge of the misuse of the funds collected; (8) Every cent collected could be vouched for by those thus selected; (9) Things were to be provided for honestly in the sight of God; (10) And also in the sight of men; (11) Another brother who has the glowing praise of the apostle is sent along with them. At the other end of the line the church at Corinth selected its own membership to carry this bounty to Jerusalem. There were no slipshod methods here.

A recapitulation of the things studied show this: The early churches made common cause in time of need. They did this under heaven's supervision and arrangement. Collections were made in the churches in Galatia and in Corinth to relieve the destitute saints in Judea. Each members of each of these congregations was urged to participate. These collections were taken in the regular Lord's day services. The amount collected each Lord's day was to be placed in the common treasury—store—of the congregation making the collection. The congregation making the collection was to choose men to take care of this particular collection. This choice was to be placed in writing—letters. Those selected were entrusted with the task of seeing that the funds collected reached the place where they were to be used. Other Christians worked at the job of getting the collections ready as the congregations had promised—Titus an example. Still others were chosen to travel and help in this work. Local churches did this selecting. (2 Cor. 8:19) This mutual work was carried on without missionary societies and without giving undue authority to "sponsoring" churches. Can the church today function as it functioned then?