Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 15, 1951
NUMBER 28, PAGE 3-5b

Socialistic Developments In The Church — No. 2

Robert C. Welch, Florence, Alabama

The socialistic thinking and development in the church is almost keeping apace with such development in world and national economic and political socialistic trends. The charge is made by some that the church was very much socialistic during the first century. Some have said that the New Testament teaches socialism or even communism. The primary function of the church as a whole is to assemble and worship. During emergencies such as a famine the elders of the church had charge of charity funds for distribution. (Acts 11:27-30) At other times it was the work of individuals, and was not a group or church function. One would have a hard time showing that all the charity work done by Dorcas was through the church treasury. (Acts 9:36-39) Also there is some assistance commanded which is not to be done by the church. (1 Tim. 5:8, 16) The individual has an obligation whether the church does it or not. (James 1:27) During emergencies such as war our government has special power and control over industry but it is not thought of as socialism. However, when the government retains those powers and controls and ownership without the emergency it is recognized as socialistic development. When men desire the church to fulfill the obligations of individuals when there is no emergency it is comparable to the trend in economic affairs.


In these days of socialized living and teaching, individually provided recreation seems inadequate. Municipalities provide parks, halls, and playgrounds for the children of the community. This is considered as socialism by those of that party. In his book, Socializing Our Democracy, Harry W. Laidler, PhD., says:

"Under a socialized order, the community will continue to care for many of the educational, recreational, social, and health needs of the children, and on a far more adequate scale than at present . . . In connection with the educational institutions there will be more adequate facilities for recreation and sports, while community and co-operative playgrounds, parks, swimming pools, beaches, dance halls, libraries, museums, theaters, operas and other centers, will play a larger and more satisfying part in the life of the growing child than under our capitalistic society."

For several years the denominations have been trying to "gain and hold their young people" by providing church recreation programs and centers in competition with that which the community or city provides. Of late years some churches of Christ are taking up the same practices. Do Christians think that the church can compete with the allurements which community provided recreation has to offer? Are such people converted to Christ or to the recreation? This theory among denominations and among church members is following the socialistic trend as outlined in the quotation above. The right of the community to provide recreation is not denied, if the right kind. But the church does not make its own laws; Christ is the head of the church. There is no scriptural law nor right for the church to provide recreation for children. Parents should provide it singly or in groups. But it does not belong in the church; Christ has not so legislated.

Personal Worker Drives

Labor unions are considered to be a trend toward complete socialism. In the same book already quoted from, Laidler says, "Most organized labor movements abroad are ardent supporters of a socialized order." The theory is that better work can be done with better conditions and more compensations. The same idea prevails in the thinking and practice common to these days with reference to personal workers' drives. There is no criticism of personal work, more of it should be done. But reference is made to the groups or classes which are organized to do this work. Even some of this may be all right. But the idea that a Christian cannot do personal work unless he gets into a group or drive, will destroy simple Christianity. It operates on the principle that work cannot be done unless there is a big stir and commotion.

When the gospel is to be preached in a city where the church is not known, personal workers are called in from all over the nation to canvass the town. This is supposed to be the most efficient and productive method. Yet when all the turmoil ceases and the workers have gone, it leaves the new place with just about the same feeling a city has after a convention has broken. Has Salt Lake City, or some of these other cities where drives have been made, made any more progress in building up the church than other places where two or three preachers and singers have gone with deliberate and dignified effort?

There is another similarity also to the socialistic system in many of these drives. The workers come from some particular school during their holiday. It is true that the home churches of these students pay them while on the drive. But who does the planning and sending? The system sounds very much like that system in the book by Laidler, which was quoted in a former article:

"They would likewise develop central planning boards to co-ordinate the various public industries and to bring about increasing planning for the common good among the industries of the world."

There is grounds for suspicion that in these personal workers' drives those schools are becoming "central planning boards to co-ordinate the various" local churches "and to bring about increasing planning for the common good among the" churches "of the world." Foreign Missionary Groups Outside of our nation it seems that to do any kind of work there must be a large group of "missionaries" in each place, so that it appears that the best title to be given it is "Foreign Work Co-operative." The plea is made that this method is more sure of results; that otherwise the efforts and money are wasted. Notice the similarity of such argument to another statement from the book, Socializing Our Democracy:

"And yet our methods of production and distribution are tragically wasteful as compared with the possibilities of a scientifically planned order."

The reports that come from such work are almost always combined reports of all who have a part in the work. It makes a good looking report in such form, but how will it look when broken down? They tell us that in one foreign country there are about thirty-three missionaries. That sounds like a pretty big thing for churches of Christ. Then they tell us that in the few years they have been there that their efforts have resulted in approximately a thousand baptisms. That surely appears to be a very fertile field, we are glad to learn that so many are obedient to their Lord. When broken down the average is thirty baptisms per missionary for two or three years. The majority of preachers have more than that in a year in this country. So when the report is analyzed it loses some of its magnitude and glamour. The importance of the work and the amount of good done should not be minimized. It is mission territory. They need the gospel as well as we. Their souls are valuable, so are the souls of people here. It takes preaching and teaching to save the souls of either. If one evangelist can save thirty people there in a few years, is that any greater than saving thirty or more here in one year. Such combinations as they have in this work with the group plans may seem good, but let us not forget that individual work and responsibility is required of us in the gospel. This group planning and working is following the pattern of socialistic thinking in other realms.

These articles are not intended to be either commendatory or critical of socialism or of its developments in the realm of economics and politics of our nation. Its purpose is to show that those same principles have encroached upon the thinking of Christians, and are evidenced in the practice of Christians and churches. Some of these trends may have quality in them. Others are dangerous and leading away from the simple plan of work and worship in the New Testament. Brethren, let us consider our ways, before we allow ourselves to drift with the tide of modern thinking and practice so far that we cannot pull ourselves to safety.


Frank L. Smith, Shawnee, Oklahoma, Nov. 7: "Hulen Jackson did fine, sound preaching in our meeting that closed on November 4. He was preacher here in 1940-42. It was good to have him back. Two were restored and one baptized. Our work is good. Although I was out in eight meetings this summer, our attendance will average ahead of last year. Brother Sterl Watson will be with us in the spring."


Rufus R. Clifford, Old Hickory, Tennessee, Nov. 7: "One baptized and two restored Sunday."