Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 6, 1952

Some Important Problems

Clarence C. Gobbel. Tempe. Arizona

It is gratifying to hear and know of the continued growth of the many congregations in the South and Southwest. The growth has been so rapid, and attendance has increased to the point that an extra service is held each Sunday morning to accommodate the audiences. And when this situation exists, we usually find a membership of 400 or more, meeting in a house that will correctly care for better than 850 members, which in itself constitutes a large and useable membership. The question is: What should be done to relieve such a situation? Of course, there are two things which can be done. A larger, more commodious, and expensive building can be built so that a still larger membership can be centralized under the same set up, and probably in the same location. Or, the congregation can "swarm," and a hundred or more, can go to a different section of the city and build another house that will accommodate 400 or more members.

In all too many instances, the elders decide to build a larger building and keep the membership in the same location. But when they do it means: (1) A large expenditure of money for a larger, more ornate building, as well as a profitable loss in the disposition of the old one. (2) It means a still larger membership, centralized and concentrated under the leadership of the same group of elders, who are probably already cumbered about with more than they can do to keep a smaller membership busy even a part of the time. (8) It usually means a greater degree of show, and fashion of dress, so that members in the still poorer class will feel that they are barred from its meetings.

On the other hand let's notice some of the advantages in beginning another congregation in a different section of the city. (1) Much money could be saved by building a smaller building in a different section, and continuing to use the same building for the old congregation. (2) Beginning a new congregation in a new section of town gives a wonderful opportunity of reaching new people with the gospel, that might not otherwise be reached. (3) In the two smaller congregations, added opportunities of using more of the members in its work is at once apparent. (4) It has been my experience that within a few years, both congregations will be as large as the one formerly was. Whereas it isn't likely that one large congregation would double its membership in the same length of time.

After all there is about one reason that can be honestly given for elders wanting to keep all in one place, and have a large oversize group, and that is for the popularity, splendor, and impression it may have on the outside world, of being able to boast in a large membership. Of course, this may never be acknowledged by such an eldership, but what other reason can be given?

Some other things which seem to be a little out of balance that it might be well to mention. During the period of the last few years, many young men, and women have volunteered, and are being paid to go across the sea. To Europe, Japan, and Africa for gospel preaching and teaching work This is a fine thing, if and as everything else is being done in the right manner. Many congregations have been, and continue to be willing to bear their support while they give their time to teaching in these foreign places. Please understand that I am happy to see the good work done, and the many people who are being led to obey the gospel is indeed a fine thing, and is as it should be. But let's suppose a moment. How many preachers and their families would have consented to move to some large city here in the States, and given their full time to preaching the gospel here in the homeland, for the same salaries they receive overseas? It is highly probable that several would have been very glad to do just this; in fact several preachers are doing it today. But on the other hand, would as many congregations have given as much of their monies to the support of these preachers had they stayed in the States! Though it is true that hundreds have been baptized in the European work, but there are dozens of workers being supported by home churches while they are so occupied. That is so far as I am informed, perfectly all right. But on the other hand, should some large congregation select some city of 50,000 to hundreds of thousands here in the States, where the gospel has not been preached, or where but few are trying to maintain the work, and send out dozens of families, and concentrate them there for five or ten years, the same amount of good could probably be done. But can we find where that is true? Yes, I know that as many as two families have been sent to large localities, and are being supported by well-established congregations. But would these same churches consider the sending of dozens, or hundreds to such a place? Isn't it true that the cry would go up—"Why that would be a waste of time and money to put that many in that field." And would no doubt say: "If one or two preachers and their families can't get the work done, it can't be done."

Brethren, maybe I am wrong. I have been before. But after all a lot of this "foreign mission work" has gained a lot of supporters because of the large amount of publicity that has been given it. Maybe there is not quite so much glamour and popularity to a preacher and family being sent to some western city, destitute of the truth, as there is to their going to some distant-field! Think about it!