Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 11, 1954
NUMBER 39, PAGE 1,9b-10a

Facing The Facts

James W. Adams, Beaumont, Texas

Five articles have preceded the present from the pen of this writer on the subject of congregational "cooperation" in evangelism with particular reference to "The Herald of Truth." The present will serve as a summation of the salient features of that which has been said and an analysis of the situation with which we are now confronted. My roots grow deeply in the soil of the restoration movement. My ancestors have been members of the Lord's church for four generations on both sides of the house. Like all families, some have not been faithful, but all have embraced the principles of New Testament Christianity. The oldest son of my great-grandfather Bennett was born in Lincoln County, Kentucky, in 1836 and was named for Alexander Campbell. One great-grandfather and one grandfather have preached the gospel. The history of the movement to restore New Testament Christianity has ever been a most engrossing subject of study to me, but also, as now, a frightening one. The recurring cycle of events so manifest to any student can but fill one with alarm. That in the brotherhood today, we have the almost identical situation out of which came digression and chaos a century ago seems to me unquestionable. Some, however, view our day as the brightest yet to dawn upon New Testament Christianity since apostolic days. That it could be, I agree, but there are ominous clouds that threaten and they are considerably "bigger than a man's hand." Not the least of these is the question of "cooperation." This was the road to ruin a century ago. May God grant that it will not be so today. Let us, however, "face the facts."

We Have Surrendered The Ground Of Opposition To The Missionary Society

If J. B. Briney were alive today, or if there were a militant, logician of his caliber in Digressive ranks, he would force some of our brethren either to accept the missionary society or abandon such efforts as "The Herald of Truth" and the "Lubbock Plan" etc. In combining to function through the eldership of a single congregation, brethren have vitiated the century old plea for the complete adequacy of the local congregation and the opposition to the combining of such congregations to operate through a centralized board. They have but put the missionary society under the eldership of a single church.

Having agreed that churches functioning independently cannot fulfill the mission of the church of God and having accepted the principle of combining resources to act through a single agency or board, brethren have left only the abuses of the missionary society to which they can point. Actually, if brethren will but face the facts there are very few abuses to which they can point which are not duplicated in present brotherhood arrangements. Recently, I overheard Brother A. C. Pullias, president of David Lipscomb College, say to Brother G. C. Brewer, "They do not know what is wrong with the missionary society." I do not know of whom he spoke, but I should like very much for Brother Brewer, Brother Pullias, the brethren of "The Herald of Truth," the good preacher of the Broadway Church in Lubbock, Texas, or Brother Buchanan to tell us in one or all of the papers to which they have access just what is wrong with the missionary society. Do these men endorse the basic principles of the missionary society and oppose only its abuses? Such men as J. W. McGarvey, Moses E. Lard, A. Campbell, W. K. Pendleton, Robert Richardson, and others endorsed the principle of combining to act through a single agency. They repudiated the same abuses that many of our brethren today urge as the ground of their opposition to the society. In a previous article endorsed by A. Campbell, it was made crystal clear that the "cooperation meetings" of that day proposed none of the abuses that now seem to be the only objection some have to the missionary society, but rather denied that they did or ever could be characteristic of their "cooperation."

It is our contention that the abuses now characteristic of the missionary society are the legitimate and inevitable fruit of such "cooperation," hence the manifest absence of "cooperation" in the apostolic church. Brethren point to "coercion" and "pressure" exercised on local churches and preachers as an objection to the missionary society. Oppose one of our "cooperation" schemes today and you will find that there will be plenty of coercion and pressure. If you are sceptical, give it a try, or better still, look into what is going on in Abilene, Texas. There is hardly an abuse characteristic of the missionary society that does not find its counterpart in the "cooperation" schemes of our day, at least in principle. Too, remember Dick Smith and the German work. Since Brother Buchanan has taken in hand the matter of defending "The Herald of Truth," I am calling on him to write an article on, "What Is Wrong With the Missionary Society." Will he do it? We shall see.

Other Objections To Herald Of Truth

Duplication. It has been suggested that "The Herald of Truth" is broadcast principally in the areas already adequately covered by good gospel preaching via radio. Check the list of stations. Twenty-one stations are in the state of Texas. Seven stations are in the state of New York. One thousand churches and probably one hundred thousand Christians are in Texas plus at least one hundred other radio programs whereas in New York there are probably less than ten churches, probably three or four hundred members and twice the population. Two stations are in the whole of Canada, two in Idaho, two in Colorado, two in Minnesota. But, they tell us, we must have it after this fashion so that the brethren may hear the broadcast and keep us on the air. If this is true, may we repeat that it is costing too many thousands of dollars to preach to areas not adequately covered by radio.

Discourages local radio work. Literature from "The Herald of Truth" denies that they discourage local radio effort, but in the same breath tell you how much cheaper and better they can do it. Too, they ask for over $100 per month from at least 1,000 churches. The average church does not have much more than $100 per month, if that much, which it can spend for radio work. This being true, the practical effect of churches acceding to the wishes of Highland Church and "The Herald of Truth" is to make it impossible for them to do any radio work save that. Furthermore, it is seriously doubtful if a network program has the effectiveness, regardless of its merit, that a local program has in teaching people of any community the truth of God. Any gospel preacher of any experience will testify that a meeting in a local congregation with an average preacher will teach and convert more people than a great union affair with the very best obtainable. However, let it be repeated that the preaching on "The Herald of Truth" has not been superior. To the contrary, much of it has been disappointing.

Too costly considering results. One does not like to try to weigh souls in the balance with dollars. This is not the point. Relatively speaking, "The Herald of Truth" costs too much. At $10,000 per man for salary, residence, and rental of a meeting place etc., one hundred forty men could be put in destitute fields to work full time for the same amount the radio and television program would cost. In all probability, he could be put on a weekly radio program within that figure. Who believes that a 30-minute, weekly, network program could accomplish more good than these one hundred forty men working full time? The radio programs would have an appeal that no network program could have; the man and his family would be working personally in the area where the preaching is done; and there would be a concrete, tangible manifestation of the principles being preached in the local work being carried on.

Develops a voice of the church. "The Herald of Truth" is regarded generally by the world and by many of the brethren as the voice of the church. The churches of Christ are automatically committed to every position taken by "The Herald of Truth," for do they not say, " — supported by the churches of Christ." New Testament churches do not need a voice. If they are going to have one, they really should have a chance to say whom they want it to be. One wonders what would have happened during the first year of "The Herald of Truth" if Mr. Sheen of Roman Catholic fame had challenged "the voice of the churches of Christ" to a debate on the differences in Catholicism and New Testament Christianity. No reflection is intended, but a novice would hardly be expected to meet Mr. Sheen. But, be he young or old, strong or weak, a novice or an experienced preacher, the churches of Christ do not need a voice.

Its tendency chaotic. Whatever authority Highland Church possesses as a New Testament Church every other congregation possesses. Congregations are equal. If Highland Church has the authority to plan a work requiring the resources of 1,000 churches, then every other congregation has the same right. If this is the Lord's plan for the accomplishment of the world-wide mission with which he has charged the church, then it becomes the duty of each church to activate such a program. If it is not the duty of each church, then how are we to determine which church shall do so? Who is to be the judge? If it is the duty of some churches and not the duty of others, are all churches equal? Who shall be subordinate to whom? Behold the spectacle of all churches of Christ throughout the world planning programs of activity 200 times larger than their ability to support and circulating throughout. the brotherhood seeking help from one another to make their dreams come true! Is it illogical to conclude that the tendency of such as "The Herald of Truth" is chaotic? Every preacher can testify that already one can hardly keep a wastebasket large enough to hold all the pleas of men and churches with just such ambitions.

We Have Always Done It!

Some have suggested that many churches working through one church is not new, but that it has been done all along by some. This is quite true, and many who now oppose what is being done acquiesced in such arrangements. Some ignorantly did so while others felt that the particular efforts though in violation of a principle were comparatively harmless due to the fact that they involved sustaining only one evangelist in some destitute area. Had the matter gone on in this degree, it is likely that nothing ever would have been said against it. The missionary "cooperations" of 100 years ago began in this fashion and were comparatively harmless in that stage, hence evoked little opposition until they blossomed into D. S. Burnet's missionary society. So it has been in our day. Several churches too weak to sustain an evangelist alone going together to sustain one and sending him his support through one of the cooperating churches though it technically violated the principle of church equality was comparatively harmless and posed no threat to the church, but when it evolved into the evangelization of whole nations involving thousands of churches and millions of dollars, the picture was changed completely. Brethren who had tolerated the first as an emergency measure looking to the time when each church could sustain its own evangelist were unwilling to tolerate the second. There is a difference if one wants to see it, though even the first is a technical violation of the principle of the equality of churches. One drink of wine might not hurt an individual. In fact, under certain circumstances, such as those described by Paul, might be beneficial. A whole bottle would make him drunk and cause him to sin against God. This may not be the best illustration, but may help to emphasize the point.


These and preceding lines have been written as kindly as this writer knows how to write. It has been my purpose to deal forthrightly with things as they are. No unkind feelings toward any man have prompted aught that has been said. May God forgive me if I am wrong about these matters and enable me to see the truth, but it is my unwavering conviction that I have written only the truth. I am firmly convinced that, if the "cooperative" efforts of our days are scriptural, we need to back up 100 years and begin to apologize to our brethren who, we supposed, "digressed." It may yet turn out (as a popular editor put it) that many will become "Johnny-come-latelys" in their century late endorsement of the missionary society. It seems to this writer that the question we need most to study is: What Is Wrong with the Missionary Society?"