Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 28, 1955
NUMBER 12, PAGE 4-5,11b

Scriptural Church Cooperation

Marshall E. Patton, Birmingham, Alabama

(Editor's note: in this issue and the next we give in full a brief tract on the above subject written by Brother Patton. Although the tract has to do specifically with a local situation, we believe it sets forth vital truth on a question of general interest and importance. We commend it to your most careful study.)

The present controversy over church cooperation has reached such proportions as to demand the exercise of much wisdom in order to preserve peace among brethren. If there was ever a time for brethren to pray for wisdom (James 1:6), surely it is now. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (Psalm 133:1.) However, as desirable as peace is, it must not be sought at the awful price of compromising the truth. "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable..." (James 3:7.) A failure to love truth above every other influence in the world means deception now and, ultimately, damnation to the soul. (II Thess. 2:10-12.) Hence, the ONLY peace for which Christians may hope must be based upon the authority of Christ. However, in an effort to attain this end one must be EXCEEDINGLY CAREFUL to distinguish between tactics which make for prejudice and becloud the issue and those which clarify and deal candidly and honestly with the same. Otherwise, deception is almost, if not altogether, inevitable.


The breach among brethren in the present controversy has been somewhat widened of late by the tactics of some. Instead of meeting the opposition on the field of battle — discussing the issue in the light of the authority of Christ — some have scrupulously avoided such. Furthermore, they have persistently sought to becloud the issue; to imply that only those given to rascality would dare oppose the "brotherhood" projects for which they contend, and to blind brethren in general to the fact that there is a STRONG wave of opposition to that for which they contend by some of the most LEARNED men among us — men who have NEVER been radicals, hobbyists, extremists, etc., but calm, deliberate, and careful students of His word.

Denominational preachers have long since become known for their steam-roller tactics. Unable to meet scriptural arguments, and for prejudicial reasons, they often wage a campaign of calumny. In the controversy over the missionary society and instrumental music the same tactics were employed by digressives against the opposition. Note the following excerpts: (Emphasis mine — M.E.P.)

"In one word, Brother Lamar's theory as to the origin of the CHRISTIAN STANDARD is, that the whole enterprise was projected by the 'LEADING MINDS AMONG THE BROTHERHOOD' and that those 'LEADING MINDS' were 'WISER, SWEETER, BETTER' than the 'UNLOVELY AND EARTH-BORN SPIRIT' which dominated such papers as the AMERICAN CHRISTIAN REVIEW, LARD'S QUARTERLY, AND THE GOSPEL ADVOCATE, and inspired such men as Benjamin Franklin, Tolbert Fanning, Moses E. Lard, David Lipscomb, E. G. Sewell, and Philip S. Fall." (David Lipscomb, Gospel Advocate, Vol. 34, No. 24, June 16, 1892.)

"I have found a large class of men, professors, too, who WILL SIT FOR A YEAR RATHER THAN RISE UP CROOKED ... THEY DO NOTHING RIGHT LEST THEY SHOULD DO SOMETHING WRONG." (A. Campbell, "Cooperation," Millennial Harbinger, New Series, Vol. 2, No. 6, June 1838.)

W. E. Garrison said they were "LEGALISTS"; that they "DISHONORABLY REPRESENT THE BROTHERHOOD," and "REMIND HIM OF THE HYPOCRITICAL PHARISEES who persecuted the Saviour." (Gospel Advocate, "Brother Highbee's Article," Vol. 29, No. 18, May 4, 1887.)

"...those FEW who have been of late days PERSISTENTLY AND NOISILY DENOUNCING missionary associations, have by the UNSANCTIFIED BITTERNESS AND RUDENESS OF THEIR ATTACKS, given full evidence of the cause of their opposition — A LACK OF KNOWLEDGE, OF AN ENLIGHTENED PIETY AND A TRUE SPIRITUAL CULTURE. TO ATTEMPT TO TEACH SUCH MEN IS WELL-NIGH USELESS, AS IT IS ALMOST HOPELESS." (C. L. Loos, "Ohio Missionary. Meeting," Millennial Harbinger, Vol. 37, No. 6, June 1866.)


"...and let us not be disturbed, or distracted in our work, by OUTSIDE RAILERS, who seem to rejoice in nothing so much as their own success in PREVENTING THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL." (W. K. Pendleton, Millennial Harbinger, Vol. 38, No. 5, May 1867.)

"Apologists for the Society denounced in BITTER terms the opposers. It was CLAIMED that these opposers did NOT BELIEVE IN 'COOPERATION' or in 'MISSION WORK'." (Search For Ancient Order, Vol. 2, p. 71.)

To those who know the truth such tactics are a clear indication of inability to produce scriptural authority — a white flag of surrender! Remember, truth has nothing to fear. Like gold tried in fire it emerges from the crucible of controversy with a greater brilliancy — even more refined.

The Same Tactics

During the last seven or eight months the issue of "church cooperation" has been continually agitated in a local church bulletin by use of the SAME tactics. This bulletin has been given a rather wide distribution among members of many churches, especially in the Birmingham area. By virtue of their relation to this issue the greater number of preachers in the Birmingham area have been stigmatized in this bulletin as "radicals," "subjecting people to poison," "opponents of all congregational cooperation," "deceiving fine people," "instigators and daily agitators," "carrying on the wars of a few of the papers as they grind their personal axes under the cloak of crusading for soundness," "making false charges," etc.

All of this has been done without ONE EFFORT to quote ONE PASSAGE as proof of divine authority for the practice under question! The following documented excerpts will confirm the above and at the same time show the reader just who is doing the "agitating." (Emphasis mine — M.E.P.)

Concerning the "20th Century Christian": "a group of WELL-KNOWN and LEADING MEN among churches of Christ being regular writers. I think it will do the church good, and will be a good tonic to offset some of the RADICALISM and POISON to which some of our people are subjected." (Homewood Visitor, Vol. 2, No. 21, October 21, 1954.)

"Some preachers, elders, and congregations are spending their major time in CARRYING ON THE WARS OF A FEW OF THE PAPERS AS THEY GRIND THEIR PERSONAL AXES UNDER THE CLOAK OF CRUSADING FOR SOUNDNESS. But we at Homewood refuse to be SUCKED IN by this DECEPTION, but propose to hold a straight course in teaching sound doctrine and striving for the souls of men." (Ibid, Vol. 2, No. 20, Oct. 7, 1954.)

"THE OPPONENTS OF ALL CONGREGATIONAL COOPERATION will dance with glee. Their RADICAL applications of NT principles would DESTROY all such work. Soundness in NT doctrine has always had RADICALISM in the shadows. It brings nothing but shadows and trouble, and DECEIVES some fine people. Many will find their way out of this DECEPTION, in spite of the INSTIGATORS and DAILY AGITATORS." (Ibid, Vol. 2, No. 17, Aug. 19, 1954.)

"Because 2 or 3 are RADICAL, FACTIOUS, SLANDEROUS does not mean that all of the many others should be ruled out. 20th CC is desirable for home reading ...." (Ibid, Oct. 7, 1954.)

"'THE HERALD OF TRUTH' is the radio name of a gospel broadcast over about 300 radio stations of the ABC network and some independent stations, Sundays (locally, WSGN, Sundays, 8 a.m.), supported by churches of Christ. The Highland church, Abilene, Texas, exercises its NT autonomy in asking sister congregations to help it preach the gospel in this way, and other congregations exercise their autonomy by either helping or declining. Thus the autonomy of no congregation is violated; the congregations are bound together in no sort of an organization, actual or in appearance; and the great commission of Matt. 28:18-20, to 'teach all nations,' is furthered within the boundaries of scriptural permission. No amount of FALSE CHARGES can disprove these facts." (ibid, 2-24-55.)

"In spite of the constantly-repeated FALSE CHARGES against it, H of T is entirely within scriptural permission, ...." (Ibid, July 29, 1954.)

The striking similarity between the tactics revealed in the above quoted statements and that referred to in the former statements is obvious, indeed. This writer has never read one line from ANY preacher opposing "ALL congregational cooperation." Furthermore, he neither knows nor has ever heard of ANY preacher so teaching. Why this gross misrepresentation? Why CONTINUALLY PERSIST and LOUDLY ASSERT that "Herald of Truth" is within scriptural permission and quote not one scripture that permits it? Most people have learned that while thunder makes a lot of noise, it is the lightning that kills. It will take more than a lot of BLUSTER and BLOW to settle this issue with souls that are HONEST and who LOVE the truth.

The Issue

The issue of the present controversy over "Herald of Truth" is not, May churches cooperate? We all believe this. It is not, Should the gospel be preached to all the world? We are agreed here. It is not, May the gospel be preached by radio, television, or on a network program? We all believe that it may. The issue is this: IS THE CHURCH COOPERATION INVOLVED IN "HERALD OF TRUTH" SCRIPTURAL?

While there is unanimity among us on some types of church cooperation, there is a wide difference on one type in particular. Both brevity and simplicity demand that we pass over the points of agreement and deal only with the ONE POINT OF CONTROVERSY. Surely all will agree that the controversy over church cooperation involves the matter of ONE OR MORE CHURCHES SENDING MONEY TO ANOTHER CHURCH. Here we find our difference! Hence, it is in order to raise the question, Is there divine law governing SUCH cooperation? If so, What is it?

Church Cooperation A Matter Of Faith

A matter of faith is that on which God has made a revelation. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom. 10:17.) Where God's word speaks we may have faith. Where it is silent there can be no walking by faith. (Read II Cor. 5:70 God speaks or reveals His will to us in one or more of three ways: (1) By direct command, (2) by approved example, (3) by NECESSARY inference.

The only authority we have for observing the Lord's Supper upon the first day of the week is the approved example of Acts 20:7. A failure to so observe it is a failure to walk by faith. Concerning the type of church cooperation over which controversy prevails we have not only one example, but many. In all of these the pattern is the same. There is no exception! One example would suffice to establish it as a matter of faith (as much so as one example suffices to establish the time of observance of the Lord's Supper) but the fact that we have many, and a CONSISTENCY of pattern in all of these, adds emphasis to the fact that it is a matter of faith. Therefore, we ARE LIMITED to that which is revealed! We must follow the pattern! (Heb. 8:5.)

What Is The Pattern?

In ALL the New Testament examples of the type of church cooperation under study ONE PATTERN is followed without variation, namely — the church that received help did so BECAUSE OF INABILITY TO PERFORM DUTIES THAT WERE PECULIARLY HER OWN. By "peculiarly her own" I mean to which others were not equally related. Thus, receiving churches in the New Testament always lacked the means necessary to perform their OWN work. Their state was one of emergency. They were churches in distress! This much is revealed. Go beyond it and we violate the pattern; we no longer walk by faith.

Herald Of Truth Violates The Pattern

Churches sending to "Herald of Truth" send to the Fifth and Highland Avenue church in Abilene, Texas. Highland, then, is the receiving church. Yet, Highland does not receive BECAUSE OF INABILITY TO PERFORM DUTIES THAT ARE PECULIARLY HER OWN. Her state is not one of emergency. She is not a church in distress. In fact, the object for which the money is sent is BEYOND Highland, namely, the world — an object to which both Highland and every contributing church sustains an EQUAL relationship. THIS TYPE OF CHURCH COOPERATION IS WITHOUT DIVINE AUTHORITY! If any man knows ONE PASSAGE that authorizes it, let him produce it and the controversy will be over! Until this is done, we must conclude that all churches having fellowship in the "Herald of Truth" are in violation of God's REVEALED PATTERN on church cooperation. Make of it what you will, they go beyond what is revealed. They are not walking by faith! (Read II Cor. 5:7; Rom. 10:17; II John 9.)

(To be concluded next week.)