Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 13, 1955

Have We Been Wrong All These Years?

Paul Foutz, Fort Worth, Texas

For as long as I can remember, gospel preachers and other members of the church of Christ have preached and taught that the word or term "church" is used in the New Testament in just two ways — Universal and Local. But we have always taken the position that the church is organized to do the work God has given it to do ONLY in the local sense. We have affirmed that there is NO organization above, beyond, or greater than the LOCAL congregation and there is no way the church can function in doing its work of evangelization or benevolence except as the local congregation assumes that which is its own responsibility, and thereby functions as an independent local congregation in discharging that responsibility. We have boldly affirmed for many years that no other organization has been provided by the Lord and hence, there is no way that the church can function (scripturally) in the UNIVERSAL sense. But, I am wondering if we have been wrong during all of this time in assuming that position? In some quarters that position and teaching has been surrendered and repudiated by some of the work being done and "brotherhood" projects being carried on.

Of this I am confident — if 1100 congregations can do a work of evangelization through one congregation and under the oversight and direction of one eldership, then 11,000 can do so — in fact ALL of the congregations of the church (said to be about 16,000) can do so. if not — why not? ? If 1100 congregations can contribute money into the treasury of one congregation and turn money over to one eldership to enable it to do a work of evangelization or benevolence to which ALL of the congregations (the contributing and receiving) are EQUALLY RELATED, then 11,000 or ALL of the congregations of the Lord's people can do so. If not — why not?? We must face it — if some of these projects that are being carried on as the "brotherhood" (or at least 1100 churches) works and functions through ONE congregation and ONE eldership are right and scriptural, then God HAS provided a way and a plan whereby the church UNIVERSAL, as a unit or whole — as a "brotherhood" — can work and function organically in doing anything and everything God wants done in matters of evangelization or benevolence.

If such projects are scriptural and being carried on in God's appointed way, what would be wrong with the elders at Castleberry assuming a work of evangelization thoroughly embracing Tarrant county, involving an expenditure of 1 or 2 million dollars and necessitating the financial support of every congregation in Tarrant county? Why could not such a complete work of county evangelization be carried on through the Castleberry congregation and under the oversight of our eldership? If you say, "We should not do so, for we do not have the means — the financial ability — to carry on such a program," then may I ask, "Why would such a work be any different from these other brotherhood projects such as the Herald of Truth which greatly exceed the financial power of one congregation?" If you say, "Such a work would be too large for one congregation — we could not look after such a program or keep in touch with the work," I reply, "Why could we not induce one, three or even five of our elders to devote full-time to such a project and spend all of their time looking after the work?" We could solicit enough support from other congregations in Tarrant county to fully support several of our elders in such a capacity. Why not secure the services of three, five or seven preachers rather than just one and get these other congregations in this area to just contribute a little more into our treasury to enable us to carry on our (?) work? No one could deny it would be a good work — a noble endeavor — with a holy purpose of preaching the gospel, reaching the lost and saving souls. WHY could not such a program of work be assumed? What would be wrong with it? Would it be scriptural or unscriptural? Why could not EVERY CONGREGATION in Tarrant county do its evangelistic work in this area through Castleberry and ONE eldership? Why could not EVERY congregation in the county contribute its money into the treasury at Castleberry to enable us to do such a work to which we are all equally related?

These thoughts and questions are written to get brethren to study these matters and think on these things. We must arrest the digression and check the apostasy that is today enveloping and threatening the church of our Lord. The attitudes, teaching and practices of some brethren in the church today are exactly like those that brought on the terrible apostasies in the 2nd and 3rd centuries as well as during the middle of the 19th century. The events of the past should serve as a grave warning to all of the Lord's faithful people today. Let us not pervert and corrupt the organization and government of the church. Let us not depart from the Divine standard and pattern as the church functions in doing everything in matters of benevolence and evangelization that God wants done.