Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 20, 1955
NUMBER 24, PAGE 12,15b

Some Things To Think About -- No. 2

C. E. W. Dorris, Nashville, Tennessee

We wish it to be distinctly understood that the writer not only believes in church cooperation, but that one should do so, He believes, and faithfully contends, that in such cooperation, churches and individuals should send their contributions directly to the missionaries in the field, a method that all parties agree is scriptural and union ground — ground that leads to peace, harmony, and good will among brethren. He also believes, and contends, that the present day sponsoring church method of cooperation, is a central money power, sowing discord among brethren, and therefore, anti-scriptural. He believes, and contends, that churches and individuals ought to practice the method that all parties agree is scriptural, and that all can work together in union and harmony. On this platform, he has stood in the past, stands on it now, and shall continue to stand on it and plead for union among brethren. Can any one object to this platform?

We again call attention to the fact that the Philippian church (Phil. 4:15, 16), doing mission work pure and simple, sent its contributions directly to Paul, the missionary in the field. Come, now beloved brethren, who want to see the ancient order of mission work restored, and let us have a united rally now for the New Testament doctrine of the entire supremacy and independence of the local churches.

In the divine system of local church independence, in which each church manages its own business, and is limited in its jurisdiction to its own membership, it is not possible to do mischief on a large scale. Usually whatever harm is done in such a case, is confined within the limits of the local church. But when elders of a church set themselves up as a central board of general managers of the work of other churches, in a territory, whether the territory be large or small, they assume a greater power than God ever granted to any set of elders, and they can use that power thus acquired for the accomplishment of evil on a large scale if they are so inclined to do so.

Any plan of church cooperation will meet with our approval that maintains intact the entire independence and autonomy of the local churches and leaves them in direct communication with the workers whom they support and in control of the work. It is only to some plan, such as the sponsoring church method of cooperation that contravenes direct communication and transfers to a central board of elders the management of the work of other churches that we demur. We respectfully decline to accept any method of work that would displace the divinely appointed board of elders and managers in cooperating churches and place the management of affairs in the hands of a central board self-appointed, such as the sponsoring church method.

We contend that there is a divinely appointed board of elders, overseers and managers in each local church which God himself places over the affairs of the church they serve, and that the sponsoring church arrangement interferes with God's order by transferring supervision and control to a central board of elders, a thing unknown in apostolic days. In the sponsoring church method, the churches hand over their money to the sponsoring church board, relinquishing thereby all claims themselves, and leaving it to be used exclusively as the central board directs; and the central board then selects and controls missionaries precisely as it pleases, and the churches can have no voice in, and nothing whatsoever to do with the matter. In such cases, the churches have surrendered the control of matters to the central board and can themselves have no control as to whom or what their money shall sustain. In fact, so for as missionary work is concerned the churches have surrendered all power to a central board and have no voice or control in anything, not even the power to recall a missionary for false teaching or bad conduct, or both. The central board alone has the power to do this and the churches are powerless to act.

Why turn form the divinely appointed way of a church with its board of supervisors and managers to a central board of supervisors and managers created by uninspired men? We simply plead for missionary work to be done now as it was done in New Testament times under the leadership of inspired men, when churches maintained their independence and preserved direct communication with the missionary in the field. Under this divine arrangement, when churches all worked in harmony, with none arrayed against them, the gospel spread all over the Roman empire during the first century of the Christian era; and, with unbounded faith and confidence in the wisdom of God as thus expressed, we are contending for the same thing today.

The workings of centralization of authority in religion constitute an important chapter to those who have read history to much profit. The principle first took decided form among the society brethren in the convention held in Cincinnati, October 24, 1849. The principle once established has never failed to produce its legitimate fruit, strife, contention, and division among brethren. The sponsoring church method of cooperation, with its centralized power located in its central board of elders, like its predecessor, the society board, has never failed to produce its legitimate fruit, strife, contention, and division among brethren. Here we see history repeating itself. Subtract from the sponsoring church all it has borrowed from the society, you have nothing left but a blank. Notwithstanding these facts, the sponsoring church brethren labor hard trying to throw the responsibility for the evil connected with it on the rest of us who are occupying the position both parties agree is scriptural and union ground. Brethren, be brave men and accept your own responsibility, thereby placing the blame for the evil where it belongs.

When our sponsoring church brethren admit that it is scriptural for individuals and churches to send their support direct to the preacher in the field, they thereby admit that God has spoken on the subject. When God says a thing one time, that settles its importance with all right thinking people. He has, perhaps, spoken on the subject of mission work more frequently than on the Lord's supper. We would be far from underestimating the importance of the latter or from lessening the interest of Christians in it, but we are simply trying to put the other duty in its proper light and to get our opposing brethren to see it in that light. We are confident that many of the churches do not yet see it in that light, and we are equally confident that they will never see it in the full light of its serious bearing and importance until they are brought in direct contact with the teaching of the New Testament on the subject. Hence, the plain, solemn and pressing duty of overseers of churches and preachers in putting before churches the New Testament method of mission work. But some of these will have to be let into the truth before they are prepared to do the teaching.