Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 10, 1955
NUMBER 27, PAGE 1,9b-10

Reviewing Brother Roy H. Lanier On Congregational Cooperation -- III.

Cecil B. Douthitt, Brownwood, Texas

The third in a series of articles on "Congregational Co-operation" by Brother Lanier appears in the Gospel Advocate of Sept. 29, 1955.

He and I do not agree on some points of church co-operation, but we are good friends, and we both have expressed a determination to keep it that way. We differ widely as to the conditions under which a church scripturally may send a donation to another church.

Statement Of The Issue

I believe that a church may send scripturally a donation to a sister church only when the receiving church is an object of charity. By "object of charity" I mean a church that is not financially able to do the work which is strictly its own; the work whose oversight it cannot shift righteously to the elders of any other church; the work to which it bears a relationship that no other church bears. And when churches send donations to another church that is not an object of charity, then God's law of exclusion is violated, both the contributing and receiving churches go beyond what is written, and they show a lack of respect for the authority of God's word.

As far as I have been able to determine, Brother Lanier believes that any church may set itself up as the sponsor of a good work, and then all the rest of the churches in the whole world may send every dime of their Lord's day contributions to that sponsoring church, if they want to do so. If this is not his position, then let him state clearly the conditions under which the churches cannot surrender the control of their resources to a sponsoring church, and why they cannot, and then I will change my statement of his theory.

I plainly have stated that this practice of a church's sending a contribution to another church should stop right where the receiving church ceases to be an object of charity; because there is not one passage of scripture that even remotely indicates that a church should contribute money to another church, except when the receiving church is an object of charity.

Now, if Brother Lanier thinks that is not the stopping place, let him state plainly where that stopping place is, if he thinks there is a stopping place. If he thinks there is no stopping place, then he believes that every church on earth may send every cent of its Lord's day contributions to the elders of some self-appointed sponsoring church to be managed by them. Brother Lather, where is the stopping place, and why is it there?

Meaning And Usage Of The Word "Co-Operation"

The term, "co-operation" is composed of two words: "co", meaning together; "operation", meaning a working. It means a working together of two or more units in the production of a common effect, or in the achievement of a common purpose. Brother Lanier gave correctly a part of Webster's definition of the term; but he gave a ridiculous interpretation of Webster's definition.

He interprets Webster's definition to mean that two things must be done before there can be any collective action or co-operation in the matter of several churches sending donations to the same church or person: (1) the contributing churches must bind themselves in some sort of federation which Lanier calls "cooperation"; (2) the donations must be surrendered to the oversight of some intermediary agency such as a sponsoring church. Many brethren have thought that a Don Carlos Janes should be that intermediary agency, others have opined that it should be a missionary society, but in Brother Lanier's opinion it should be a sponsoring church. I do not know why Brother Lanier thinks that his opinion is any safer than the others, since there is no more scripture for his opinion than for the opinion of the Don Carlos Janes and missionary society advocates; there is none for any of the three.

He contends that "there is no cooperation about it", when a church in Nashville, a church in Dallas and a church in Abilene send contributions directly to the support of a preacher in Africa. He repeats over and over that there is no collective or joint action in this pattern, and therefore no cooperation. He argues that these three churches first must bind themselves together in some sort of pact, and then the contributions for the preacher in Africa must be placed in the hands of a centralized controlling agency, or there can be no collectivism or cooperation.

If Brother Lanier is right in this miserable interpretation of Webster's definition of 'cooperation", then the "other churches" that sent wages to Paul (II Cor. 11:8) did not "cooperate" at all. Notice the following diagram:

As Brother Lanier sees it, these three churches did not cooperate at all, because in this "pattern" these churches did not surrender their contributions to the oversight of a Don Carlos Janes, or a missionary society, or a sponsoring church; they sent it directly to the preacher. This is the pattern that Lanier criticizes vigorously; he says that those who hold to this pattern do not believe in cooperation at all; therefore he is going to call them "anti-cooperation brethren" though he says he knows they do not like it. Isn't he making himself look ridiculous?

According to Brother Lanier's interpretation of Webster's definition of "cooperation," the churches must have a "pattern" like the following diagram:

A more miserable failure at concocting a "pattern of New Testament congregational co-operation" could not have been concocted, than Roy Lather concocted out of his interpretation of Webster's definition. Neither Webster nor the Bible makes any provision whatever for the sponsoring church intermediary controlling agency. That is just a figment of Brother Lanier's imagination.

Who Gave? Who Received?

After reading II Cor. 8 and 9, any man who can understand plain English should be able to see that the contributing churches were able to do their own work, and then had enough financial "power" left to send donations to churches in Judea that neither could do their own work nor help others financially.

But Brother Lather argues that it was not done that way at all. He contends that the contributing churches in Macedonia were just as poor and needy as the receiving churches in Judea. I sincerely wish that somebody could persuade Brother Lanier to dismount, and hitch his hobby horse to a post, just long enough to read II Cor. 8:3. Here is what Paul said about those churches in Macedonia that Brother Lanier says were just as poor and needy as the churches in Judea: "For according to their power, I bear witness, yea and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord".

Paul said the Macedonian churches had "power" to give. The churches in Judea had no "power" to donate money to other churches; they could not even feed their own poor. Can't Brother Lanier see that a church that has power to feed its own poor, and then still has "power" to contribute to others, is not as poor as a church that can do neither?

Brother Lather's ridiculous "pattern" would make God a respecter of persons. He says the Macedonian churches and the Judean churches were equally poor; the poverty of one was just as "deep" as the poverty of the other, as he sees it. And the Holy Spirit took the resources of the Macedonian churches and left them to starve, and gave those resources to the Judean churches to keep them from starving, according to Lanier.

Yes, the churches in Macedonia were poor, but they were not poor enough to be objects of charity. They could do their own work and still help others a little. The churches in Judea could do neither; they were objects of charity. I think Brother Lanier could see that, if he could keep his sponsoring church hobby horse still long enough to look straight at II Cor. 8:3.

Anti-Bible Brethren

One thing very noticeable in the articles of my sponsoring church brethren is the absence of Bible quotations in their articles. So far, Brother Lanier has written three long articles in the Gospel Advocate in defense of his sponsoring church hobby. He has not quoted one verse of scripture yet. He has given a few references, and then a puny effort at paraphrasing; but he has not quoted a verse.

Therefore, he and his colleagues have proved beyond reasonable doubt that they have earned the title, "anti-Bible brethren", and I aim to call him by that name from now on in this discussion, unless he tells me through the Advocate that the name is offensive to him, and requests me to stop calling him that. But how can he make such a request of me, while he refuses to stop calling us "anti-cooperation brethren", and while he makes the false claim that he has something by which he can "force" us to "accept" the title? He made that claim in his first article. But he has not forced anybody to "accept" it yet.

Why hasn't my anti-Bible brother quoted a verse of scripture somewhere in at least one of his three articles? Is there no room in the Advocate for a verse of scripture? He found room in the Advocate for a long direct quotation (seventeen lines in darker type) from a sectarian commentator, but no place for one verse of scripture. I shall have more to say later in this series about my anti-Bible brother's flattery of his sectarian commentator, and his criticism of Paul, but now I want to call your attention to.

A Glaring Contradiction

In his misinterpretation of Paul's use of the word "equality", my anti-Bible brother contradicts himself so glaringly that even a little child ought to be able to see it. Of course, he did not quote the verse in which Paul uses the word "equality" twice. He preferred to give the Advocate readers what a sectarian commentator said that Paul "probably" meant, rather than give them what Paul actually said. But I am not anti-Bible, therefore it does not embarrass me to give the Guardian readers this Bible quotation: "For I say not this that others may be eased and ye distressed; but by equality: your abundance being a supply at this present time for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want; that there may be equality: as it is written, He that gathered, much had nothing over; and he that gathered little had no lack" (II Cor. 8:13-15).

This use of the word "equality" in connection with such words as "want" and "lack" and "eased" and "distressed" makes it next to impossible for an earnest truth seeker to misunderstand Paul. Common sense alone ought to be sufficient to enable one to know that Paul uses the term "equality" in the sense of mutual freedom from want, and not in the sense that all churches must have the same amount of money.

But my anti-Bible brother vigorously denies that Paul uses the word "equality" in the sense of "freedom from want"; he says that Paul meant for the "giving churches to bring the receiving church up to exactly the same degree of financial strength which they possessed". And he says that if Paul did not mean that, he should not have used the word "equality". Lest some one who has not seen the Advocate think that I am misrepresenting my anti-Bible brother, I give here his exact words:

"If Paul did not mean for the giving churches to bring the receiving church up to exactly the same degree of financial strength which they possessed, he should not have used the word "equality".

Every man on earth who knows enough to be responsible for what he does, should be able to see that my anti-Bible brother's misinterpretation of Paul's use of the word "equality" would pin a form of socialism on all churches for all time to come. Every church with an abundance could find always a church unequal to it in financial strength. My anti-Bible brother's "pattern" would require a continual shifting of finances from one church to another in a fruitless effort to maintain financial equality.

Now, please notice how my anti-Bible brother contradicts himself as he continues his dissertation on Paul's use of the word "equality". These are his exact words:

"Paul's doctrine of equality certainly did not mean that churches with abundance should contribute to churches in want that all churches might maintain financial equality".

Therefore, these two quotations from my anti-Bible brother show that his "pattern" is not only out of joint with the scriptures; it is out of joint with itself; it is self-contradictory; and if he cannot see it, his case is pitiful.