Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 12, 1955
NUMBER 2, PAGE 10,11b

The Sponsoring Church Method

C.E.W. Dorris, Nashville, Tennessee

There are two methods used by brethren doing mission work, known as the direct and the indirect methods. The direct method is when churches send support directly to the worker in the field. The indirect method is where churches send support to the missionary through a church or society that has assumed the oversight of a particular work. It superintends and directs the activities of the work, receives and disburses money received from contributing churches. All parties admit that the direct method was instituted by the wisdom of God and practiced by New Testament churches. This is not true touching the indirect method.

This leads to the question; When and by whom, was the indirect method introduced among the disciples of Christ? October, 1849, a convention of churches met in Cincinnati, Ohio, during which time the American Christian Missionary Society was organized, and created the indirect method. That was the time when, and the place where, the indirect method was introduced among the disciples of Christ. Leaders in the new movement were rocked in sectarian cradles and brought up under sectarian influences, and brought sectarian ideas with them into the church of our Lord. These old ideas soon began to grow and develop — the brethren grew tired and dissatisfied with God's order, got hungry for the onions and garlic of Egypt, headed back toward sectarianism and Rome. Before this new order was invented by the wisdom of men, brethren professed to show a "thus saith the Lord" for every measure they adopted; but the introduction of the society, the indirect method, was a flagrant departure from the safe rule.

One reason given for organizing this new method of work was, the churches were not doing their duty in doing missionary work, and, therefore, the new method was necessary. But grant that they were not doing their duty. What then? Was it necessary to organize and put to work a new method unknown to the New Testament to do that which the churches had failed to do? Surely not. The thing the brethren ought to have done was to set about reforming the churches, in order that they might do the work the Lord required of them, instead of inventing something that contravened the word of God and that set His wisdom aside. The result of this new movement was strife and division among brethren and finally developed into two separate and distinct churches — the Christian Church and the church of Christ. Strife and division has been the fruit of the indirect method down through the years to the present day.

At the close of World War I, we had a good size crop of what was called the "One Man Missionary Society." That is, individuals appointed themselves to collect money from churches and forward it to some missionary. It seems that D. C. Janes had better success than any of the others. He succeeded in saving up $40,000.00 contributed by brethren for mission work to leave in his will to promote premillennialism. This method, like the society, brought strife and division among brethren.

At the close of World War II, we had a small crop of "sponsoring churches" superintending mission work, receiving and disbursing money from other churches. This method has grown and multiplied until now we have sponsoring churches located in many parts of the country. These sponsoring churches, like the two methods mentioned above, have created strife and division among brethren. What new thing we will have to cause strife and division among brethren at the close of World War III, we hear so much talk about, if, and when it comes, God knows; I don't. Strange indeed that good, intelligent brethren can't be satisfied with things as God gave them to us.

The first church of Christ among loyal brethren that dressed itself up looking like a "sponsoring church" so far as I know was the church at Henderson, Tennessee. January 13; 1910, eight brethren sent out a call for "every preacher, with the elders of the various congregations in West Tennessee, Southwest Kentucky, East Arkansas, and North Mississippi to meet at Henderson, Tennessee January 25-28, 1910." (Gospel Advocate, 1910, page 59.) The meeting was held at the appointed time. A brother who was at the meeting, wrote a report of the meeting and sent it to the Gospel Advocate for publication; but it was withdrawn before it was published. In it he stated that the Henderson church was to direct the work and take charge of the funds raised by the contributing churches. (Gospel Advocate, 1910, page 329.) The evangelist was also selected. Brother Lipscomb printed an extract from the correspondence and said:

"Now what was that but the organization of a society in the elders of this church? The church elders at Henderson constitute a board to collect and pay out the money and control the evangelist for the brethren of West Tennessee, and all the preachers are solicitors for the work. This very same course was pursued in Texas a number of years ago. The elders at Dallas were made the supervisors of the work, received the money, employed the preacher, directed and counseled him. For a number of years they employed C. M. Wilmeth. He then dropped out of the work and the Texas missionary society took the place. Other experiments along the same course have been made. All of them went into the society work." (Gospel Advocate, 1910, page 364.)

The Henderson church was not called a sponsoring church, but if she were to undertake such a work today, that is what she would be called. The brethren had the machinery set up, oiled and ready to go, but never pulled out from under the shed, for the reason Lipscomb shot its propeller off so it was never able to fly around.

Lipscomb killed at Henderson what is considered today a sponsoring church, and did it in the way he stabbed the missionary society. The argument that kills one will also kill the other, for the reason both operate largely in the same way. What churches need today probably more than anything else is another David Lipscomb in possession of a large gun and who is not afraid to shoot at evil when it begins showing its head.

The sponsoring church method is a human invention, invented by the wisdom of man and guided by the spirit of man to do the work God gave to each individual church. The implications are far reaching. First, it is implied that the individual churches as God gave them, were and are, incapable of doing the work God gave them to do. This in turn reflects upon the wisdom of God and puts man's wisdom above God's. Second, it is implied that the Bible itself is not an all-sufficient guide in religion. The school of thought that will tolerate the existence of a method of work unknown to the word of God, will, in time, cast reflections upon the inspiration and authority of the scriptures. It is a human invention whose logical end is toward apostasy. It robs the churches of their independence and takes control of their money, creating a power and authority God never granted to any one church, and therefore, contravenes the word of God, and produces division among the brethren. Brethren, come back home and we will kill the fatted calf.