Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 22, 1956


W. E. Bingham, Benton, Illinois

In the southern part of Illinois where I have been working for the past four years the cause of Christ is weak, having been swept away by the digression of years past. The Christian Church, on the other hand, is strong and in many instances our bitterest enemy.

Several of the Christian Churches in this vicinity are much more conservative than the average. They do not support the United Christian Missionary Society, but have their own small organization called the Coal Belt Evangelistic Association. This association (as I understand it) is supported by twelve or thirteen congregations, has its own officers, and selects, sends out, and supports the evangelist.

I recently attended the Woods-Porter Debate in Indianapolis and also the Freed-Hardeman College Lectureship (where, incidentally, I gently tossed "my hat in the ring" during the open forum and immediately got "Sommerite" stamped on it — by the brother who knows of nothing which he has in common with Sommer! Inasmuch though, as this was done in a very nice spirit, for the highest of good reasons, and seems to be the strongest way to answer arguments nowadays, I would not want to unduly critical about that — I have even been called a "Campbellite" by sectarians!) now the puzzling thing is: At both of these gatherings, though I tried to listen closely, I failed to hear a single, sound argument (by the brethren who defend "our" brotherhood projects) Which would condemn the aforementioned evangelistic association.

The missionary society was condemned by them primarily on the ground that it is a "BIG, POWERFUL MACHINE exercising control over and in competition with the churches." This is no more true of the Coal Belt Evangelistic Association than of organizations among us which some of our brethren defend — neither was it, of various societies as originally formed in 1849 and following! Were they wrong then? Or, did it take the finished product (U.C.M.S.) to make them wrong?

Another argument (?) — attempt to distinguish between the U.C.M.S. and "our" orphanages, etc. — was that the missionary society branches out into various works. It directs various mission works, orphan homes, church building programs, etc. This, again, will not answer my problem, as it does not fit the case at hand. Incidentally, seems that I read somewhere that the Christian Church had different societies for these various works until they were united in about 1920! Wonder if I'm right on that, and if that was when it became wrong!?? In this connection, I remember also the question being asked — and not clearly answered — "Could one of the presently existing boards of directors set up and oversee another home?" Could this happen? Who has the power to keep it from happening? What would be wrong with it that is not wrong with the present set-up if it did happen? "It is not the size of the thing that makes it wrong," you know.

Maybe it would even be a profitable thing if all of the boards of the various homes merged into one. There would be some definite advantages — e.g., if one received an abundance of shoe laces and another lacked, the one's "abundance" might be sent to supply the others "want" that there might be "equality." (But then, I hear that some brethren do not believe 2 Corinthians 8 teaches any such principle as that; and we don't want to get this thing unscriptural!) There would be other advantages I am sure. Besides, we would be catching up with the "progress" of our digressive brethren along this particular line.

Finally, I do remember one brother saying, "The church is its own missionary society, but it is not its own orphan home." That sounded a little mixed up somewhere the first time I heard it, and the more I think on it the more sure I become that it is a failure to see, or a cunning dodge of the present issues in the church. There is a smooth "shifting of gears" from organization and authority to systematic arrangement and incidentals. By what line of reasoning is the church its own "missionary society" and not its own "benevolent society"? Just as it, then, is "not its own orphan's home," it is also not its own meeting house, seats, lights, and arrangements for preacher, song director, time for meeting, etc. There is the parallel and where the argument breaks down. There is no more room for another organization through which to do the caring for the needy than there is for one through which to preach the gospel.

I cannot, therefore, use this argument without being consistent and condemning some of the present practices among us. Will someone please help me in this matter? Should I approve the Coal Belt Evangelistic Association and agree with the digressives that the "only difference is the instrumental music"; or, should I condemn their association and "our" brotherhood projects; or, is there a difference?

Meanwhile, (while waiting for some better way) I think I shall continue to advocate that the church of our Lord is all-sufficient in organization for the work which the Lord expects her to perform, and that the creation of new bodies with resident power and authority, through which for congregations to do their work, be it evangelistic, benevolent, or otherwise, is a denial of that sacred principle.