Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 24, 1957
NUMBER 37, PAGE 4-5a

Signs Of Progress


An editor has many things to discourage him. He is on the receiving end of lots of bad news — church divisions, strife and between brethren, apostasies, defections from the truth, and all those disheartening and discouraging reports that constantly cross an editorial desk.

But along with the bad news come also the good reports. And in recent months there has been evident a growing volume of "good news" that is truly uplifting. We have been particularly delighted to note the growing number of churches which are moving forward in a positive way to meet the threat of the "sponsoring church" hobbyists and promoters who had almost taken the day.

From every part of the nation now we are beginning to hear of churches which are doing their own work, spending their own funds, and carrying out their own programs of evangelism and benevolence without surrendering their resources into the hands of some "sponsoring" eldership somewhere. Of course, there have been a number of fine churches in the land who have always followed this course. But of late months their number is notably on the increase. This is all to the good. It was more than a year ago that we wrote:

"Certainly there are a few congregations among us (big, city churches for the most part) which have already so heavily committed themselves, and have gone so far in their 'social gospel' emphasis on gymnasiums, recreation halls, huge benevolent institutions, etc., that they cannot be expected to openly and forth-rightly reverse their projects. They will continue their promotions, pleading for brotherhood support for their projects. 'But when that support is not forthcoming, and when smaller churches begin increasingly to spend their own monies, thus compelling the big 'sponsoring churches' to dig down into their OWN pockets to finance their projects, we will see the institutional juggernaut grind to a slow halt. Their promotions will progressively tend to become smaller and smaller instead of bigger and bigger.

"If this happens, we may well look for a renewed emphasis on independent work on the part of thousands of congregations. 'Mission' work will take a real spurt forward. Instead of sending a few dollars each month to some 'sponsoring church,' thousands of elderships will begin to plan their own work, undertake their own projects, support men of their own choosing in fields of their own selection. This is certain to stimulate greater interest and more sacrificial giving on the part of the congregation; new congregations will be started; an increasing number of preachers will go into areas where there are no congregations and start such, being supported by two, three, or perhaps half a dozen of the small congregations among us. There will be a return to the spirit as well as the practice of those periods in religious history when the cause of Christ spread most rapidly over the earth." (Gospel Guardian, December 1, 1955.)

There are now unmistakable signs that the very thing we suggested in that editorial may be taking place.

The big "promoting churches" are still at their "promotions," to be sure; but they are not meeting with nearly so much success as formerly. They are finding it ever and ever more difficult to induce smaller congregations to surrender their funds to them. Highland Church in Abilene is a good example. When they started out with their "Herald of Truth" promotions they received fabulous sums of money from other congregations. One year they even asked for $1,450,000.00 for a single twelve-month period. But their current reports show that they are now receiving only about one-half the sums they were receiving two or three years ago — and only about one-fifth the amount they sought for their greatest promotional year. What has happened? Hundreds of churches have begun to plan and do their own work, and have ceased any contribution to such projects as Highland Church is promoting.

Just as a sample of what is happening, we have personally had some chance in recent months to know of the work and plans of congregations in far scattered parts of the nation. Here is a part of what we have learned:

Tenth And Francis, Oklahoma City

One of the truly great congregations of the nation is the fine body of Christians meeting at Tenth and Francis Streets in Oklahoma City. Their bulletin outlining the plans for this year shows them allocating funds to gospel preachers in Hawaii, Nigeria, Montana, and a wide assortment of "mission" spots both in our own nation and elsewhere. They have set aside $5,000.00 to help provide a meeting place for the little congregation in Hawaii, where Brother Ben Guillermo labors. Brother Guillermo receives his entire support from the Tenth and Francis congregation. Brother Wendell Broom in Nigeria is receiving all of his support likewise from Tenth and Francis. In addition to all the work being done in foreign lands, this congregation is supporting a number of gospel meetings in mission areas right here in our own nation (some of which, incidentally, will be conducted by this writer). Altogether they are appropriating about $30,000 for support of gospel preaching outside of Oklahoma City — not any of it going to a "sponsoring church" to spend for them, but all of it going directly to the fields where the need is. They have planned their OWN work, and are doing it!

Castleberry, Fort Worth

Brethren who are informed about such things tell us the Castleberry Church in Fort Worth is probably far and away the most "mission minded" congregation in that entire area. They are spending nearly $2,000 per month to support gospel preachers in areas outside Fort Worth, the most of it going to the New York, New Jersey field. They send no money to "sponsoring churches" to spend for them; but have planned their own projects, and are sending directly to the fields where the need is. In contrast to this aggressive, evangelistic congregation, the great Highland Church in Abilene, one of the biggest "promoters" of all with twice the membership of Castleberry, shows in a recent bulletin that they are spending about $400 per month to support gospel preachers outside of Abilene — approximately one-tenth as much per member as Castleberry.

Sixth Street, Port Arthur

Surely one of the most "mission minded" congregations anywhere is the fine church on Sixth Street in Port Arthur. One rarely ever sees a report from them, but within the last ten years they have probably spent more of their OWN money in mission work than ninety percent of the "sponsoring churches" among us. They have planned their own projects, selected their own men, and supported them themselves. One of the elders told us recently, "We have never sent a dollar to a 'sponsoring church' nor have we received a dollar as a 'sponsor' for anybody."

And what shall we more say? for time would fail to tell of Odessa, Texas, where two congregations are planning to send their preachers into Africa next summer (each church supporting its own man), of Birmingham, Alabama; Louisville, Kentucky; Akron, Ohio; Haynesville, Louisiana; San Bernardino, California; and a host of others, increasing in number every day, who are planning their OWN work, spending their OWN money, and fulfilling the mission and responsibility God has laid upon them.

Yes, an editor gets lots of bad news. But he gets some good news, too. And in spite of broken fellowship in some places, divided churches, and hatreds and bitterness on the part of some against their brethren who will not support the "promotions" — in spite of all these things, there is a clear, unmistakable trend in the right direction! Churches are planning their work, doing it themselves, and accepting their proper place in the great task of evangelizing the world.

F. Y. T.