Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 20, 1958

The Middle Of The Road That Goes To Rome

Dean Bullock, Sinton, Texas

From the standpoint of numbers, wealth and social distinction, disciples of Christ of the first century were insignificant "nobodies," but they were armed with the powerful weapon of truth, and brought it to bear to the "pulling down of strongholds." They preached the truth to the world in one generation and provided for their needy without recourse to super-organizational arrangements and centralized controlled projects characteristic of some programs among churches of Christ today; programs currently disrupting peace, harmony and unity among brethren.

Early disciples exercised faith in Jehovah, worked within the simple organizational framework of the church set forth in the New Testament; acknowledged Christ as head of the church; his word as authoritative, final and supreme; the congregation with bishops (elders) and deacons as the only form of church government revealed by the Spirit of heaven. (Phil. 1:1.)

Elders were in the congregation, ruled over its affairs in harmony with the will of Christ; their oversight was limited and restricted to the flock among them — to the congregation of which they were a part. (1 Pet. 5:2; Acts 14:23.) The elders of one church did not plan a program for other churches and beg other churches to send contributions to them; they did not become the receiving and disbursing agency for a "brotherhood" project, nor overseers and spenders of money for many congregations. However harmless this may seem to some, it extends oversight of elders beyond the limitation set by the authority of Christ; destroys the independence and equality of churches of Christ; tends to centralize power in one place under one set of bishops and the ultimate end of such practice is Romanism.

In New Testament days, when one church sent to another there was an abnormal local situation, an emergency. It sent relief to a church in need or distress, not funds to a wealthy congregation; it sent to alleviate a local situation, not to help a wealthy church do a "brotherhood" work; it sent to enable a needy congregation to relieve its distitute members. The theory that average churches of Christ do not have capable leaders and should send their money to some rich, "mother" church with expert leadership does not stem from the gospel of Christ.

If a few congregations can pool some of their funds and resources under the oversight of one set of elders for preaching or benevolence, all churches of Christ in the world can, by the same principle, pool all their funds and resources for their preaching and benevolence under the oversight and direction of one set of elders. What then do you have? Answer: universal bishops!

There is much more involved in current discussions before the church than many sincere brethren realize. Appeal to emotions by crying "hobbyism" and "antis" has confused and prejudiced some who otherwise would see clearly the real issues. A word of warning; if we entertain thoughts of being saved, we had better get our bearing, learn the truth and take a firm stand for the Lord. The future course of the "ship of Zion" is at stake.

David Lipscomb assumed an important place among the people claiming to restore New Testament Christianity in the half century that followed the Civil War. As editor of the Gospel Advocate, he exerted a strong influence against digression. The following words were written by him more than sixty years ago:

"I have never published, or approved without publication, the assumption of the elders of one church sending out a man to induce members of other churches to divert their means of their own church treasury, and to take it from the direction of their own elders, and place it under the direction of that one church. I have never approved concentrating the control of all the means and preachers of the state, under the authority of the elders of one church.

"All such concentration of power is destructive of the activity and the true liberties of the church. It tends to exalt the elders of one church and degrade and dishonor those of the others. Why is not the church in Murfreesboro or Chattanooga as competent to direct the means of its members and its preachers as are the elders of the Woodlawn Street church to do it for them?

"The whole movement is an effort to concentrate in a few hands the control of the activities and means of the churches. All such courses are subversive of God's order."