Vol.II No.IX Pg.5
October 1965

When Is A Church "In Need"?

Robert F. Turner

Brethren who respect the authority of God's word realize that one church may send assistance to another church only when the receiving church is "in need". Even today's "brotherhood promoters" recognize this truth, and try to justify intercongregational funds on the grounds that the sponsoring church "needs" to preach the gospel to the world, etc.

In this sense, do not all churches "need" to preach to the world?. Should not each church spread the gospel according to its ability, and thus maintain congregational independence?

But since we freely acknowledge Bible authority to help a church "in need," we must have some means by which "need" is determined. What do we mean by "need"?

When is an individual "in need"?. Do we determine this on the basis of grandiose projects he proposes to do? Suppose I have enough to feed, clothe, house, and care for my family; and I make a contribution to the work of the Lord according to my ability. But I propose to enlarge my contribution to $5,000 per week. Does my proposal make me an object of charity??. Would you send me funds to attain this unrealistic goal, thinking you were giving me "alms" -- filling my "need"?

You might offer to share my expenses in a mental hospital; but you would surely tell me to make contributions according to my ability, and let others, including yourself, do likewise. You would only consider me "in need", an object of "alms", when I lacked (wanted) the necessities of life. "In want" (a state, or condition) is just this -- to lack those things necessary for self-maintenance. The obligations (in a very real sense, the "assigned work") of both the individual and the local church may be divided into two classes: that which is necessary for self-maintenance (including peculiar responsibilities, as that of a man for his family, or a church's obligation to provide the essentials for worship, self-edification, and material assistance to her own members) and world obligations (the man's obligations to his community, etc.; and the church's obligations to preach to the world or assist needy churches).

The individual is not "in need" (a subject of "alms") because he would like to contribute to some good work. He should make such contributions according to his ability -- and will be judged accordingly. Likewise, a local church is not "in need" because of a desire to meet some world obligation. A church is "in need" only when it lacks the means of self-maintenance. It thus becomes dependent (with reference to support) and may receive alms from other churches.

Those who use 2CO.8: and like passages as authority for intercongregational funds, pooled under the oversight of a "sponsoring" church, and used to meet world obligations, grossly pervert the scriptures. It is by such perversions that "brotherhood" projects, with denominational organizational structures, are being fostered upon brethren; and we are castigated as "anti-cooperation". Now think!