Vol.III No.XII Pg.6
January 1967

Sponsoring Church History

Robert F. Turner

In 1953 the historian, Earl Irvin West, reproduced material from the 1910 Gospel Advocate that charges the current "sponsoring church" arrangement is a repeat of past errors, and the object of responsible criticisms.


"4. David Lipscomb did object to supporting an evangelist in West Tennessee by the many churches sending their funds to the elders of the church at Henderson. J. C. McQuiddy, upon receiving G. Dallas Smith's written report of the meeting at the Advocate office, said that from this letter 'the impression was received that West Tennessee was to call the evangelist and that the contributing churches throughout West Tennessee were to send their contributions to the elders of the Henderson church to send to the evangelist, and that the church at Henderson had been asked to take the direction of the work and had consented to do so.'

Obviously J. C. McQuiddy understood that the method of cooperation was open to serious question. But did David Lipscomb so understand it? Lipscomb, quoting from Smith's report in the Gospel Guide, printed the following:

"After this we again took up the 'West Tennessee evangelist.' This was discussed by Brother A. G. Freed and others. It was finally agreed that the Henderson church should select and put in the field an evangelist to work in the destitute places in West Tennessee. This work is to begin June 1. We practically agreed to do what we can to interest the churches in West Tennessee to cooperate with the Henderson church in supporting the evangelist." On the basis of this report, David Lipscomb replied as follows: Now what was that but the organization of a society in the elders of this church? The church elders at Henderson constituted 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 this work. This very same course was pursued in Texas a number of years ago. The elders of the church 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.

All meetings of churches or officers of churches to combine more power than a single church possesses is wrong. God's power is in God's churches. He is with them to bless and strengthen their work when they are faithful to Him. A Christian, one or more, may visit a church with or without an invitation and seek to stir them up to a faithful discharge of other duties. But for one or more to direct what and how all the churches shall work, or to take charge of their men and money and use it, is to assume the authority God has given to each church. Each one needs the work of distributing and using its funds, as well as in giving them.

(Gospel Advocate, March 24, 1910, page 364.)