Vol.VI No.IX Pg.6
November 1969

1941 Co-Op Study

Robert F. Turner

In the late thirties and early forties the stage was being set for rapid expansion of the sponsoring church idea in this country. Terms, like cooperation and independent, were carelessly used, and the basic issues of organizational structure were seldom met. But in the CHRISTIAN LEADER, Apr. 15, 1941, bro. Jesse P. Sewell recognized a distinction in what we would call collective and or concurrent action. We will quote his words, with our comments, in this and next months issues of Plain Talk.


A fundamental doctrine of those people, standing for a restoration of the New Testament order in all things, is that the congregation, the local church formed after the New Testament order, is the only organization used by Him in giving His service to the world. The doctrine is, If I correctly understand it, that each local church is complete within itself as a unit of service, and as such is entirely independent of all other congregations, and under Christ it alone must determine its own procedure in all things. This has been a fundamental doctrine of the restoration movement with which we are identified since the days of Campbell and Stone. It is now.

I shall not at this time discuss the soundness of the position. For the purpose of this discussion I accept this position, as stated. Personally, I believe it is perfectly sound when applied to the worship of God and the performance of these great spiritual services provided by Christ for the world. I believe, however, it should forever remain an open question for full and free study and discussion on the part of any and all whose minds may not be fully satisfied with reference to it.

With this position accepted as our basis of discussion, I submit: 1. One or more congregations may cooperate with another congregation in any activity, either worship or service, in which a New Testament congregation may engage. 2. Two or more congregations may not cooperate together in planning, deciding or determining anything that will bind or control the conduct of the congregations involved. On the basis of our universally accepted position, this distinction is clear cut and fundamental.

Today many would accept the first proposition submitted, and with it as a basis, justify their area-wide work with planning boards, executive sessions, and all. They might argue that bro. Sewells second proposition only forbade forcing a church to do some work. But this was not Sewells point as next months quote will show.

Bro. Sewell accepted collective action of churches, so long as one church did all the planning. He did not distinguish between assisting a church in need (alms, 2 Cor. 8:) or, simply working toward the same end — a form of cooperation — and collective functioning of many churches via the media of a controlling (as respects the project) sponsoring church. Whether or not bro. Sewell saw the logical end of his reasoning, I can not say. (Continued next issue)