Vol.IX No.IX Pg.6
November 1972

Not Called A Society

Robert F. Turner

The American Christian Missionary Society was formed in 1849, and became a dividing wedge between brethren, and the pattern for an organic skeleton upon which the digressive element in the church built a full-fledged denominational body.

Missionary Society became almost a curse word among non-instrumental Church of Christ preachers; but the later generations have condemned the label, and outstanding abuses associated with it, with but a poor grasp of the principle error involved. The A.C.M.S., and what followed it, are but the fruit of a churchhood concept, that seeks ways and means for a plurality of churches to work as one.

In this quote we let A.W. Fortune, in his book The Disciples in Kentucky, 1932; tell us how the society idea developed in Kentucky. Remember, Fortune approved the society.

The general organization of the Disciples in Kentucky developed naturally as there was need. At first there was a simple cooperation in which all churches were invited to have fellowship to support Smith and Rogers as evangelists. Then the churches north of the Kentucky River formed an association to support these men in their evangelistic work. Then the churches south of the Kentucky River formed an association to promote the cause of evangelism in that territory, The churches of the four counties: Fayette, Woodford, Jessainine, and Scott, then agreed to cooperate in keeping four evangelists of the churches of other districts. Finally the churches of counties parts of counties were organized for evangelistic work, either in that territory or in more needy sections.

While the tendency was for the territorial unit for the cooperative of churches to become smaller, there was a growing feeling that there should be some organization in the state binding together all the churches. According to the Ecclesiastic Reformer the first Kentucky State meeting was held at Harrodsburg in May, 1840. Forty-seven counties and one hundred and thirty-three churches reported to this meeting. There were thirty-four evangelists in attendance.

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While there was much preaching during these ten days which resulted in forty additions to the Harrods Church, the purpose of the meet was to plan for united action in the work of the state. A committee of five persons was appointed to select two evangelists for the state with discretionary power to send them out. The committee reported their selection of John Rodgers and J. J. Moss. Steps were taken to secure the cooperation of the churches for the support of these men.

According to the report of the meeting it was brought to a tranquil, pleasing and successful issue. The churches that reported to meeting showed a strength of about 10,000 members, which was believed to be about one-third of the member of the state. Although this was not called a state missionary society, it virtually was that. (Pp. 205-207)