More On Post-War Plans
The following excellent article from Brother Johnson expresses well the reaction of many preachers and churches to some of the plans and schemes that are being born in these restless times. Brother Johnson lives in the west. He is a native of New Mexico and is "the competent preacher" of the church in Roswell, New Mexico. I do not know just how well qualified the elders of that church are, but I take it that they compare favorably with those of churches that are volunteering to "sponsor" plans for other churches to adopt. Allen Johnson is a well-read, thoughtful man of wide experience. He knows enough about the history of his native state to write a text-book on it. He is a graduate of Abilene Christian College and a veteran of World War I. He speaks the Mexican language fluently and has done a lot of work among Mexicans in his state. You may note also that he thought Brother Goodpasture wrote that "news item" which appeared on the editorial page of the Gospel Advocate. I think nearly everybody else did, until the editor rather irritably told us otherwise. The editor should be more "careful." An editor with a thin skin is doomed beforehand to unnecessary suffering. You will enjoy Brother Johnson's article. We hope to have him in our columns often.
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Mission Work And Service Committees
Allen E. Johnson
Quite a bit has been said recently by Brother G. C. Brewer and others about "missionary" work in the postwar world. The idea that I gather is that some brethren at Lubbock, Abilene, and the West Coast are contemplating the evangelization of Europe after the war. Europe being a part of "all nations," it is perfectly proper to preach the gospel there under the Great Commission. This "plan" that Brother Brewer talks about may create an interest in a world-wide spreading of the gospel in its purity: if so, then it will be fine, but the general tenor of the language used and some of the "dust" stirred up over it, rather gets in my eyes. Quite a few brethren have always been over eager to fall for fanciful and visionary schemes. On the face of it, it seems to me that it will lull churches into thinking that nothing very important can be done now, so just "mark time" till the time comes to put the "plan" into motion. Just before his ascension, the Lord told his apostles that they should be his "witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea, Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth." The gospel was to spread in ever-widening circles till it reached the fartherest corners of the earth. Applying this principle here given by the Lord, we should cover the United States with the gospel, then the regions near by, then on to regions remote. Our next door neighbor to the South, Mexico, with its millions of souls, has been wide open for several years, but how many churches and brethren have worked themselves up to the point of creating "sinking funds" and training "missionaries" to evangelize that country? A few, yes, but very few in comparison to the many who have not. Brother Brewer said that some churches could even offer language training to those preparing to go. In the West and Southwest there are many who already speak Spanish, yet how many go?
But that is not all. Still farther to the South lie Central and South America with their millions who have never heard the truth. Why hasn't someone enthused himself over these people who are our neighbors; our "Judea and Samaria"? For several years our own government has been emphasizing the "good neighbor" policy toward these peoples. What could evince a more neighborly policy than to send them the gospel in its purity? Here is something to do here and now! My friend John Wolfe and his co-laborers have labored for years on a "shoe string" to get the gospel into Mexico, yet how many have worked up "plans" to help them adequately? Maybe it is because "the landscape holds no charm and distance lends no enchantment" down Mexico way.
But why all this talk about "missionaries"? Who is a "missionary" anyway? We read in the New Testament about "apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers," but no mention is made of "missionaries." But some will say with a snort, that, "a missionary is a person on a mission for Christ." Maybe that's why so many "missionaries" have "gone haywire" on foreign fields; they were "missionaries" instead of evangelists.
But the really surprising thing to me is that "the demand for more to be written on this subject has been great, and the writer has received calls to come to various places and speak upon the subject and fully set forth the plan." What kind of preaching have these brethren who wrote Brother Brewer been listening to all these years? Haven't the preachers they heard ever preached on the Great Commission? It seems to me that it reveals a very serious defect in somebody's preaching. Brother, the "plan" is fully set forth in the Great Commission given by our Lord and recorded in Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8.
Recognizing this, Brother Brewer in his article in the Gospel Advocate of July 8, 1943, "More About the After-the-War Missionary Program And Other Postwar Problems," says, "The plan is for each church to act independently in the matter. Each one will save money according to its ability and according to the interest that may be elicited among the members by the elders, deacons, teachers, or any other person who may have influence with the members." Then why try to make this "plan" appear to be some new "get up"? Any member who reads his New Testament already knows the plan as given therein. The principle of the autonomy of each New Testament congregation is too well understood by all who are interested in this question to require a repetition of it here.
But Brother Brewer seems surprised that brethren keep writing to him about it since, "it was never the purpose of the Lubbock church to act as agent for any body, and we do not want money sent to us. No such thing was intimated in our former article, but inquiries have been received." It seems to me that if Brother Brewer will reread his "former article" that he can see where some of the brethren got the idea. He says in his "former article" (Firm 'Foundation of Feb. 16, 1943, page 2) under heading, "Lubbock Church Sponsors This Plan:" "The elders of the Broadway church at Lubbock have considered this work for some weeks and have decided to accept the suggestion of the brethren and stand responsible for the work that is here outlined." (Emphasis mine, A. E. J.) Is the Broadway church at Lubbock the only one responsible for the Great Commission being carried out? For after all, that is the only "plan" advanced by Brother Brewer.
Now the churches all over the country have for the past several years been the victims of all kinds of "cooperative" efforts to spread the gospel in various places. Some church or preacher finds a place where there is no church and immediately sits down, plans a "campaign to visit the churches" in a certain section or sections to raise funds for the project. It strikes at the very heart of congregational independence in that it brings pressure from the outside to bear on the churches to do a given work, instead of letting the pressure come from the inside and move outward, as the Lord indicated it should. The program of churches is constantly being upset by some well-meaning brother who has a "plan" for doing "mission work." If it be thought that the elders ought not to let so many "beggars" "fleece the flock," then consider this; that it is often some friend or preacher well known to them and they "feel" they can't turn him down. It is time that all of us began giving more time, thought, and teaching to "God's plan" of preaching the gospel in the light of the teaching of the New Testament on congregational autonomy. It reveals a serious weakness in somebody's preaching and teaching when all of the "plans" and "sponsorings" are circulated freely in the press of the brotherhood.
Passing from post-war "plans" to the "Service Committee For Conscientious Objectors," it reveals the same general tendency to get away from the teaching of the New Testament on the autonomy of each church, a dissatisfaction with God's way, and to set up unscriptural organizations for doing benevolent work. Why preach against the "United Christian Missionary Society" of the Christian Church and say that the church is the only "missionary society needed" to carry the gospel to the lost, and then turn right around and organize an unscriptural "committee" for doing benevolent work, even granting that it is the "duty" of the churches to do such work? The tribe is increasing alarmingly fast among us that is dissatisfied with God's way of doing things. It is the same old sectarian idea of improving on God's plan that we have fought for over a hundred years. If allowed to pursue its course, it will lead to the organization of a committee one of these days that will not choose to disband, since it exists by its own authority. It is human wisdom and condemned by the New Testament.
J. M. McCaleb, T. H. Bumstead, R. N. Squire, Wade Ruby, Boyd Field, and James L. Lovell "have dedicated themselves as servants to assist in this work and see that it is handled in a business like manner." (Emphasis mine, A. E. J.) It is time that they and all others should "see" that it is not their business to meddle in the affairs of the churches in a "businesslike manner" or in any other manner. In this case a "businesslike manner" is not the New Testament manner. "We purpose to keep the church informed concerning how many of our brethren are in camps." "We" the "Committee For Conscientious Objectors" propose to "keep the churches informed." It is high time that the churches of the New Testament order "inform" this "Committee" to disband and that each church will formulate its own program of work and spend its own money in its own way to carry it out. "Wherever people have learned of our plans (Emphasis mine, A. E. J.) responses have been enthusiastic and generous." Whose plans? Not the plans of the churches, but "our plans:" the plans made by an unscriptural committee existing by no higher authority than the men who organized it and compose it; founded on purely human wisdom and reasoning, and in defiance of every New Testament principle governing the churches of Christ in such matters. But we are told that "when this particular work is completed, this committee will be disbanded." What assurance have we of that? Why, the assurance of one of those interested in forming the committee! That indicates to me that Brother Goodpasture was a little uneasy as to how those who know their New Testaments would take the matter.
When men get the consent of their own minds to set up machinery for doing church work not authorized by the New Testament, what assurance has any one that they will not go on to more extreme lengths and form all sorts of "committees" for doing the Lord's work?
It reminds me of a salesman selling razor blades who said in his sales talk that the president of the company himself recommended them! Another fear in the mind of Brother Goodpasture is expressed thus: "It has not been formed to advance any teaching (Emphasis mine, A.E.J.) for or against war, but simply to care for our brethren regardless of where they might be and to protect the good name of the church in which we place our hope." We read of a man back in Old Testament times by the name of Uzzah who had about the same sort of notion of the fitness of things divine. To organize a "committee" to "protect the good name of the church" reveals that he thinks the church needs "propping up" a little here and there. Another surprising thing in this statement is, "It has not been formed to advance any teaching for or against war." Now a thing that is neither "for nor against" smacks a whole lot like the digressive argument "for" instrumental music in worship. But just here another thing arises in the minds of many. Did these young men who were willing to accept food and shelter from the "Historic Peace Churches" have very much concern about the "good name of the church" to start, with? Are we to understand that every time a group of brethren get off on the wrong foot and do unscriptural things that a "Service Committee" is to be formed to "protect the good name of the church" and "wipe out the stigma" attaching to such a course? I trow not.
But Brother Goodpasture further says, "We know there are thousands who feel (Emphasis mine, A. E. J.) about this as we do, including boys in the service, parents of boys in the service, those on both extremes of the war question." Through the whole thing there has been too much of what somebody "feels" and not enough of sticking to God's word in the matter. But how do many boys in the service "feel" toward a group of young men who could not even accept non-combatant service? Maybe I haven't talked to as many boys in service and their parents as Brother Goodpasture has, but I've talked to many, and have failed to find one who is in sympathy with this group of young men in the service camps operated by the Historic Peace Churches.
Brethren, if churches of the New Testament pattern allow a gap to be let down and this proposition of raising and distributing funds for conscientious objectors, or for any other purpose, to be turned over to a "committee" to go unchallenged, and large numbers of brethren and churches enter into such a procedure, then the way is paved for any number of "committees" to be formed for doing any work of the church.
"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." Heb. 2:1.