Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 22, 1960
NUMBER 33, PAGE 2,11a

The Church Treasury - (I)

N. W. Allphin, Tahoka, Texas

Much has been said in recent years about the church treasury, and for what purposes the funds therein may be spent. Now I would like to submit some observations on the subject — things learned through years of New Testament study; also on some things noted among the regular practices in various churches.

Among results of my reflections upon the Sacred Writings I find that less is said therein about a church treasury than any other subject, with the possible exception of hereditary total depravity and fellowship dinners. Most of us know that consideration of a subject not found in Holy Writ always produces more questions than it answers. So, it is possible that this effort may not produce all the right answers — for all readers. I do not wish to create more confusion over "untaught questions," yet I am sure this question deserves more study. But here I must state that there are some things, though not mentioned in the Bible, which may be proven by a necessary inference, and the use of a church treasury can be one of them. Now, if I can cause a few to do a bit of deeper thinking on the things I shall say, maybe some good will have been accomplished.

First, take the word church. What is it? It is the "called out," called by the gospel, baptized believers, saved persons of this dispensation. The word is used in two senses or with two meanings: 1) the saved in the aggregate; in this sense about twelve times; 2) signifying a local congregation, in which it appears about ninety-six times. In the present discussion it must be used in the latter sense, because there is not a possibility of the "church universal" having a treasury. Incidentally, it should be noted that a "unit" of the church in the aggregate is NOT a local church; rather, it is an individual member anywhere. Some, I think, are confused on this point.

The local church is an autonomous organism having bishops and deacons to order, direct and carry out all essential congregational functions, acting, of course, under the authority of Christ, the head. Thus far, I believe, this is a scriptural definition of a local church, and one upon which there will be general agreement. But, on the question as to what are proper and essential functions of a local body, acting as a "unit," there may be — in fact, there has been — very noticeable disagreement. I want to discuss this latter question as fully as space will permit. But first a few words more about the treasury.

I have indicated that the phrase, church treasury, is not in the New Testament; yet as indicated above, that does not rule out the idea nor the fact that the early churches maintained a common church fund, whether called a treasury or not. Even if not stated, it must be assumed that each congregation then, as now, had various expenses to meet; and besides this, they sent money and other support to Paul and other evangelists. The treasury is the finance department into which goes regularly the individual contributions constituting a common church fund to be distributed by the officers as ordinary and specific needs arise. There is, therefore, nothing to be said against having a church treasury. The evil of it lies in the unscriptural items for which the money is expended.

Now to the subject of disbursements — what is and what is not essential spending of church funds. Here I submit that whatever is found to be an item for church action, a church obligation, whether it involves spending of money or the performance of other duties, such must be discharged by its constituted local authority, its officers, because that is the only way the entire membership can act. It is not like a democracy, and should make no majority rule decisions on either doctrines or expedients.

As disclosed by the record, activity in the following items is incumbent upon a church, every church — duties expressed or implied: To preach the gospel of Christ to the world, or as much of it as they are able to reach. This is the first and greatest obligation a church has. So it must arrange for the employment and support of evangelists to sound out the Word (not just to sound it in, as many churches are doing to-day). The responsibility of promoting gospel evangelism rests upon all members to the extent of their ability; and they may act both collectively and individually, i.e., support the work both through the church fund and by their direct contributions.

Another job for the church is to acquire — rent, buy or build — a place for public assembly, a meeting house. Assembling of the saints together for worship and to eat the Lord's memorial supper is required. For this and for mutual edification, it is an indispensable item. A permanent meeting place is essential for carrying on preaching, teaching, and edification services, to feed upon the milk (and solid food) of the Word that they may grow thereby, spiritually. It should be adequate in seating capacity and conveniences for all necessary uses. With a banquet hall? NOI That's far to the left, therefore, not RIGHT.

Then comes the payment of incidental expenses — utilities, insurance, needful church supplies, et cetera. It is also a duty of a church to provide material assistance to certain ones of the aged within its membership who have no relatives who are able to supply their needs. This service, I believe, may include indigent members, incapacitated for earning, with no children or others to help them. However, service to this latter class is primarily a benevolent work for individual Christians.

Another duty of a church is to deal with persistently unruly and sinful members whose un-Christian conduct is publicly known, which brings reproach upon the name of the Lord and upon the church. The scriptures tell how to proceed in this matter; yet many "elders" seem not to have learned it or are unwilling to do it. If one will not repent, fellowship should be withdrawn from him. Then, if later he confesses his sins and repents, the church should restore fellowship to him. We read every week where meetings close with a certain number being "restored." For the most part these are persons whose trespasses are known only to themselves and God. Such persons are not restored to nor by the church. Their act was voluntary. A church cannot forgive their sin, unless it was sin against the church. It cannot restore fellowship. Why? Just this: You can no more restore what has not been taken away than you can return from where you have not been!

For many years it has been a custom for the "invitation" (at close of a sermon) to include an appeal to errant members. It is well always to exhort such to attend Lord's day meetings regularly for worship, and to return to active duty otherwise. But why have them come up and publicly acknowledge their wrongs? They are not required, of course, as are Roman Catholics, to name their sins categorically; but apart from that, the procedure gets pretty close to Catholic "auricular confessional." As stated, the church can not forgive sin. A sin against a fellowman can be forgiven by that man if one repents and asks for it. But in any case of trespass one must repent and confess to God, and ask his forgiveness; and he does not have to wait until he goes to a church meeting to do it.

I fear, in many cases, these persons were not fully converted to Christ in the first place; that their "response" and public confession are results of false teaching. One may ask, doesn't the Bible say, confess your sins one to another and pray one for another? It surely does; but James is not talking about confessing to a church, but rather of members severally, one to another. His letter is not even addressed to a church in the sense in which we are using it.

Now, the question of spending from the church treasury. Since a couple of dozen years back, when most churches began setting up a budget, it is certain that most of them have been spending church funds for some things for which they have no New Testament authority. Among the items being supported out of church treasuries are: Hire of education directors, solicitors for inter-congregational projects, e.g., Herald of Truth radio and TV shows, Gospel Press Inc., Christian colleges, chartered institutions for orphans and aged persons, and other corporations that are individual enterprises or personal ventures, and so on, which are called "non-profit' organizations (many of which may well be called non-profitable — except for the operators). Next are youth camps, banquets, fellowship dinners, food and drinks for young folks' parties, games of questionable sorts, ball playing equipment, etc.

(Continued in next issue.)