Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 2, 1968

"Box In The Vestibule"


As readers of this journal know, we have for many years felt that much of the present tension and confusion over support of orphanages, colleges, and other social projects could be minimized or eliminated if some way could be found by which such support might be put on an individual basis rather than a congregational basis. Many years ago we carried a front-page article by Brother L. B. Clayton who was at that time an elder in the Tenth and Francis congregation in Oklahoma City suggesting this very solution.

But how to implement the idea? Here we ran into difficulty. This editor suggested the feasibility of a "box in the vestibule" into which interested contributors might drop their contributions in support of the various projects, whether schools, hospitals, orphanages, or other. We believe then, and still believe, that when men of good will are determined to find some way by which they can live and work and worship as a united congregation some such plan might be workable. We did not envisage this as a permanent plan or arrangement, but only as a temporary agreement to avoid division while sincere brethren studied and prayed together until they came to an understanding of Bible teaching.

We did not contemplate this as a "second contribution" of the congregation (such as might be implied in a second passing of the collection plates), but, on the contrary, thought this plan would emphasize that the "box-in-the-vestibule" was NOT a contribution of the congregation, and that the box Would be a constant reminder that such monies as it received were contributions of individuals, and not of the church.

The Gospel Guardian has sought always to "print both sides" of controversial questions, and we are happy to do that with this idea. We give below the reaction of Brother Aude McKee preacher for the faithful congregation in Murray, Ky. to our proposal. His article is well written and thought provoking. But we believe he missed the point of our suggestion in that he seems to see the "box-in-the-vestibule" as a permanent and abiding fixture, whereas we had regarded it as a temporary thing, useful only in avoiding division while the issue is being studied and resolved in the light of Bible teaching. Note, also, that Brother McKee's objections to the box are on grounds of judgment and practicability rather than on grounds of Scripture. He thinks it ill advised and unwise — but apparently not unscriptural. Well, we certainly do agree that it could be (but not necessarily so) an awkward and undesirable thing — but we still would prefer it to division!

Here Is Brother McKee's Thoughtful Criticism:

The title for this article may be familiar to you. On the other hand, you may have never heard it. A "vestibule" is, of course, the entrance or foyer of a church building and some congregations have been known to place a box out there for people to put money in. Usually the box gets out there because there is a disagreement over what the Lord's Day contribution can be used for. One group in the local church believes that it is wrong for the church to turn its money over to a human institution and that organization decide for what the money is to be spent. Another group in the church contends that the human organization must be supported. So in order to maintain peace in the church, a box is placed in the vestibule and all who want to send to the orphan's home (or whatever institution may be under consideration) may do so, and those who believe that there is no authority for the elders allowing another institution to decide how the Lord's money is to be spent do not have their conscience trampled on.

This is not being written in criticism of those who have followed such a practice but we do believe that at least three points can be profitably examined:

1. If the concern of those who want money to go to the orphans' home is simply money going to the home, then why doesn't every concerned person simply put his or her money in an envelope, attach a six cent stamp, and drop it in the post office? In other words, put your money in an envelope instead of a box in the vestibule.

2. If human institutions continue to multiply in the future as they have over the past ten years, will the vestibules of some of the church buildings be large enough to hold the boxes? There would have to be a different box for each of the orphan's homes, a different box for each of the colleges, widow's homes, hospitals, old folks' homes, unwed mother's homes, mental institutions, hobby shops, "Christian" youth centers, etc., otherwise who would decide what money goes where?

3. When the box (or boxes) get in the vestibule what happens to the individual's obedience to I Cor. 16:1-2? Each Christian must "lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him." Putting money in a box in the vestibule (or in an envelope) is not complying with the teaching of I Cor. 16: 1-2! We readily agree that it would be impossible for the individual to give according to his prosperity and also put money in the box, but many times unusual things occur. A congregation has been having a contribution of $300 per week and then, for the sake of peace and harmony, a box is put in the vestibule. The next Sunday $200 is put in the box and the contribution drops to $125. In a case like this it wouldn't take a PhD to see that some people have put the institution above the church and in doing so they have disobeyed a divine command!

— F. Y. T.