Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 15, 1970
NUMBER 23, PAGE 8,9b

Questions And Answers

Send All Questions To: Eugene Britnell, P.O. Box 3012, Little Rock, Arkansas 72203

From Bisbee, Arizona:

"Having recently read the debate between yourself and John Simpson concerning church support of orphan homes, I thank you for the effort and the enlightenment provided by you in exposing the error practiced by so many misguided brethren. Especially cogent in the debate where your explanations concerning the fact that the human institution displaces the church with respect to its responsibilities toward its needy.

"But for one who has just been converted to this conviction, I am impelled to admit that I lack as sound an understanding of this New Testament principle as I need. Having worshipped with a church who supports orphan homes, I was ignorant of the fact that this practice was anti-scriptural. Only after receiving the "Dialogue" by brother Ralph Edmunson during my senior year at Harding College was I made aware that such an issue even existed. Thanks to him and other loyal brethren of the church at Searcy, the abused truth began, for me, to take its solid shape.

"But here is the problem. Home for the summer, I am worshipping with the said church supporting human institutions. God commands that I give of my means on the first day of the week; but if my contribution were to be used to support something in violation to God's Word, then I am not at all certain that I should make it in the first place. Someone has suggested mailing the contribution to a church not in violation of the Scriptures on this point; but is this step itself scriptural? I would be very grateful to you if you could provide guidance for me on this particular problem."

First, may I say that this letter proves once again the power and influence of the many small papers published by churches across the nation, as well as the larger ones such as the Guardian. Thousands have been taught the truth by such papers.

I have written this brother a personal letter of encouragement and appreciation, and enclosed some literature which I hope will be profitable for him.

This letter presents a very real and common problem. Within recent years, many Christians have faced the same dilemma. There are two very simple solutions to this problem: (1) The church there could and should stop supporting human institutions for which there is no authority in the first place, and to which some members object. (2) The brother, along with others, could possibly start a church there. But these may be impractical or impossible. Then what?

I recognize the necessity and importance of the saints assembling for worship, but true and meaningful worship involves the proper relationship between God and the Christian. While we act in unison in obeying certain commands, the emphasis is still on the individual. Each individual must listen and study for himself, sing and make melody in his own heart, examine himself and partake of the Lord's supper, pray, and give as he has prospered. Now, suppose someone in the audience does not participate in one or all of these acts in an acceptable manner; does this in any way affect my worship? No. Therefore we must conclude that where there are no innovations which would involve everyone in error (such as a mechanical instrument), a Christian may worship God acceptably in an audience where some do not.

But what about giving into a treasury when one knows that it will be used in an unscriptural way. I see a difference here — and this is not to suggest that the contribution is the most important part of the worship service. But the other acts are individual and between man and God. This involves the further use of one's means and continues to act after he has given it. I would make every reasonable effort to get the elders or those responsible to spend the treasury in a scriptural manner, and if they refused to do so, I could not continue to contribute into it.

But this raises the question: Can a Christian worship with a congregation which he does not fully endorse and participate in everything except the contribution? If the observations and distinction which I have made above be correct, he can.

This is certainly not a desirable situation, and I am not recommending a compromise with error; I am trying to offer practical and scriptural advice toward at least a temporary solution to the problem.

Many Christians with whom I talk have a very simple solution to this problem — they think. They argue that the elders are responsible for spending the money in the treasury, and that they — as members of the congregation — are responsible only for giving into the treasury. I accept the first; I deny the latter. One cannot support an unscriptural practice and escape personal responsibility by shifting it all to the elders or anyone else. I believe that elders are over the church, its work and its treasury. But if I am going to be a part of the work, I have some responsibility also. Just how far would such brethren go with their argument? Suppose the elders decide to roll in a piano. Would they go along with it on the grounds that the elders alone are responsible? They would certainly be wrong if they did.

If the young man cannot make other arrangements, and must worship where error is being supported from the treasury of the church, then I would advise him to make his contribution to the Lord and his work through other channels.