Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 18, 1954
NUMBER 28, PAGE 1,9c-10a

"Church Of Christ Building Fund", A Fruit Of Some Unscriptural Concepts

Robert H. Farish, Lexington, Kentucky

Whenever men's ideas, "of the responsibilities and work of the church," begin to explore the "large conception of the church universal," failing "to circle within the limits of a single congregation" the natural fruits of institutionalism and 'centralized control' will result. This was true with the missionary societies which had their work. Pendleton gave expression to the idea in his speech, origin in the "large conception of the church universal" at which is credited with saving the missionary societies. He said, "We fear that the large conception of the church universal is too little realized by many Christians of the present day. Their ideas of the church and of the responsibilities and work of the church, circle too much within the limits of a single congregation. The kingdom of God is scarcely recognized as commensurate with the people of God, and the sphere of its cooperative as well as of its free individual effort, as being as wide as the commission, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." In our day the "large conception of the church universal" root has produced the Lubbock arrangement for foreign evangelism and care of orphans, the Memphis plan, Childhaven, Herald of Truth and others. Among the "others," I find a common building fund.

This "Church of Christ Building Fund" should be scrutinized closely by every one who claims to be a member of the church of Christ. Our concern should be to determine if the Head of the church of Christ approves the "Church of Christ Building Fund." In this examination of this plan, I have not the slightest disposition to impugn the motives of those promoting the "Church of Christ Building Fund." If there were grounds (there are none to my knowledge) to question the character, intelligence or intentions of any one connected with it, such would not properly have a place in an article such as this. The issue is, "Does the Head of the church sanction the "Church of Christ Building Fund"? "The mind of the Lord" in this as well as in any thing related to the church, is the thing to be determined. The "mind of the Lord" can be determined only from the apostolic writings. (1 Cor. 2:16.) This is the gauge by which everything pertaining to the church must be measured. Does this arrangement, under study, violate principles of the divine pattern?

"Church Of Christ Building Fund"

The headquarters for this fruit, of the "large conception of the church universal" root, is Dallas, Texas. Brother E. M. Tackett's name is signed to the correspondence which I have seen.

Briefly, the plan is for churches to send in one tenth (10%) of their entire contribution to be used as a fund from which money may be borrowed for building meeting houses. To be eligible for a loan a congregation must "belong to the chain of churches that are voluntarily donating one-tenth (10%) of their entire income, regular and special, to the above named Building Fund — ." With its application for the loan, and each month thereafter for 100 months, the borrowing congregation sends one-tenth (10%) of the previous month's contribution plus one per cent per month on the principle of the loan. To be recoverable the voluntary donation of ten percent of all contributions each month, must be continued until September 1, 1976. Should the borrowing congregation discontinue its (one-tenth) donation when its loan is repaid or at any time before 1976, it forfeits any right of recovery. But if a church "continues its connection until 1976, the end of the first fifty year cycle, it may recover all of its donations. This would amount to a large sum with which to finance some great work for the Lord, either locally or, if all churches should pool their salvage, some great work of national or international import." (Quoted from brochure of Church of Christ Building Fund.) The money borrowed from the common Building Fund is non-interest bearing, providing the borrowing church sends its donations of ten percent each month along with the payment of one percent of the principal borrowed. If, however, the one-tenth donation is discontinued "before the principal of our loan has been paid, we will pay eight percent (8%) per annum interest on the amount of the loan made to us until it is paid in full." (Quoted from "Loan application to Church of Christ Building Fund.") In order to avoid the possibility of misinterpreting or misrepresenting, I have given quotations from thing written by those who are back of the "Church of Christ Building Fund."

Concerning The Common Building Fund

The above is the title which appears in the brochure of the "Church of Christ Building Fund." The word, "common," as used here, is a synonym for "universal." This is designed then to be a "clearing house" for the church universal. The language employed in their own brochure makes it clear that this is an arrangement designed for church universal function. The having "all things common" of the local church in Jerusalem is cited as proof for the "common Building Fund." The point seems to be that as the members of the church in Jerusalem had all things common, it is scriptural for the congregations to have "all things common" by putting ten percent of their funds in a common treasury. Denominational preachers have over the years been guilty of perverting Christ's teaching in John 15:5 "I am the vine, ye are the branches: — " They have attempted to identify the various denominations as the branches, whereas Christ identified his disciples as the branches. Now these brethren come along and attempt to make this apostolic approved practice of the individual members of the church in Jerusalem, having "all things common" justify congregations pooling their funds in a common Building Fund. Our brethren no more succeed in justifying their practices by such tactics than do denominational preachers. They are both guilty of the same fallacy.

Under the heading, "Concerning the common Building Fund" the testimonials of some preachers and elders are given. While several of these men assert that the "church of Christ Building Fund" is scriptural, yet we seek in vain for scripture that is pertinent to the point. Allusions are made in the body of the brochure to the "common Fund in the mother church at Jerusalem" and the "spirit of the common treasure sponsored by Paul among the church of Europe, and over which he was a trustee," but this is as close to giving scriptural authority as they get — I will let the reader judge as to "how close" that gets! In the main, the scriptures are conspicuous only by their absence. Such is becoming increasingly characteristic of the efforts of those who would promote, endorse or defend these plans for "church universal" action. One brother who has long prided himself on staying with the "pattern," writes an article endorsing "Herald of Truth" and fails to advance a single passage of scripture in support of it. What is this brother's trouble? Is the pattern too small for him in the matter of church organization? Has he "swelled" beyond the narrow confines of the divine pattern? Others have prepared articles and pamphlets, using the old and oft answered dodges that the digressive brethren used years ago. It is appalling to witness this abandonment of divine authority. A consuming desire "to be like the nations about us" seems to have taken possession of many.

One brother, heartily endorsing the "Church of Christ Building Fund" writes, "could the entire brotherhood but fully realize the possibilities of this sound plan if all congregations were to become participants, the church of our Lord would never again be impeded in its growth by inadequate unsightly and poorly located buildings. May the wisdom, foresight and devotion which characterized those of you who created the fund continue to guide those who may be responsible for its perpetuity; may its primary function now and always be the glorification and extension of God's cause here on earth i.e., the salvation of souls. This is my prayer." This endorsement reveals an improper emphasis on material buildings. While no right thinking person would disparage adequate and attractive meeting houses, yet we mustn't get "beside ourselves." We should avoid placing undue trust in fine buildings, for such are not "the power of God unto salvation."

Here is another excerpt from a voluntary testimonial: "Glad to hear of the progress of the Common Building Fund and of the churches in California lining up with it. Wish every congregation could see fit to send in ten percent of their contributions to this work. We would soon have churches in every locality in the United States and in time throughout the world." Poor California! Although I have never been there, I am truly sympathetic with faithful brethren (there are many, I am told) who have had to battle against so many unscriptural conceptions, movements and, institutions. The brother in his reference to "churches in California lining up" didn't mean that all or even a majority of the churches in California were "lining up."

Compare the following with the above, "For the benefit of those who are here this evening, and who were not here this afternoon, I want to present this matter before you. That is a map of the United States and these spots upon it are dark and red representing meeting houses that have been built with the aid of money from the treasury of our Extension Board. There are eleven hundred and nine of them. You see them extending from New England to California and from Canada down to Florida." Otey-Briney Debate, P. 231. Briney pointed to the accomplishments of the "Board of Church Extension" of the Christian Church as justification for the existence of such a board. The brother commending the "Church of Christ Building Fund" points to such prospective accomplishments as an incentive for every congregation to send ten percent of their contributions to the "Church of Christ Building Fund."

An elder writes, "It is not only not unscriptural, but is the most scriptural plan available to the church for financing its houses of worship, because it prevents waste and is efficient and therefore complies with the command to be diligent in business." Is the "Board of Church Extension" of the Christian Church "not unscriptural"? If the Board of Church Extension is "not unscriptural," why start another such board? I suspect that the "Board of Church Extension" would be happy to get much less than ten percent of the contributions of every congregation under their control, for the next 20 or 25 years. Brother, what is wrong with the "Board of Church Extension"?

This elder of a local congregation states that the "Church of Christ Building Fund" is the most scriptural plan available to the church for financing its houses of worship." If this be the "most" scriptural plan what are some of the "less" scriptural plans? Will we be accountable to. God for our failure to "line up" with the plan that is "most scriptural"? In support of this strong claim for the "Church of Christ Building Fund," the brother argues that it is the "most scriptural plan"...."because it prevents waste and is efficient and therefore complies with the command to be diligent in business." Briney in his debate with Brother Otey on the missionary societies was not affirming that they were the "most scriptural plan" but simply that they were scriptural. He proved that the Board of Church Extension is scriptural in the same way that this present day brother proves, the ' "Church of Christ Building Fund" is scriptural. Briney pointed to the "eleven hundred and nine meeting houses" built by the aid of the "Board of Extension" as proof that it was scriptural. Did not those "eleven hundred and nine meeting houses" stand as monuments of efficiency and prevention of waste? Could not Briney have said as truthfully as our brother of today that the "Board of Church Extension" is scriptural "because it prevents waste and is efficient and therefore complies with the command to be diligent in business"?

The next paper in this series is to deal with the "institutional" and "centralized control" features of this plan.