Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 25, 1954
NUMBER 29, PAGE 2-3a

The Missionary Society And Its Counterparts Of Today

Charles Holt, Franklin, Tennessee

In the preceding article it was shown that the basic error of the MS is in its unscriptural concept of universal church action. That there are institutions and human arrangements in operation today among churches of Christ based upon this same fallacious principle can be demonstrated to any honest person. Let us look first at:

"The Herald Of Truth"

This is an organization that has been formed by which and through which churches of Christ can preach and televise the gospel over a nation-wide radio and television program: It was the "brainchild" of two young preachers — James Nichols and James Willeford. They "sold" the idea to the elders of the 5th and Highland church in Abilene, Texas and got them to be the "supervisors" of it. These elders, along with the two preachers and the others employed by THE HERALD OF TRUTH, form its organization. Then they together "sold" the idea of supporting this organization to the churches. They report that 1080 churches have been enlisted to help, and through this arrangement carry on this work. The fact that the Highland elders oversee THE HERALD OF TRUTH does not keep it from being a central and controlling organization THROUGH which these 1080 churches are operating in carrying out this program. The elders of the Highland Church say that it is their work and they will run and control it.

This organization with its name, officers, suite of offices, stationery and everything else to distinguish it as an organization, called for a total of $1,400,000 this year to do the work proposed and to keep up the organization. Highland Church has been putting in $600 per month of this amount, which is but little more than one-half of one percent. When the actual figures are studied it will be seen that about ten percent of the total amount of money received goes into keeping this organization functioning — salaries, expenses, offices, stationery, and secretarial help. It takes a lot of money to keep ("grind the wheels") up such humanly devised arrangements.

When THE HERALD OF TRUTH was first proposed it was to be the work of many churches — the churches of Christ — working THROUGH the Highland elders. In fact, the programs were introduced with "The churches of Christ salute you with THE HERALD OF TRUTH." This was and is the real truth about the matter, but the recent discussions of the matter have made them change this introduction and run from this position. They are now introducing the program as follows: "The Church of Christ, meeting at 5th and Highland in Abilene, Texas salutes you with THE HERALD OF TRUTH." They are now trying to find refuge in and scriptural approval for this "society" with the argument that THE HERALD OF TRUTH is the sole work of the Highland Church and that other churches are simply helping Highland do this work. This is a specious argument and the fallacy of it can easily be demonstrated. By what reason, logic or scripture can such a nation-wide program be said to be the responsibility and work of Highland Church alone? As such it is not the responsibility of Highland Church at all. None of the defenders of this organization has yet shown the authority for the Highland elders to undertake such a tremendous task so far beyond the ability of Highland Church, and then expecting the churches generally to sup-port it — to provide the money. As has been pointed out by another, this is not Highland's work because: "1. Highland Church did not originate it. 2. Highland Church did not select the preachers. 3. Highland Church does not pay for it. 4. Highland Church can not stop it." By what stretch of the imagination can one conclude that such an undertaking is solely the work of Highland Church. Furthermore, let someone show just what obligation that the Highland elders owe to the Highland Church, as far as this work is concerned, that they do not owe to every church supporting it. As far as THE HERALD OF TRUTH is concerned they owe the same obligations to every supporting church that they owe to the congregation in which they are elders. Such shows them to be an agency or simply "supervisors" of a work being performed FOR many churches.

Thus again in the birth of this organization we see the unscriptural concept of universal church action manifesting itself, as many churches combine and concert their action THROUGH a central organization. Keep in mind these two factors: 1) The concept of the church universal doing its work by centralizing its resources under a single agency is without scriptural authority. 2) THE HERALD OF TRUTH is built on the concept of the church universal (many churches-1080 of them) doing its work by centralizing its resources under a single agency — the elders of the Highland Church. If the MS and THE HERALD OF TRUTH are not parallel in this respect then it is not possible for two things to be parallel in any sense. No wonder the defenders of this modern-day parallel to the MS can not be persuaded to write an article showing what is wrong with the MS. To show what is fundamentally wrong with one is to show what is fundamentally wrong with the other, for they are both built upon the same false principle of universal church action through a single agency.

Missionary Organizations

Within the last few years there have arisen many methods and means of evangelism that are parallel in this principle with the MS. These plans are based upon the same unscriptural concept of universal church action; or at least the idea in a smaller form — churches operating THROUGH a central control organization. This arrangement is sometimes spoken of as "THE BROADWAY PLAN," because the Broadway Church in Lubbock has been a forerunner of this sort of thing. The same set-up and sort of operation as is being carried on in THE HERALD OF TRUTH is evident in these arrangements.

For example, the Broadway Church decided to undertake the conversion of Germany; to oversee the establishing of the church there. THROUGH the Broadway elders, churches over the land could operate in carrying the gospel to Germany. The Broadway elders directed the program, sent over representatives, coordinated the work, selected the field of labor, sent out representatives and letters soliciting funds from churches all over the land; they selected the preachers, managed and disbursed the contributions as a centralized control set-up. Such central agency is in its every function a missionary society lacking ONLY formal organization. There is as much authority in the New Testament for churches over the land sending funds to the MS for that organization to manage and disburse in preaching the gospel in foreign fields, as there is for the same churches to send funds to the Broadway elders (or elders anywhere else) for them to manage and disburse in preaching the gospel in Germany. There is no authority for either.

Here again we see the unscriptural concept of universal church action in operation — many churches working through a single agency to do their work.

Orphan Homes

In the orphan homes among "us" there is the same unscriptural concept at work. It is the case of many churches supporting an institution or organization that is supposed to be a work of the church. Here is universal church action again. This time it is centralized and controlled by a Board of Directors or some local eldership that has formed an institution through which many churches may cooperate in doing this work.

What scriptural right do seven men, living in different parts of Texas have to form themselves into a corporation, start an orphan home and expect the churches of Christ to support it? They have formed a single agency through which they expect the churches to operate in caring for orphans. This agency — the orphan home — directs and controls the work. It is only the right of the churches to support it. What is the difference in doing the benevolent work of the church (or a part of it) through the Board of Directors of Boles Orphan Home, and in doing another part of the work of the church — preaching the gospel — through the Board of Directors of the MS??? Is there any difference in sending a monthly contribution to Boles Home for them to manage and disburse, and in sending a monthly contribution to the MS for them to manage and disburse? I can see no difference!

Those orphan homes that have sought to escape from the unscriptural aspects of the above by being under some local eldership, have not changed the principle any nor bettered their cause. The principle is the same. If it is wrong for churches to work THROUGH some centralizing and controlling agency made up of men from various places, then it will be equally as wrong for the same churches to work THROUGH a centralizing and controlling agency made up of the eldership of one church. The elders of no local church have the right to put themselves forward as an agency for universal church action, whether it is in the field of benevolence or evangelism. They are to be elders in and over only the local church. The work and authority of elders begins and ends with the congregation in which they are elders. This truth needs to be respected by some of the elderships among the churches that have sought to themselves such important places of operation for the churches as a whole.

Universal church action THROUGH some centralized and controlling agency is unscriptural whether it is in the field of evangelism or in the field of benevolence. Let this truth be well fixed in our minds. Let us beware of such unscriptural forms of operation and our troubles as pertains to INSTITUTIONALISM will end. May God help us to realize this much needed truth today.