Then, Why Not Now?
Gospel preachers have contended, without successful opposition, that the scriptures furnish a precept for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16,17). If it is a good work, then we should follow the Bible precept in doing it. We all admit that the actions of New Testament Christians in matters of faith and practice were recorded for our profit, why cannot we follow their way of doing things and be safe? Inspired preachers believed and preached that the gospel was God's power to save (Rom. 1:16,17). But if it should be changed in any way it loses its power to save, because it ceases to be the gospel (Gal. 1:8,11).
Using this principle, Christians have refused to introduce mechanical instruments of music into the worship for the reasons that: (1) There is no example of Christians using it in Christian worship. (2) It is not authorized in the New Testament and therefore is not a good work (Acts 20:20). (3) The New Testament authorizes the use of vocal music in the worship, and this in effect is a command not to use any other kind of music in the worship (Col. 3:16).
Some years back many urged the formation of a missionary society on the grounds that more good could be done through the society than just through the church. Thinking brethren rejected this idea because an organization was already in existence whose work it was to evangelize the world (Eph. 3:10). It was pointed out that this society would not only supplant the work of the church but was wholly unauthorized in the Bible. Times have changed, but the idea that we need some kind of "brotherhood activity" lingers on. Have circumstances so changed, that a congregation can turn its own responsibility to preach the gospel over to another congregation or organization? Maybe someone can show how this is different from the basic idea of a missionary society; as yet I have failed to see where they differ in any important feature. The society had its organization, its solicitation, and its work, all independent of local congregations. The "brotherhood activities" now current have organizations larger than local congregations. For instance, "The Herald of Truth" has an organization and office staff from more than one congregation. It is dependent on brotherhood solicitation for its program; if not how long could it last without it? Could this still be the work of one congregation? It also has the objectionable high overhead of the missionary society. What else does it lack in being like the society? It definitely doesn't lack a sectarian name, "The Herald of Truth" (1 Cor. 1:12,15) The brethren have made the claim, and I have no reason to doubt it, that a large number have been baptized and even a church or two started by the work of the "Herald of Truth."
The parallel of "brotherhood activity" and the missionary society is most obvious in the evangelizing of foreign countries. One congregation sees the need of the gospel in some distant place and decides to "sponsor" the work in that field and will act as a "Clearing House" for monies and correspondence between the "sponsor" and the man in the field. And so that the bishops will not be overburdened, some of the responsibilities are turned over to a "missionary board" composed of men from various congregations and supported by still other churches. Is not this something larger than the local congregation and based on the same idea as that of the society? If it were wrong 75 years ago to form a missionary society, is it wrong now? If the church was "all sufficient" 100 years ago, have circumstances so changed things that it is not sufficient now? Did Antioch have a board, a secretary, a solicitation program, and a "brotherhood cooperative" to send out Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:1,4; 14:26,28)? They could do without the above then, why not now?
The early churches also did charity work, even in a cooperative way, without so much as a hint of an organization larger' than, or other than the local church working independently of each other (Acts 11:29,30; 1 Cor. 16: 1,3). Certainly, the local churches have the duties of caring for widows, orphans and the distressed, but does this mean that we are to "round up" orphans and those who aren't, form a human institution to care for them and then say to the churches, "Here they are, if you don't care for this "Children's Home" you don't love orphans and are negligent in your Christian duty." It has gotten to the point that some think that orphans cannot be cared for outside of an "orphan home." The homes themselves have advanced to or digressed to, the point where it is not so much a matter of caring for orphans — a very necessary Christian duty — as it is to build up a big business. Cooperations are required to give public financial reports in order that its stockholders and interested parties may know of its condition. Have you tried to get a report from any of the "brotherhood homes"? Why cannot contributors and interested parties know of their financial condition? Are the many reports of surpluses of cash held by the homes true? Is it right for an "orphan home" to accumulate money? If the above is not true then why aren't regular financial reports made? If one has the audacity to suggest that it can be done scripturally, and incidentally more economically, than in an institution then he is "branded" as being "against orphans." Widows are to be cared for by the church, but are all, just because they are widows, to be cared for by the church? "If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed" (1 Tim. 5:16). The first duty in caring for widows was in the home, if one was unable to care for and support his widows then, it was the obligation of the church to support widows indeed. Where? Why in the "Home for the Aged" at Colossie or "The Old Folks Home" at Athens. You will, no doubt, find the names of these institutions in the verse just below the one that authorizes the formation of institutions separate and apart from the church to care for orphans and the aged. If the church can do its benevolent work through a board of directors, made up of the brotherhood in general, why cannot by the same course of reasoning it do its missionary work through a board of directors? If one is wrong why isn't the other? If the New Testament churches could carry on their work without a "brotherhood activity," why cannot we do the same? If New Testament churches could get along well without human institutions and societies, couldn't we do without them also? Should there be a general departure from the Bible way of doing the work authorized by the Bible; there will be confusion and then complete digression. Witness the Christian Church! Let us be content with the simplicity of the work of preaching the gospel as it was done in Paul's day and we will see just as spectacular results as he saw. "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister" (Col. 1:23).
The objections to "brotherhood activities," sponsored missionary work, and benevolent brotherhood institutions are as follows: (1) There is no example of such activities in the New Testament. (2) They are not authorized in the New Testament. (3) The fact that the Bible specifically authorizes a different way of doing the above mentioned in effect prohibits our doing them any other way.