Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 27, 1957


Ernest A. Finley, Wichita Falls, Texas

One of the things which makes the present controversy in the church so confusing to many is the fact that positions are so often misunderstood and misrepresented. A fuller understanding of the positions that are actually held by those who oppose "institutionalism" and "centralization" would help toward gaining an insight into what the scriptures teach on these issues.

THE TWIST: "People who oppose the present arrangements that the brotherhood has made for caring for orphans are opposed to helping helpless, needy children."

THE TRUTH: An individual's opposing the Missionary Society does not prove that he is opposed to preaching the gospel, does it? Those who oppose unscriptural arrangements for caring for orphans or widows freely acknowledge that it is the duty of the church to care for certain orphans and widows. The issue is: who is to do it? A brotherhood benevolent society? Where is the authority? A local congregation that has assumed responsibility for the keep of the orphans or widows of the brotherhood? This can not be scripturally substantiated. Or is it to be the local congregation doing its own work, making the provision for the care of its own wards or purchasing it from those who are qualified to render this service? I am convinced that the latter is the only position that is tenable.

THE TWIST: "Those who are opposed to the sponsoring church" idea are simply opposed to foreign evangelism. They do not want to spend any money anywhere except right in their own local congregation."

THE TRUTH: This is judging your brother. How can you know that this is the disposition that motivates him? Omniscience is not a quality of the human mind. Remembering that Jesus said, "by their fruits ye shall know them," it would be well to note that a number of churches that do not funnel their money through a "sponsoring church" still support a number of preachers who are not at work in the immediate locality of the church that is supporting them. One such congregation has at least eight preachers in its budget and is supporting them all without assistance from others. Much work is being done by congregations that send their support directly to the man in the field. This "twist" is simply a false charge.

THE TWIST: "Those who oppose the 'sponsoring church' are opposed to cooperation."

THE TRUTH: There is nothing wrong with a church supporting an evangelist engaged in foreign work to the extent of its ability and other churches supporting the same preacher to the extent of their ability. This was done in apostolic days (II Cor. 11:8-9). No reasonable person will deny this is cooperation. We are opposed to unscriptural cooperation. The missionary society is an example of cooperation but it is unscriptural.

THE TWIST: "Those who are opposed to the Herald of Truth do so simply because it is a big work."

THE TRUTH: One reason that the Herald of Truth is opposed is because the Highland church assumed responsibility for a work far in excess of its ability, knowing when she undertook this work that she would have to have the resources of other congregations in order to carry it on. No church in apostolic days ever did this. They insist that the brotherhood get behind them in "their" work. Certainly, no congregation has any obligation to Highland in regard to this broadcast since they assumed responsibility for a program of work which they did not have the right to assume. Actually, other congregations are trying to do their work through the Highland church or a project which Highland created. But the Herald of Truth is not opposed merely because it is big. Another Texas church broadcasts the gospel over a radio station that gives it coverage of a substantial part of the United States. Undoubtedly this is also a "big work". But this congregation did not assume responsibility for a work which was beyond her ability. She is not trying to do the work of the brotherhood. She is simply doing her own work, work she has the ability to do. This is what the Lord requires. He requires no more.

THE TWIST: "Our benevolent organizations are simply a 'place' to keep orphans, a 'home' to keep them in."

THE TRUTH: The fact is that the present benevolent organizations are not simply a "place" or "home" to keep orphans in. These organizations are unscriptural corporations or societies designed to do a work that has been delegated by the Lord to the local congregation, a work that is to be under the oversight of the elders of the local congregation. The unscriptural society, the corporation, the body politic, which is the thing objected to, provides the "place" or "home" to keep the child. I have no objection to local elders providing a "place" or "home" Tor its own orphans, though I doubt that this would often be necessary, but I do object to the church's establishing a society to do the work of benevolence for the church universal.

THE TWIST: "The New Testament does not say exactly how benevolence is to be done, so any way that the church decides on is all right."

THE TRUTH: The New Testament does not tell us exactly how the local congregation is to do its work of evangelism but there is no justification for establishing a missionary society. The local church is certainly to do its work of evangelism within the framework of the organization of the local church. The local church is also to do its work of benevolence within the framework of the local congregation.

THE TWIST: "All of this discussion as to how the work of the church is to be done in the field of benevolence and evangelism is purely a matter of opinion or judgment."

THE TRUTH: How the local church is to carry out its responsibility in preaching or teaching the gospel and helping its needy that are in distress is a matter of judgment or expediency. But the organizational framework within which this work is to be done is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of faith. The only organizational unit for doing the work of the church is the local congregation. Setting up a brotherhood society for the work of evangelism or work of benevolence designed to do the work of the church universal is a thing that can not be done by faith.