Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 13, 1958
NUMBER 28, PAGE 9a-10

The Action, Subject, And Design Of Congregational Cooperation

Billy W. Moore, Nimmons, Arkansas

In the Tant-Harper debate on the cooperation question, Brother Tant pointed out that "To be scriptural, cooperation must have proper action (a gift from one church to another) between proper subjects (a church having abundance and a church in want) for the proper design (to produce equality)." He proceeded to show that the Herald of Truth type cooperation violates the proper action, subjects, and design of congregational cooperation, and is therefore wrong.

In the August 8, 1957 Gospel Advocate, Brother Bill Rogers attempts to "refute ... point by point" this argument, but before he discusses the argument Brother Rogers assures his readers that it "is based upon a perversion of 2 Cor. 8:13-14". Brother Rogers chooses to discuss this argument under four points: (1) time; (2) action; (3) subject; and (4) design. I shall follow his pattern in this review.

In the paragraph of "Preliminary Observations", Bill insists that brethren should make this a test of fellowship, thus holding true to the policy of the "Old Reliable". It seems that many brethren (preachers and elders in particular) are not willing for the issues to be discussed so the brotherhood may be informed. They want a line of fellowship to be drawn NOW (and would have had it two years ago if possible). Why? Could it be that they fear the loss of many from their ranks if discussion continues?

I. TIME — It has been pointed out that the cooperation in New Testament days was "at this present time" — temporary. (2 Cor. 8:14.) Brother Rogers makes the following observation: "(1) The aid was as extensive and as permanent as the need! Then congregational cooperation may be as permanent as the need. Jesus said, 'For ye have the poor with you always' (Mark 14:7) . . ."

The first part of this observation would meet no opposition so far as I have been informed. Surely the cooperation may be as permanent as the need. Paul said "that your abundance may be a supply of their want" (2 Cor. 8:14). That was the purpose of the cooperation — to supply the want, thus they could cooperate until the want was supplied. But his quotation of the words of Jesus, which he evidently used in an attempt to show that such cooperation may be permanent backfired, for the churches in New Testament days had the poor with them always, but they did not send contributions from one church to another ALWAYS. Though the poor were always among them they sent to other churches ONLY "as a supply of their want" and "at this present time".

But one suggests that the need of preaching the gospel is always prevalent. True, but the need of gospel preaching is not to be met by Highland exclusively. It is not "their work" but the work of all the congregations.

Our brother further observes: (2) "They believe that one church may help another church for years if the receiving church is in a mission field and IN NEED (Emphasis mine, BWM). Does this violate the time element in the 'pattern'?" Does our brother not realize that as long as the need is prevalent the design has not been accomplished, and the church doesn't have to be in a mission field either.

"(3) This is not a new argument but is the anti-located preacher argument applied to congregational cooperation. It is all right, per their theory, for churches to cooperate on a temporary basis. But if the cooperation becomes 'permanent' it is wrong. Compare that argument with this one by an anti-located preacher hobbyist, 'Most any congregation may use an evangelist from time to time in conducting gospel meetings, development work and Bible studies . . . No scripture warrants him becoming a regular fixture in a congregation'. No comment." Rogers comparison to certain hobbyists is an attempt to prejudice the minds of the Advocate readers, if such has not already been accomplished by the editorials. If Rogers can make no stronger argument than this, I do not see how he can meet the located preacher argument. No wonder he said "No comment". The scripture says that the cooperation was "at this present time", and regarding the stay of an evangelist the scripture also tells us that Paul stayed at Corinth a year and a half, and at Ephesus near three years.

II. ACTION — The action in congregational cooperation is "a gift from one church to another." Brother Rogers passed over the action and under this heading discussed the "subject" when he asked, "Is it true that before one church can scripturally give to another church the giving church must have an abundance (surplus, Thayer) of the good things of life? One writer affirms, 'This precludes (one church) sending to another church when the sending church is itself in distress and is receiving help from other churches.' But Paul said of Macedonia that they gave out of their 'deep poverty'. (2 Cor. 8:2.) This church either gave out of 'deep poverty' as the Bible says or out of 'an abundance' as the theory under examination says. Which do you believe? I believe the Bible not some man-made law."

In answer to Bill's question, certainly, to be scriptural and I might add reasonable (though we are to be guided by revelation not reason) the giving church must have an abundance (surplus, Thayer) of the good things of life when compared to the receiving church. If the receiving church has as much as the giving, why give? That would burden the giving church. I wonder if Brother Rogers applies this principle to his life? Does he go about giving to those who have more of the good things of life than he has? Or does he give to those who have been less fortunate? Which? Either? Both? or None? Those of Macedonia were in "deep poverty" when compared to the Corinthians. But even in this state they were better off than some of Jerusalem, thus they gave to help bring about equality. They had abundance (surplus) compared to Jerusalem, but were in "deep poverty" when compared to Corinth. Rogers says he is willing to take what the Bible says regarding their deep poverty instead of some man-made theory. Then why doesn't he take what the Bible says about the time "at this present time", instead of upholding some man-made theory?

III. SUBJECT. This we have already discussed under the heading of "Action" since Rogers discussed it there. In this paragraph Rogers said, "It is affirmed, as noted, that the receiving church must be in want and existing in a state of inequality with the giving church in order for church cooperation to be scriptural. But Paul said. 'I robbed other churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you.' (2 Cor. 11:8.) But while Corinth enjoyed this state of abundance other churches PAID HER PREACHER! Corinth was the legal and moral recipient of the contributions from other churches while she enjoyed an abundance. This is recognized as congregational cooperation in the bulletins and books of those who oppose the cooperation we contend for."

When Paul went to Corinth, about 51 or 52 A.D., there was no church in that city, or if so it was very small in number (some believe that Aquila and Priscilla were already Christians). He labored to establish the cause and to build it up. How strong was it at this time? When he departed from the city a year and a half later how strong was it? Paul speaks of the abundance of the Corinthians in the letter written a few years later, about A.D. 58. The scripture used by Brother Rogers in an effort to show that Paul preached for a church which had abundance while he was "robbing other churches" was not written until about six years after he departed from Corinth, thus cannot be used to establish his point. Again he has failed completely and has misused the scripture trying to prove a point. Notice that by his own admission he contends for this type cooperation — the type where churches send contributions to a church that is already in abundance. Thank you Bill.

IV. DESIGN. Rogers says, "It is affirmed that the expression 'that there may be equality' refers to equality between the giving and receiving churches. (1) But this main point of the argument is assumed, not proved. (2) The fact is, when Paul said, 'Not that others be eased and ye distressed,' he referred to the individuals contributing and the equality that would exist between them and those individuals who benefited from their gifts."

Agreed that the equality would ultimately exist between the individuals who made up the churches in Corinth, Galatia, Macedonia, etc. and the individuals who made up the church in Jerusalem. But how was this equality to be brought about? Hear Paul, "As I have given order to the churches of Galatia" (I Cor. 16:1). Paul gave the order to the CHURCHES. Of course the churches could send a contribution only when the individual Christians laid by in store upon the first day of the week. When all the individuals in the church at Corinth contributed "upon the first day of the week" and the contribution was given unto Paul to be taken to the saints in Jerusalem it was known as the gift of the Corinthian church. When equality existed between the individuals at Corinth and those of the Jerusalem church, would not equality exist between the two churches? If not, why not?

In his "Reductio Ad Absurdum" Brother Rogers says, "Those who make the argument on the action, subject, and design of congregational cooperation harp much on 'direct support' of the preacher. In order to prove their point they employ Phil. 4:15. But let us apply the action-subject-design argument to their contention on this point. In Phil. 4:15 we have a church sending (action) to an apostle of Christ (subject) to relieve his needs (the design). Today we have a church sending (right action) to an UNINSPIRED PREACHER (wrong subject) to relieve his needs (right design). According to the illustration the objectors have used, that would be like immersing (right action) an infant (wrong subject) for the remission of sins (right design). But the erudite editor who first made the argument says. 'Failure at any point invalidates the whole act'. Hence this 'action-subject-design' argument condemns their major contention.

Rogers would make things very convincing to one who would not consider his statements. His usage of the action-subject-design argument regarding Paul's support would apply if he used the proper terms. Note, a church sending (action) to a minister of Jesus Christ (Rom. 15:16) (subject) to relieve his needs (the design). Or the subject may be called a gospel preacher, an evangelist, a servant of God, etc. Rogers is about to talk himself out of support from the church, for he may find it difficult to find in the New Testament where the church supported any preacher who was not "inspired". Perhaps we should tell him that "they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel", and "the labourer is worthy of his hire".

In conclusion our brother tells his readers that he has proved this argument "to be a perversion of the scripture, a fallacy in reasoning and a complete absurdity". Of course this is true IF the readers will read through Rogers' glasses and never think for themselves. However, many are unwilling to thus do, but insist upon studying the scriptures and when they do they will see who is perverting scripture.