Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 3, 1959
NUMBER 17, PAGE 6-7a

"First Forms" And Final Forms Of Missionary Societies

Cecil Willis, Akron, Ohio

During the past few years events of great magnitude have been occurring within the church with blinding rapidity. It has been astonishing to see how quickly brethren can go so far. It is as Paul said in Galatians 1:6: "I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel." Those who are involved in the promotion of these innovations obviously cannot see what really they are doing. But others can see. Even those outside the Body can see.

It occasioned no little embarrassment to the institutional brethren among us when a leading Christian Church historian identified the institutionalists among us with the Missionary Society advocates among Christian churches. The Christian Church is undergoing a split at present — between the liberals and the conservatives. Dr. A. T. Degroot, a liberal in the Christian Church, refers to the conservative element in the Christian Church in derision as "Church of Christ Number Two." New Testament churches Dr. Degroot calls "Churches of Christ Number One." Degroot was inquiring as to whom the "Church of Christ Number Two" could fellowship if it left the "Disciple" fellowship. He says:

"As to other avenues for fellowship certainly the Church of Christ Number One will offer no welcoming hand unless the Church of Christ Number Two will forswear instrumental music. They might not be obliged to renounce missionary societies, for Church of Christ Number One is developing the firm forms of these very rapidly — one of which spends over $1,000,000 annually on broadcasting sermons (He refers to The Herald of Truth — CW). But fellowship with Church of Christ Number One would not mean unity, for that body is actually in many disfellowshipped fragments. In April, 1955, one Church of Christ (Number One) minister (Yater Tant — CW) debated another (E. R. Harper — CW) at Lufkin, Texas on the subject of missionary societies which have emerged in Church of Christ Number One." A. T. Degroot, Church of Christ Number Two, pg. 9.

What missionary society was Harper defending? Brother Harper would say none. Dr. Degroot would say "The Herald of Truth."

Those men in the Christian Church who have had first hand acquaintance with missionary societies, and with how to develop them, say that we have the "first forms" of a missionary society among us in The Herald of Truth. Whether the brethren promoting the Herald of Truth will admit it or not, I am positive that the statement from Dr. A. T. Degroot, then of Texas Christian University, identifying the Herald of Truth with the "first forms" of a missionary society, has embarrassed them. It verifies what some of the brethren have said about The Herald of Truth for a long time.

But after the brethren have gone down the wrong road far enough to have developed the "first forms" of missionary societies, they are not content to stop. They have since gone on to develop the "final forms" of missionary societies as well. And there apparently is no stopping place yet.

A few years ago brethren became very interested in evangelistic work in foreign lands. Some were more interested in such work than others. Different individuals who were in the United States who were greatly interested in: foreign evangelistic work began serving as collecting, managing, and disbursing agencies for these funds to be spent in foreign lands. This happened about twenty years or more ago. Brethren on every hand began to object to this arrangement. They maintained that no brother had the right to become, in effect, a missionary society for churches of Christ. They termed these men "one man missionary societies." Probably the most discussed of these funds was the one managed by Brother Don Carlos Janes. Brethren a few years ago were so set against the principle of the missionary society that they would not permit an individual to serve the purposes of a missionary society. Too, I think the brethren were in quite general agreement that there is no authority for this "one man missionary society."

But the surprising thing is that many of those brethren who were so prominent in fighting the "one man missionary society" because it looked so much like the real thing are meek as a lamb and quiet as a mouse when the real thing does appear. I am made to wonder just what it would take to get a word of objection and criticism out of some of these brethren now. The majority of the brethren are crying "peace, peace; when there is no peace," and those who really are watching for men's souls are having to work overtime.

We build the same kind of organizations the Christian Church has built. Then we defend the ones we built and condemn the ones they built. We put the church in one kind of business (such as farming, broiler chickens, cattle raising) and then undertake to raise a ruckus with the Christian Church if they want to put the church in the chili or old clothes business. We preach against choirs, and then form the same thing, calling ours a "chorus." Really brethren, I think we either ought to become consistent or apologize to the Christian Church.

A couple of days ago I heard for the first time about the "Nigerian Foundation." Perhaps you have not heard of it as yet. Its purpose, as I understand it, is to bring Nigerian boys over here to educate them, and then to send them back to Nigeria to preach the gospel. In the February, 1959, issue of the Christian Echo, a paper published by Brother R. N. Hogan, there is an article about the "Nigerian Foundation." The article says "The most of us have never done a thing in the interest of the work of the Lord in foreign lands. We haven't started to begin to commence to teach all nations. We have succeeded in getting these three men (3 Nigerians — CW) in George Pepperdine College, but we must pay the bill. We need at least $3,500 immediately. This is a macedonian call that really need (sic) your immediate response. Let's take the gospel to Africa. Do you have the missionary spirit in your heart? If so, remember Africa needs the gospel of Christ."

"Send your donation to the "Nigerian Foundation"-455 W. 57th Street — Los Angeles 37, California Loy T. Paste; President

C. D. Beverly, Secretary Willie Jones, Treasurer"

You can readily see that the purpose of the "Nigerian Foundation" is to provide an education for these young men, and then with these trained men, through the "Nigerian Foundation" "Let's take the gospel to Africa." If it is not the purpose of the "Nigerian Foundation" to take the gospel to Africa, why send your contribution to take the gospel to Africa to the "Nigerian Foundation?"

Somebody says, "Well, perhaps this is just an instance of a group of interested individuals working-together." No, that is not the case. Just below the article praising the "Nigerian Foundation" is found the "Nigerian Honor Roll." Now who would you expect to find on the "Nigerian Honor Roll?" The contributors, of course. The first listing on the "Nigerian Honor Roll" is "Memphis, Tennessee thru Mattie Joy from the Young People's Bible Class." You seldom hear any criticism anymore of classes inside the congregation taking their own collections, maintaining their own budgets, to be dispensed by their own officers. I suppose brethren reason: If organizations outside the church can function independently in doing the work of the church, then organizations inside the church can also function independently in doing the work of the church. But neither is right. But back to our point. The Nigerian Honor Roll report reads further: "Washington Hts. C. of C. (church of Christ — CW) New York City — $20.00;" "J. F. Lyons — C of C - Llano, Calif. — $13.00." Another church is sending $25.00 monthly to the Nigerian Foundation. So you can see that this Nigerian Foundation is accepting money from churches to "take the gospel to Africa."

Now I have already been around long enough to know that some brethren do not think the Nigerian Foundation to be parallel to a missionary society. In fact, some brethren do not know of any organization that our brethren build that is parallel to a missionary society! If they do, they are not telling what it is. And I must confess that I do not think the "Nigerian Foundation" with its President, Secretary, and Treasurer is parallel to a missionary society — I think it is a missionary society!

And if I am wrong in thinking that the "Nigerian Foundation" is a missionary society, would someone who thinks it is not a missionary society please tell me what changes would have to be made in it before it would become a missionary society?

Now I am not naive enough to think that brethren are going to attack the "Nigerian Foundation" as they did the "one man missionary societies" of twenty years ago. A tremendous change has come over some of the brethren in the past twenty years. If any attack is made on anything (except "Anti-ism" of course) these days, it will have to be made through these pages and the pages of a few other magazines whose writers feel as do those who write hereon.

A few years ago the establishment of the "Nigerian Foundation" would have touched off a brotherhood controversy. Almost every voice and pen would have been pointed toward it. And as someone said Lipscomb did for the 1910 Henderson, Tennessee sponsoring church effort, its propeller would have been shot off before it got off the ground. But oh how things have changed. The Nigerian Foundation is just one among many similar foundations whose objective is the performance of the function of the church. So do not expect to hear that the Nigerian Foundation has folded under the withering assault Of the Firm Foundation and the Gospel Advocate. The only thing they are interested in fighting to death just now is some weird something they call "Anti-ism" which opposes churches undertaking to function through human institutions such as the Nigerian Foundation.