Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 17, 1960
NUMBER 44, PAGE 2-3a

The Great Commission And Mission Clinics

Sam Binkley, Jr., Pensacola, Florida

Since the church of our Lord was established in the city of Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ there have been many departures from the truth. Some of these departures have reached greater proportions than others, but everyone of them has come about gradually. No apostasy ever came all at one leap. Satan knows that the way to get the greatest number of people to accept error is to present it to them a little bit at the time. Such has ever been true of his approach.

If we could see the final effects of practicing many things, we would be more careful about what we do religiously. When brethren first began to make a distinction between the terms bishop and elder, they did not see a universal bishop wearing the title of "Pope" and claiming to be the head of the church on earth and vicar of Christ. Had they seen this at first, surely they would never have given one man pre-eminence over the others. But such is characteristic of departures. Did the brethren who brought the instrument of music into the worship and those who organized the missionary societies see the Christian Church as it exists today? Surely not. Many accepted these innovations because it was the popular thing to do, some thinking that these were not wrong within themselves and that no harm could possibly come from them, even though they did believe the practice of these things was a trend in the wrong direction.

A number of things are being introduced from time to time which indicate that members of the church are gradually practicing more and more things religiously for which they have no scriptural authority. One of these which indicates the extent to which some brethren will go to gain prominence in the rapid race for recognition in the church today came to my attention when I received an invitation to attend the "Mission Clinic" at the Pinellas Park, Florida, church January 17-21, 1960.

The letter is signed by Brother Charles S. Haslam who states that he was asked by the Pinellas Park Congregation to write "concerning this wonderful program they have arranged. . . ." It is not stated in the letter what his relation to this congregation is, if any, or why the regular preacher, John L. Wheeler, did not write the letter.

Brethren Otis Gatewood and Ira Y. Rice, Jr. are listed as the featured speakers during the week in a program "Especially planned to show smaller congregations how to carry out the Great Commission." Why specify smaller congregations? Why not also show other larger congregations how to carry out the Great Commission? One or both of the following is evident: The smaller congregations do not have the ability to understand what the New Testament teaches concerning this matter, but must depend on a "mother" congregation or perhaps a "big sister" to show them how, or, as Briney argued in defense of the Society to enable the smaller congregations to do what God expects them to do in supporting missionaries: "Now, is there any objection to those small congregations co-operating with each other? I ask my friend how small congregations that are not able to send a missionary each are to co-operate? How are they to take part in this work? Now, the society provides for that. They co-operate. They send their mites, as it were, to men who will see that their contributions reach men and women that are at work on the field." (Otey-Briney Debate page 199.)

I knew that there were some brethren who were using this argument in this present time regarding brotherhood Benevolent Organizations, but this is the first time I have seen it used as it applies to the evangelistic work of the church. Of course if it applies to one it will apply to the other; but advocates of church supported brotherhood Benevolent Organizations have not been willing to admit it before this. If the New Testament is sufficient, as it claims to be, and each local congregation is autonomous, as the New Testament teaches, then the smaller congregations can do what God expects of them in carrying out the Great Commission without sending their aid through a "sponsoring church?'

But doesn't it seem strange that the brethren who say the "HOW" doesn't really matter any way should go to such effort and expense to teach the smaller congregations "HOW" to carry out the work God has given them to do? But perhaps they are afraid the smaller congregations may insist on doing it the way the Lord said do it and through the organization he established for that purpose rather than through some sponsoring church seeking distinction and prominence among the other liberal minded brethren. Where in the New Testament can one find even so much as a hint that churches were tied together in this fashion in the first century? The plan the Lord gave by which to carry out the Great Commission was for the disciples to be witnesses unto him in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost part of the world (Acts 1:8).

After the dispersion from Jerusalem and the establishment of congregations in various places where those disciples went preaching the word, there is no indication that any one congregation, with God's approval, conducted a "Mission Clinic" to show other congregations how to carry out the Great Commission. The only way they showed other congregations how to do the work of the Lord was by the example they set before them as they did what the Lord commanded them to do. That this was effective cannot be denied, for the gospel was preached unto every creature under heaven in about 34 years (Col. 1:23).

It was the violation of this principle which the Lord warned the elders of the church of Ephesus against (Acts 20:28-31) that resulted in the first great apostasy, and unless we heed that warning the same thing will happen in our day. There is much evidence that some have already left the teaching of the New Testament on some of these points. Implying that elders of one congregation know better than anyone else how to accomplish a certain work of the church is one of the cleverest ways imaginable to get other congregations to line-up and support the particular work they want others to think of and talk about as "their work."

You may ask, "But what is wrong with a 'Mission Clinic'?" One of the first things wrong as stated in the letter which I received is the implication that other smaller congregations cannot know how to carry out the Great Commission unless they attend such a program as this where they can learn from those especially trained in this work. At this point I remind you that one of the first things which brethren began to practice which led to the development of the Christian Church was professional evangelism. Many congregations would not invite a man to conduct a meeting for them unless he was a "professional evangelist", that is, one who devoted his time to conducting protracted meetings. Are we very far behind them in this today when we have to have someone who is especially trained to tell us how to carry out the Great Commission, a specially trained and professional music director, educational director, youth director and a professional promoter? Perhaps it would be more accurate to ask how far ahead of them some are in leaving the God ordained plan of local church autonomy with the elders taking the oversight of the flock of God which is among them (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:3).

An appeal is made in the letter for at least one person to be present for the Mission Clinic from every congregation in the state of Florida. It is stated that it would be a great inspiration and extremely helpful to every congregation to get a good first hand report on the Mission Clinic.

I recognize that brethren can be inspired (encouraged) to great service by association with other brethren in the work and worship of the Lord, but the source to go for our inspiration and help is the word of God which is given by the inspiration of God.

Just what will be the status of the congregations which do not send "delegates" to the Clinic to get a good first hand report is not stated, but one is made to wonder if he will not be labeled as "anti-missionary," opposed to the church doing mission work, if he does not attend or at least encourage others to attend.

Such efforts are a denial of the all-sufficiency of the word of God to make the man of God perfect, furnishing him completely unto every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16,17). What is needed to carry out the Great Commission is not a state-wide "Mission Clinic" to show smaller congregations how to do it, but each individual Christian "holding forth the word of life:" (Phil. 2:16). And each congregation doing what they are capable of doing in preaching the gospel at home and supporting those directly (2 Cor. 11:8; Phil. 4:15, 16) who are engaged in preaching the gospel elsewhere. May God help us to see the end-result of all unscriptural practices, and to do His work in His way: that He may be glorified among men, and souls saved in heaven at last.