Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 20, 1961
NUMBER 11, PAGE 6-7,11b,14a

Reviewing "More On 'Intercongregational Cooperation' "

Hoyt H. Houchen, Abilene Texas

Brother Weldon B. Bennett, preacher at Graham St., Abilene, Texas, published an article on "Intercongregational Cooperation in Evangelism." I reviewed this article and mimeographed my review (copies will be gladly furnished upon request) and the review also appeared in a recent issue of the Gospel Guardian. Brother Gene Frost also reviewed his article but I have not seen his review at this writing. Brother Bennett has now mimeographed and distributed an eight and one-half page article that he has entitled, "More on 'Intercongregational Cooperation: " My second review will now deal with the statements of brother Bennett that pertain to my first article.

Brother Bennett is still attempting to justify the "sponsoring church" type of cooperation. But he has not passed. He has failed to produce the scripture for what he is contending. To sum it up: He does not know the difference between churches sending money through a bank or post office and churches sending money through a sponsoring church. This is his difficulty and we shall try to help him to see the difference.

First, he continues to misrepresent us even after we have corrected him. He writes of me, "He does not believe in one congregation helping another church 'in evangelism'." This is a falsehood! Why will a man continue to misrepresent after he has been corrected? Only recently the church here at North Park in Abilene supported me in the preaching of the gospel where congregations are small and unable to support a preacher. We helped those congregations in evangelism and we have Bible authority for this kind of assistance. (2 Cor. 11:8; Acts 13:1-3) If brother Bennett continues to misrepresent us by charging that we do not believe that a congregation can help another in evangelism, he will be guilty of a willful misrepresentation! It cannot be chalked up to ignorance on his part because he knows better. His charge is prejudicial — there is not a word of truth in it. What is bothering him is: he cannot find the scripture for his sponsoring church. We demand that he produce it. He cannot find it any more than one can find the passage that authorizes the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship. Apparently, our brother finds it much easier to hurl misrepresentations and prejudicial charges than to find the scripture for his practice.

He says that "Brother Houchen is demanding specific, detailed examples to establish what he calls 'New Testament authority'." Brother Houchen is simply contending for Bible authority, brother Bennett. Examples in the New Testament illustrate the authority that is binding. Bible authority is established either by direct command, example, or necessary inference. If there is no other example given, no command, or necessary inference, then we must abide by that example. Brother Bennett, since you are not willing to accept New Testament examples of cooperation in evangelism as exclusive, contending that something else is authorized, then why do you contend that the observance of the Lord's Supper upon the first day of the week in Acts 20:7 IS an exclusive example. Why is Acts 20:7 exclusive but NOT the examples on cooperation? Argument= ad hominem (pointing out the opponent's inconsistency). Brother Bennett is the last who should be talking about inconsistency. We have examples that illustrate the authority for cooperation of churches in evangelism and we have the example that illustrates the authority for observing the Lord's supper upon the first day of the week. Now let brother Bennett find the authority for churches sending funds through a sponsoring church to do evangelism.

The brother in error asks, "Does the North Park Church send its money to its two preachers in exactly the same WAY (emphasis mine, H.H.H.) that the churches of the first century sent?" Here he tries to make the sponsoring church a matter of "methods," comparable to the relaying of funds by messengers. He can see no difference whatsoever between a messenger (a human instrumentality such as a post office, mail carrier, bank, or person) and a church that handles funds and disburses them for other congregations. This brother IS in need of help. His effort to compare a secular forwarding agency with a sponsoring church is nothing short of foolishness and absurdity! It is hardly conceivable that a man is unable to see the difference between a conveyance and a divine institution, a church that controls and distributes funds. But we shall do what we can to help him. A post office or a bank has no authority whatsoever over the funds that it conveys, brother Bennett. A postman is not allowed to even open a letter that is delivered to a receiver. Is Graham Street forwarding unopened mail to churches? Do you not see? It is the receiver, not the postman, who has control over the contents of a letter. Never did I realize that this obvious point would have to be argued with some brother who is bent upon having a sponsoring church. But we shall try to help him further. We have Bible authority for sending money by secular agencies to preachers for their support, (Phil. 4:15-18) and to congregations where there are needy saints. (Acts 11:27-30; 1 Cor. 16:3) This in no way affects congregational independence or the organization and structure of the church as is taught in the New Testament. Sending money by a bank, post office, mail carrier, or appointed person has no bearing whatsoever upon the above. These are facilities for accomplishing the Lord's work and we have authority for using them. We have scripture for churches sending funds by human agencies, but none for a sponsoring church. Where is the scripture for a sponsoring church?

He wants to know the difference between a church receiving funds from other churches and then sending those funds on to a preacher, and a bank or postal system sending the funds to a preacher. Do you not see how much the man is in need of help? The Lord has authorized secular facilities such as banks and post offices to be forwarding agencies but he has never authorized the church, a divine institution, to be such. That is not the purpose for which the church exists. There are some things that human institutions are authorized to do that God has never intended or authorized the church to do. Do you see, brother Bennett? That is what you need to learn. A congregation may utilize the services of a hospital, a plumbing company, an insurance company, a bank, or a post office, but God has never authorized the church to enter those businesses.

If brother Bennett does not know the difference between a church being a forwarding agency for funds and human agencies that exist for that purpose, then he does not know the difference between a bank, a post office, and the church, and he is in pretty bad shape. And if he is unable to see the difference now, then we do not know what it will take to show him the difference! We have obliged him and now we continue to ask him to oblige us with the scripture that authorizes the sponsoring church.

He writes, "Brethren who oppose Bible classes (the non-Sunday School brethren) make exactly the same argument as brother Houchen uses." He then uses my words and make his own application in the following:

"We have New Testament authority for one (teaching in the assembly) and we do not for the other (classes). When it comes to the Lord's work, we must do it in the way that he directed us to do it (say the anti-class brethren) and we are not to do any supposing in the matter. As long as brethren suppose that they can engage in a practice (classes) for which there is no authority, we shall continue to have division."

This is nonsense gone to seed! Of course, if a man doesn't know the difference between the church and a bank or a post office, then we can hardly expect him to see the difference between the argument that I make and those of the brethren who oppose Bible classes. The difference is, we have authority for Bible classes and we have examples that illustrate the authority for them, but where, brother Bennett, is the authority for a sponsoring church? He says that he can prove Bible classes in principle. All right, brother, get busy and prove your sponsoring church by the same principle. What principle authorizes it? Brother E. R. Harper turned to the "principle eternal" to justify the Herald of Truth. What principle do you offer, brother Bennett?

As to the reference that I am making the same arguments that are made by the no-class brethren, this is another gesture to arouse prejudice. It is easier to relegate us to the no-class brethren than to meet the issue. The truth of the matter is, he uses the above argument that I make when he opposes the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship. But when we use the same argument in opposition to his sponsoring church then all of a sudden we are making the same argument as the no-class brethren, according to him. "The legs of the lame are not equal" and it will show what brethren will do when they cannot justify what they want to do by the scriptures. Now since he has used my words plus his substitutes in parentheses, suppose we let him look at the same argument made by him when he is contending for singing only in worship.

"We have New Testament authority for one (singing in the worship) and we do not for the other (mechanical instruments in worship). When it comes to the Lord's work, we must do it in the way that he has directed us to do it and we are not to do any supposing in the matter. As long as brethren suppose that they can engage in a practice (mechanical instruments in worship) for which there is no authority, we shall continue to have division."

The above is the same argument that I make (and I suppose that he makes) when we oppose the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship. Are we making the same argument as mode by the no-class brethren, brother Bennett? He says "no" if applied to the opposition to mechanical instruments of music in worship but "yes" if applied to the opposition of his sponsoring church. Argumentum ad hominem!

When we oppose the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship, those who contend for them charge us with making the same arguments as are made by the no-class brethren. Their thinking that we do does not prove their contention anymore than does brother Bennett's thinking that we do prove his contention. The advocates of mechanical instruments of music will place the same substitutes in the parentheses of the argument quoted above as brother Bennett does. They and he need to get busy and supply the scripture for their practice. Of course, that charge that we are making the same argument that is made by the no-class brethren did not originate with him. He has heard someone else use it, it sounded good to him, and it can be used to arouse prejudice. But by now the charge should not sound so good to him. If he is not able to see the foolishness of it, we believe that others who read this can. Actually, he is making the same argument as those who use mechanical instruments of music in worship because they contend for them on the ground of methods and means and that is exactly what brother Bennett is doing. Where is the scripture that authorizes the sponsoring church, brother Bennett?

But he states "There is no example in all the New Testament of a church constructing and owning its own place of worship, to say nothing of using church funds to buy air conditioners, install rest rooms, build and own a preacher's home, etc." Here he leaves the impression that all that I am asking for is an example. No, I am not just asking for an example. I am asking for authority for a sponsoring church by direct command, or by example, or by necessary inference. Air conditioners, preacher's houses, etc., are authorized by the scriptures and since we are agreed, there is no argument here. What we are asking for is the Biblical authority for a "sponsoring" church. He has failed to give it.

Next, he quotes me, "the New Testament pattern of evangelism is for churches to send directly to the preacher." He then adds, "the definite article 'the' as used here is the force of 'the only pattern'. This we deny. One cannot take an example and make it exclusive, unless the context or means of expression establishes exclusiveness." Then he cites the case of Paul who abode two whole years in his own hired dwelling.... preaching and he concludes that this is an example but no exclusive pattern. Certainly it is not, because we have other examples than this where Paul was not in his own hired dwelling preaching. We have one example where the Lord's Supper was observed upon the first day of the week. This is exclusive because there is no other example, command, or necessary inference. This example illustrates the authority for observing the Lord's Supper upon the first day of the week. We have the example in the New Testament where churches cooperated in supporting Paul. He took wages from other churches. (2 Cor. 11:8) He was supported by Philippi. (Phil. 1:3-5; 4:10-18) We learn how these funds were sent to Paul. (Phil. 4:15-18) They were sent to Paul by an individual messenger, Epaphroditus. (Phil. 2:25) This is the pattern and it is exclusive on the same ground that Acts 20:7 is exclusive. Again we ask our brother, why is Acts 20:7 exclusive but not the example of how churches cooperated in evangelism? Where is the command, example, or necessary inference where churches sent through another church? He will find it in the same place where authority for mechanical instruments of music in worship or the Missionary Society can be found. He rejects the example of churches sending directly to a preacher as exclusive but we suppose that he does accept Acts 20:7 as exclusive. What "context or means of expression" makes Acts 20:7 exclusive but not the pattern for sending funds to a preacher in evangelism? (2 Cor. 11:8; Phil. 1:3-5; 4:10-18; 2:25)? Argumentum ad hominem!

Now let us examine some more of his absurdity. He thinks that because a church once received funds from other churches to do evangelism but now believes that it is wrong, in order to be consistent it must return all the money that it has received to those churches that once contributed. We have already seen that he is incapable of teaching anything on consistency. A casual glance at his "reasoning" will show anyone that he does not know what consistency is and also sad is the fact that he evidently does not know what repentance is. Imagine a church that has ceased a practice because of conviction and then turning around and refunding money to churches engaged in the same practice! Is this another example of the "logic" that is being taught at A.C.C.? Shame on you, brother Bennett.

He does not like our point on the terms "inter-congregational cooperation" and "intra-congregational cooperation" and we cannot say that we blame him since he is in the position that he is. The very term being employed by him, "inter," indicts him. The term itself suggests a working through as we illustrated by the Interstate Commerce Act. "Intercongregational" cooperation necessitates a control and oversight by the very definition of the term. He says that he believes in congregational independence as strongly as I do and yet he is attempting to justify a sponsoring church, one that controls and disburses funds for other churches. Argumentum ad homineml Now notice how brother Bennett shifts gears. Pressed for scripture for a sponsoring church, he prolonged any effort along that line until he got to about two thirds of his second article and then he came up with four passages which he thinks justifies a sponsoring church. Readers, look at them. They are Acts 13:1-3; Acts 14:25-28; Acts 15:40-41; and Acts 18:22-23. Look carefully at these passages and see if you can see anything that is even a forty-second cousin akin to the idea of one church controlling and disbursing funds for other churches in evangelism. Apparently feeling the pressure, he had to do something to save face so he came up with those four passages. A child can see that there is not one iota of authority in these for a sponsoring church that we have just described and for which brother Bennett contends. What is in these passages? They give examples of preachers going out from a congregation to preach and returning to a congregation and reporting to it. Any amount of twisting, turning, and stretching will get nothing more from these passages than that idea and no one knows it any better than does brother Bennett. How do we know that he knows it? Hear him. "The study of these scriptures shows that though he established many churches on the first two journeys, he still returned to Antioch and reported how the Lord blessed their labors." So you see the man does know what the passages teach and we are agreed upon their meaning. As far as I know, all gospel preachers practice the examples given here. When we go out and preach somewhere, we return and report to the congregation our labors. But he says, "This is what I understand as a 'sponsoring church'." No, you don't get out of your trouble by that shift in the use of terms, brother Bennett. We believe that preachers can go out from a congregation and preach, but that is not the issue. That is a far cry from a number of congregations pooling their resources under one eldership and that eldership overseeing those funds in evangelism for the contributing churches. Do you not see how he has tried to shift gears on the term "sponsoring church?" We are holding his feet to the fire. We ask him to produce one passage of scripture where several congregations can pool their resources in one congregation for the purpose of evangelism.

He makes the statement, "But how the money is sent violates no New Testament principle." This sounds exactly like the old digressive argument for mechanical instruments of music in worship. When we give the teaching of the scripture on the kind of music to be used in worship, that it is vocal, the reply is that the Lord did not tell us how to make music and if we can use song books, etc., we can use a mechanical instrument. The New Testament authorizes funds being taken to preachers and churches for the relief of needy saints by the means of messengers. (Acts 11:27-30; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; Phil. 4:15-18) The scriptures do not authorize the sending of funds through a church, a divine institution, and we have shown our brethren the difference.

Then he writes: "But we have to use good common sense to differentiate between exclusive examples, principles, and incidentals." We believe that we are using common sense, brother, and now if you will use the same common sense in regard to the examples of cooperation as taught in the New Testament that you do on Acts 20:7 as an exclusive example for the day on which the Lord's Supper is to be observed, we can close the argument and go home.

We have reviewed the crux of brother Bennett's article, namely, that he wants to know the difference between churches sending through a bank or a post office and churches sending through another church. We have shown the difference in the very nature and purpose of these secular agencies as contrasted with the church of our Lord. We believe that we have answered every quibble, his questions, we have pointed out his inconsistencies (Argumentum ad hominem), and we have shown where he has failed to meet the issue. If brother Bennett is still not satisfied, we shall be glad to give him the opportunity to affirm these matters for which he is contending in a public discussion. He should be willing to affirm orally what he believes since he has written his views, and because he has openly challenged us on several points. We believe that we have answered his challenges in the above review, but that as many as possible may have the benefit of this type of study which we believe is a contribution toward the unity of brethren, he should be willing to meet us here in Abilene upon these issues. If he is unable to meet us, or if he needs some assistance, perhaps he could call upon one of the faculty members at A.C.C. to engage us in a public discussion.

We stand ready to defend what we believe the Bible teaches, publicly and privately. Is brother Bennett? We shall see.