Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 11, 1963
NUMBER 48, PAGE 7,14

The New Missionary Society

Joe D. Swint

The first full-fledged "missionary society" among churches of Christ came into being October 23-26, 1849, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Its first president was Alexander Campbell. In the seventh article of its constitution, the statement was made concerning the executive board: "They shall establish such agencies as the interest of the Society may require, appoint agents and missionaries, fix their compensation, direct and instruct them concerning their particular fields and labors, make all appropriations to be paid out of the Treasury, and present to the Society at each annual meeting a full report of their proceedings during the past year." From this we note that the society, not the churches, (1) appointed agents and missionaries, (2) fixed their salaries, (3) directed and instructed them, i.e., had control of them.

Later, some modifications and changes were made due in part to opposition by various brethren. This organization was not without opposition on the part of many conscientious brethren, among them Jacob Creath, Tolbert Fanning, and later, David Lipscomb. The missionary society later and finally was called the United Christian Missionary Society.

The Missionary Society was not the church, or even a part of it. It was and is an organization with a board of directors, entirely separate from the church. In order to do "missionary" work (which evidently means the preaching of the gospel any place where it is not being preached) the Society does the following: (1) Solicits and receives funds from individuals and churches; (2) Selects the preacher or preachers; (3) Picks the field of labor; (4) Oversees and controls the work. This makes the church, which is the pillar and ground of the truth, 1 Tim. 3:15, (God's missionary society) dependent upon a human organization to do "missionary" work. There is not one passage in the entire New Testament which authorizes the church to do its evangelistic work through a "missionary society."

Today, due to a liberal attitude toward the authority of the scriptures, there are many brethren who cannot see what is wrong with the missionary society. To some brethren today, the only thing "wrong" with the missionary society is that it is not a "part" of the church! All that would be necessary to make it "right" would be to make a few very minor and puerile changes: (1) Do away with the name "Missionary Society," (not that they can see anything wrong with that name; but there is so much prejudice connected with it: like the epithet "anti" so often used today), and call it by some other name, for instance 'World-Wide Preaching" or "Into All The World With The Gospel;" (2) Do away with the word "organization" in connection with It and call it a "program" or a "work;" (3- Put it — kit and caboodle; board of directors and all — under the elders of some local congregation somewhere. I submit that it would then be acceptable to all the brethren who are "pushing" such schemes as church support of Colleges, and churches supporting the work of orphan-caring societies or churches working under one set of elders as in the Herald of Truth "arrangement" The aforementioned changes to the missionary society would make it the same thing the H.O.T now is — a missionary society under a local eldership.

This arrangement violates at least three things: (1) The extent of the oversight of the elders, (I Pet. 5:2, Acts 20:28); (2) The scriptural method of raising money, which is by individual contribution to the local church (I Cor. 16:1-2); (3) It necessitates infringing upon the silence of the Bible and going beyond what is written, (I Pet. 4:11, 1 Cor. 4:6, 2 Jno. 9) in order to find warrant for the arrangement.

In the Christian Journal which is published monthly in Fort Worth, Texas, in the January, 1963, issue on page 7, there appears an article entitled 'PARK HILL CHURCH IN DENVER STARTS WORLD BIBLE STUDY." The article was written by Loyd Bizler. In it he states: "The Park Hill congregation of Denver, Colorado, recently inaugurated a national advertising program by placing an add in Capper's Weekly, one of the oldest periodicals in the nation. Already over 178 people have responded to this add and many of them are enrolling in a correspondence course conducted by the Park Hill brethren." 178 people! "Many" (not all) of whom have enrolled in their Bible correspondence course! My, my! This is truly enough to thrill the hearts of the brethren at Park Hill, and more — to warrant the inauguration of a "world-wide" "program!" (I had always been under the impression that the church is already involved in a "world-wide" program, Matt. 28:19-20, Mk. 18:15-16, I Tim. 3:15.) The article continues: "After careful consideration, the elders and deacons, with the advice and counsel of leading brethren throughout the brotherhood, have selected a name for the program; it will be called 'World-Wide Bible Study' ". Brethren, this thing just has to be a "good work" and cannot fail of great success for the "leading brethren throughout the brotherhood" (whoever they are and however they are determined to be "leading") have counseled and advised upon it. Who needs scriptural authority? The counsel of "leading" brethren is all-sufficient!

Now we come to the part of the article which makes the whole program "right and scriptural" in the eyes of the promoters. "This program will be entirely under the oversight of the elders of the Park Hill congregation...." But this is not all — the last paragraph sounds like one of these sectarian professional-beggar "preachers" over radio station XEG, Del Rio, Texas: "Contributions are needed immediately to help in this program. Congregations, as well as individuals, are urged to send donations to: World-Wide Bible Study; 1400 Cherry; Denver, Colorado." Shades of the "antis!" And all along they would have us to believe that whatever the individual does, the church was doing! Don't tell us there is a distinction between the two!

Brethren, what is the difference in the missionary society and this new "program" except that one is under a local eldership and the other is not? One is involved in sending preachers and the other in sending printed lessons. Both are "world-wide," both solicit funds from individuals and chinches, both control the "work" and the funds, and the contributing churches lose control and oversight of the funds they send. Yes, just hold them up side by side and view the "differences."

If such an "arrangement" as this is right, then it is "right" for a local congregation somewhere to take into its "work" the organization known as the Missionary Society and all the churches in all the world do all their "missionary" work through that church. Another church could "assume oversight" of all benevolent work for all churches by the same "right" and process of reasoning. (This would not set too well with the churches whose elders are the board of directors of a "home," but it would still be right if the other is right.) But why not have one set of elders "assume oversight" of all the work of all churches of Christ? This, too would be "right." Then, we could call ourselves "Episcopalians" for that is what we would be organization-wise. The principle here is that of Catholicism; the only difference being that one is ruled by a group of bishops and the other by one bishop. And why not have that? Surely there is among the "leading brethren" one brother who is so "outstanding" and such a "trained thinker" that he could be "looked out from among" the "leading minds" and "appointed" as a sort of "co-ordinator" or "supervising elder" over the "brotherhood" eldership! The "pope" and the "college of Cardinals!" It will never come to that? Why not? It might as well — for if it has the right to start (and it has more than started) it has every right to go "all the way."

Yes, brethren, there are several "missionary societies" among us. There Is the Herald of Truth, Gospel Press, and now (praise the Lord!) we've got "World-Wide Bible Study," the new missionary society.

— 1040 W. Dallas Ave., Cooper Texas