Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 30, 1964
NUMBER 12, PAGE 1,10-11a

Compendium Of Issues (II.)

Foy E. Wallace, Jr.

A new fallacy has now become prevalent, that the only thing necessary to make a thing scriptural is to put whatever it is under the eldership of some church no matter where the church is. So institutions and organizations with their boards, wholly outside the church, are being put under the eldership of some sponsorial church, boards and all. According to that idea all that is necessary to make a missionary society scriptural is to put the society under the sponsorship of some eldership! Comes then the notion that the eldership of a church in the U. S. A. may sponsor an institution under a board in Italy or Germany. It is now advocated that educational and benevolent institutions should first be set up in foreign countries as a beachhead for the church — hence, the establishment of a human institution to spearhead the work of the church, thereby making human organization more effective than the divine.

On what principle can the eldership of a church in America take the oversight of an institution in Europe or Asia, whether the organization be a school or an orphanage? When the eldership of a church becomes centralized board of benevolence or a general board of a foreign mission, it is just as unscriptural as any other board, and the authority for it may be found on the blank page of your New Testament.

As for establishing institutional orphan homes in Germany, Italy and Japan, to spearhead the missionary work of the church, where is a New Testament example of that procedure? Poverty existed in the days of the apostles in mass form, as much so as in any foreign country today, but where was such a program inaugurated by Paul in various lands where he preached the gospel? This institutional idea is something new, The truth of the matter is, benevolence is the fruit of Christianity not the means of establishing the church. But as we now have it, vast sums are funneled from the churches all over the nation, concentrated in a "board of elders" of a church somewhere, which agrees to "sponsor" an institution in some other distant place at home or abroad! This centralization of authority and concentration of funds in boards have been the main points of difference between the human and divine plan, and now brethren are practicing it and prominent preachers who ought to know better are defending it. But there is nothing like it in the New Testament, nor so much as a hint in the direction of an intimation of a so-called imaginary law of expediency which could authorize it. Better that we get back to the simplicity of the New Testament church, and Iet our brains "petrify on a few of its stipulated conditions. Such phraseology runs parallel to the parlance of a group of digressive, "brain trusters" in Tennessee and Texas over forty years ago.

In an effort to compose the opposition the representatives of one of the provincial elderships announced that individual contributions only would be marked for support of the educational institutions abroad, and church contributions would be applied on the preaching of the gospel. In that case the allocation of the funds is only on the ledger. The regional board in charge, not the contributors, decides the entry. Furthermore, that system has a local church overseeing a foreign institution to which other churches cannot contribute! That is, according to their ledger. The school is under a board, and both the school and the board are under the regional elders of a local church That is institutionalism in modern garb.

To justify the establishment of institutional orphanages for the churches to sponsor as a means of doing their "pure and undefiled religion, reference is frequently made to Jas. 1:27 — "visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction." But the passage does not limit this visitation to the fatherless. It says, "fatherless and" and whom? Widows. For comparison: "He that believeth and" ... and what? Is baptized. The conjunction "and" conjoins two things, the "fatherless" and "the widows." Now, if Jas. 1:27 is a command for an institutional orphanage, it is no less a demand for an institutional widowage. Why is the latter part of the command never emphasized, much less obeyed, by those who insist that the first part of it is the precept for an institutional organization? The institutional idea is not in the language of James. That fact that Paul put an age restriction on the widows, that none under sixty could be enrolled as permanent charges of the church, and that the New Testament specifies these benevolent interdictions, makes it evident that it is not the will of God for the church to be encumbered permanent programs of material benefactions as are now being promoted with such assiduity, which undoubtedly diminish the temporal means to the spiritual ends of preaching the gospel. The duty of the church in alms-giving is therefore limited to relief emergencies. There is no passage in the New Testament that incorporates the institutional idea as an obligation of the church.

It is even being argued that the healing of diseases by Jesus is precept for a medical program by the church; and the instances of healings by the apostles to confirm the word preached by them are examples for the establishment of benevolent institutions and medical centers in foreign countries by churches over here as a means of starting the church over there. What next? That would make medicine take the place of miracles, if the argument is any good; and medical colleges, with their laboratories for training doctors; and the hospitals where the interns are finished off for medical practice — all that, with everything that goes along with it should be added to the budgets of the churches! If that premise is right, this conclusion is inevitable; and the Great Commission, after all, is limited; for Jesus should have called and sent doctors, as he did apostles, and should have included dispensing medicine along with preaching the gospel. Hard pressed indeed, are these brethren for any New Testament example for what they are doing. It reminds us all, who know the past, of the grabbing at straws for something to favor instrumental music and society organizations.

If the miraculous ministrations are to be taken as an example for beginning the medical missionary program proposed, then the fact that such ministrations ended is proof that we should quit — before we begin. When Jesus said to his disciples, "greater works than these shall ye do," he meant that the preaching of the gospel commanded in the commission would be a greater work than all the miracles of his personal ministry, including his ministrations of physical healing. The church does not operate in the field of pathology.

A group of young men from a certain college attended one of my meetings recently, and incidentally told me that they had been attending classes in biology that day; had dissected frogs and performed an experimental operation on a cat. I listened and learned a little more about the work of the church; since this college had contended for a place in the treasuries of the churches, it is a part of the work of the church to dissect frogs and operate on cats! That is what it means if these secular institutions are to go into the budgets. If medical research and administration are the work of the church, so is surgery and the church is therefore obligated to all such institutions alike. Who can believe it, who knows anything about the mission of the church?

It is evident that more emphasis is now being put on building a few human institutions in Japan, Germany and Italy than on the preaching of the gospel and the establishment of the church itself. The argument that the church can be better established through these human institutions and more souls saved through their agency only magnifies the fallacy of the procedure. Why is it that Jesus Christ did not order it that way when he gave the Great Commission to his apostles? Such a "program" or "plan" makes the church, a divine institution dependent on human organization for existence and success. It does not help the scriptural status for some centralized brotherhood eldership to assume the "oversight" of these overseas organizations. Aside and apart from the organization feature, what right has a local eldership to become a general eldership and to eldership for all the churches? It appears certain that the fight against organization and digression made in Texas and Tennessee fifty years ago must be fought all over again. If this sounds like an over-statement of the situation, just take a look at the picture. A central eldership in the United States overseeing institutional boards in foreign countries through which to do the work of the church, with all other churches working through this central eldership of one church, which in turn works through the man-made boards of human organizations somewhere else!

Instead of starting institutions, the plain New Testament plan would be for churches such as these "sponsors" to select for themselves a trustworthy gospel preacher, quietly send him to a field of work, put him to, teaching and preaching the gospel in the chosen field, and support him as they do the preacher at home. This would probably never produce enough notoriety to get into LIFE magazine nor attract the attention of congressmen and senators, but God would see it and know it and make an entry of it in the records of heaven. And while the results, perhaps, would not be so widely publicized, the church would nevertheless be established in all such places in the apostolic way and develop according to the New Testament pattern in every land. There is only one New Testament, and it does not set forth one way to do the work of the church in this country but another way, more expeditious, for another country. It is the one New Testament, the one church, and the one way for every land.

Another matter that has been treated altogether too lightly is the kind of preachers that are being sent into these fields. It is obvious that any preacher, or anybody who is not a preacher, who decides he or she wants to become a "missionary," can obtain the passport from some central eldership and sail-abroad. Before the echoes from the Don Carlos Janes and E. L. Jorgenson scoop of missionary money has died away in the distance brethren are again committing their mission work and trusting their missionary money to weak and wavering, unreliable and untrustworthy men in the foreign fields. After going among the Churches for a whole generation, soliciting money for missions, Janes (a premillennialist) left a fortune to Jorgenson (another premillennialist) with the proviso that the bequest should be used to promote premillennialism.

Now the churches are again blindly supporting O. D. Bixler (one more premillennialist), a self-confessed Boll sympathizer, caught and convicted in his premillennial teaching (which evidence we hold in documentary form), and he is in control of much of the work in Japan today?. Under his influence also are other men in charge of other parts of the work there who have acknowledged their ignorance of the premillennial issue, and who, to compose the situation, pledge themselves not to oppose the introduction of the premillennial issue. How then can they teach the truth on the kingdom of Christ, the reign of Christ, the throne of David, the second coming of Christ, the resurrection, the judgment, the Great Commission itself, which premillennialism nullifies, without introducing the issue? And since the denominational preachers in Japan will be teaching all of the millennial theories, how can they answer the denominationalists, or oppose their doctrines, without introducing the issue? The issue ought to be introduced everywhere, and its heresies exposed. The gospel poses the issue. Men who do not know the issue, and who cannot meet the issue, ought to be kept at home and taught before sending them anywhere to teach anybody either at home or abroad. Yet recently a young men planning to go to Africa would not consent to a declaration of views on these questions on the ground that no one had a right to ask, and besides, he said the money of the premillennialists was as good as anybody's money! So it is with this "centralization of eldership, a big eldership of a big church takes over the work of the elders of many churches, with the concentration of authority, overseeing workers by the scores who are not even members of the congregation where these elders are supposed to elder, sending unsafe and unsound teachers and preachers by swarms into the foreign fields — with all of this, what will the harvest be? And what will be left of the autonomous organization of the New Testament church? It has already happened in Texas and in Tennessee, whether you are among those who have believed it could not happen here or not.

In the midst of all this false teaching, and among all of these false teachers, there are yet some brethren who are so afraid of disfellowshipping anybody that they extend fellowship to everybody. We suggest that Rom. 16:17 covers their case and that Titus 3:10 prescribes the procedure. Extending fellowship is a rather singular way to mark and avoid, and supporting them in foreign fields is a rather peculiar form of rejection, which are the exact actions the two passages command.

— (TORCH - August, 1950)