Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 10, 1950
NUMBER 14, PAGE 8,10a

Not The "Sending, But The "Spending"


In this issue we present a lengthy article from brother James D. Bales, which will, we trust, serve somewhat to clarify his position. As our readers know, we have been engaged in an extended discussion with brother Bales and others concerning the idea of a "diocesan" eldership. This exchange of articles grew out of anxiety on the part of the publisher and editor of the Guardian (an anxiety shared by multitudes of faithful gospel preachers and discerning elders) concerning the very obvious and growing tendency toward the development of a centralized control of the foreign mission work being done by the churches. We believed, and do believe, that most of the brethren and churches engaging in this work have wanted only to do the will of the Lord; their motives were high, and their desires were pure. But we also realized (as does every student of church history) how unbelievably easy it is for a movement to get started which cannot be controlled; and we were apprehensive lest the very righteous desire to evangelize the world might lead to false and unscriptural methods in which that work should be undertaken.

1. Hence, in the Guardian of April 20th, brother Cogdill wrote an article "Centralized Control and Oversight," endeavoring to warn against the dangers that seemed to us to be growing. He argued that in the New Testament there was neither precept for, nor example of, one church becoming the controlling and directing agency through which all other churches discharged their responsibility in preaching the gospel in a field foreign to them all.

2. Brother Bales replied to this article in the Gospel Guardian of June 15, citing the Jerusalem elders as being an example of the kind of "cooperation" he thought Cogdill was condemning. He felt that Acts 11:30 "destroyed" Cogdill's entire article.

3. We thought we saw in brother Bales' article an implication that had not occurred to him, so we wrote two editorials ("Diocesan Elders?" in the June 15th Guardian, and "Brother Bales Finds It!" in the June 29th issue) pointing out that if, in fact, the Jerusalem elders did exercise the kind of "control and oversight" Cogdill's article condemned, then there was a clear-cut, unequivocal case of "diocesan elders"—an eldership exercising authority and control "throughout a territory" in which there were many other scriptural congregations. And if the Jerusalem elders did not exercise that kind of control, then they are not a case in point; are not a scriptural example of the thing opposed; are not germane to the issue; and there was no point in introducing them at all.

As Of Now

In the article published in this issue, brother Bales states that he is opposed to the idea of a "diocesan" eldership. We rejoice, of course, in that declaration. From his former articles it had seemed that he might be trying to defend the idea He appeared to us to be arguing for that which we felt fairly confident he would not accept -once he understood the full implications of his premise.

The writers for the Guardian (especially its editor and publisher) traveling constantly to all parts of the nation in gospel meetings, have been certain they saw a tendency developing among the church toward a hurtful and unscriptural "centralization" in the foreign mission work. Multitudes of straight-thinking, sober-minded brethren share their apprehension. It was felt that the situation was, and is, urgent; no mild or cautious warnings would suffice. These convictions have led us to write with a vigor that may have appeared uncalled for—at least to those who were unacquainted with the growing trends, it may have seemed excessive. But the purity of the cause was at stake. No half-way measures would be adequate.

We rejoice brother Bales repudiates the exposed position into which his arguments were leading him. He is not, after all, in favor of "centralized control and oversight" in mission work; he does not believe the Jerusalem elders exercised that kind of authority. They were simply "forwarding agents" (a thing to which the Guardian has at no time offered objection).

"Sending" Versus "Spending"

We believe right on this point we may be able to clarify the whole problem. Brother Bales and others who have opposed the Guardian have consistently represented us (unintentionally, of course, misrepresenting us) as being opposed to one church "sending" money for another church. Nowhere have we opposed such. If a church (A) is merely acting as a "forwarding, agent," performing an accommodation for another church (B) in seeing that the other church's money is sent to the workers whom they (B) are supporting, then there is no violation of principle.

The thing we have opposed (and that we have absolute proof has been done!) is for one church to remit money to a "sponsoring church" not to "send" for them, but to SPEND for them—thus turning over all their responsibility and authority to the "sponsoring" church. It is the "sponsoring church" who selects the field, the workers, the time, place, and manner of their going, who has complete "control and oversight" of the entire project.

Brother Bales believes that the Jerusalem elders did not exercise "authority" over the Judean churches. They acted merely as a "forwarding agency," seeing to it that the money from Antioch reached the elders of the respective Judean congregations. That ought to fairly well dispose of the matter of the Jerusalem elders. Brother Bales now believes that the Jerusalem elders simply acted in somewhat the same capacity as the United States mail service would act in transmitting the funds to others. He still feels that they alone received the money from Paul and Barnabas, but says that "they in turn could send it to the elders of the various congregations for distribution." That is exactly the principle for which the Guardian has contended—it was "the elders of the various congregations" who had the oversight in distributing that relief; and not the Jerusalem elders alone!

Still Asking

What was the point in introducing these Jerusalem elders, anyhow? Were they not introduced into the discussion as being a case in point, a scriptural example of the kind of "centralized control and oversight" against which we were writing? But now it is conceded that they did not act in any such capacity. So the Guardian is still asking for a New Testament example of one church becoming the "controlling and directing agency" through which many other churches operated in a field foreign to all of them.

That there is a definite trend among churches today toward that very thing is, or ought to be, obvious to every man who is at all conversant with present day practices. Perhaps the trend can be headed off. We sincerely hope it can be—and will be. We do know that the battle being put up by the Guardian these past few months has slowed down the trend. We could wish that other journals among us would give more attention to this problem. To deny that there is such a problem is simply to reveal a lack of acquaintance with what is happening. We solicit and plead for the help of every gospel preacher, gospel journal, faithful elder, and sincere Christian in all the land in this mighty battle. The forces of evil are subtle and powerful and dangerous. It is no time for an easy-going complacency and lethargy or a wistful and vain hope that "things will work themselves out." It is a time for the faithful children of God to be alert, aggressive, and indomitable in their determination to preach the gospel in all the earth—according to New Testament precept, principle, and example!