Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 5, 1950

A Letter To Lubbock

Some months ago the Gospel Guardian began to sound a note of warning and caution against the trend toward a "centralized control and oversight" in the manner of foreign mission work. We felt sure we saw unmistakable indications of a movement in that direction.

The readers of this paper are familiar with the discussion that followed. Several brethren and publications leaped to the defense of that which we opposed. Our warning was described as "purely arbitrary and grossly absurd," and the brethren were exhorted not to be moved by our "threats." We were cited to Antioch, to Jerusalem, to "sponsored" meetings here in the states, and to a number of other instances both in the Bible and out of it which, it was argued, gave sanction both from the Scripture and from approved contemporary examples for the thing we opposed. And so the issue was stated, the lines were laid down, and the discussion moved on apace.

Some six or eight months have gone by since the initial articles, and we see a considerable change in the picture. The point of debate has completely shifted. The practice which we opposed is no longer defended; on the contrary, it is opposed, denounced, and condemned. Indeed, "centralized control and oversight" bids fair to become as unpopular as premillennialism itself! The very same preachers and publications who wrote and published such strong articles about Jerusalem, Antioch, and the Houston meeting, etc., are today proclaiming in vigorous language their undying opposition to "centralized control"—and in the same articles are now declaring they do not know of any churches that are tending toward practices that would lead to such. So the ground has shifted from a defense of the doctrine to a denial of the trend.

Centralized Collections

But that the Guardian's fears were not completely without reason ought to be evident to any thinking man from the regional "mass meetings" now being arranged by the brethren in Lubbock in the interests of the German work. We have seen the proposed plans for the conduct of these meetings. We have seen the "pledge" which they are asking members of the various churches to sign a pledge that provides a way for individual Christians to circumvent, go around, and ignore their home congregations and send regular contributions to the Broadway church. And we say without any hesitation at all that the plan- is one of the most dangerous and far-reaching steps we have yet seen toward, a "centralized control" of mission funds. For these contributions are sought on an individual rather than a congregational basis. Individual Christians throughout the nation are given opportunity (and encouragement) to forsake the program in their own congregations and to contribute directly on a regular monthly basis to Broadway's program!

Now if that isn't a seeking of "centralized control" for mission funds, we simply wouldn't know how to describe it. If that isn't a dangerous "trend" what would be? There, is a clear distinction here between such individual contributions and the individual contributions sometimes solicited in behalf of a Christian college. The former are to support the work of the church; the latter are not.

A Letter

So keenly do we sense the peril in this new scheme that we have sent the following letter to brother Paul Sherrod, an elder in the Broadway church, and a man whose sincerity and love for the cause of Christ is recognized by all of us:

Dear Brother Sherrod:

I am writing you because of my deep interest in the preaching of the gospel of Christ in foreign countries, and because of my very real anxiety lest some of the methods by which that worthy work is being promoted should lead to a departure from the New Testament pattern of church work and cooperation.

I am writing specifically of the Broadway Church's plan to promote regional "mass meetings" throughout the nation, in which they will seek individual contributions from members of the churches, such contributions to be pledged on a regular monthly basis and sent directly to the Broadway Church for the building program in Germany.

I know your interest in the German work, and I appreciate the sacrifices you personally have made in trying to further that, work. But, brother Sherrod, this latest plan for raising support for Germany has in it seeds that are deadly. I plead with you brethren to restudy the matter, and withdraw from such an obvious and clear violation of the New Testament principles of church autonomy, independency, and equality.

For if the plan is carried through, it will mean that the Broadway Church will, in many instances, be circumventing the elders of other congregations, going around them to solicit and receive regular contributions from the members of those churches for work which the elders of such congregations' may not desire to support. There is simply no way to prevent this.

Would Broadway's elders, for example, be favorable toward arranging a meeting in Broadway's building in which brother Cline Paden would tell of the needs in Italy, pass out pledge envelopes to Broadway's members, urging them to by-pass Broadway's elders, and send their contributions for the Italian work directly to the Brownfield church? And, having done that, would they then be willing to arrange similar meetings for brethren promoting the work in Japan, Africa, Holland, Korea, Maine and Montana? Can you not see that once such procedure becomes accepted, all congregational lines have been crossed, the elders have been ignored, and the mission field that receives a congregation's money will be determined not by the elders but by the mission project having the best publicity agents and the most persuasive speakers to present their pleas? This plan strikes at the very heart of the New Testament teaching on church equality.

I am writing through no desire to hurt or cripple the German work. I pray for the establishment of New Testament congregations there as earnestly as I know how. But my concern for the purity of the gospel of Christ is not one whit behind my concern for the furtherance of the church in Germany. Believing that you, too, desire only that which is right, I would like to suggest an alternative plan, which, I believe, would not violate scriptural principles:

Let brother Gatewood, as a member of the Frankfurt congregation go to the elders of as many congregations in America as will give him a hearing, lay the needs of the Frankfurt brethren before them, and ask their help in building a house of worship. These elders, in turn, can, if they desire to have part in the work, present the matter to their various congregations, asking the brethren to make some real sacrifices, if need be, to supply the urgent need in Frankfurt. Thus the eldership of every congregation would be respected, a New Testament precedent would be followed, a danger would be averted, and the cause of Christ would be advanced.

With sincere prayers for the furtherance of the German work, and with every good wish to you personally, I am

Yours in Christ. Yater Tant