Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 26, 1950

David Lipscomb On Church Cooperation

It is clear that the teachers sent messengers to the churches to make known their needs and to stir the churches to activity in the work of God. Paul not only did this, but with Titus as a messenger, sent by Paul to the church at Corinth, was sent another brother, whose praise is throughout the churches. "Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellow helper concerning you (in stirring you up to activity in the grace of giving): or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. Wherefore show ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf." These messengers were sent by the churches which were raising this fund for the poor to aid Titus in stirring them up. This shows plainly that churches, seeing the necessity of a work that they were not able to accomplish, did send messengers to other churches inducing them to engage in the work.

But in carrying out the work of the joint cooperation of these churches, they did not lose their church identity, did not form a joint organization, did not send delegates to a common meeting to act for the churches. They did not surrender control and dispensation of their bounty to a joint committee, not even to the apostle Paul. All worked in harmony and cooperated together, but each church raised its own funds by each member contributing as the Lord prospered, on the first day of the week, into the treasury. Then each church appointed its own messengers to carry and distribute its own funds, and each church wrote letters commending its own messengers to those to whom the benefit was sent.

It was the fartherest possible from an organized association of churches through delegates or from a voluntary association formed of the individuals willing to work from different churches into one new organization.

A messenger differs widely from a delegate or agent. A messenger bears a message to and returns a response. A messenger carried a message as to what the church sending desired to do and what aid it needed, and received and returned the response to the church which sent him. When this was done, his mission to the churches expired. He had no discretionary authority to suggest, discuss, or advise plans. The church acted as a whole in sending the message, and the other church as a whole in receiving, and action on, and responding to it. The whole work was carried on as between churches or an individual and a church.

A messenger differs from a delegate as a page in a legislative body does from a member of a conference committee, as a bearer of dispatches does from a minister plenipotentiary between nations. A messenger is one who simply carries a message. A delegate is one who is delegated or invested with authority to consider, investigate, and counsel with the body to whom he is delegated, or with fellow delegates, and decide what is best. He is authorized to recommend and act for the body which delegated him. One has authority to devise and determine for the body delegating him; the other conveys the wishes of decisions already made by the body. A delegate is authorized to act for the church; a messenger bears an account of actions already taken by the church.

A meeting of delegates is a meeting of persons invested with conjoint authority of the churches or bodies sending delegates. A meeting of delegates represents the conjoint authority of the churches who sent the delegates. It possesses the authority of all the churches combined. This, of course, is an authority greater than that of any one single church represented in the body. There never was a meeting composed of delegates from a dozen bodies that did not feel itself possessed of greater authority than any one of the single bodies represented in the matters concerning which they were delegated to act, simply because there is more force and weight in twelve than in one. Where these delegate meetings continue, they gradually engross more and more of the authority, and in all points of doubt as to where authority is lodged the higher body exerts the authority or power. No better example of that can be found than in the Congress of the United States in relation to the States. It takes no theory to cause this to be so. Men the most strenuous in theory for States' rights, when elected members of the general government, have been almost as ready to assume power for the greater body as those who theorize differently. It just means that in the nature of every human being there is an instinct that prompts the stronger to overrule and control the weaker.

Human nature will have to be more radically regenerated than it ever has been yet to prevent a delegation from a dozen or more congregations feeling that it possesses more authority than any one of the churches sending a delegate. Every body as naturally and as surely magnifies its office and extends its authority and power as human nature works for itself.

Now, the messenger was used by the preacher in sending to the churches to let them know their condition and wants; was used by the church in sending help to the preachers; was sent by the teacher to the churches to stir them up to their duty in helping the poor saints in a distant country; was sent by one church to excite others to aid it in a work which it was not able to do alone. The examples and proofs of this are clear and unequivocal. And this style of cooperation answered all the needs of the early churches--weak, few in numbers, and poor, yet scattered all over the known world. Through these simple means of cooperation, in an age without facilities for travel or intercommunication between nations, and with narrow, but strong, race prejudices to hinder the spread of knowledge from one tribe, nation, or country to another, with but little knowledge of each other's language, the gospel spread from tribe to tribe, from city to city, race to race, country and nation to country and nation, until within the lifetime of an individual the known world was permeated with a knowledge of the gospel of the Son of God. He who denies that the same means will spread the gospel in this day or any age to people ready to receive it lacks faith in God.

—(Questions Answered - page 143)