Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 22, 1951
NUMBER 41, PAGE 8-11

Kingdom Business!!!

Charles A. Holt, Jr., Mt. Pleasant, Texas

(Editor's Note: Brother Holt calls for a study of a growing problem. Read his article carefully. We will welcome articles from other brethren on this matter—articles either questioning or defending the present trend toward more and more and bigger and bigger institutions. Only by a free, full, and brotherly discussion can such matters as this be studied in the light of God's word. There is neither place nor reason in such a discussion for any kind of personal reflections; but there certainly is reason for the most serious and earnest study possible.)

"Running Boles Home is Kingdom business. It is the church of our Lord at work, and caring for these boys and girls is big business for Christ." This statement is from the pen of brother Gayle Oler in the Boles Home News, November 25, 1950. Brother Oler can certainly be counted on to express the attitude of the home and all those connected with it, since he is "head" of this "big business." Therefore, whatever the above statement means, includes and excludes, can be relied on as the true position of the supporters of the orphan homes.

This statement, as well as the "orphan home problem" in general, needs some serious study by all of us. I have thought this for years. I have waited for those with abler pens and better minds to take the lead in this matter. I have held my peace as long as I can. At the risk of being "crucified," ridiculed, and whatever else indignant and unthinking brethren will do to one who dares question any of their pet projects, or speaks his conviction on such things, I hereby set forth some thoughts. It is the sincere desire of my heart to do only good. I have no axe to grind and certainly nothing personal against anyone. If wrong, I will gladly and happily change. I want to be right. It is my prayer that abler brethren will pay their respects to these matters—one way or the other, for or against. I have talked with many preachers and elders who are seeing the need of (shall we call it) a "restudy" of the orphan homes. Of course, I realize many charges will be hurled at me, such as, "He is opposed to taking care of orphans, and he has no love for poor little helpless children." All such is untrue. No one can love children, orphans or not, more than I do without more capacity for doing so. To make such charges against me is to speak falsely. It is done to prejudice people in favor of the homes, to stir up emotions and close their minds to reason. Certainly I believe in caring for the orphans and in helping anyone who is in need.

Now here let me say that it is not my purpose to show how orphans, "widows indeed," and old, helpless people should be cared for. At the present I am under no obligation to do so. It is asserted that "running Boles Home is Kingdom business... the church of our Lord at work." I am examining the methods we are using at present. I am a member of the kingdom and therefore am involved in this assertion. Furthermore, the church where I worship sends $600 per year to orphan homes. Surely I have a right to look into the matter.

A Mere Assertion

In the statement above, brother Oler asserted that "running Boles Home is Kingdom business... the church of our Lord at work." He didn't give the authority or proof for his assertion. I do hope, however, that he can he persuaded to show the authority in God's book for creating such an institution, and that the running of it, is "Kingdom business." I have heard this sentiment in substance all of my life and have always wondered about it. Is it true or merely an assumption? If I grant this assertion to be true, then we could start from there, but I do not grant this and ask for the scriptural authority for such doings. Let's start from the beginning. Where is the proof that "running Boles Home is Kingdom business ... the church of our Lord at work??"

Granting The Assumption

For the moment, however, let me grant that the statement ("running Boles Home is Kingdom business... It is the church of our Lord at work...") is true. Let's notice some conclusions that follow. What does this "big business for Christ" include? Does this mean that everything else done by the church is just "little business," when compared to Boles Home? Wonder if the "church of our Lord at Work" in preaching the gospel would rate a place in the category of "big business for Christ?" I will grant that Boles Home is a "big business" (but do not grant the "for Christ's part) and it is getting bigger all the time. The plans for enlargement are amazing. It is to be the envy of all the sects, the biggest church-supported orphanage in the world and there will be nothing else like it, if all the high-powered plans go through! The recent publicity campaign (the tour of the U. S.) and all the begging schemes are helping make it even a bigger "business."

Since "running Boles Home is Kingdom business," whatever is done in connection with "running Boles Home" is "Kingdom business." In other words, this means that whatever Boles Home has done, or is doing, it is the church doing it. How could it be otherwise if the statement is true that "running Boles Home is Kingdom business ... the church of our Lord at work?" How could you logically separate what Boles Home does from the church, if Boles Home is "the church of our Lord at work?" Brethren, are we prepared for this conclusion and the results? I am not. I am a member of the kingdom and, therefore, whatever the kingdom does (its business) involves me. Don't lose sight of the point—whatever Boles Home does, and must do, in the "running" of it, it is the church doing it! Let's look at some of these things. Many others could probably be given.

Boles Home And Recreation

The Dallas Morning News, December 28, carried a write-up about Boles Home (the church at work!) getting 38 acres of land on Lake Texoma for a recreation resort. The initial investment is $8,000, but will be "increased to $25,000 within a 10-year period." The following paragraph from this write-up is interesting: "The Boles Orphan Home is sponsored by the Churches of Christ. Wilson said that the churches sponsoring the home very likely will utilize the recreational area for encampments when it is not in use by the home."

I realize that newspapers cannot always be relied upon to state exactly the truth and I can allow for that. However, let's notice a thing or two revealed in the above paragraph.

1. "The Boles Orphan Home is sponsored by the Churches of Christ." This is true in practice whether it is admitted by the Home or not. Boles Home is an institution, not the church, "sponsored by the Churches of Christ." What does this mean? Brother Oler said above that "running Boles Home ... is the church of our Lord at work." The point I am making, or trying to arrive at, is: To whom does Boles Home belong? Who is responsible for what it does and obligated to support it? Is it the work of some individual congregation? Or, is it the work of the church in general? If it belongs to one congregation, let someone say so, and tell us which one.

We have preached for years (and it is true) that the word "church" is used in two senses in the Bible; in a local sense (meaning one congregation) and in a general way (meaning the church universal). I will not take time now to show proof of this. Now which usage are we to understand the word to have in brother Oler's statement? Is Boles Home the work of one congregation—"the church of our Lord at work, or does it mean the church in the general sense—all congregations? Surely if it is to be understood in the general sense we can see that it is an unscriptural set-up. Who authorized, or can authorize, Boles Home to do anything for the church universally? How can the church universally act at all through such an institution? If the church universally can work through Boles Home to do her benevolent work, why could not the church in the same way and for the same reasons work through the missionary society to do its "mission" work? As strong a case can be made for one as for the other on this basis. Where is the material difference, brethren?

2. "Wilson said that the churches sponsoring the home very likely will utilize the recreational area for encampments when it is not in use by the home." Look at the implications and dangers in this thing. It seems to me that "the churches sponsoring the home" are utilizing the recreational area for encampments when it is in use by the home since "running Boles Home is ... the church of our Lord at work." When Boles Home uses the recreational area then the church is using it! This, then, means that the church has leased the recreational area and that the church is providing recreation. All who have any degree of respect for the church and her mission in the world know that it is not the work of the church to provide recreation for anyone. Yet we are forced to the conclusion that we have here a genuine case of this being done in Boles Home. I know some brethren who would rebel at even having a kitchen in the church building, but are ardent supporters of Boles Home—"the church of our Lord at work"—even in providing recreational facilities. Such inconsistency. How can we consistently condemn the recreation centers (as proposed in Dallas for the churches) and justify it in Boles Home, since Boles Home is "the church of our Lord at work?" In fact, it seems to me that the Dallas proposal, if not supported by churches as such, would have a better argument than Boles home. Brethren, you can't escape the conclusion that in supporting Boles Home, which is the church at work according to brother Oler, we are sponsoring a recreation area on Lake Texoma. How liberally are you supporting the recreational work—a work of the church??

3. Look at some other things forced on us as the work of the church:

a. In "running Boles Home" a farm is operated.

b. "Running Boles Home is Kingdom business ... the church of our Lord at work."

c. Therefore, operating a farm is "Kingdom business ... the church of our Lord at work."

4. But again:

a. In "running Boles Home" there is a gymnasium, basketball team, baseball team, a school, and a student center with its ping pong tables, etc...

b. But "running Boles Home is Kingdom business ... the church of our Lord at work."

c. Therefore, building a gym, sponsoring basketball and baseball teams, maintaining a school, and operating a student center is "Kingdom business ... the church of our Lord at work."

If these things are right when the church does them through Boles Home, why are they not right when some individual congregation sponsors them? If "running Boles Home ... is the church of our Lord at work," and it is right to do these things through Boles Home, I am unable to see why it would be wrong for any congregation, or congregations, to do such. What justifies it in one place would justify it in the other. What condemns it in one place condemns it in the other. I believe that every argument (?) that can be offered as proof that churches should support orphan homes can just as easily and logically be made by the colleges. Compare them sometime.

Other Observations And Questions

1. The nation-wide tour of the Boles Home chorus. Boles Home has underway a big enlargement campaign. They are putting on "drives" to raise the money to "sponsor" this enlargement. The tour of this chorus was a part of this program to raise money—make thousands of new friends for Boles Home, who would give money to the Home, of course. They solicited help (maybe not directly, but did anyway) and received help from many not members of the church. This means that "the church of our Lord at work" through Boles Home begged money from people not members of the Lord's church to carry on Kingdom business!

2. Money spent on this tour. I wonder how much money was spent on this tour and who paid for it? Regardless of this, whether it was some individual or the Home itself, the principle is still the same—it was "the church of the Lord at work" through Boles Home. I am sure that such a tour cost quite a little sum of money. How many orphans would that have cared for? The money spent for the tour was probably looked upon as an investment by "the church at work." It was to make friends—contributors to the Home. If "the church at work" can invest in such ventures to make more money, why could not congregations make investments, loans, and what not to make money? If Boles Home is "sponsored," supported, by "Churches of Christ," does the Home have the right to use this money in investments to make money? Was this tour a part of "running Boles Home" (if so it was Kingdom business!!) or, was it a part of a scheme to galvanize into prominence the Home and get money to make it the biggest such home in existence?

3. The big enlargement program. The plans are to enlarge Boles Home to take care of a thousand children. Truly the idea is to make the home even a bigger "business." This program has dangerous implications to me. If the home gets sufficient money and property to become independent, or even nearly so, what means can be used to keep it in line spiritually? (This question must not be construed to mean that I have no confidence in those who are in charge of the Home, for I do.) If independent, the Home would no longer have any use for the churches. We are well aware that money makes for independence as well as worldliness. Look at some of our colleges in days gone by, and at present. What is to keep the Home on a solid platform, to keep it from digressing?

Suppose the home makes its enlargement program. This would make it a more powerful organization. It already has power and control beyond thinking. Already there are some elders who feel that every time they get a "begging letter" from the home that they just must support it. They just can't refuse the plea of the Home.

I have seen elders who would ignore letters from worthy congregations needing help and "file" all such in the waste basket, but a letter from Boles Home is not ignored. In many instances the Home takes precedence over preaching the gospel. Is this as it should be?

The plea of the home is very appealing and to those who act largely from emotion it is hard to turn down. Such appeals are made as, "if you would only help us we could take care of many more children—we have several waiting admittance!! Everyone can be touched by such appeals. No one begrudges helping those in need, but some of "us" are interested in doing it the correct way and are opposed to establishing institutions that become parasites to the church, to do this work.

4. Who gets the credit? Who gets the credit, or glory, for what good the Home does? Does it go to the church of the Lord, or, to the Home? Was it the Home or the church that was held up to people on the recent tour made by the Boles Home chorus?? I think I know and I believe you do too if you think.

5. Orphans Homes softening spot for institutionalism. We are in the midst of a real battle against institutionalism. Institutions of all sorts and kinds have been trying to get their hands into the treasury of the churches. Everyone that succeeds in doing so succeeds in taking that money away from its true mission—the preaching of the gospel. Institutions are sucking the life-blood out of churches. They are channels through which the Lord's money is spent. How the forces of evil must rejoice every time a dollar goes into such channels when it should go to preaching the gospel.

The orphan homes have gotten into the church budgets because of the nature of their work. It is appealing. The orphan homes are institutions, and it is just a step from them to a support of colleges, and any and all other institutions that the ingenuity of our brethren can get up. Most brethren have come to realize the wrong in supporting colleges — institutions. The same arguments used against college-support can be used against orphan homes. We need to go back to the source of this institutional trouble—the orphan homes—and study this thing some more. Let's clear up the source.

Why couldn't some college (for policy sake, maybe) put itself "under" some group of elders and have every reason for support as Boles Home. Boles Home has its board of directors made up of brethren from various places. The directors are "under" the elders of the church in Terrell—we are told. I doubt the elders of the Terrell church realize this or would admit to it. Even if they did, it is still not so and is done to pacify some brethren and make it look scriptural. We are too easily fooled.

Brethren, the orphan homes are the very institutions that have opened the way into the budget of church for any and all other institutions.

6. Where is the Authority? Where do we get scriptural authority for creating orphan homes—institutions through which the church is at work? The plague is catching and they are springing up everywhere. Someone makes a will and leaves some money or property for beginning such a home. Some promoter grabs the opportunity and here we have another institution for the church to support!

Where in the New Testament did the church have any other organization for doing any of its work other than the local congregation? Nowhere have I read of the church becoming the permanent support of orphans. In the case of widows Paul shows that the church should not be burdened except in extreme cases. The whole tenor of his argument is against the church supporting them. The church is not primarily a benevolent institution. The early church took care of its own members in case of emergency (Acts 2-5), to be sure but didn't start an orphanage, widowage, old-folks home, or any such institution. They did not become permanent wards of the church. The church is not to be burdened with such things.

7. James 1:27. Does this verse allow for the establishing of institutions to care for widows and orphans? Does this verse apply to the church as such, or, to individuals? Verse 26 is addressed to individuals. Doesn't the whole context indicate that verse 27 is addressed to individuals also? It tells us, as individuals, how to practice "pure and undefiled religion." To whom does the "himself" in verse 27 apply—to the church or the individual? Does James 1:27 authorize the church to build an orphanage, with all of its attendant necessities, to care for orphans? I don't think that it does, in spite of the fact that it is so often quoted by us in support of such an idea.

8. Orphan homes are "Crutches." By this I mean that orphan homes are "crutches" upon which churches lean to do their work for them. When a church is faced with caring for some orphans of its own, what is its attitude? Usually they jerk the children up and send them to an orphan home and then send the home five or ten dollars a month, and then say, "We are taking care of orphans!" If it can be shown that taking care of orphans permanently and by the church is scriptural, I doubt the way we do it (as above) is acceptable. Why not each congregation care for its own orphans? Of course, if some emergency arises and one congregation has more than it can care for, then others might help the congregation in its work. Thanks (?) be to orphan home promoters for taking over the responsibility (?) of congregations in caring for orphans!

Furthermore, what right does the orphan home have to scour the country for orphans and then demand, or even expect, congregations everywhere to help care for them. Are we obligated to care for any orphans than those of our own? These should be "orphans indeed" too. Why should the church be burdened with such when there are relatives to care for them. If not any relatives there will be hundreds of homes opened to them, in most cases.

9. Orphan homes (such as Boles) are not the ideal places for orphans. I deny that the orphan homes (institutions) are better places to rear children than in good Christian homes. What a reflection on the church to think so. If the orphan homes are the best places, then let's send all of our children to them—orphans or not!! Just because some homes (families) make failures in rearing their children doesn't mean that the home isn't the best. Did God make a mistake in establishing homes?

a. In the orphan homes the children are without love and parental affection such as they would receive from Christian parents. Certainly no one would be so foolish as to think that the 400 children of Boles Home have this kind of love. It is impossible.

b. In Boles Home the children are regimented and "institutionalized," like an army. They have their barracks, definite places and groups. But someone says, "Oh, this is all good for the children." That some of this is worthwhile I would not deny, but that it is best, I do deny. If it is best, then it might be good to practice communism and let all our children be wards of the state! Brethren, are we really thinking?

But says another, "In sending children to the home, the family is not broken-up, the children stay together." Is that so? They do stay on the same grounds perhaps, and in the same institutions, but that they are "together" I deny, unless they go to the same barracks because they happen to be boys (or girls as the case may be) of the same age. Anyway who knows that it is best for the children to stay together? Furthermore, there are many prospective parents that would take all the children. The state used to have and maintain orphan homes. But they are gradually getting out of the business. Why? Well, for two reasons anyway: (1) They realize that institutional life is not the best for the children, and (2) they realize that there are so many good homes wanting children. It is time we were learning some things too.

10. The Home makes fine men and women—makes Christians of these boys and girls!!" The above is sometimes used to justify the churches supporting Boles Home. Does Boles Home exist to make Christians of these boys and girls? I thought that was the work of the church. That the homes do develop fine men and women of these boys and girls, and help make them Christians (in most instances), I do not deny. Is not the "making of Christians" a result of the home and not the reason for it? The same argument can be made by the colleges. Look at the boys and girls that become Christians under the influence of "our" schools. Shall the churches support them?

Would the homes like to compare figures in "making Christians?" Look at the number of boys and girls that become Christians as a result of Boles Home. Now, how much money was invested in such? I expect the colleges would have a better percentage. How many gospel meetings could be held, how many churches established, for what it cost to operate the Home for one year? Souls are not to be valued in dollars and cents, I know, but this is simply a sensible way to look at the matter. We continually lose sight of the fact that the church is the only institution that has any divine right to exist for the purpose of saving souls. All of God's work can be done within the framework of the church if we will only realize it and do it that way. Can we improve on God's arrangement?


After all is said and done the only way this thing can be settled is by the word of God. What we need is proof that our present system—the orphan homes—institutions —is scriptural. Let's not take such things for granted.

Let me ask that you give serious thought to these matters. I would deeply appreciate hearing from everyone of you as to what you think about the things herein stated. If I am wrong in my conclusions please set me right. I just hope that whoever may undertake to do so will do so with the right spirit. I have tried to manifest the spirit of my Master in what I have written. I am not looking for a fight, nor trying to get any publicity... Such things are foreign to my purpose. I will examine honestly all arguments and material presented regardless of position taken. Surely better men than I am will help us arrive at the truth regarding these matters. May God bless this article to His glory and to the advancement of His Cause upon the earth, is my prayer.