Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 22, 1951

"The Church To Be The Church"

C. R. Nichol

I quote the following from a letter recently received:

"I wonder how you feel about the present controversy among the brethren in regard to mission work. It seems to me that we have done so little in the past, that this increase in our activity is alarming. I would hate to think that we do not have enough of the grace of God to stand a little success. I have just finished reading the Gospel Advocate from 1855 to 1861. Tolbert Fanning in this five year period, was fighting for the very life of the church. It would seem that his plea, and others, succeeded, but now that it has succeeded, we are afraid that something wrong is in the offing. Would like to have a line from you."

So far as I know there has been no controversy over doing missionary work. There has been an adverse criticism over a congregation "sponsoring" a work, when it knew it was not in position, financially, to do the work "sponsored," nor was it in their program to attempt the work within and of themselves. They had planned to send men to congregations throughout the land, asking them to send to them money to assist them in doing a work for which they proposed to be surety, and that they distribute the money as seemed to them good.

There is a marked difference in an emergency arising in a congregation, and a congregation deliberately creating an emergency, and then soliciting other congregations to send them money to be disbursed as they see proper, in mission work, or erecting buildings.

Less than a year ago I was in an assembly of considerable size, composed largely of members of the church of Christ from different communities. The speaker on the occasion, tried, as it appeared to me to "high-pressure" those from different congregations into sending money to a "sponsoring" congregation which would disburse the money as seemed good to that congregation in missionary work, in erecting buildings. Some degree of success attended his effort. Need there be a comment made touching the "high-pressure" method in a large congregation?

Do the elders of the "sponsoring" church sustain the same relationship to the congregation which they try to induce to send to them money, that they do to the congregation in which they are elders? If "No" what relationship do they sustain to the congregations (churches) from whom they seek to raise money. What relationship do the congregations over which the elders of the "sponsoring" congregations are not elders sustain to the elders of the "sponsoring" church?

You tell me that Tolbert Fanning fought for "the church to be the church," and that his effort, with that of others, "succeeded." It is my persuasion that the church should be the church, and that the local congregation is the largest organization ordained by the Lord for the accomplishment of all the work he has commanded at the hands of congregations. I am not in sympathy with the statement I often hear: "We need a twentieth century church; that the church the Lord established was quite adequate for the first century, but we have come a long way since then, and the way work was done then is antiquated, outmoded, and there is now need for larger organizations, and different methods than those of the first churches in the first century, when churches labored under the direction of the elders in local congregations." To say that there is need for different methods now is tacitly to declare that the Lord was near-sighted, and did not know the progress which we would make, and the need for a different program than that of the first century.

Some years ago there lived in the U. S. a man of whom it was said: "He is a one man missionary society. He had for his slogan, "Great Things For God." Some weeks ago I talked with a successful business man, a member of the church of Christ, and he said to me, in the presence of others: "I am not pleased with something the church (congregation) of which I am a member is doing; but think what great work we are doing." Is there a flare now among congregations to do "great things" and leave God out of the thinking?

"Let the church be the church."


Man is a free moral agent, before and after conversion. If man cannot fall after conversion, he is not free, but is no more than a machine.


The "King James" translation of the Bible—the one most frequently used — was made in 1606-1611. The Revised Version was made in 1885.