Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 12, 1951
NUMBER 48, PAGE 8-9,12b

More About "The Facts Concerning The German Work"

James W. Adams. Longview. Texas

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right," (A. Lincoln) we continue our consideration of the problem of "centralized control and oversight." Is it a reality among us? Are fears along this line justified? If so, is it scriptural? Surely these questions are answerable, and with their answer may we not expect to find the road to peace and unity in evangelistic activity? I trust that I am not too sanguine when I assume that all are interested in doing all things scripturally.

Some brethren seem to find it exceedingly difficult to become alarmed about anything. Out where I grew to manhood in the brush country of Southwest Texas there are two types of cow ponies that are the bane of riders. There is the nervous animal that sees a bugbear in every bush, and the "hammer-headed" horse that sees danger in nothing. Both kinds are dangerous and have been known to kill many men. It is admitted that there are many who see apostasy and digression in everything that smacks of progress, but it is likewise true that there are those who see danger in nothing. They are contemptuous of those who perceive trends away from the New Testament pattern. To them, the end justifies the means. About the only thing that will deter them is to cite a positive prohibition (thou shalt not) in the word of God. They find it exceptionally hard to make application of principles. A minor deviation from scriptural principles is to them a matter of no consequence. It should be observed in this connection that all major apostasies from the faith of Christ began this way. Albert Henry Newman in his "A Manual of Church History" makes a timely observation along this very line. He says:

"The study of church history enables us to see the working of great principles through long periods of time. Church history is a commentary on the scriptures. For every teaching of Scripture we can find many a practical exemplification. We can show, as it were, experimentally, how every departure from New Testament principles has resulted in evil—the greater the departure the greater the evil. The study of church history, while it may make us charitable toward those in error by showing us examples in all ages of high types of religious life in connection with the most erroneous views of doctrine, will not tend to make us disregard slight doctrinal aberrations; for we shall know that the most corrupt forms of Christianity have had their origin in slight deviations from the truth." (Volume 1, page 18)

It is a condition devoutly to be desired that all brethren everywhere have in their hearts the highest respect for the authority of the Scriptures and firmest resolve to resist most earnestly the slightest deviation from divine principles.

An Honest Confession

Someone has said, "Honest confession is good for the soul." A greater than this "someone" has said, "Confess your faults one to another and pray one for another." (James 5:16) The principle of many churches doing their evangelism in "the regions beyond" through one church has been going on among us on a small scale for many years. Many of us (I among them) have acquiesced in such arrangements, perhaps even gone so far as to encourage, though we did not in our hearts endorse the principle. I have in my files a radio manuscript of a sermon which I delivered over a station at Brownsville, Texas, ten years ago. In this sermon, the practice of many congregations working through one congregation in the field of general evangelism is indicted as unscriptural. Yet, even after that time, I have personally acquiesced in such arrangements on a small scale. Why? The only excuse that might be offered (not a reason) is that the thing was on such a minor scale that I could perceive in it no threat to the divine organization of the Lord's church. Wherever such posed a threat, I have always opposed it. The thing I had failed to see was that it is exceedingly dangerous to acquiesce in the violation of a divine principle even on what may seem to be the most innocent basis. With the birth of the sponsoring church of the present, the vicious tendency of the practice became clear to me. An irritated mole may seem a matter of no concern, but when medical diagnosis establishes the fact of malignancy it becomes a matter of prime consideration. It would be tragic for one thus affected to allow the matter of a change of attitude or inconsistency to keep him from attacking his malignancy with every weapon known to modern medical science. It would be just as tragic for a Christian to fail to oppose that which violates scriptural principles on the ground that such would require a change of attitude or convict of inconsistency. Some preachers feel that the "loss of face" in thus indicting themselves is unbearable. Such is not the spirit of the "heaven-born" child. Loss of face is nothing compared with truth.

Back To The "Facts"

The reader may feel that this article has wandered far from its original destination, but I trust that what has been said may help to an understanding of what shall follow. In a former article, a number of facts from "The Facts" have been cited as establishing grounds for alarm concerning "centralized control and oversight." More are forthcoming.

Looking at history one learns several things concerning the present "movement" to evangelize the world spearheaded by Broadway Church, Lubbock, Texas. It was born on the West Coast. It started as a "plan" and a "movement."

G. C. Brewer: "It seems that the matter was first discussed among the brethren who attended the Yosemite camp meeting or lectureship last summer. It has been further agitated by some brethren on the West Coast since that meeting. William Green, one of the elders of the church at Berkeley, Calif., has taken an active interest in this plan.

Lubbock Church Sponsors This Plan

Brother Green and those who have been discussing this plan for future work have asked the Broadway Church, at Lubbock, Texas, to sponsor the plan and to take the lead in asking churches everywhere to begin preparing and planning for the postwar effort.

Hysterical Headlines

Already announcement has been made in some papers about the work that is here outlined. William Green has written to the church at Lubbock offering an apology for this. He feels that since the Lubbock church had been invited to sponsor this movement, others should not have run ahead in the matter of publicity. (Gospel Advocate - Feb. 18, 1943)

You will note that this "plan" or "movement" was born at a mass meeting in the West. Broadway Church was asked by its originators to "sponsor" it, the "movement." Resentment was felt that some "ran ahead in publicity." Brother Jimmie Lovell took hold of the matter and pushed it. The fact is that it probably originated with him in the first place. Brother Lovell called the churches who took the lead "holding churches,"—that is; they were holding funds for postwar evangelism. He advocated many churches sending their money to these churches to be "held" by them, and after the war, to be "spent" by them in evangelizing some portion of the globe. Some of these churches were so weak as to be hardly able to support their own evangelists, yet they were to "hold" and to "spend" the money of hundreds of churches. Lubbock became a "holding" church, but some articles in opposition were written by some occasioning an article of explanation by brother Brewer in the Gospel Advocate, July 8, 1943, in which he said:

"It was never the purpose of the Lubbock Church to act as agent for anybody, and we do not want money sent to us. No such thing was intimated in our former article, but inquiries on this point have been received. The plan is for each church to act independently in the matter."

Despite these statements, however, "holding" churches continued to develop, especially on the West Coast, and though, according to brother Brewer, the Broadway Church had high and noble purposes at the first concerning "acting as an agent" and "having money sent to them," as soon as the war was over and actual work began, the Broadway Church did begin to ask for money to be sent to them and to act as the agent for hundreds of churches. Human movements and institutions have a way of doing such.

Brother Jimmie Lovell's "holding churches" of yesterday have become the "sponsoring churches" of today.

Brother Brewer did not endorse "the holding church" but does endorse and defend "the sponsoring church." It would be interesting to know the grounds upon which he accepts the one and rejects the other.

Several considerations surrounding the birth of this "movement" gave occasion for alarm: (1) Brother Jimmie Lovell is known to be one of the most unreliable thinkers in the churches when it comes to the fundamental principles of New Testament Christianity; (2) The very idea of churches that were hardly able to support themselves planning and overseeing work requiring the funds from hundreds of churches was not only unscriptural but nonsensical and ludicrous; (3) Such centralization of control and oversight of the funds and activities of churches of Christ was and is without scriptural precedent. It is but a step from centralizing control and oversight of evangelism in 25 or 30 churches to a coordination of these efforts and funds in one gigantic organization. If the reader cannot see this " I pray that his love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment that he may approve things that are excellent." (Phil. 1:9, 10) Another consideration was this: "Churches that become tributaries will soon become subsidiaries." I heard Floyd A. Decker say this out of his sad but enlightening experiences during his years with the Christian Church.

Broadway becomes a "sponsoring church." We are now ready to view the "facts" concerning the German work as it was launched in 1946. Brother Gatewood and brother Sherrod had made their "survey" of Germany and returned. From August 25-28, the first Lubbock Lectures were held. In these lectures, the plans and proposals of Broadway Church concerning the German work were made known. Your attention is directed to a number of quotations from the printed lectures. Most of these quotations are from the open forum and represent the thinking that was characteristic of the group assembled. I do not intend that Broadway Church shall be held responsible for every statement made by any person or that others who attended concurred in all said and done, but the general tenor of thought is interesting.

John Allen Hudson: "I have believed in centralization of church work for a long time. I believe you have to have a strong foundation to do anything. I have always believed in getting strength behind a movement." Pg. 40.

B. Sherrod: "I am not opposed to pooling our resources. If the other five or six churches here in Lubbock want to help us, we will not be dogmatic about leaders. We will step aside. No one was doing it, so we started. We are inviting the help of our neighbors and friends. If you will help in this work it will be done through the elders of this church in a scriptural way." Pg. 45.

Robert Alexander: "I am happy to see a church like Broadway getting behind the program, leading the way, saying to other brethren, "Come on." I am glad to see these brethren accepting responsibility. I appreciate hearing brother Sherrod say, "You can depend upon us. We are going to be hand and heart behind this program. We are going to oversee it. We are going to see that it goes in the right sort of direction or we are going to see that it doesn't go." Pg. 83.

B. Sherrod: "Thank you brother Alexander for those remarks." Pg. 83.

"We are asking all the people who propose to go with Otis to meet with the elders and deacons of this congregation at six-thirty. Others are invited to meet with us and we want to find out from you whether we think you are qualified, whether we think you are sound." Pg. 86.

The idea of "centralized control and oversight" was unquestionably in the minds of most of those who were present and spoke in this series of lectures. All seemed to understand that such was Broadway's program, yet it is denied that this is what is being done. Brother Sherrod was in favor of "pooling resources." He "invited" his friends and neighbors into the "pool." He said that the German work would "be done through the elders of this church." He thanks brother Alexander who quoted him as saying, "We are going to oversee it. We are going to see that it goes in the right sort of direction or we are going to see that it doesn't go." He invited those who were planning to go to Germany, even though they were supposed to be under the oversight of other churches, to meet with the elders and deacons of Broadway Church so that they might pass on their qualifications and soundness. Who said "centralized control and oversight?"

Enough has been said for this time. There are other things yet to be said so continue with us. Other articles are on the way. Let us give this matter a thorough study.