Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 28, 1971
NUMBER 36, PAGE 7-8a

Questions And Answers

Eugene Britnell, P. O. Box 3012, Little Rock, Arkansas 72203

You are invited to send questions for consideration in this feature.

From Bisbee, Arizona:

"Recently I engaged an astute proponent of Orphan Homes in a discussion concerning authorization for church support of such.

"Not practiced in argumentation, I was unable to convince her that such passages as James 1:27 and Galatians 6:6-10 related to individual responsibilities, and, therefore, the church had no business entangling itself in this affair.

"During the course of the discussion, I explained that the church may provide to those for whom it has authority the essentials, which might include personnel, housing, food, clothing, etc. She then proceeded to show that these, along with those for whom these essentials were provided, constituted a home which she claimed was parallel to the Orphan Home. I objected, not being able to harmonize the board of directors in the parallel. But she explained that the personnel of the first case paralleled the board of directors of the Orphan Home. I asked her about the personnel who were under the directors in the Home, believing that the parallel was aberrated at this point. She pointed out that two classes of personnel do not ruin the parallel since, essentially, they have the same job: that of supervising the recipients of the relief or essentials.

"She further argued that the church of the first case, which did not act through the Orphan Home, really did not retain oversight of the essentials once the church relinquished them to the personnel who supervised their distribution to the needy. The church of the first case has no more oversight, she asserted, than one who works through an Orphan Home, regardless of whether it employs the terminology, 'buying services.'

"I must admit that it was at this juncture that I balked.

I could only reiterate at her arguments on this special point that since the church directly provides the essentials that it, therefore, has the oversight of the work.

"But brother Britnell, this is very nebulous to me, and I am in need of some lucid instruction with regard to this matter. I would be grateful for any help that you could give."

I have a feeling that this brother did a better job than he thinks. He should not feel discouraged because the lady did not see the truth. Some people cannot see the truth because they are looking the other way. I cannot get some people to see that baptism is for the remission of sins, notwithstanding the plain statement in Acts 2:38. The Lord could not get some people to see the truth, and he knew why (Matt. 13:15).

The lady is wrong in arguing that there is a parallel between a board of directors over a brotherhood project, and the personnel employed by a congregation in its work under the oversight of the elders. To clarify the issue, let's use the following diagram and designations:

1. (a) Board (b) Personnel (c) Work to be done.

2. (a) Elders (b) Personnel (c) Work to be done.

The lady was contending that there is a parallel between (a) of number one and (b) of number two. No, the parallel is as I have it illustrated. Both the board and the elders must employ personnel in the work to be done. The board doesn't have to do the work in order for it to be under its oversight, and likewise the elders don't have to actually do the work in order for it to be under their oversight. She argued that the church lost its oversight by working through the personnel chosen by the church to do the work. Does the board lose its oversight when it employs the personnel in its work? Of course not; neither does the church.

To illustrate the truth in a realm devoid of emotional prejudice, let us look at the work of edification. When the elders provide class rooms and teaching supplies and place teachers in the classes, do they lose their oversight by the use of such teachers? No. Would that arrangement be parallel to the setting up of an edification board which would provide the rooms, supplies and teachers? No.

Or take the work of evangelism. Would the elders lose the oversight of their evangelistic work by placing a preacher in the pulpit to preach the gospel? Certainly not! Why then would they lose their oversight by employing the personnel to assist them in the work of benevolence? The answer is, they would not!

The work of the church is to be done by the church. The elders are over the church and its work. If the elders cannot oversee a work, the church cannot do it. And if the church cannot do a work, it cannot contribute to it. I cannot accept the position that a work is being done somewhere which is not the work of the church and the elders cannot oversee, yet the church should contribute to it. If the church can contribute to a work — scripturally — then it must be a work of the church. But if it is the work of the church, then it should be under the oversight of the elders — for the elders are over the church and its work.

The primary difference between number one in our diagram (which the lady tried to defend) and number two is that there is no scriptural authority for number one, and there is for number two (Phil. 1:1; Acts 14:23; 20:17; I Tim. 5:17; I Peter 5:1, 2).