Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 29, 1954

Another New Idea For The Church

H. E. Phillips, Gainesville, Florida

Brethren, I think I have another new idea for a combined program of churches of Christ in America. I have been reading about and listening to all the "wonderful" plans and arrangements "we" have made to do greater work in the church, and I have an idea for a "needy" work that will put our name before the world — and it is as scriptural as all "our" other great works. Honestly, with all the new ideas and plans we have to do the work of the church, we can't miss.

Now my plan is this: First, I realize that I must get a "sponsoring" church somewhere, but that should be easy with so many big churches eager to "sponsor" something big and new. Surely some "Board of Elders" or "Planning Committee" will see the possibilities of this great work and "sponsor" me and my program. Of course, I want it to be scriptural, so it must be under an eldership somewhere.

Now here is what the work is: We are neglecting to feed the poor and care for the sick as we should. Thousands all over this country are not being cared for as they should. This is the WORK OF THE CHURCH to care for the poor and sick. Never can anyone say I "created" all these poor and sick people; it is as much an emergency as at any time and place in the world where poor and sick people are. Now we want to get the best workable plan to do this work. My plan is to get the "sponsoring" church to take the "oversight" of all phases of the work; that would make it scriptural. This eldership would employ and oversee all personnel: the treasurer, secretaries, doctors, nurses, chef and cooks, tailors and dress makers, collecting agents, and advertising men. Not only would this eldership oversee all this, but they would personally check all food, clothing, and medicine. We could call this "The Angels of Mercy." Now since this IS the work of the church, and since it was not an emergency created by any one church, and since it IS "under an eldership," it is scriptural.

We could set the budget for the first year at Two Million Dollars. It would take that much to reach all over the country and do the kind of job we want to do. The plan to raise this money would be the same as "we" have used in our other "big" programs. We could get the "sponsoring eldership" to contact 10,000 churches and have them "cooperate" in this program by sending regular contributions to the sponsoring church. Each "contributing" church could have its preacher or some member to contact each member of that church and solicit a contribution. Each church in turn could send the amount to the "sponsoring" church. All checks should be made payable to: "Angels of Mercy," or to the eldership of the "sponsoring" church. Also, if any preacher or church knew of any poor or sick, they could get in touch with the eldership of the "sponsoring" church and "The Angels of Mercy" would dispatch some workers to the territory immediately to do the job. This plan would work because it has been proven. The Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and the Christian Welfare Board are all proof that it will work. We could do a much bigger job in less time with less money by this plan. Why not start it? Just think of how much more could be done in a disaster area by this program. It is the work of the church to care for the poor and sick. If someone objects that the church should only care for her own poor and sick, this plan would still be more effective to do "big" things.

By now nearly everyone who has read this far is objecting to such a plan for the churches of Christ to do benevolent work, and they should. I doubt that very many would approve of this method of doing this work of the church. Someone may say, Where is the Bible authority for such a method, and where is the Bible example?' Another would object that such a plan would deprive the local churches of doing their own work in their own locality.

Now if the church can "Care for Orphans" through church supported "Orphanage Societies"; do "Mission Work" in foreign fields through church supported "Missionary Societies" (for this is what some of them are); and do "Home Evangelistic Radio and Television Preaching" through "Nationally Supported Elderships," why cannot the church have a "National Welfare Board" called ANGELS OF MERCY, under a "Nationally Supported Eldership"? I don't see any difference in any of them in principle.

The truth is, none of these organizations have any scriptural authority to exist. If one of them can be proved by the scriptures, all of them can. The absurd plan I outlined is as much scriptural as any of the church "sponsored" Missionary Societies and Nationally Supported Radio Programs. The Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the way, is still Head over "all things" to the church, never intended such methods be used to do the work he outlined for the church to do. I am certain of that for the Bible will furnish us in "all things" to life and godliness, and will completely furnish us to every good work (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:16; 17); and the Bible is as silent as the grave on any such combined organizational power in one church or a human institution to do any phase of the work of the church. Each local church should perform its work in its own community, according to its own ability, and to the extent of the oversight of its own eldership. There must he no relation of one church to another in any work that would impose upon the absolute autonomy of each local church. That is the Lord's way, and it is the best way. We cannot improve upon any plan or organization for the work of the church above the plan given by the Lord, that each church do its own work in its own locality under its own eldership. If any church should need help to do its own work in its own community, other churches may help by sending aid to be used by that church in the realm of its own work under its own elders and not beyond. We will do well to stop and survey our position in these matters before we reach the departure from the faith that divided the church a half century ago. If we continue in these practices the church will have "headquarters" somewhere in the United States in some "Super Eldership" in the next twenty-five years. One departure leads to another. Where will we stop?