Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 26, 1954
NUMBER 16, PAGE 8-9a

Why Not Be Democratic At Least?

Roy E. Cogdill

If it is scriptural for the eldership of one congregation to direct a program of work involving the contributions of many churches, whose responsibility is it to select and designate which eldership is to receive the funds of all these churches and have the oversight and control of the work? This is a troublesome question but an essential one in its solution in our present day problems.

In a giant undertaking like the $1,000,000.00 broadcast of the "Herald of Truth" nationwide program, whose right and authority is it to designate the elders of the Highland Church in Abilene to receive all of this huge sum of money and direct the program?

Do such elders select themselves and promote themselves into such a responsible position? Should they do so? If they can do so successfully, what is the limitation to their promotions of like nature? Suppose a half dozen other elderships among the churches should count themselves just as capable and wise as the Highland Avenue elders to direct such a program and should start a campaign to promote one of like proportions? They would have just as much right to elect themselves for such work as the Highland elders have. And if they were to do that and several should enter into competition among the brethren for their favor and support, such competitive efforts could soon degenerate into a sorry spectacle for the world to witness. Churches would be solicited by a half dozen such elderships to support their programs rather than one of the others and there would be some high powered solicitation with rallies and banquets, previews galore. What prevents such if another eldership should have like aspirations?

Already in cities we have next to that sort of a situation among churches vying for members. Sometimes a more powerful, larger and richer congregation will find its original location very valuable for business property and somewhat inaccessible to its members and will move its location into some section of the city where a newer and smaller congregation at great sacrifice has established itself in an effort to preach the gospel to people the older church would never have reached. The smaller church is, ignored and sometimes stifled and killed in its work by inability to compete with the fine building and great program of the older and richer congregation. There are instances of such competition.

Then there is such competition among "our Orphan Homes" in their solicitation for support among the churches. Many of the congregations contribute to two or three of them as a solution to the problem of which one to support. They, like the schools, buy full page advertisements in the religious journals favorable to their existence and methods and send out their "choruses" and "trucks" to haul in the money and provisions on almost a nationwide basis. Such competition worsens with the establishment of new homes. People with financial means are sometimes hounded without mercy by such promotions and promoters to either give their money while they live or will it to such work when they die. They want the money — now if they can get it — but in any event after you die. These money raisers have been employed in the past on a percentage basis in some instances but always are assured of a job if they are good enough promoters to be successful "money-getters." Many times preachers have turned from their preaching to simply become money raisers for such promotions. As institutionalism becomes more widespread and more powerful among us without the protection of some kind of a denominational organization the churches will become more and more confused about where to place their contributions and competition will become greater and keener.

This is not all imaginary. If you think so, pull your head out of the sand and look at what is going on around you. In some of our cities today banquets are promoted among the preachers, the money furnished by the schools, chicken dinners served, and all for the purpose of some money-raiser promoting the preachers into an effort to get some money out of the brethren for their special interests. The next fellow that comes along will have to outstrip those who have gone before and put on a more lavish spread and better entertainment than those before him.

Then what is to prevent one eldership from getting its finger into all of the pie. The Broadway Lubbock eldership now is spreading out in their activity. For years they have been "handling" the contributions of many churches for "mission work." Recently they have entered into the competition in the "Orphan Home" field and have elected themselves to do the orphan home work for many churches. They seem to be doing quite well in that field too for they recently announced through their preacher the receipt of two wills for estates aggregating close to a half a million dollars. They are already in the field of "Sunday School Teacher Training" and promotion and their preacher has called — perhaps without the authorization of the elders, but surely not without their sanction and approval, for all the churches to enter into a "nose-counting" contest, with themselves if they are not big enough to get into the Broadway and Madison, Tennessee competition. They give promise of putting on a promotional extravaganza before they yield. This is indeed a day of high-powered promotions among the churches of the Lord. We have not seen the end either for we are just beginning.

The tendency is for a preacher to become a high-powered salesman — take an Andrew Carnegie course — and learn how to influence people both in the church and out of it or else he will surely never get very far, preach for a very big church, or be a big preacher. He must climb on the band-wagon and support all of these human institutions and get "his" congregation to do so, and line up his elders behind such promotional schemes if he has to pack the "supreme court." He must keep out of the preachers called to hold meetings anyone who might be considered by other likeminded brethren as being opposed to such. Above all he must send in a list of subscribers to the Advocate and get his name in the "favored list" so as not to be aligned as one of the "Guardian boys" for that would surely ruin his reputation and start him down the ladder. That is the result of our promotional schemes in terms of pure sectarianism.

But if there is danger in elderships promoting themselves into "brotherhood elderships" as some have done, how much more danger is there in ambitious preachers promoting themselves into high places. Are the preachers to elect themselves as the ones competent to carry on such a nation-wide or universal program as Herald of Truth and other similar promotions among us? When they get the project under way they can then select an eldership to oversee it to give it the semblance of being scriptural and as a show of modesty on their part. If the first eldership they approach should refuse, they can always look for another and usually find one ambitious enough to undertake it. We understand this is the way the Herald of Truth was originally conceived and promoted. Well suppose there are a dozen other preachers who are just as ambitious and count themselves just as competent to conduct such a program. Suppose all of these preachers are able to find some fairy god-father who is wealthy and willing to support them while they promote the churches out of enough money to pay them and pay for their program. Could they not do just as brethren Willeford and Nichols have done and would they not have just as much right? Brethren would be at the mercy of big promotions and promoters and the man who developed into the highest powered promoter would succeed the best. What would become of the principle of humility and meekness? What foolishness the words of the Lord would make in the light of such competition, "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." There is entirely too much politicking now among preachers angling for recognition, big churches, soft jobs, and places of prominence.

But who has the right and authority to select the elders to oversee such a gigantic program and the preachers to do the preaching in such a large undertaking? We have something which we do not know how to run in the church of the Lord — in these brotherhood projects. According to Brother Earl West's historical study of "Congregational Cooperation" in his tract by that name, the brethren of West Tennessee called a meeting of the preachers, elders and brethren, at Henderson, Tennessee in 1910. In that meeting the elders of the Henderson congregation were designated to take the oversight of the program of evangelizing West Tennessee. They were to select the preacher and receive the contributions from all the churches they could get to contribute, disburse the funds, and have the general oversight. Brother Lipscomb's opposition along with I. C. McQuiddy, F. B. Srygley, F. W. Smith, E. A. Elam, and E. G. Sewell, who likewise opposed it, had enough effect to kill the movement on the basis of it being unscriptural.

We have such "cooperative" promotions now in abundance among the churches. There are the brotherhood "orphan homes" overseen by one eldership but supported by many churches. We have the Lubbock and Memphis and Cleburne churches, along with many others overseeing a program of evangelizing and spending the money contributed by many churches. We have the Highland Avenue elders receiving contributions from a thousand different sources and overseeing the spending of this money in a nation-wide, though southern concentrated as a promotional necessity, broadcast known as the Herald of Truth. These elders are even naive enough to claim this program as their own work when they did not beget it, born it, or do not sustain it. All of these programs have their promotional schemes and their high-powered salesmen to get money out of the treasury of the churches to carry on their work. In each case either ambitions elders, or ambitious preachers have promoted the "cooperation" upon their own initiative. They are self-selected, self-nominated, and sale-authorized.

I agree with Brother McQuiddy, Lipscomb, et al, in their opposition to such "cooperative promotions" and think they cannot be defended by the word of God, but if the brethren must have them, it would be a lot better to just call a convention and give the brethren who are doing the paying the right, to have some voice in their management and control. It would at least be more democratic and if we are not going to be governed by the scriptures and stand upon scriptural ground, then I am in favor of democracy.