Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 2, 1954

Preaching The Gospel Abroad

George S. Benson, Searcy, Arkansas

(Editor's Note: Brother George S. Benson, president of Harding College, spent more than ten years of his life in evangelistic work in China. He had ample opportunity to know at first hand the problems and difficulties of that kind of work. Not only from his own experience but in many contacts with denominational workers in the foreign field he came to know what they considered as their greatest successes and weaknesses in reaching the pagan nations of the east. In view of this background, and in view of Brother Benson's acknowledged deep interest in "mission" work, we think the following article from him, appearing in the Firm Foundation of September 28, is worthy of thoughtful study.)

During the past 70 years, the preaching of the gospel on foreign soil by the churches of Christ has grown from a slow beginning until today we have more than a hundred missionaries located in more than thirty different countries. From a beginning with almost no financial support, interest has increased until the expenditure is estimated by some to be perhaps $300,000 a year. Large numbers of people are hearing the gospel preached as it was declared by the apostles and considerable numbers are being baptized annually.

Perhaps the most disappointing factor on foreign soils is the fact that there are so few self-supporting churches and so few persons preaching the gospel at their own expense or at the expense of their own countrymen. The practice of constructing buildings and paying native preachers with American dollars may be at least, partially responsible for the disappointing results.

In the first place, this practice tends to limit the advancement of the gospel to the number of American dollars that are available for meeting places and paying native preachers.

In the second place, it tends to keep the congregations weak because they exist more as dependent foreign missions than as indigenous churches.

In the third place, native workers continue to be limited because they get the impression that they should be receiving dollars from America if they preach the gospel. This keeps many from preaching at their own expense as they otherwise might; it tends to keep them from starting out on limited support from their own brethren and working to increase it.

It was my opportunity to see the results of this practice in China where the various denominations had been carrying on work for 50 years or more and still had no self-supporting congregations and no native preachers supported by native money. The denominational missionaries, working under these circumstances, blamed the situation chiefly on their own methods. For instance, there was a great army of heathen priests who were supported locally. The best looking buildings in most of the cities were idol temples that had been built with local money. Yet, somehow, denominational missionaries had decided that the Chinese could not build church buildings and could not support native preachers. Therefore, American dollars were used. Our own brethren seem to have followed largely this same practice.

It is striking to note that Paul did not call on the church at Antioch or at Jerusalem to provide $50.00 a month to pay the fine young native preachers, Timothy and Titus; nor did he ask the church at Antioch or at Jerusalem to send contributions to help on church buildings on the provinces of Asia, Galatia, Macedonia, or Arcadia. He did not carry money from the churches in the new territory back to Judea to help relieve famine distress which represented temporary emergency. His policy may not have been merely incidental.

Paul himself, being the foreign missionary, was supported from other churches. It is in order today for foreign missionaries to be supported with American dollars. The part of the program that is not according to apostolic pattern and that seems to be fraught with unfortunate consequences is that of using American dollars to construct buildings and pay native preachers on foreign soil. I am not saying this to relieve the American brethren of the responsibility of supporting foreign missionary work. We should be doing more of it! I am referring to a policy with the belief that the policy has a weakness which is a hindrance to the progress of the work itself in foreign fields. I do believe in a closer approach to Paul's methods.