Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 6, 1955

From The Pen Of F. D. Srygley

Hoyt H. Houchen, San Antonio, Texas

Through the influence of Brother J. C. McQuiddy, in November, 1889, Brother F. D. Srygley became one of the editors of the Gospel Advocate. At first, Brother Srygley favored organized mission work on a larger scale than the local congregation; however, after making a thorough study of the question, he changed his position. His conclusion was that organized human societies, other than the local congregation for the preaching of the gospel, were unscriptural. His writings reveal that he had a clear conception of the New Testament church, its organization and function.

On Changing A Position

While Brother Srygley could be admired for several reasons, it cannot be overlooked that when he saw that he was in error on how the church is to do its work, he changed his thinking and courageously defended the position which he concluded was scriptural. It is mighty poor thinking on the part of brethren who deem it a disgrace for one to change his position. To place the idea in the minds of readers and hearers that a brother has changed his position on a point and therefore he cannot be relied upon is a vicious attack, and instead of meeting an issue it is a dodge. If even a past editor of the Gospel Advocate could change his position on the important issue of how the church is to function, why should brethren today be impugned because they change their views? A man is to be pitied who is too proud and stubborn to change his views when he finds himself in error.

Issues To Be Settled By New Testament

The editorials of F. D. Srygley were arranged in book form by his brother in the flesh, F. B. Srygley. The book is titled "The New Testament Church" and it contains the editorials of Brother F. D. Srygley which appeared in the Gospel Advocate from 1889 to 1900. Some of these writings dealt with the issue of church cooperation, the same problem which we are facing today.

We must realize that this issue as well as all other: must be settled by the New Testament. The New Testament sets forth the method by which the church is to do its work and that is for each local congregation, a complete organized unit, to do the work which God has prescribed for it to do. The New Testament gives example: of congregations sending aid directly to those who were it need. (Acts 11:29, 30; 1 Cor. 16:4; 2 Cor. 8 and 9; Phil. 4:15.) All that the brethren who favor brotherhood elderships need to do is to point out the scripture that authorizes such arrangements and the controversy on this issue will cease. This they cannot do. The question, then of how the church is to do its work is not to be settled by what any man says or writes. This matter has already been settled by the New Testament. What has settled the music question and every other controversy that has arisen among brethren will settle the question of cooperation too. The Lord has revealed to us in the New Testament how the church is to function; therefore, any plan not authorized by scripture should be abandoned.

A few things from Brother F. D. Srygley's pen are interesting to observe as the issue of church cooperation was very much alive during his day.

Cooperation Can Be Independent

The Campbell Street Church of Louisville, Kentucky which Brother M C. Kurfees was serving as preacher was canvassed for money to support a Brother Jones who was being sponsored by the State Board as the State evangelist. Brother Kurfees informed Brother Jones that the Campbell Street Church had made arrangements to do its own work independent of the State Board and the State evangelist. This brought about a controversy between Brother Kurfees and Brother Jones as to whether it is proper for a church to raise its own money, select its own field for preaching, choose its own preacher and support him.

In Defense Of The Campbell Street Church, Brother Srygley Wrote:

"As I understand the matter, Campbell Street is not opposed to cooperative mission work. By unanimous decision of its elders and cheerful acquiescence of its members, that church determined to do its full part in Kentucky cooperative mission work by supporting one of the men engaged in the work, without troubling either the board or the State evangelist in the matter of raising and disbursing the funds. They support the same man to do the same work, in the same field, whom the board has heretofore supported. When the board supported this man to do this work in this field, Brother Jones called it 'Kentucky cooperative mission work.' The problem now is to find out what sort of work it is, if not Kentucky cooperative mission work, when Campbell Street supports the same man to do the same work in the same field. When Campbell Street sent money to the State evangelist, and the State evangelist paid it over to the board, and he board paid it over to Brother South, who did the preaching, it was called 'Kentucky cooperative mission work.' Now, I am curious to know what sort of work it is when Campbell Street pays the money directly to Brother South. who does the same work in the same field, without troubling either the State Board or the State evangelist in the matter of raising or disbursing the funds." (New Testament Church, pp. 267-68.)

Some of our brethren today who are for churches doing their work through one eldership entertain the same idea that was believed by the advocates of the Missionary Society. This idea is that churches are not cooperating unless they do their work through a brotherhood arrangement such as "The Herald of Truth." The following is a sample of this kind of thinking:

"Will someone give the names of some congregations that are using the 'How' of congregational cooperation? Congregational cooperation can not be 'independent and exclusive' congregational operation. There is no cooperation in such operation."

The above is contained in an article written by a San Antonio brother which appeared in the Firm Foundation about two years ago. Our brother does not think that the HOW of congregational cooperation is given in the New Testament. If he is seeking information by his question, we are happy to supply him that information. The church at Antioch sent aid to the brethren in Judea. (Acts 11:29, 30.) This was congregational cooperation. What our inquiring brother needs to find is the example of a group of churches doing their work through one. He cannot find it in the New Testament.

In the above instance of church cooperation, the Antioch church did not set itself up as the sponsoring church for the famine in Judea. It did not do so because it had no right to do so. It had no right to do so because it sustained the same relationship to the need in Judea as did any other congregation that would contribute to that work. In the example of congregational cooperation as given in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, no congregation undertook to become the sponsoring church for the relief work to be done in Jerusalem. Any church today that manages its own affairs, tends to the work that is within its own framework, and sends aid directly to churches and individual Christians who are in need, is a cooperating church. I do not think that our brother will have to look outside his own city to find a few congregations that are doing this.

The brother says that congregational cooperation cannot be "independent and exclusive." This is his assertion without any proof whatsoever. The principle involved in Brother Srygley's question on cooperative work is appropriate for our sponsoring church brethren. Does a congregation have to work through a brotherhood eldership before it could be cooperative? Brother Srygley made it clear when he wrote:

"The point I make now is that a church can be a church of Christ, obeying every command God has given, observe every ordinance God has ever established, and fulfill every requirement of the Scriptures as a church of Christ, without joining itself to any such authoritative ecclesiasticism or general denominational sectarian organization of churches." (New Testament Church, pp. 266-67.)

Sponsored Programs And The Missionary Society

The sponsoring elderships of benevolent institutions and preaching work are the same in principle as the Missionary Society. Merely because a brotherhood project is placed under an eldership does not in the least change the parallel to the principle of operation. Whether a church or a group of churches do their work through a Society or an eldership, a work to which all contributing churches are equally related, the principle is the same. Why are not brethren able to understand this? The brethren who uphold these arrangements must also approve of the Missionary Society if they are consistent. If they uphold one, they must uphold the other. This is the very reason that we keep challenging these brethren to point out what is wrong with the Missionary Society. When they begin doing this, perhaps they will understand the truth.

Brother Srygley made the following observation which brethren would do well to consider:

"In so far as a missionary society is religiously inclined at all, it would perhaps be much nearer the truth to say it is a committee in the denomination. To get at the root of the thing, therefore, I gravely doubt the scripturalness of all denominational federations of churches. In the New Testament, when the church is not limited by a geographical term, it includes all Christians and is not an organization. Any church or brotherhood not limited by a geographical term these days, which does not include all Christians without organization, is a denomination. The real issue, therefore, is whether 'we as a people' shall form a federation of churches for missionary work or anything else and constitute another denomination. If that question is answered negatively, missionary societies and several other things will soon fall into 'innocuous desuetude'; but if it is answered affirmatively, the demand for missionary societies, general boards, and other denominational machinery will continue firm, if it does not slightly increase. We must form a denomination before there is any room for such societies, boards, et cetera. Just at this point I feel disposed to borrow the Standard's words to say, 'have we for three-quarters of a century labored for Christian union' without learning that we cannot compass it by building up another denomination? The shortest and only scriptural route to Christian union is to abolish all denominational federations of churches and leave each Christian free to study his own Bible and each church complete in itself and wholly independent of all other churches in all matters of work, worship, organization, government, discipline, et cetera. That is the kind of Christian union they had in New Testament times, and I am disposed to try it a while by way of experiment nowadays." (The New Testament Church, pp. 291-92.)

"The New Testament Church" by F. D. Srygley is a valuable book and it should be in the library of every gospel preacher, not to fill a space, but to be read and studied. The book is scarce and out of print but perhaps it will be reprinted someday.