Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 20, 1955

What Is Wrong With The Missionary Society?

Wm. E. Wallace, Akron, Ohio

In response to questions we herein show wherein the Missionary Society is wrong. First a definition is in order. A Missionary Society is an organization existing separate in organization and in authority from the local church but inside the universal church, organized for the purpose of consolidating the work of the local congregations into one sustained, centralized effort. More efficient propagation of truth is its theme, its excuse for existence. It is organized in such a way as to have appointed or elected officers who plan and expedite the expenditure of funds solicited from congregations and individuals. It sends and recalls preachers, it constitutes a central universal brotherhood organization to which local congregations are subordinate. A definition is a statement concerning the limits, and should include all the essential features of the thing defined in a positive rather than a negative way — thus we believe our definition here is logical and conclusive.

What's wrong with the missionary society? Number 1: It is an organization that exists without authority of the Book. The only organization with reference to the church universal, authorized or explained in the New Testament is that of Christ as the only head of the church universal, with headquarters in heaven and organized authority on earth in the form of the organized book we call the New Testament. That is the only universal authority or organization — Christ in heaven, the Book on earth. The church universal is made up of thousands of churches, local. There is no universal organization authorized on earth, but there is a local organization authorized and commanded. Each congregation is to appoint elders to rule, deacons to serve; elders to rule according to the Book, deacons to serve according to the scriptural assignments. The only thing in the way of organization between the local elders and the King in heaven is the organized group of books we call the Bible. That is the way the church was set-up, that is the way the church must exist. Any other organization is either smaller or larger than the local congregation; smaller than the universal organization of Christ in heaven and it has no authority to exist. It is an organization in, outside or over God's Kingdom that does not belong to be.

Number 2: As an organization other than the church local or universal it has a name — in the case of the Christian Church — American Christian Missionary of the Truth. We talk about doing things in the name of Jesus Christ, or by his authority. You cannot call the missionary society the church of Christ, for it isn't. You cannot rightfully call it anything good, for having no authority to exist, the Bible gives it no name (but "devices of Satan" 2 Cor. 2:11). Therefore any name it assumes is comparable in error to the name of denominational bodies.

Number 3: The missionary society has its own constitution, by-laws and rules of order — man-made ordinances employed in an organization that would propagate God's Word. Thus the only constitution, the New Testament, is added to, and superceded, and Christ is eliminated as being Head over all things (Eph. 1:22, 23) to the church because the legislation of the society comes not from Christ.

Number 4: As an organization designed to give greater efficiency in the mission of the church, it is an organization designed as an improvement on God's plan. Thus it reflects upon the intelligence and wisdom of God and destroys the Word as being perfect in its example and instruction in carrying out the mission of the church.

Number 5: The society begins by "recommending" to the participating congregations certain courses of action, and then develops and dictates to them concerning every phase of congregational activity.

Number 6: There is no provision in the New Testament for the church to act as a whole through a central authority or organization and thus congregations have no authority to act through central authority or organization. The Missionary Society calls for churches to act through their organization and submit to their authority in one way or another.

Number 7: The missionary society assumes the oversight and responsibility of portions of the Lord's treasury that has been contributed to by church members and supposedly to be under the oversight and responsibility of the local elders. In other words the local elders just turn over a portion of the Lord's treasury to the society for the society to oversee and spend. In the case of individual contributions it calls for individuals to work through the society instead of the congregation.

Number 8: The missionary society emerges in the sight of the world as the official functioning organ of the churches of Christ and gives to the Lord's church an appearance of, if not an actual ecclesiastical hierarchy.

Number 9: The missionary society assumes the right and authority to do things which individual local congregations cannot do of themselves and by so doing they violate the principle involved in congregational autonomy. God does not demand nor expect a congregation to do more than that which it can oversee and do of itself.

Number 10: The missionary society as a central agency of church work is run by members who operate under a man-made constitution whether written or unwritten, formal or informal and thus are more apt to err than the local independent congregations who work under the only constitution, the gospel. When the society errs in its teaching, its influence is great, and instead of leading just one congregation astray, hundreds of congregations are sidetracked from the way of truth.

That is what is wrong with the missionary society, and that is what is wrong with similar or identical organizations with other titles that might spring up among us. "Might?"