Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 23, 1955

Brother Watson's Suggested Hobby

W. Curtis Porter, Monette, Arkansas

In the GOSPEL ADVOCATE of May 19, 1956, Brother Sterl A. Watson suggests a new way for someone to start a hobby. But before giving you his recipe, it might be well to say a few words about "hobbies." The charge of "hobbyism," as made by Brother Watson and others, is made against those who oppose the present institutional set-up as a means through which the church may perform its God-given mission today. In other words, if you oppose the idea of congregations performing their work of benevolence through institutional orphan homes, you are a "hobbyist" and the position which you advocate is a "hobby." There is one strange thing about all of this that I would like for someone to explain to me. Men can oppose with all of their power, according to Brother Watson and others, the idea of congregations doing their work of evangelism through human organizations known as missionary societies without ever becoming a "hobbyist" or without ever being guilty of "hobbyism." But the very minute brethren, upon the same basis and for exactly the same reason, start opposing the idea of congregations doing their work of benevolence through human organizations known as orphan homes, they become guilty of "riding a hobby." Will someone please tell me why. Both the "work of evangelism" and the "work of benevolence" are works that God assigned the church to do. Both the missionary societies" and the "institutional orphan homes" are human organizations. Why, then, is it a "hobby" to oppose the idea of congregations doing their work of benevolence through institutional orphan homes but it is not a "hobby" to oppose the idea of congregations doing their work of evangelism through missionary societies? While someone is determining how to explain this difficulty to me, let us take a look at Brother Watson's recipe for a new hobby as suggested in the GOSPEL ADVOCATE. Here it is:

"Do You Want To Start A Hobby?"

Sterl A. Watson

If you would like to start a hobby, let me suggest one. We speak about "swarming" and the second congregation in most cities is begun by the first one donating money and members. This is the case except when Satan starts one on account of a fuss in the first one. If you want to start a hobby, just dare any man to read in the New Testament of more than one congregation in the same city. Sure, he will squirm around and try to reason that it is perfectly in order. However, you want chapter and verse and you're fed up on reason anyhow. Tell him that by all count there must have been at least 10,000 members in the Jerusalem church, and then just defy him to show that that church ever started the second in Jerusalem. Tell him that it would threaten the autonomy of the local church to donate money and members to another local church. You might also remind him that "IF the Jerusalem church did SWARM, inspired writers continued to refer to it as "the church in Jerusalem." In other words, if the members in Jerusalem met in forty different places to worship, all of them were referred to as "the church." You might also point out that their transportation problem was greater than ours, and that we have less need to swarm. You could oppose starting the second congregation until after the first one is 10,000 members strong. However, be charitable, brother. You could perhaps get by by granting that "individuals" could start the second, provided that the church as such had nothing to do with it." — GOSPEL ADVOCATE, May 19, 1955.

In commenting upon this "recipe" offered by Brother Watson, I wish to say that Brother Watson and I have been the closest friends for years. We have been associated in a number of debates against false teachers. During all of this time I have had great respect for his intelligence and ability as a preacher and debater. Furthermore, I believe that it is legitimate to draw "parallels" in order to show a false teacher his inconsistency. If a man indorses one thing but opposes another that is exactly parallel to it, and if he can be shown that they are parallel, then the demands of consistency and the truth would force him to indorse both of them or to oppose both of them. And it is often hoped that by showing such parallels, men who hold to false teaching might be influenced to give it up for the sake of consistency and the truth. But consider the parallels in Brother Watson's recipe. He makes "starting another congregation in the same city" parallel to "starting a human organization to do the work of the church."

Certainly, this is the idea he had in mind in writing his article. The "parallel" would not hold true, of course, according to Brother Watson, if the "human organization" is a "missionary society" through which the church may do its evangelistic work, but if the "human organization" is an "institutional orphan home" through which it may do its benevolent work, then the "parallel" is unshakable. I still have too much confidence in the intelligence and ability of Brother Watson even to think that he believes any such thing. Although he has strongly implied it, I doubt that he will say that he actually believes that "starting another congregation in the same city" is equivalent to "starting a human organization through which the church may do its work." Of course, he did not specifically mention the "other hobbies" he had in mind when he wrote his recipe for starting a new one, but from all the surrounding circumstances it is easy to determine what he was driving at. It remains a fact, however, that the Lord has given us many examples of "starting other congregations," with no teaching as to how near to each other they may be located, but he has never given us even one example of "starting a human organization", through which the church may perform its divine mission, in any city or section beneath the sun. Brother Watson is confusing the details relative to something the Lord has ordained with something the Lord has never, in the history of the world, ordained any man to do. God ordained the "starting of congregations." We have book, chapter and verse for that. But he did not specify all the details to be worked out in starting congregations. He has never told us how many could be in one city, or how close together they could be located, or how many members they might have. We never demand book, chapter and verse for such details. But God has never ordained the "starting of human organizations" through which the church may perform its work. If Brother Watson will give us the "book, chapter and verse" authorizing such organizations just as we have "book, chapter and verse" for "starting congregations," then we will let him have the details of such organizations without giving "book, chapter and verse." But he can't have the details till he has been able to find the authority for the organizations.

Brother Watson admits that the 10,000 members of the church in Jerusalem may have "met in forty different places to worship," but still they were referred to as "the church in Jerusalem." Certainly, no one disputes that. If the word "church" could be used to include all the congregations in the world, as is often the case in the New Testament, then certainly the term "church" could be used to include all members in Jerusalem, even if they did meet in "forty different places." The translators of the American Revised Version of the Scriptures understood that the word could have such meaning, and they referred to the various congregations in Judea, Galilee and Samaria as "the church" in Acts 9:31.

Not only does the "parallel" in Brother Watson's recipe break down, but his recipe is based upon a misrepresentation of the position of those whom he opposes. He states: "Tell him that it would threaten the autonomy of the local church to donate money and members to another local church." Thus he implies that those who are opposing the great "brotherhood projects" today contend that it is wrong for one church to send money to another church. I would like to have the names of some of the preachers who hold any such position. We read in Rom. 15:26 that the churches of Macedonia and Achaia made a "certain contribution" for the poor saints at Jerusalem. The church in Jerusalem was in need of money, and churches came to their relief. We have always contended that such can be Scripturally done. If a church is actually in need of money and members, other churches can come to its relief and "donate money and members" to it without threatening the autonomy of any local church. But that is a far cry from the brotherhood projects set up among us today in which one church, which is not in need, receives money from a thousand churches to do a work to which all of them are equally related. To get his parallel here, Brother Watson must have one church, which is not in need of members, to become a "receiving and sponsoring church" to which a thousand churches would "donate their members", and then this sponsoring church would "distribute these members" to other sections of the country as they see fit. Brother Watson needs to make a re-study of parallels before he offers any more recipes for starting hobbies. And while he is doing so, I would like for him or for some one else to tell us who some of the men are who contend that it is sinful for churches to "donate money and members to a local church that needs them. This charge is an unadulterated misrepresentation. If GOSPEL ADVOCATE writers who deal with these questions would correctly state the position of the men whom Brother Watson calls "Guardian angels," they would not be able to prejudice the readers against them. But by misrepresenting them they can manage to throw dug' in their readers' eyes and keep them from seeing the truth of the matter. Be fair, brethren, and I am sure it will be more pleasing to the Lord.