Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 17, 1956

Cooperation In The Light Of Revelation

M. P. Hayden

There is great need just now for clear thinking and accurate discrimination on the subject of Christian cooperation. Unless this is done, the brethren are likely to be ensnared in the fetters of improper alliances. This often happens in the realm of business, of politics and of various organizations in society, and is likely to occur also in religious organizations. Some things are submitted that the subject may be clearly understood, and these dangers avoided.

1. The scriptures clearly teach the duty of cooperation in the work of the church of Christ. "We are God's fellow-workers" (1 Cor. 3:9); "Stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the gospel" (Phil. 1:27); we are "fellow-members of the body" of Christ (Eph. 3:6; 1 Cor. 12:12-27), and other passages of similar import, clearly teach the duty of Christians to cooperate in promoting the work of the Lord.

2. In order to secure this cooperation in any given locality, Christ, through his apostles, has established an organization for the management of the local congregation in its life and work. The law of Christ as given in the New Testament prescribes the form of organization with its officers, defines their qualifications and duties, and lays down conditions of membership and principles of government.

3. The law of Christ in the New Testament is silent as to any general overhead control of the churches other than that of Christ himself through the teaching of his inspired apostles. Christ enjoined upon the apostles to teach Christians to observe all things whatsoever he commanded. (Matt. 28:20.) It behooves Christians faithfully to observe the apostles' teaching (Acts 2:42), and scrupulously to respect and heed Christ's silence as to any human overhead government of the churches of Christ.

4. In carrying on the general interests and enterprises of Christ's church and kingdom, some things are permitted by the law of liberty and expediency. Paul refers to this in the following passage: "All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." "All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful, but not all things edify." (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23.) It is evident that Paul is not speaking here of mandatory law which commands or prohibits, but of permissive law, in which there is liberty to do or to refrain from doing according to varying circumstances. It is in this realm that the question of expediency and of edification are to be considered in order to decide whether or not any proposed project should be undertaken.

Many things in human life, and also in the work of the church, come within the realm of the law of liberty, and are to be determined by the laws of expediency and edification. Educational, charitable and missionary enterprises come within this realm. According to this law of liberty, organizations may be formed to promote these worthy objects. Hence, a missionary society is a lawful and useful expedient for carrying on missionary work.

5. The work of a missionary society or other organization is restricted to the expressed objects and purposes for which it was established. This is self-evident, for the laws of the nation do not authorize the formation of organizations to promote enterprises that are not included in the articles of incorporation. The objects of the organization are to be expressly stated and defined in the articles of incorporation.

6. A missionary society, coming within the law of liberty, is a voluntary association of people to carry on the work of missions. Membership in it is voluntary, not compulsory, for it is under the law of liberty, and people are free to join it and support it or not as they deem right and proper.

7. As the work of a missionary society is to promote Christian missions under the law of Christian liberty, it is not clothed with any authority of control over the churches supporting it. Its right of control is limited by the work which has been instructed to it. This is plainly self-evident.

8. The managers of a missionary society are subject to the law of Christ in carrying on their work. They have no authority to make agreements that compromise their obedience to Jesus Christ our King. Their supreme loyalty must be to Christ.

9. The managers of a missionary society have no authority to exercise jurisdiction or control over churches of Christ. Any effort of this kind is a clear usurpation of authority that does not belong to them and causes trouble. One of the chief causes of disturbance since the present century began has been the attempt of missionary societies to exercise ecclesiastical control over the churches; this is something which no missionary society has any right to do, for Christ has not delegated such authority to any human board of control; the churches are under the law of Christ as proclaimed by his inspired apostles. Such unlawful assumptions of authority inevitably create trouble, and, unless stopped, will bring disaster to the organization that thus transgresses the law of Christ.

10. From what has been set forth in the foregoing statements it is clearly the duty of loyal Christians to oppose this recent tendency toward ecclesiasticism on the part of our missionary societies. About twenty years ago this tendency was in the incipient state; now it is in the dangerous and critical stage, and it must be promptly checked and choked, or disaster will come to our missionary enterprises.

The issue is upon us, and there should be no longer any delay in meeting the issue and strangling this wily and deadly serpent of ecclesiasticism. Missionary societies have no right of control over the brotherhood, and efforts in that direction are unscriptural and unchristian, and cause strife, discord and disaster. It is sincerely hoped that the brethren every-where will clearly perceive the real issue involved, and apply the right remedy for the correction of the present situation and save the Restoration movement from disaster.

Summing up the whole matter of co-operation as to missionary societies this position is reached:

Co-operation should be put upon the basis of Christian fraternity, equality and liberty without compromise of truth or right, and without domination over the free churches of Christ. Any deviation from this position will inevitably involve us in compromise with wrong, and cause continual strife. Heed Paul's earnest warning: "Mark them that are causing divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the teaching which ye learned: and turn away from them." Missionary societies should make the changes in their management that are required in order to remove the things that cause division and strife among brethren, and hinder the gospel of Christ. May they do this for the sake of peace, harmony and prosperity in the church.