Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 2, 1958

"Immulate This Great Faith"

Herschel E. Patton, Shelbyville, Tennessee

A recent issue of a certain church's paper tells of a preacher and his family who have sailed to join others in a certain field of evangelism. The article declares, "The elders of the ______ church of Christ have agreed to underwrite the support of the (preacher and his family) during their work in this field. The faith and zeal of this congregation is more evident from the fact that they have only forty members! Brother______, the local evangelist, has agreed to remain with them for the next three or four years to help in this new responsibility by speaking in behalf of the work, and raising funds, in addition to his regular evangelistic efforts. It is our hope that many larger congregations will immolate the great faith shown by this church at work."

It is praiseworthy when a preacher is willing to be deprived of family associations and many conveniences in order to preach in some foreign field, and when a group of elders is willing to stand behind such, encouraging and supporting him. No true Christian would desire to cast a stone at such.

But, in the above quotation, what is the great faith that it is hoped others will emulate? A certain church, having only 40 members, through its elders agrees to underwrite the support of this evangelist. It is quite evident from the few members and from what is further said that this church is not in a position itself to "underwrite" (be answerable for a designated obligation — to assume the sum or risk by way of insurance) this project. In fact, this church has no intention of assuming such an obligation in and of themselves. Their local preacher has promised to stay with them and, in addition to his regular work, speak in behalf of this work and raise funds. So, all that this church of 40 members and her elders have agreed to do is to become a "receiving agency" for funds for a special work, as said funds are contributed by others under the encouragement of their local preacher.

It is said, "It is hoped that many larger congregations will immolate the great faith shown by this church at work." In what is their faith centered? Evidently in their ability to receive and distribute funds of other churches and in the ability of their preacher to raise such funds. Why hope "larger congregations" will emulate this faith? A large congregation might be able to really "underwrite" the support of an evangelist in a foreign field, which would be a manifestation of faith. But if it is just a matter of collecting and distributing the funds of other churches, a small church with elders of average ability and a good "fund-raiser" or two could do the job just as well as a large church. According to this report, to be a "church at work," an eldership must set themselves up as a receiving agency, secure a good "fundraiser," and "underwrite" some great project. I suppose, the greater the project, and the more "fundraisers" secured, the greater would be the manifestation of faith. This popular, modern day wisdom indicates that in order for a church to be "at work" and have "great faith," the elders, deacons, and evangelists must be trained to "think and plan big," handle great sums of money, and be skilled in "fund-raising."

Had this report simply stated that, "The church at ______, though made up of only 40 members, has purposed to send 'once and again' to Brother Blank's necessities, it would have shown faith and zeal in evangelism. As the report was given, however, it seems their zeal is in being a distributing center and their faith is in the ability of their preacher to persuade other churches to turn over their funds to them.

I can read where the Philippian church "sent once and again" to Paul's necessity, (Phil. 4:16), had fellowship with him in the furtherance of the gospel (Phil. 1:5), and where the brethren at Antioch "determined every man according to his ability to send relief to the brethren in Judaea," and send it to the elders. (Acts 11:27-30.) I can also read where Corinth, by her own messengers, send directly to relieve the saints in Jerusalem. (I Cor. 16:1-3.) This got the job done in apostolic days. I fail to find, however, where any New Testament church ever set itself up as a collecting agency, with fund-raisers in the field, for doing such good works.