Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 27, 1958

"Church Of Christ Mission"

Jesse M. Kelley, Blytheville, Arkansas

We received a piece of mail recently with a return address as follows: "Church of Christ Mission, No. 6, Hyo Chong Dong, Yongsan Ku, Seoul Korea." It had listed as evangelists, L. Haskell Chesshir and A. R. Holton. These brethren are well known evangelists among churches of Christ and have been preaching for many years. It was for this reason that we could not understand the heading on the letterhead: "Church of Christ Mission." These brethren ought to know better and they ought to be teaching our Korean brethren to know better. Such phraseology is the result of either ignorance or denominational influence, and we don't believe these two brethren are that ignorant. We know, or think we know that they know better, so why the use of the term?

Whoever heard of a "Church of Christ Mission" in the New Testament? And what will this "mission" be when it becomes a church? Will it be a "Church of Christ Church?" And will those who are members be "Church of Christ Christians?"

When Paul departed from Antioch to preach the gospel, what did he do? Did he establish "Church of Christ Missions?" Perish the thought! He preached the gospel and established CHURCHES OF CHRIST! Nor was Paul a "Missionary," he was a gospel evangelist; and again we say, he established CHURCHES OF CHRIST, not CHURCH OF CHRIST MISSIONS.

During the past few years the terms "mission" and "missionary" have been used so frequently in the ranks of New Testament Christians, that multitudes have come to think of them in about the same way as the average denominationalist. In fact, the denominational concept of these terms in the minds of Christians has given rise to some pretty serious deviations from the New Testament pattern of evangelism as laid down by apostolic authority.

It may be well to point out that both the terms "mission" and "missionary" as used in the denominational world are denominational inventions — born in the minds of men and fed and nurtured by the desire for prominence and power of those who would rule over God's people. A "missionary" is one who is sent out to establish a "mission," over which the "mother church" exercises authority until such a time as the "mission" grows legs sufficiently strong to carry its own weight. Then the mother church withdraws, many times reluctantly, and the "mission" becomes a church. All of the work of the mission is under the oversight and authority of the mother church, who does the work of organizing, setting forth rules and laws by which the mission is governed, and in general stands guard over it, with the authority to discipline those who "get out of line." This is the denominational concept of "mission" and "missionary."

Neither of these terms is found in the New Testament; and the modern concept in the minds of people relative to them are as contrary to Bible teaching as Baby Baptism. Inspiration instructs God's ordained elders in the churches to "take heed ... to all the flock OVER THE WHICH the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers" (Acts 20:28), and to "Feed the flock of God WHICH IS AMONG YOU, taking the oversight thereof." (1 Pet. 5:2.) Not only do these passages specify the duty of the overseers of God's people, but they LIMIT THAT OVERSEERSHIP to those "OVER THE WHICH" they are made overseers, and to the flock "WHICH IS AMONG YOU." God's elders have no jurisdiction, authority, or overseership anywhere in the world but in the church where they have been appointed elders. It is contrary to Holy Writ for elders to send a "missionary" out to establish a "mission" over which they will rule even for one hour. God never planned evangelistic work this way, and for elders in the church to follow denominational patterns is a gross perversion of the teaching of the word of God as it concerns the overseership of elders.

Notwithstanding the Bible's plain teaching on this point, there are hundreds of elders among us today who have gone out and established "missions" over which they are ruling. And there are thousands following them in their ambitious crusades as they attempt to gather more and more of God's people under their authority. Either ignorance or unholy ambition has caused them to reject completely the New Testament teaching and pattern of evangelism. Every "sponsoring church" in the land today stands upon the denominational concept of "mission" and "missionary."

From the church where this writer was reared in Oklahoma, came an announcement a few months ago of the "decision of the elders" to "OVERSEE a work in Africa." These elders (?) apparently decided they had more ability than the Lord thought they would have. He seemed to think they would have all they could do to oversee the flock AMONG THEM. But they simply have followed the pattern laid down by some of the sponsoring churches among us who got their pattern from the denominations, not the word of God.

But, someone says, "The church at Antioch sent Paul on three missionary tours." Well, if that were so it would be fine, but it just isn't so. In the first place the church at Antioch did not send Paul, the Holy Spirit did. (Acts 13:2) Nor was Paul answerable to Antioch, as some say; he was answerable to God only. In the second place, Paul was not a "missionary," as we have already pointed out, and he didn't establish "missions." He was an apostle and an evangelist of the Lord sent and directed by the Holy Spirit. The churches he established were ruled over by the Lord, not Antioch or some other church. Brethren ought to quit talking about Paul being a "missionary"

If these brethren in Korea don't know any better than to send out mail with a "Church of Christ Missionary" letterhead they need to come back to the States and study the word of God until they are qualified to teach others. Being able to speak the Korean language is not the only requisite for teaching the truth to those people over there. We need to get back (we have departed) to calling Bible things by Bible names, and doing Bible things in Bible ways. In other words we need to quit apeing the denominations; get rid of the inflated ego that many of us manifest since we "arrived," and get back to the New Testament pattern of phraseology, work, and evangelism laid down upon the pages of God's word. Unless we have enough respect for authority (apostolic) to do this, and integrity of conscience and conviction enough to stand by our resolution we will have lost our right to exist in the world as a religious body.