Vol.XVIII No.V Pg.4
July 1981

Doing It Willingly

Robert F. Turner

This is "old hat," so much so that I would not repeat it but for a "new generation" that needs reminding a fallacy does not become valid argument by virtue of its age.

"We are very sorry that you have felt that the Highland elders have misused their authority and are taking the oversight from other congregations. This is simply not true. There is not a congregation supporting the Herald of Truth work that cannot withdraw their support anytime they wish, they can begin anytime they wish, they are kept informed of the way the programs are being operated and the things that are being accomplished." (From actual letter.)

The basic issue, in H.O.T. and all other church-hood projects, is collective action of churches (a plurality of churches acting as a team) versus each church acting independently. Congregational independence is the operational structure and polity of New Testament churches, to which most brethren agree — in word if not in practice. Operating via some different structure (and collective action is "opposed" to independent action, as defined in dictionary) is without divine authority. There is no authority for a plurality of churches to pool funds in the treasury of one church, or of some human organization, and allow the elders of that ''sponsoring church" or the board of directors of the human institution to oversee a work on their behalf.

Whether they do it willingly or not is not the issue. The thing they are doing is wrong — they have no NT authority to function as a team of churches, willingly or otherwise. In fact, willingly doing so puts the sin in a worse light, not better. If they were being "forced" to operate collectively we could at least be understanding and sympathetic. But the letter ignores the issue, and assumes a thing is right because it is done "on purpose" or deliberately.

Sometimes defenders of collective projects argue churches acted collectively in assisting needy brethren in Judea (2 Cor. 8: etc.). Concurrent action (at the same time, having the same purpose) is not collective; but if it were, then how claim congregational independence and autonomy as the N.T. way of organization? What is to prevent our organizing State and National conventions of churches — on a "free-will" basis, of course — not a single shot fired to "force" anyone into line? Are we to understand that if all churches agreed to put all of their evangelizing in the hands of a single church, or an executive hoard of some national organization, it would be acceptable to God? Of course each church would have to do it willingly, and would have to get monthly reports of "the way the programs are being operated and the things that are being accomplished."

This "doing it willingly" is about the weakest excuse for argument to come out of the institutional debacle of our generation. I am continually amazed that it is still used, and apparently some brethren are taken in by it. It does prove one thing, viz.; brethren on both sides are still unaware of the true issue in the case.