Vol.III No.I Pg.6
February 1966

Church "Cooperation "?

Robert F. Turner

Jan. 28, 1932, writing in the Gospel Advocate, bro. H. Leo Boles said:

"To operate means to work, and to cooperate means to work together to the same end. There can be no working together of churches without the churches themselves working. Churches that do not work cannot work together; churches that do not operate cannot cooperate.

Every church in the universe that operates or works according to the will of God cooperates or works together with every other church in the universe that is working according to the same rule. Churches which are fulfilling their mission separate and independent of other churches nevertheless are cooperating with all other churches that fulfill their mission. It seems that we ought to see this, that we ought to recognize this fundamental truth. This is the only church cooperation that is taught in the New Testament.

When a number of churches undertake to work in or through an association or organization not authorized in the New Testament, or by a law or rule not of God, they place themselves out of harmony with all the churches operating under the divine law, out of harmony with the law of God, out of harmony with all the will of God, and out of harmony with God Himself. Such churches cannot claim to be cooperating with other churches that are fulfilling their mission as God directs churches to do."


Bro. Boles clearly recognized what brethren today refuse to see; viz., that there is a vast difference in COOPERATION and the more limited concept of COLLECTIVE ACTION.

COOPERATION is a broad term, which includes collective action, but which also includes concurrent independent action. My neighbors and I may "cooperate" in a Clean-Up Week without pooling our funds or acting through a "sponsoring" family. Each family, working with complete independence, (using its own funds, and making its

own decisions through its constituted head) could clean up and paint-up. This is the kind of "cooperation" the scriptures authorize -- the kind bro. Boles was advocating.

True, if the neighbors agreed to act as one on the clean-up project-if they established a common treasury (of means and/or abilities) and allowed one man, or family, to oversee and direct the project-- this would also be "cooperation." But it would be COLLECTIVE ACTION cooperation, and would involve something more than the single independent family structure. COLLECTIVE ACTION cooperation of a plurality of churches is completely without authority in God's word.

The organizational structure of the church begins and ends with the independent congregation. We say that -- and we also practice it.

Others say it-- but do not practice it. And because we call attention to their inconsistency they accuse us of "not believing in cooperation." It might be "amusing" if it was not so downright "confusing."