Vol.III No.III Pg.7
April 1966

Queries And Answers

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Church support of colleges and benevolent institutions is often likened to "the Missionary Society" Why is this done, and what is the point?


The division among saints, that resulted in the "Christian Church" and the church of Christ, had its beginning with the "society" question. In 1849, following a "build up" of "cooperation" meetings by which a number of local churches pooled their funds to work as one in evangelism, the American Christian Missionary Society was formed. This was the "wedge" that started the division. "Matter of methods" and "Expediency" arguments, used to defend the society, were later applied by the same liberal brethren to put mechanical music in the worship.

Historically, therefore, the M.S. has a bad reputation among knowledgeable members of the church. Some may compare a thing to the M.S. simply to discredit by association -- which is an unfair tactic. However, there are valid comparisons to be made -- easily recognized by those who understand what was wrong witTOP"e M.S. in the first place (We are not concerned with "abuses" of the society -- such as "dominating the church"; but with the basic principles involved.)

First, the society grew out of a misconception of the universal church; considering the body of Christ as a brotherhood of churches, instead of a brotherhood of individual Christians. The universal church was thought to have certain obligations, as a functional entity; and some means sought by which "the church" (univ.) could "do her work". They failed to see that the single independent local church is the only organizational structure divinely authorized. Oversight, treasury, and work must remain local in scope; i.e., no "brotherhood" organizations are scriptural. Second, (and here Campbell "broke" completely with his earlier teaching) the divine plan is complete and sufficient; no human organizations are necessary or desirable for doing the work which God gave the church to do. But the missionary society was admittedly a human institution through which the churches were to function. Under this second objection, it would have been unscriptural if only one church had functioned through it. We are not at liberty to abandon God's plan of operation and favor our own.

Now "society" is just a word, descriptive of an organization. Boles Home is no less a benevolent society, and Campaigns for Christ, Inc. is no less a missionary society because they do not use the word "society". The arguments (?) used to defend them are often identical with those used in the last century to defend the missionary society; as one may see by reading the Otey-Briney Debate, etc.

The same basic misconceptions that fathered digression in the 19th. century are at work today, with the same results. Now, as then, those who oppose these innovations are called "Anti" -- if not worse -- and a sectarian spirit forbids open Bible study of the true issues. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." Amen!