Vol.III No.VI Pg.6
July 1966

The Individual And "Societies"

Robert F. Turner

Dear bro.Turner:

Many say an individual may contribute to an orphan's home; for an individual may use his money as he chooses. May this individual contribute to a missionary society?. (One that did not receive money from the churches.).


I have certain obligations to my children, not simply because I am a Christian, but because I fathered them. I would have these obligations even if I were not a Christian (1TI.5:8) although being a Christian adds obligations in this field (EPH.6:4).

As a part of the human race, I have certain obligations to my fellowman, regardless of Christianity. The Gentiles (without law, ROM.2:12-f) sinned by being unmerciful; (ROM.1:30-31) even as they did by being disobedient to their parents. Think carefully on these things, and you will see that general benevolence is not a peculiarly Christian obligation; but is an obligation which all mankind shares.

Hence, I may (and should) help those less fortunate than I. This is a humanitarian obligation -- by virtue of purely human circumstances. For this reason (not because one "may use his money as he chooses") an individual may support eleemosynary institutions (I should not support those that propagate false religious doctrine, for obvious reasons.).

But preaching the gospel of Christ is a Christian, not a humanitarian obligation. As an individual Christian I may teach (2TI.2:2) or help those who teach (GAL.6:6); or I may (and should) join hands with other Christians to function collectively in support of the gospel (2CO.11:8). But God has designated, authorized and prescribed regulations for such collective (or "organized") work of Christians. God authorized the local church, autonomous, independent. To set up, support or encourage any manmade organization in this work would be wrong. It is in order to note here that the local church is given certain benevolent responsibilities (1TI.5:16) and in carrying out these obligations the church must not relinquish her God-given responsibilities to a "sponsoring" church or church combine. God's plan is sufficient for the accomplishment of God's work.

The missionary society and most (if not all) benevolent societies operated by brethren today are parallel in that both (a) pool the funds of churches -- serve as media for collective operation of churches -- (b) to do the work God specifically assigned the single, local independent church. But there is a basic difference in preaching the gospel and general humanitarian welfare work. Purely humanitarian benevolence could be supported by an individual Christian without conflict with his obligations to the Lord through the church; but support of a missionary society would conflict with such obligations.

Buying services or products, where no God-given responsibilities are relinquished, must not be confused with "support" of an institution.