Vol.V No.II Pg.6
April 1968

Want To Start Something?

Robert F. Turner

Last month we reprinted portions of an article by W. E. Brightwell, first published in Gospel Advocate in 1934. We continue quoting from the Brightwell series, as reprinted in TORCH (Jan. '68) by William Wallace.


"One of two things is true: either the missionary societies are right, and we ought to stop fighting them; or else we are wrong in doing the same thing under another name, and ought to stop kidding ourselves. Why do we object to missionary societies? ...Specifically, the crime of the missionary society is that it destroys the initiative, and eventually the independence, of the local congregation! Does not our plan of mission work destroy the spontaneous and automatic enthusiasm which the Lord's plan would generate, substituting a worm-eaten, cut-and-dried project?

I submit this proposition: Any individual Christian, or group of individuals, smaller than a local congregation; or any group of individuals or churches larger than a local church; or any individual church itself that begins thinking in terms of what the whole brotherhood should do, and goes or sends somebody to the churches to see that they do it, and acts as an agent or agency through which the brotherhood does it, thereby constitutes itself a full-grown, blown-in-the-bottle, fourteen-karat missionary society of the deepest dye! There is no way on earth to whitewash it. There is no city of refuge where it may hide from God's displeasure. To call it something else, or to leave it unnamed, is a mere technical dodge. It is not condemned because it is similar to a missionary society, but because it violates the same fundamental principle the society violates -- namely, the initiative and autonomy of the local church.

It is just as easy for a local congregation to be a missionary society as it is for any group of Christians or churches to organize one. It is not a question merely of who sponsors the work, but the scope and nature of the work sponsored. (emph. mine, rft)

I have my doubts about the moral right of a church to "sponsor" anything. What right has a church to underwrite any work which it could not do in its own strength, in the event that all of those upon whom it is depending should fail it? And if it can do the work itself, why does it not go ahead and do it and not ask for help?

At best, sponsoring means starting something which you cannot finish. At worst, it is a mere technicality to avoid scriptural criticism.... The Lord requires nothing of a Christian nor a church that cannot be done wholly without outside suggestion or assistance."


We believe Bro. Brightwell was getting to the real issue here, the basic character of a truly "independent autonomous church." The SCOPE of collective work, from a scriptural viewpoint, is the single local church. We suggest you write TORCH,3, Booneville, Miss. 38829 for the whole series of Brightwell articles.