Privately Supported Missionary Societies, etc. Exchange
The following exchange occurred in the setting of an Internet discussion list containing a number of preachers. Before you read the exchange, it would be good to read the article titled, "The Society System" in the Archives of Bible Truths (click on title to go there).
Don Martin to the list:
We all know that God has set up an organization through and in which Christians pool
their resources and that He has assigned certain work to this organization, the local
church. It is clear that the preaching of the gospel, both to the lost and for the
edification of the saved is the permanent and regular work of the local church (I Tim. 3:
15, Acts 13, etc., benevolence for needy saints is also seen when there is the need, I
Tim. 5: 16, please be informed that when I use the word "church" in this vein, I
am referring to the collectivity function that automatically involves the activation of
the treasury). There is no question, then, as to the collectivity (the organization
functioning as an entity) performing in such a way as to support, both financially and by
way of encouragement, men in the proclamation of the gospel (Phili. 4: 15-19). Men were
"sent out" by and reported back to the local functioning entity (the local
church) in Antioch of Syria (Acts 13: 1-3, 14: 26-28). It is apparent that when elders
were present within the fully organized structure of the local church that they
superintended such work and preachers (cp. Acts 14: 23, I Pet. 5: 1ff.).
While the local church thus worked as a functioning entity in the area of preaching the gospel, there is a total and noticeable absence of any other performing organization (it does appear that godly and able men separately financially assisted preachers, Gal. 6: 6). In other words, we do not read of brethren organizing themselves by setting up a treasury, hierarchy, and statement of mission, etc., outside of the local church in Antioch. All we read is that the local church in Antioch sent out men to preach. Since we are in the business of replicating and duplicating New Testament Christianity today, we are perfectly safe and correct in teaching Christians to geographically organize themselves as to constitute local churches and that these entities (collective work involving the treasury, etc.) engage in the precise same work as the churches of which we read in the New Testament.
In my next post, I want to begin to challenge our thinking.
Don Martin to the list:
In my first post, I shared with you a matter that is incontrovertible: the local church
(treasury, structure, and oversight) being the organization through which and in which
Christians function as an entity in the proclamation and dissemination of the gospel.
Here is how the following begins: John Smith is a wealthy Christian who prepares his will to read that the churches of Christ are to receive his fortunes. "There shall be the formation and charter of the Smith Foundation. Brethren.....are to be appointed as the board of directors, brother...as the president, brother...as the secretary, and brother...as the treasurer," so wills brother Smith. The legal mission statement is: "The Smith Foundation is set up expressly for the work of supporting the preaching of the gospel, both to the lost and for the edification of the saved. When there is the need and the presiding board so decides, there will also be the requitement of the needs of needy saints." There is some question in the beginning as to whether or not the monies from this foundation are to go only to individual preachers whom the board decides are worthy of support and/or to churches. At first, the foundation is designed to where it will be self-sustaining, continuing to be funded from the interest derived from the investment nature of its financial structure. The Smith Foundation has now become a private (is not the functioning local church and it does not accept contributions from churches) missionary society. If not, why not?
To be itself also aggressive in the preaching of the gospel, the Smith Foundation publishes religious tracts, class material, and even starts a religious magazine. "We are offering a service," they explain, "therefore, we charge for our products." Yet, they send free bundles of magazines, tracts, etc., on some occasions.
Fellows students, there is so much more to be said. However, I shall stop at this point and allow you some inferential liberties. How about it, are such privately funded entities simply advantageous in that they offer Christians more opportunities to scripturally form additional organizations through and in which to preach the gospel?
Don Martin to Aaron and the list:
Aaron wrote in response to my posts regarding privately supported missionary societies
and the work of the church as follows:
Proposition # 1: Evangelism is not a work of the church.
Evangelism is ALWAYS described in scripture as a work of individuals. Consider the following:
1. Both the "limited commission" and "Great Commission" are to individuals.
2. The following passages from Acts show individuals evangelizing, not churches: 8.4,5 (21.8); 11.19-21; 13.2-4 (cf. all of the missionary activity of Paul and his companions; they were not doing the "work of a church", they were evangelizing).
3. 1Cor 3.9 (and context) shows a clear demarcation between the church (the "you" of v.9) and the evangelists (the "we" of v.9).
4. The function of evangelists in Eph 4.11 is the function of an individual, not a church.
5. The "work of an evangelist" is the work of an individual, like Timothy, 2 Tim 4.5.
Aaron, thanks for your reply and interest. It seems to me that we maybe mincing words. There is no question that the church is the "pillar and ground of the truth" (I Tim. 3: 15). I believe that it is axiomatic that this expression is indicative of the fact that the local church (context) supports the truth. The local church in Antioch of Syria "sent out" men on the three organized preaching trips recorded in Acts that were important in the execution of the Great Commission (Acts 13ff, Mk. 16: 15, 16). The church at Corinth was taught, "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (I Cor. 9: 14). It is also seen that the First Century Christians individually involved themselves in teaching others (Acts 8: 4). From these facts, the deduction is that individual Christians and churches (involving their treasuries) were busy proclaiming the message of the gospel.
The question I raised yesterday presupposed that we all understood and agreed regarding the foregoing biblical fact. Perhaps I assumed too much. In the case of individual Christians, we never find them forming an organization such as the Smith Foundation that I described yesterday through which and in which to preach the gospel. The local entity (church) is the only organization in which pooled resources are seen being used to support men in their preaching. Am I correct in this?
If this is correct, where do we have the authority to form other entities in which to pool our resources for the support of the proclamation of the truth? "These organization are permissible, just as long as they do not accept contributions from churches," we are told.
When I have lived in areas where the privately supported missionary society concept reigned, I have even been told, "Organizations separate and apart from the local church that are controlled and superintended by a board of directors can do a better job with the support of preachers than the local church with the elders overseeing such endeavors!" Aaron and the list, perhaps this will help you to see the direction from which I am coming. Any comments?
Harry is on the right track when he wrote:
I think Don raises a valid question about foundations and such. There is, of course, a real life example of such an entity among us - perhaps not the only one, but the most famous. It begin with the letter "A" and rhymes with Shakin'. (Akin Foundation, dm). It is my conviction that this entity really compromises our message, even to the point that the institutional brethren have brought it up and used it against those of us with non-institutional beliefs (see the book "The Arlington Meeting"). Even at its best, I do not find its existence to be spiritually expedient.
Don Martin to Aaron and the list:
Aaron posted in response to my answering post:
"Greetings, and thanks for responding. May I kindly point out, though, that you did not really reply on point to much of what I said?"
Aaron, I through I provided a general answer that showed that preaching the gospel and upholding the truth is the essential work of the local church (the entity in which and through which Christians pool their resources). I agreed with many of your points in your first post. However, I showed that the local church is involved in preaching in that they are (treasury) to support those who loyally declare the truth (I Cor. 9: 14). The fact that the church at Corinth is instructed to provide support for those who preach is proof that the work of the church involves preaching the gospel. Aaron, you appear to disagree with this. Are you saying, then, that the local church is told to support a matter that is not her work?
Again, I believe much of the surface difference between your posts and mine are matters of semantics. I understand that individual Christians have the responsibility of teaching others (Acts 8: 4). However, I also know that as a functioning entity or organization, the local church is involved in the work of teaching others, both the lost and the saved (Phili. 4: 14-19). I respectfully disagree with you that "sent them away" in the case of the church in Antioch of Syria just means the church encouraged these men as the men went on their three preaching trips (Acts 13: 3). I contend that the expression autois apelusan (sent them away) implies fellowship in assistance, showing that the local church was involved in this preaching effort. It is evident that Paul felt some special responsibility to the church in Antioch, as seen in the fact of him reporting back after each trip (first two trips, Acts 14: 26-28; 18: 22).
The expression stulos kai edraioma tes aletheias (pillar and ground of the truth) in I Timothy 3:15 is reflective of this essential work of preaching the gospel that God has assigned to the local church, which is seen demonstrated in the church in Antioch.
This begs the issue. What you contend is "axiomatic" is something that many
commentators contend is fraught with difficulty. What does it mean that the church
"supports the truth?" Some think the idea is not that the church is the
"ground/support" of the truth, but that it is a "bulwark" of the
truth. The distinction is not insignificant. The local church is a "bulwark" of
the truth by her witness to the truth, e.g. by the way her members comport themselves.
This seems to fit nicely with the context about how one should "behave"
themselves in the household of God. In in case, it is hardly "axiomatic" from
this verse that "evangelism is a work of the church." It is not even settled
that evangelism is in the context.
Aaron, I beg to differ with your understanding of "pillar and ground of the truth." I do not believe the expression simply means "the way her members comport themselves." The context pertains to the scriptural appointment of elders and deacons, an important matter. It is in this vein that Paul said of the local church, "a pillar and ground of the truth." The importance of the organization and structure of the local church is accented in the fact and reality of her work, she supports the truth.
Aaron, some questions for you:
1. Is it scriptural for the local church to financially support a preacher and if this the case, would not this, then, be the work of the local church?
2. If it is scriptural for a local church to financially support a preacher, is not this the matter of Christians pooling their resources?
3. If the local church is the only teaching and example of Christians thus pooling their resources in the matter of preaching the gospel, where is the authority for Christians pooling their resources to form privately supported missionary societies?
4. Do you have any problem with Christians forming preaching organizations to preach to the lost, edification societies to edify the saved, and humanitarian entities to assist needy saints outside and separate and apart from the local church?
Aaron, your arguments that such organized entities through and in which Christian may function are comparable to song books, etc. reminds me of the reasoning of our denominational friends. When God stipulates a specific, all others are excluded. In this case, the specific organization is the local church. A songbook is not another kind of music (Eph. 5: 19), but is simply an aid to the mentioned specific, vocal music. Mechanical music is unauthorized because it is a different music. The Smith Foundation that I have used as an example is another kind of organization.
Don Martin to Aaron and the list:
It appears that Aaron posted last before my post was published. I shall, therefore,
wait to see what Aaron has to say. I have stated that the work of the local church
involves the proclamation of the gospel. I have distinguished between individual efforts
and collective action (Acts 8: 4; I Cor. 9: 14). I have shown that the local church is to
financially support men in their efforts to disseminate the truth and that this involves
the treasury; hence, a work of the local church. Is Aaron denying this biblical fact?
I have mentioned among other verses I Timothy 3: 15 and that the expression "pillar and ground of the truth" involves the local church in proclaiming and defending the truth. Aaron has denied this and said that the verse only means that the members in their individual godly lives uphold the truth. I disagree with Aaron. Paul is discussing the structure and organization of the local church in I Timothy 3 (the appointment of elders and deacons, vs. 1-16). It is primarily in regards to the local church, the organized entity of believers, that Paul said, "the pillar and ground of the truth." Timothy "knowing how to behave himself" is pertaining to the proper appointment of elders and deacons. Hence, the church (local church) upholds and serves as the very foundation for and of the truth. I am amazed that Aaron is denying this basic Bible truth.
I suppose, though, one way to attempt to obviate the example of the early local church being the only organization through and in which Christians collectively functioned in the matter of teaching the gospel to the lost, edifying the saved, and ministering relief to the needy saints is to say, as Aaron has, it is not the work of the church to teach the gospel. Hear Aaron:
"Local churches can fulfill their purpose and never evangelize."
I have been shocked in the past at different teaching, but this is certainly among the most brazened, daring, and obviously erroneous. Imagine: A local church claiming to be Christ's church can exist for say fifty years, never spend a penny on teaching and upholding the truth to the lost and to the saved and still "fulfill their purpose." I truly hope Aaron sees what a mistake he has made and retracts his teaching. I would like to think a number of you are just as concerned at what Aaron is saying.
Aaron talks about my "dilemma." I am not aware that I have any difficulty. I read about the early church supporting men in their preaching and Christians thus pooling their resources in the local church circumstance to achieve this matter (cp. I Cor. 9: 14, 4-16). I am saying that religious people today attempting to be New Testament Christians have authority for working through the organization, the local church. However, where is the authority for forming privately supported "missionary" societies, edification entities, and relief agencies to assist needy saints separate and apart from the God ordained organization, the local church? Aaron continues to compare such to songbooks. A privately funded "missionary society" is not an expedient to the carrying out of the work of the local church, but a perversion of the institution to which God has assigned this work, another institution, just as the piano is not an aid to singing but another kind of music (cp. Eph. 5: 19). Also, a privately funded missionary society is not a justified expedient for individual Christians, in view of the local church with its elders being the collective circumstance.
In closing this post, I suppose Aaron thinks he has solved the problem of needing authority for privately supported missionary societies, just deny that preaching the gospel is a work of the local church! (To anticipate Aaron, I have repeatedly said that teaching the lost is also a work of the individual Christian. It is in regards to Christians organizing themselves and pooling their resources that we only see the local church.)
I think, I hope that most of you agree that the work of the local church does involve the preaching of the truth. How about it, does this, then, mean that Christians organizing themselves (treasury, board of directors, president, etc.) outside the local church to do the work of teaching the lost, edifying the saved, and ministering to the needs of needy saints is a perversion of God's order? Again, how about the provided examples of the Akin Foundation and the "Gospel of Truth Foundation?" What say ye?
Don Martin to Aaron and the list:
Aaron, I do not mean to appear to be captious or fault finding. I had rather agree than disagree. I provided you with several opportunities to save face by mentioning that we may have been engaged in semantics. However, it is now evident that there is more involved between what you and I are saying than mere play on words. Aaron wrote:
When a "preacher" teaches the saved in a local work, I certainly think that
activity comes under the oversight of the elders. But when a preacher is teaching the
saved, he is not actually doing the work of an evangelist....."
Aaron is doing as many do when they advance error - creating their own vocabulary and definitions. I have maintained that involved in the work of the local church is the matter of preaching the gospel. Aaron denies this. I have shown that Christians pooling their resources and working together in the organization known as the local church in the matter of supporting preachers is an instance of the local church (the collectivity) at work (cp. I Cor. 9: 3-16). Aaron has taken issue with my teaching and has affirmed:
"Local churches can fulfill their purpose and never evangelize."
To compound problems, Aaron has now assigned his definition of "evangelist." Hear again Aaron: "But when a preacher is teaching the saved, he is not actually doing the work of an evangelist."
Paul expressly told Timothy to "do the work of an evangelist" (2 Tim. 4: 5). What was the work of an evangelist? The answer is, preach the word to the church (2 Tim. 4: 2-4). Aaron says I have misused the expression "the pillar and ground of the truth" (I Tim. 3: 15) in saying that the statement means the local church is to serve as the ground and foundation of the truth. I suppose Aaron will now accuse me of misapplying 2 Timothy 4: 5, 2-4. I have debated a number who hold the view that the evangelist is one who preaches to the lost, outside the local church. However, none of them, including Aaron, can explain away how Paul used "evangelist" in 2 Timothy 4: 2-5 to apply it to a preacher preaching to a local church, a local church, I might add, that had elders (Acts 20, I Tim. 1: 3, 5: 17ff.).
It appears with each post, Aaron is going father away from the truth. However, keep in mind the paramount subject: May Christians form organizations (treasury, board of directors, president, etc.) through and in which to preach the gospel, edify the saved, and relieve needy saints separate and apart from the local church, the organization that God ordained to do these works? Aaron has said that such separate organizations are comparable to songbooks and that I am being ridiculous to think that God actually meant to limit the organization to the local church. What think ye and what do you think regarding the Akin Foundation and the "Gospel of Truth Foundation?"
Don Martin to Jeff and the list:
Jeff, good having you join the discussion of privately supported missionary societies. I appreciate your knowledge and input. Jeff wrote:
Something for both you (Aaron, dm) and Don to consider (especially you, Don). We just
did a study of the church here locally, and one point which we made was that it is not
true that anything the church can do the individual can do. For the purposes of the
discussion on the list, we could also put it this way: "The individual can do some
things the church cannot." Don, you have used the phrase "individually supported
Good points, Jeff, with which I agree. I Timothy 5: 3-16 exemplifies the principle you just above stated.
What I would like for you to do is define what you think would constitute this on an individual level? Certainly I understand it would not be two or more individual Christians teaching a person on their own, or, even if some other individuals had bought their bus fare. In short, when does cooperation among individuals become an unscriptural "individually supported missionary society"?
I have illustrated and defined what I meant by "individually supported missionary
society" by Christians pooling their resources and efforts outside the local church
in forming an entity, having a treasury, board of directors, president, etc. through and
in which to do the work of preaching; and/or edifying the saved, and/or relieving needy
saints. In this connection, I have mentioned encountering the attitude, "such an
organization can do a better job than the local church can." Some of these people
have continued by saying, "I have decided to contribute a sizable portion of my
income to these organizations rather than the local church."
Jeff and the list, this is what I mean by the privately funded organizations in which Christians elect to do the work that God has assigned to the local church, the only organization about which we read in the New Testament doing such a work, involving the combined efforts of Christians.
Is the American Red Cross an "individually supported benevolent society"?
I do not believe the American Red Cross is what I have mentioned in my posts. However, I do believe the Philippine Relief Fund of which Wallace Little is a part and for which he has solicited contributions from Christians is an example of such an entity through and in which Christians pool their resources to do the work of relieving needy saints. What say ye, Jeff?
Don Martin to Jeff and the list:
Jeff, thanks again for your contribution to the study of privately supported missionary
societies, edification entities, and relief organizations among brethren, separate and
apart from the God ordained organization, the local church. Jeff is justifiably and
intelligently seeking definition and qualification. Jeff wrote:
"Any group of Christians cooperating together is going to have to have some form of organization. There will have to be scheduling ("We'll meet here at 9:00") and decisions ("We'll buy 25 Bible with our funds.") and so forth. If any combined efforts of Christians outside the local church is permissible, then at least some level of organization is too."
What Jeff is doing is part of good, sound logic and the testing of a premise. I know of no one who says that two Christians cannot cooperate in some fashion to teach, etc., outside the local church structure. As elders at Holly Street, we do not require all teaching efforts on the part of the members to be done within the frame work of the local church. In other words, we do not require the following permission, "elders, may we, Jim and Jack, teach John Doe as individuals?" Of course, Jim and Jack may do such. However, here is another case scenario (I have had this actually happen): "Elders, may we, Jim and Jack, form an entity that shall have its own treasury, board of directors, president, treasurer, etc. for the express work of teaching the lost, edifying the saved, and ministering to the needs of needy saints.
It is understood that this society will be totally separate and apart from the local
church and beyond the oversight of you elders. Also, we shall not accept moneys from
churches, only from individuals who likewise desire to pool their resources for these
works." While I do not have a particle of problem with Jim and Jack's first request,
I do with the second scenario. My basic premise is that the second circumstance is wrong,
circumventing and replacing the organization that God has set up through and in which Jim
and Jack are to pool their resources....
Jeff and the list, what we first need to do is decide if what I have just said about Jim and Jack's second desire is with or without authority. After we agree on this, then we can graduate by noticing different degrees of cooperation and organization outside the local church arrangement. Jeff, I shall await you reply to this.
I am not at all familiar with the PRF (Philippine Relief Fund, dm) . Is there something that makes it unacceptable for individual Christians to work through while working through the Red Cross is acceptable? Is it not OK for the Red Cross to help needy Christians after a tornado if any of their funds have come from other Christians? Or, to put it another way, would the PRF be OK if it took money from individual Christians and non-Christians alike and helped both needy Christians and non-Christians?
Again, Jeff is approaching the matter logically. As I understand the charter, the Philippine Relief Fund is a society that consists of Christians for the purpose of primarily assisting needy saints. The Fund is overseen by a board of directors. Christians are urged to contribute to it for the organized assistance of those whom the fund deems to be needy saints. Jeff, the American Red Cross is different from the PRF in nature and objective. The Red Cross is simply an eleemosynary society for all men. The PRF, as I understand it, is expressly for Christians to relieve Christians. Again, the only organization, as such, in which I see Christians pooling their resources to assist needy saints is the local church with its overseeing elders (I Cor. 16: 1, 2, cp. Acts 11: 27-30). (Click on Philippine Relief Fund to read the charter.)
Are several parents going camping and organizing Bible studies for the kids, pooling some money to buy lesson books for their children, and appointing teachers a violation of Scripture?
Jeff, again, lets see if we agree on the big picture and the basic premise, as I have presented it. After that, lets begin to break it down, as you have done in the immediately proceeding.
Again, thank you for you input. I respect you knowledge and mannerism. I shall wait for your response to the above basic premise.
I bid, you, Jeff and the list, a pleasant and profitable weekend. Thank all of you for considering these posts.
Don Martin to Aaron and the list:
Aaron has been busy and is just now referring to my post that was published several
days ago. (I do thank Aaron for his post.) Aaron wrote:
Don, I hope this doesn't stay one sided, with you asking all the questions, advancing new arguments, and skipping over huge portions of what I've written in direct reply to you. I think we should table 1Tim 3.15 for now; we're obviously not reading the passage alike. I cannot think of many, if any, significant scriptural issues which turn on the reading of a single passage, so I think we should move on and see what the preponderance of the remaining evidence says about this matter.
Aaron, I told you that I agreed with many of your points in your initial post several days ago. I focused on the areas of disagreement. You have disagreed with my statement that the local church is the pillar and ground of the truth in the sense that the local church upholds and serves as a foundation for the truth (I Tim. 3: 15). You have maintained that teaching others (what you call "evangelism" and arbitrarily assigning your own definition to evangelism) is not the work of the church (the collectivity).
I asked the following:
1. Is it scriptural for the local church to financially support a preacher and if this is the case, would not this, then, be the work of the local church?
Of course it is scriptural for a local church to financially support a preacher.... But note the ambiguity of this compound question. What do you mean by "this" in the phrase "would not this, then, be a work of the church?" If by "this" you mean the work of "supporting evangelists in their labors" then yes, that is a work of the local church. But that doesn't make evangelism itself a work of the local church. The local church is having fellowship in the work of the evangelist. It is the evangelist that evangelizes, not the local church.
Aaron then added that the local church circumstance is the case of Christians pooling their resources and collectivity (church) teaching others (I agree, dm).
Aaron then makes another arbitrary move: "It is the evangelist that evangelizes, not the local church."
Don further comments:
When I began this theme (privately supported societies), I did not want to become side tracked to a subject that I think is rather petty and laden with equivocation. I do, indeed, think we are playing word games. Let me illustrate it this way: The church where I preach is extensively involved in Internet work (answering questions, doing follow up, providing local contact and studies, etc.). The church (treasury) pays for Bible Questions and eleven men under the guidance of the eldership answer questions. Hence, this work is in every sense a work of Holly Street. This work is primarily designed to teach the lost, what Aaron calls evangelism. However, Aaron says "evangelism" is not a work of the church. Aaron said:
"Local churches can fulfill their purpose and never evangelize."
Holly Street is engaged in this demanding work because we believe it is our duty (this is also an opportunity that we have). According to Aaron, though, we are engaged in work that God has not assigned to the local church. It would be the same as a church (treasury) engaging in teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. Such is not the work of the church. Such is, therefore, without Bible authority. Such is, consequently, sin (2 Jn. 9-11, Col. 3: 17).
I understand that in the case of a supported preacher, the preacher may be doing the actual teaching. However, such does not negate the fact that the church is also engaged in the work of teaching the lost. I do not mean to be rude, but this whole discussion, Aaron and the list, seems a little intellectually degrading.
Aaron quotes my following statement and then replies:
In the case of individual Christians, we never find them forming an organization such as the Smith Foundation that I described yesterday through which and in which to preach the gospel.
So? We never find the Christians of the NT ever traveling by train, automobile, or airplane, either.
I believe this whole discussion reflects a lack of practical understanding of sound hermeneutics. As I have tried to simply explain in anterior posts, God has ordained the local church (its elders and treasury) as the organization in which Christians pool their resources to teach the lost, edify the save, and minister to the needs of needy saints. To form human organizations (treasury, board of directors, etc.) through and in which to do this outside the local church is to create an organization God has not designated to do the organized work that God has given to the local church. We are not talking about expedients such as trains, automobiles, and airplanes. We are talking about a different organization. The local church may employ a train, automobile or airplane to execute this work, but when Christians form their own entity, they are introducing a different sort of organization or entity (Gal. 1: 6-9). The early Christians could have formed the Jerusalem Foundation for the recurring needs of the saints in Jerusalem, but they did not (Acts 11, I Cor. 16: 1, 2)!
Aaron, I have not meant to be sarcastic, but the very nature of this exchange - arguing that teaching the lost is not involved in the work of the local church - would make it appear a little silly, in my judgement. However, as I have said, this is one way to avoid the issue of human institutions doing the work of the local church, just deny that the work of the church is that of upholding and presenting the truth.
Don Martin to Jeff and the list:
First, thanks, Jeff, for your answer and manner.
Don, I believe that Christians may operate outside of the realm of the local church, including being part of organizations other than the church. You pointed out that the only organization brethren worked through in the NT was the church.
I do not necessarily have a problem with the above, Jeff. You mention "being part of organizations...." What I have been posting involves Christians forming an organization to pool their resources to teach the lost, edify the saved, and relieve needy saints, an organization having a board of directors to oversee the work, president, etc. I have also mentioned the expressed thinking, "we can do a better job than the local church...."
Of course, we have lots of vehicles today individuals can use which did not exist in
the first century. I am not talking just about cars and planes. Society has developed as
well. Social benevolent organizations exist today as vehicles and Christians do good works
through them. I used the example of the Red Cross. We have a member who does volunteer
work for them. We have nothing equivalent to that organization in the NT. Do you think
that means what she does is unauthorized? Is she fulfilling the individual responsibility
of doing good? I think she is.
I am not that familiar with the Red Cross, however, I do know they have come under what appears to be justified criticism many times in my life, criticism for misappropriation of moneys. However, all things equal and understood, I am not necessarily opposed to a Christian doing work through an eleemosynary organization such as the Red Cross. This is not the issue.
Jeff then quoted me and replied:
You asked specifically:
However, here is another case scenario (I have had this actually happen): "Elders,
may we, Jim and Jack, form an entity that shall have its own treasury, board of directors,
president, treasurer, etc. for the express work of teaching the lost, edifying the saved,
and ministering to the needs of needy saints. It is understood that this society will be
totally separate and apart from the local church and beyond the oversight of you elders.
Also, we shall not accept moneys from churches, only from individuals who likewise desire
to pool their resources for these works."
I suppose this would be like FC (Florida College, dm). There are non-Christians there being taught the gospel in chapel and in the daily Bible classes. There are also Christians there being edified. There are saints in need being granted scholarships and grants, there's the "adopt a student" program, so the organization does collect money to help the needy (though I do not think it limits financial aid to Christians - nor do I think it must). And yes, I believe individual Christians have every right to do so. So, I think that answers your question. Yes - I believe that FC has a right to exist (that is basically where your headed, isn't it?).
Jeff, I am not sure Florida College would necessarily correspond to the type organizations which I have been discussing, at least in its simple existence. I believe a secular institution does have a right to exist and sell a service. If this were all FC did, I do not know how there could be justified criticism. However, I do have serious problems with their Bible Department, etc. and role as the "Church of Christ seminary." I also think FC has the appearance of a hybrid, half school/half church. As long as a school exists as a school and maintains it school identify, charging for the education they impart, the school is not the type organization to which I have been referring. Of course, you do bring up some interesting points that could, collectively viewed, qualify such a school as a privately supported missionary society, etc.
Jeff asked me:
Now, I get to ask one: Understanding that we do not have any specific example of
Christians doing so in the NT, do you think that Christians can form an entity that shall
have its own treasury, board of directors, president, treasurer, etc. for the express work
of helping needy Christians and non-Christians? It is understood that this society will be
totally separate and apart from the local church and beyond the oversight of your elders.
Also, it shall not accept moneys from churches, only from individuals who likewise desire
to pool their resources for these works.
Jeff, you stipulate that the mentioned organization has the express work of helping all needy. This sounds to me like it is a humanitarian institution, not really designed to do the work of the local church, as such. Just based on the above description, I would not necessarily oppose such. Does this answer surprise you?
Jeff, why not ask me another question, make it as defining as possible. I shall be watching for the question and I know you will do a good job. Such exchanges help to clarify, qualify, and modify, a position.
Don Martin to Jeff and the list:
Jeff raised the following question:
Do you believe that Christians can discharge their individual responsibilities to do
good unto all men, Christians or not, through a human organization such as the Red Cross,
even though the Red Cross will help Christians who have been struck by disaster, and even
though in the NT the only organization through which Christians assisted Christians struck
by disaster was the local church? Is the Red Cross replacing the local church whenever it
helps a Christian? Are Christians who join the Red Cross and help other Christians
replacing the local church with a human organization, or are they merely discharging their
individual responsibilities to do good unto all men?
Jeff, Christians should not have to look to the Red Cross for help. However, an individual working through such an eleemosynary organization as the Red Cross is not the issue, even in the incidental circumstance of a Christian receiving help from the Red Cross. Again, the issue is Christians forming a human organization in which they pool their resources and collectively work teaching the lost, edifying the saved, and relieving needy saints, this is the issue.
Don Martin to Jeff and the list:
Don, am I correct in thinking you do not have a problem with "Christians forming a human organization in which they pool their resources and collectively work teaching the lost" or "edifying the saved" or "relieving needy saints" if the organization does only one, or two of the things, or if it does all three and then another (like relieving non saints as well as saints."
I think I just realized this is what you have been saying. At least I am pretty certain
I can compile a list of your statements that seem to show that this is the case. You
suggested FC would be wrong if it did the above three things but because it also helps
non-saints it is not replacing the church and is therefore OK. Am I correct?
Jeff, what I have been attempting to do is have you commit yourself in the simplest of matters. Therefore, I have presented the full application: an organization formed by Christians in which they pool their resources to teach the lost, edify the saved, and relieve needy saints that is governed by a board of directors, etc. I have mentioned that I believe the Philippine Relief Fund is unscriptural in its design, Christians forming a relief society to assist needy saints. I have also distinguished between a Christian working through the Red Cross and the collective action I just above mentioned. I am not talking about humanitarian work in general. The work of the church (excuse me, Aaron) is not humanitarian relief to all needy. I do not think I would have anything to say against the PRF if it were simply for the Philippine people.
Jeff, I really do not think this matter is all that complicated. The bottom line is, God appointed his organization the local church to be the entity through and in which Christians pool their resources to collectively teach the lost, edify the saved, and relieve needy saints, overseen by the elders. I think all that have expressed themselves, except Aaron, agree with this, even you. I am just attempting to make consistent application of what is clearly taught in the scriptures. I contend that it is wrong for brethren to form a human organization to do the work God has assigned to the local church, as I have qualified and explained.
Another example: I was approached many years ago by several preachers and members with a plan they had. "We believe local churches are not doing a very good job in teaching the gospel and that we can improve on it. We are going to form an organization to preach the gospel. We will not solicit or accept money from churches but from individuals. We will explain to Christians that their money will have better results with us (our organization). We are going to find some of the most informed men we can to serve as the board of directors. Will you be a part of this wonderful endeavor?" My answer was an immediate, "no!"
The issue is not: (1) Two Christians going from house to house outside the organized work of a local church; (2) a Christian working in the Red Cross, (3) a printing company that prints Bibles or religious material and sells it for a profit, or (4) a school that teaches reading, writing, and arithmetic and also the Bible as a literary study and charges tuition.
Jeff, thanks again for your characteristic manner and interest in this study. I have remarked to numerous people that I appreciate an exchange with you because you attempt to examine the issue, free of rancor and deflection. I hope that I show the same respect and manner towards you.
Don Martin to the list:
I am amazed, I started posting about two weeks ago about privately supported missionary societies, etc., in which Christians pool their resources to do the work of teaching the lost, edifying the saved, and relieving needy saints, the work God has given to the local church, and a number of extreme positions have been advanced as a result (never assume anything). Aaron has contented that the local church does not even have the work of teaching the gospel (see I Tim. 3: 15). Now, Frank has posted: missionary societies, etc., in which Christians pool their resources to do the work of teaching the lost, edifying the saved, and relieving needy saints, the work God has given to the local church, and a number of extreme positions have been advanced as a result (never assume anything). Aaron has contented that the local church does not even have the work of teaching the gospel (see I Tim. 3: 15). Now, Frank has posted:
Contrary to the language often used, the local church, as a collective, does not do any
work. The collective as a collective can only provide for work to be done (common funds
and agreement as to how to use those funds). Work is done by individuals only. The
"church" is at work only in the distributive sense of the word.
I agree that the collectivity (church") is sometimes said to perform or engage in a matter when distributive action is really the case (see the Lord's Supper, I Cor. 11: 17-34). However, there is also the circumstance of the church as a collectivity functioning. Clear instances of this true collectivity action involve the treasury of the local church. Hear Paul regarding individual and collective action: "If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed" (I Tim. 5: 16). In this case, the treasury (that created by the individuals contributing) is operative or inoperative, as the case may be. It is hair splitting to argue that some one has to make a decision as to how and when the treasury is to be used. When the treasury is activated, it is the church (collectivity) doing it and all are responsible for how it is used, even though the elders may direct the treasury. In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, their possession was theirs, but when they contributed into the treasury, it ceased to belong to them (Acts 5: 1-4).
When a preacher is supported by the church (treasury), this is a case of the church (collectivity) in action (cp. 2 Cor. 11: 8). In the case of relief for needy saints, when they are assisted by the church (treasury), this is another case of the church (collectivity) in action (cp. I Cor. 16: 1, 2).
I suppose the proposition (I am not challenging for a debate on ML) that the organization, the local church, is the only entity God has appointed in which Christians pool their resources to teach the lost, edify the save, and relieve needy saints is just too deep for some of us to even begin to grasp. However, I just do not see the difficulty. I have all I can do, as far as organizational matters, in the local church. "Don Martin is advocating radical teaching," some think. Why, just because I say that God has appointed the local church as the organizational structure and the society mentality, thinking that man can do it better, is sinful thinking?
Brethren and interested readers, we either believe in divine authority or we do not (Col. 3: 17). I can say with total confidence that God as set up the local church as the entity through and in which Christians are to pool their resources and collectively work under the oversight of the elders. I can also say that this is the only organization of which I read that is to function in the fashion discussed. God could have established the Jerusalem Foundation, with its own treasury, board of directors, etc., to handle the special issue to Jew/Gentile relationship problems: but he did not! (Acts 15.)
I am still waiting for comments on the Akin Foundation and the "Gospel of Truths Foundation." Are these organizations in which Christians are working true examples of privately supported missionary societies? How about others, such as the Philippine Relief Fund, etc.?
How about the "Guardian of Truth" magazine, is it an example of a privately supported missionary society function, especially if and when it freely supplies materials? It is fully organized with its staff writers, board, etc. Afraid to comment? (I do thank all of you for reading and for the posts that have been made. Some have had some excellent posts. Even those with whom I have disagreed have been good in that they show the thinking and the present dangers. I am afraid, though, that many are not saying what they are thinking, on both sides of this dangerous issue.)
Don Martin to the list:
As I end my part in this study of privately supported missionary societies, edification orders, and relief for needy saints organizations in which Christians pool their resources to do under the oversight of a board of directors the work that God as assigned to the local church to be done under the oversight of the elders, I again want to thank you for your interest in the growing matter of concern.
This movement (it is a movement) when fully realized will indeed be a threat to the
local church and God's order. Some, though the years, who have abandoned their craze for
human organizations doing the work of the church by church support have adopted the
modified view of privately supported organizations. I have been exposed to degrees of this
thinking that have scared me and caused me great alarm. I have shared with you the
thinking that "these organizations can do a lot better job than local churches."
I have been solicited (when I was young) to join this movement. The movement has suffered
blows but it is still around, waiting for a good time to surface with renewed favor.
Matters that have been advocated the last two weeks: We have seen it advocated that "teaching the lost is not a work of the local church." "Pillar and ground of the truth," it has been explained by one, "in I Timothy 3: 15 only means that individual Christians show by their godly lives the truth and uphold it." I took issue with this position and denial of collective action (context of I Timothy 3: 15 is involving the organized local church, elders, etc.). Another has said, "the church does not work except in the distributive sense, the individual Christians perform the actual action" (words to this effort). In the case of the first quote, the aim was to say, "individual Christians can form privately supported missionary societies, edification entities, and relief organizations in which to pool their resources to do the work God has assigned to the church." The reasoning that was used to come to this conclusion involved some process of "generic" and "specific" authority that I never did follow or see the relevance.
It has also been taught by several that we need to be satisfied with doing God's work in God's appointed fashion, as far as an organization is concerned, the local church. It is has not been taught that two Christians cannot work together outside the local church climate in some teaching of another effort; that a school charging tuition in which the Bible is taught as literature is necessarily sinful; that it is wrong for a publishing of religious materials company that sells for a profit to exist, etc. The issue has been clearly defined, spelled out, and applied. Some say of me, "Don Martin is radical, a trouble maker, against the preaching of the gospel, etc." The truth is Don Martin believes God knows best as to how his work is to be executed within an organization: Christians pooling their resources to collectively work in the local church climate, under the oversight of the elders. Am I so bad because I say this?
In closing, brethren and concerned readers, the society system is still around and being defended. "When we have all the moneys in place, we will effect a society system such as we have not had before" is the thinking of some. There are only a few men who seem to even be aware of this danger, and even fewer who will speak out. Please carefully consider what has been taught.
Addendum: The following exchange took place several years subsequent to the above discussion. It also involved brethren banding themselves together to form full structured privately supported societies, consisting of a board of directors, president, treasury, etc. in order to preach the gospel, and/or edify the saved, and/or relief needy saints, the work God has assigned to his organization, the local church. The following also involves a discussion with one of the founders of a privately funded benevolent society.
John Smith wrote:
JS. here: I've been "down this road" before, but here I go again, reluctantly. Since the Bible has no definition of "organization," I am using that from my Websters Third. (the noun summed up in the idea of two or more individuals joined for some collective work, under some form of supervision). Please note this would include two or more individuals teaching the gospel to a third person, as in Acts 18.24-28.
First, I trust all is going well with you, John.
I have repeatedly qualified and defined what I mean by a society, entity, and organization. I have mentioned a board of directors, treasury, mission statement, etc. I have not discussed simple organization such as two Christians functioning in an organized matter or even with some form of "supervision." The local church is an organization, as I am using the word. The local church has structure, treasury, mission statement, and oversight, the elders, and Christians thus functioning constitute collective action (I Tim. 5: 16).
John stated and asked:
The idea you expressed, as others have also, that only the church is the only organization God has authorized to do the work He assigned to the church leaves me some unanswered questions. Perhaps you can enlighten me on them.
ONE: Do you mean the local church (congregation) or the church-universal?
I have repeatedly specified the local church in my posts.
TWO: If the latter, where is the Bible authority for activating the church-universal in any collective functional sense?
There is no authority for or concept of the church universal functioning in such a manner and capacity as I am discussing.
THREE: What of businesses where the Christ boss/owner, paying his employees, has a daily Bible study with them, assisted by other Christians also working at that business? You would have to rule these out too.
What you have just described is not the same as I am discussing in my posts regarding privately funded societies of Christians collectively doing the work assigned to the local church.
FOUR: If you mean church-local, please give me its name and address. I have several desperate appeals for financial help for needed medical purposes from faithful saints in the Philippines that I am unable to handle. My wife and I are "maxed out" on this.
John, I am aware of all the work you have done in the Philippines. I also imagine that you have personally given very generously to help destitute brethren in the Philippines. I say this and at the same time disagree with some of your teaching. Again, though, this is really not pertinent to the issue at hand, is it?
However, I am a director of an IRS-approved medical benevolent organization seeking funds to help such need. We are prohibited from (and do not seek) funds from any organization (religious, business, government, et al), but only from individuals. So if you know of a local church with enough members with sufficient funds to handle the authentic requests I have, I desperately want to contact them (or you may do this for me, if you will), and plead with its members for financial assistance for these very worthy saints.
There could be a church or churches with the financial ability to assist those in the Philippines, all things equal and understood (I Cor. 16: 1, 2). However, in the absence of such, there is no justification for forming a society of Christians to collectively do the work of the church, even though they only accept monies from individuals and not churches.
We (The PHILIPPINE RELIEF FUND) are a group of saints who, seeing needs far beyond our personal abilities, banded together in an ORGANIZATION to try and get help for our Filipino brethren facing catastrophic medical needs.
Here is an example of a privately funded benevolent society in the full sense of the term, made up of Christians and functioning to relieve needy saints.
Unless you can specify by Scripture how such problems can be taken care of, your arguments are nonsense.
John and the list, just because there is a need (our hearts go out to the many suffering), does not result in all the teaching and examples of God's word being set aside. I know that you are a caring person who is very attached to the Filipino people. Yet, you are regulated by the same scriptures that I am. The local church has a responsibility based on ability, need, knowledge, etc. regarding needy saints. Individuals also have responsibility.... However, there is no authorization for Christians forming a society with its board of directors, treasury, structure, etc. in order to relieve needy saints. If such is scripturally acceptable, then brethren can form privately funded missionary societies and edification entities. If not, why not?
I will add another point: There is far too much of brethren in one congregation trying to set the boundaries of members of other local churches on what they can and cannot do as individual saints - - even when these band together in some kind of organization. This kind of things makes a mockery of congregational autonomy, AND fulfillment of individual responsibility God has given saints.
Don responds and closes:
John, may I kindly say that your immediately above statement is replete with incongruities and the intermingling of ideas. For instance, when "...these band together in some kind of organization," they no longer cease to function as only individuals. The activation of the treasury of their society clearly makes their action collective (cp. I Tim. 5: 16).
Again, I am not necessarily opposed to a Christian doing something that is outside the climate of the local church of which they are a member. I am not even necessarily opposing two Christians functioning in some matter that does not go "through" the local church. The issue is not if a Christian can function in an eleemosynary order as an act of humanitarianism. The issue is Christians banding themselves together (structure, charter, treasury, board of directors, etc.) in order to collectively do the work that God has assigned to the local church, his organization.
John, I appreciate and admire your zeal, but zeal must be governed by knowledge (Rom. 10: 1-3). Thank you and the list for considering these matters.
Don Martin to the list:
As I said in the beginning, this issue involves degrees, nuance consideration, and the
avoidance of apples and oranges. I have tried, at the point of probably appearing very
taxing, to carefully and repeatedly define my position and statements. Hence, I have over
and over referred to Christians banding themselves together (having structure, treasury,
oversight, mission statement, etc.) in order to collectively teach the lost, edify the
saved, and relieve needy saints. I have explained that we only read of the organization,
the local church, performing this work and providing Christians collectively with this
means of functioning. There have been many incongruous issues, examples, and points
argued. I have tried to answer and explain these matters. There have also been some good,
relevant arguments pressed.
John Smith wrote:
JS here: What I discussed (business, above) is exactly what we are discussing. While its primary purpose is different, the aspect of teach Bible is identical to your claim that only the church is empower to do this. I suggest you will have difficulty finding the verse that says the church (meaning local) is the only unit assigned function of teaching the Bible. I gave you the example of Acts 18:24-28, and this husband-wife group IS an organization.
I have stipulated from the onset that I have not necessarily referred simply to a Christian or even Christians functioning in some way together outside the local church climate. This is why I have continued to mentioned structure, treasury, oversight, mission statement, charter, etc. John and I are talking about two different matters. I have not and do not really care to even discuss what John mentions. Such is irrelevant in this exchange. Again, apples and oranges.
My explanation has been simple and concise:
(1). The scriptures only teach the collective action of Christians involving a treasury, structure, and oversight in the local church (I Tim. 3: 15, 5: 16, I Cor. 16: 1, 2).
(2). Hence, there is no authority for Christians collectively working through, as discussed, a privately funded missionary society, edification order, or relief fund with its board of directors to do the work God has assigned to the local church. It is just this simple.
(1). The New Testament only teaches vocal music (Eph. 5: 19).
(2). Hence, there is no authority for Christians worshipping with a piano, etc.
JS here: "Nice" dodge. I am still waiting for the name and address of the local church (I'll take as many as you will provide) who will do as you say is necessary, and provide the funds for these suffering saints.
Authority for a matter is not established in view of a perceived or real need. There is also a need for people to hear the gospel, but do we use this rationale to set up privately funded missionary societies? Also, responsibility is established by such matters as ability, a real need, and the knowledge of such a need. The local church first takes care of its own and is not a world-wide relief fund. As there is ability and opportunity, there can be outside endeavors (I Cor. 16 1, 2).
John wrote, first quoting me:
You continued: "...'John continues: However, I am a director of an IRS-approved medical benevolent organization seeking funds to help such need. We are prohibited from (and do not seek) funds from any organization (religious, business, government, et al), but only from individuals. So if you know of a local church with enough members with sufficient funds to handle the authentic requests I have, I desperately want to contact them (or you may do this for me, if you will), and plead with its members for financial assistance for these very worthy saints.'...Don responds: There could be a church or churches with the financial ability to assist those in the Philippines, all things equal and understood (I Cor. 16: 1, 2). However, in the absence of such, there is no justification for forming a society of Christians to collectively do the work of the church, even though they only accept monies from individuals and not churches..."
JS here: Am waiting still, STILL for the names and addresses of these churches. Meanwhile, the people I am writing about are dying.
Again, John is caught up in emotionalism and not book, chapter, and verse.
You continued: "...'John explains: We (The PHILIPPINE RELIEF FUND) are a group of saints who, seeing needs far beyond our personal abilities, banded together in an ORGANIZATION to try and get help for our Filipino brethren facing catastrophic medical needs.'---Don replies: Here is an example of a privately funded benevolent society in the full sense of the term, made up of Christians and functioning to relieve needy saints..."
JS here: Absolutely; that was the intent when we organized it.
It appears John does understand what I mean by "society," "institution," and "order," having a treasury, structure, board of directors, and mission statement made up of Christians through which they collectively function....
You continued: "...John reasons: 'Unless you can specify by Scripture how such problems can be taken care of, your arguments are nonsense.'---Don comments: John and the list, just because there is a need (our hearts go out to the many suffering), does not result in all the teaching and examples of God's word being set aside. I know that you are a caring person who is very attached to the Filipino people. Yet, you are regulated by the same scriptures that I am. The local church has a responsibility based on ability, need, knowledge, etc. regarding needy saints. Individuals also have responsibility.... However, there is no authorization for Christians forming a society with its board of directors, treasury, structure, etc. in order to relieve needy saints. If such is scripturally acceptable, then brethren can form privately funded missionary societies and edification entities. If not, why not?..."
JS here: Don't give me and others that cop out of "If not, why not?" You need to prove your case, not try to dump it on me to disprove it.
I have proved my case. I have authority for the local church being the organization having a treasury, structure, oversight, etc. though and in which Christians collectively function (cp. I Cor. 16: 1, 2). I am sorry, John, that you do not accept the scriptures. Using your same logic and rationale, you would be forced to argue for mechanical music. I say this, again, because the scriptures only mention vocal music (Eph. 5: 19).
Another example of John's reasoning:
As to you other comments, they are assertions. There are Scriptures demanding personal involvement (as Mt 25:31-46). As there is no manner of limitation contained here, and we DO have the approved apostolic example of Acts 18:24-24 of an organization doing what you claim only the local church can do, if they can, on a parallel basis, do that, they can also do other things you say are the sole responsibility of the local church. I also call to your attention Jas 2:14-26. Are you saying I should tell the needing Filipino saints, "sorry about that; I have no further ability, and can't find a local church willing to help you, so go ahead and die?" I do not think you actually believe any such thing, but that is one of the consequences of your position.
So, Matthew 25: 31-46 and James 2: 14-26 that purely pertain to individual action constitute authority for missionary societies, edification orders, and relief funds in which Christians function in the aggregate to do the work assigned to the local church? I have already noticed that Acts 18: 24ff. has nothing to do with our discussions of societies, institutions, and organizations. Again, apples and oranges.
Notwithstanding, John persists:
JS here: The above is nonsense. Again, Acts 18:24-28 has two individuals banded together and functioning as a unit FULFILLING THEIR INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITIES.
Acts 18: 24-28 is simply an example of two Christians, a husband and wife, teaching a man. Where is the parallel? We are talking about societies: Structure, oversight, treasury, board of directors, mission statement, etc. John, I do not understand why you cannot see the difference.
John is emphatic:
JS here: Verse, verse, verse!!!! that limits teaching the Bible to local churches. That same verse, when you find it, will also eliminate what I am defending. But don't hold your breath while looking. It ain't there.
The issue is not teaching the Bible. A Christian or Christians can be in a position to teach the Bible, even together. We are discussing collective action such as seen in the local church but involving a man made institution to do the work of the church.
Yet, John affirms:
However, your application is shot through with holes.
John said more but more of the same (above).
I really believe we have covered the issue. Those who want to work through their man made institutions to practice their own brand of institutionalism, will have to continue, I suppose. As far me, I am satisfied to work collectively in the local church. I find all the work I can collectively do in the local church and I am thankful to God for so setting up the local church for collective work such as we have discussed.
There are several obvious reasons, I think, as to why we have teaching that the local church serves for Christian to function in the aggregate. Number one, Christians generally have all they can do if they are members of an active local church. Number two, God's work is overseen by scriptural overseers and not a board of directors, Number three, much politics, power struggles, and all the other matters that too often are attendant with many societies are mostly precluded in the local church circumstance. I think the wisdom of God is seen in his order.
Don Martin to John Smith and the list:
I, again, want to commend all for your interest and time. I have been amazed at how
many have contacted me and thanked me (us) for providing this opportunity to consider
privately supported institutions (structure, chartered, board of directors, treasury,
etc.) to teach the lost, edify the saved, and minister to needy saints, work that God has
assigned to his organization, the local church, overseen by elders.
John Smith wrote:
JS here: Good luck in trying to get bro. Martin to give you a straight answer.
I have tried to provide a clear answer to all questions posed to me. I have presented what I believe to be a parallel answer relative to music and the organization in which Christians collectively function to do God's work. Here it is again:
(1). We have a specific provided, sing (Eph. 5: 19).
(2). There are no instances in which mechanical music is taught.
A. Hence, vocal music and vocal music only is authorized.
Regarding the organization through which Christian are to collectively work in the matter of teaching the lost, edifying the saved, and relieving needy saints:
(1). The local church with its elders is specified (I Tim. 3: 15, 5: 16, I Cor. 16: 1, 2).
(2). There are no instances of Christians banding themselves together to collectively function, as being discussed, in any other organization having structure, treasury, etc.
A. Hence, the local church is the only organization in which Christians are to collectively function in the matter being addressed.
I am sorry that John believes that I have not provided "a straight answer." I have also been told the same thing by those who want a piano in the worship of God. Let me add, this is a very sensitive subject to John. He has spent a lot of his life, money, and energies (no doubt, shed many tears) regarding the Filipino people. As I recall, he is one of the main workers in the setting up of the Philippine Relief Fund. While I disagree with John's teaching about such, I greatly applaud his calm demeanor and usual polite manner!
William Casey wrote, first quoting my question:
Would you be in favor of, opposed to, or indifferent toward brethren coming together and setting up a chartered entity (board of directors, treasury, etc.) to preach the gospel by sending monies to preachers as long as they (the society) only solicited monies from individual Christians and refused monies from local churches?
Don, let me state plainly, you have handled this discussion with the utmost respect and kindness - thanks - but I have come to expect that from you (as we should from all brethren).
To answer your question above is easy - I would be very opposed to any institution set up specifically to preach or send preachers out into the world even if they refused monies from individuals.
Thank you, William, for your answer. We agree on this. I think we agree because we are using the same Book. God has assigned the work of teaching the lost to the local church, not a society of brethren with a board of directors, functioning as a privately funded missionary society (cp. I Tim. 3: 15).
But I do confess that I am having a harder time with benevolent activities. Let me explain in the next paragraph.
I have always struggled with the commonly taught "three-fold mission of the local church." There is no question that a local church should teach, edify, and relieve their needy saints and occasionally saints in other areas. It is clear that the scriptures are replete with statements and examples of such being done and their approval from our Father is clear. My hang up is are these three THE mission of the local church or is it what the local church does? Example - Jesus said, "The Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). Jesus mission was to do just that - seek and save the lost. Jesus did other things - heal, perform miracles, etc. all to the praise of His Father and as evidence to who He was. But was Jesus mission to heal or was that what He did? Along that same line is the example of the church in Jerusalem in Acts 4 teaching us that a mission of the church is to relieve needy saints or is that what congregations are expected to do - take care of their needy? It seems from Acts 6 that the 12 looked upon the situation as something to be gotten through (appoint 7 men to handle this) while they did the other more important things (dare I say - keep to their mission?). (Am I making myself clear or am I rambling?)
William, I commend your thinking on this. You exhibit in this matter a clear mind that is analytical! You may have noticed that on occasion, I have said words to the effect, "teaching the lost, edifying the saved, and relieving needy saints when the occasion is present." I, too, when commenting on this matter in detail, point out that teach and edifying is the constant, ongoing work of the local church. In order words, if a local church is not doing this, that church is failing to do its work. Such would be comparable to a carpenter who does not do carpentry. However, benevolence for needy saints is not seen as an ongoing work in the scriptures, only when there is a need. We had a treasurer one place I preach who tried to divide the church over this. "We show receipts each month for preaching and edification, but we have not had a case of benevolence in eight months," said he. "This church is failing to do its work," he charged. I asked him, "Please explain the grounds of your accusation." He explained, "Benevolence must be constant just as preaching and edification."
My point has been that when the need was present, it was the local church that performed this work, as far as Christians working together as being discussed. In other words, there is no indication of another institution such as the Philippine Relief Fund serving as an organization through which the early Christians collectively functioned. Thank you, William, for making this clear. I do realize, however, that there may be a semantical difference in what we are saying.
Other than what I have found out in your discussion with Bro. Smith I did not know of any such institutions among "us" ( I have heard of the Akin foundation - but I do not much about it).
William and the list, there are various institutions among us that silently, for the most part, work. Believe me, though, some of these societies of brethren exercise tremendous political influence. In conversation with an influential member of one such organization, he informed me that I had no right to preach on what I did the Sunday before (he preached in the area and had been told of my sermon). "Did I teach error?," I asked. "No, but you did not go through the brethren (his order) and wait for the official declaring of what you preached on being an issue." I asked him to explain himself and he meant just what I thought he meant (another experience I had with institutional mentality). There are many, especially young preachers, now part of that institution. When one needs to relocate, they contact the ones in that order who function in that capacity and one of the churches under their influence is contacted about the availability of a man concerning whom they approve. They, conversely, preclude some not in their society from working with certain churches. I had a meeting scheduled once and the local church changed preachers just before time for me to go. The new preacher was a member of another society from the order mentioned above and he arbitrarily had one of "his brethren to come." A week before the meeting, I did my usual last minute confirmation and was told, "The new preacher decided brother....would come in your place.
"Brother Martin, you lie," some might be thinking. If you want to simply call me a liar, I cannot help it. However, I am still telling all that such societies exist and some have more control over segments of the brotherhood than the naive and inexperienced know. They work, though, indirectly. I received an interesting email (I receive a total of up to about 500 per day) from a brother in a church under the shadow of one such institution. "This institution exercises more control though.....local church in my city than any sponsoring church of which I am aware," said he. I know the church and especially the local preacher and the order to which he belongs. I believed, therefore, what he told me. Denying, as many do, that such institutions, societies, and orders exist only allows them to grow and
Don Martin to the list (closing post):
Regarding the discussion of privately funded organizations comprised of brethren to
preach, edify, and relieve needy saints, the attitude of some is that of indifference.
Since such does not involve the treasuries of local churches, the whole matter is consider
a mute issue. I beg to differ. Some are unconcerned regarding a human organization
functioning as a local church by sponsoring gospel meetings and lectureships.
In the first place, a matter diametrically opposed to what is authorized (the local church with its treasury and overseeing elders), is not a mute issue. During the seventies, the privately funded society system was really underway in some places (I encountered many problems in Texas). I actually witnessed myself the mentality of, "Brethren banding together outside the local church organization to set up entities with their overseeing board of directors to do the work of the local church is often a better arrangement and can do a better job than the local church with its elders." This may be a mute issue to some, but not to me. It flies in the face of the wisdom of God in his arrangement of the local church being the organization to collectively preach, edify, and relieve needy saints.
There are a number of particulars that make privately funded societies a serious matter. I have known brethren who were very zealous in their time, energy, and giving when it came to some society, but were indifferent in the local church circumstance. Privately funded societies especially appeal to the ambitious who want to be in a position of authority. In fact, often involved in the society system is the matter of power struggles and politics. Private societies have a way of involving local churches.
So much of what we are is determined by our experiences. I was in the right place, at the right time during the seventies to witness first hand some of the effects of privately funded orders, how they can and do involve churches. I was among only a hand full of preachers who challenged a matter that was public and was later silenced. Yet, history has recorded the ignored event. Consider the below from the Quotations' section of www.bibletruths.net
"Roy Cogdill appeals for churches to help the Akin Foundation: "Most of the readers of this paper know already that the Akin Foundation is in trouble. It is not to advertise this fact but to call attention to the opportunity of all of you have to render a service to the Foundation which has done so much for the spreading of the Gospel and indirectly to the cause of truth and righteousness. The 68th district court in which the law suit against the trustees has been filed has granted an injunction against the trustees further distributing any of the funds of the Foundation and has appointed a receiver impounding all the funds coming in. This effort will cost money as any case in court does. What do you think and what will you do about it? Those of you who through the years have been supported by and have participated in its help, what will you do to help preserve it - both churches and individuals are urged to respond" (The Gospel Guardian, Vol. 29, number 7, April 1, 1977). (This quotation is viewed as significant in that the appeal is made for individuals and churches to contribute to the Akin Foundation, dm.)"
I was criticized by many preachers because I exposed and challenged Roy's appeal. I was called a liar and slanderer because I stated that Roy was exalting a private foundation to a level of church assistance. Each time, I quoted Roy: "...both churches and individuals are urged to respond." I had many influential preachers who were friends of mine, I thought, to turn against me over the appeal for churches to assist in the legal fees incurred by the Akin Foundation. They, just as Roy, justified church involvement regarding this private foundation because the Akin Foundation "...has done so much for the spreading of the Gospel and indirectly to the cause of truth and righteousness. " Private societies and foundations have a way of becoming the "Sacred Cow." I was in the middle of the whole matter, I saw the thinking of the society and foundation mentality, I know whereof I speak!
Even as I type this post, there is movement and upheaval regarding at least one powerful private foundation and order among brethren. "Such does not pertain to the church and should not be mentioned," we hear, but such has a way of involving churches, for sure, indirectly. Some private orders have exercised more indirect control over churches that many brethren want to know. They function in the background regarding what should or should not be considered an issue among brethren and preacher placement. Please do not tell me that I do not know what I say, I do!
I am opposed to institutionalism in the sense of church supported entities such as colleges, homes for the aged, and hospitals. However, we often have our own brand of institutionalism, which we demand not be mentioned. I am referring to privately supported institutions to do the work God has assigned to his institution, the local church (Be sure to read, "The Guardian of Truth Foundation and Florida College".