Working Together in Business, Really?
We can observe in
scripture different ones who worked together in a secular
endeavor. For instance, some of the disciples owned a commercial
fishing business and worked in that pursuit for
financial profit, at least before they became followers of Jesus (Luke 5: 7-10).
The word "partners" (metochois, suggests sharing, the sharing of work and profit
and partnership) is used to describe the business relationship that existed
between Peter, Andrew, James, and John (Luke 5: 7). We also read: "2: And found a
certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from
Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all
Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. 3: And because he was of
the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they
were tentmakers" (Acts 18).
Hence, I know that it is not
necessarily wrong for Christians to band themselves together to perform secular
work with financial gain as a goal. In actuality, I do
not know of not even one who is simply opposed to such a
scenario. You will notice in the case of Aquila, Priscilla, and
Paul that their business was indeed secular and their arrangement financial.
By this I mean that they had not formed the "Protector of the Truth Foundation"
that functioned as a fully organized entity, having
its own president, board of directors, charter, and
treasury, organized for the expressed purpose of
preaching the gospel to the lost. In fact, when it comes to a functioning
organization through and in which Christians collectively worked in
preaching the gospel, the local church, with its overseeing elders and
treasury, is the only observed entity (I Tim. 3: 15). Faithful Christians
are satisfied with God's arrangement and content to abide in God's teaching.
and more, though, we are observing the formation of foundations and
orders that are not local churches and while they do not accept monies
from local churches, they are doing the work God
assigned to his collectivity, the work of preaching the gospel and edifying the
saved. We ("non-institutional" brethren) also now have a fully
functioning relief organization, designed to assist needy saints out of its
treasury. I think we have only seen the beginning of such societies.
Most of the promoters and members of these church like institutions justify
their organizations and work on the basis, "We are just Christians who have come
together to form a working relationship for financial profit." I find such
a claim both interesting and highly suspect, even to the point of dishonesty.
Perhaps the most notable and
certainly the largest foundation presently among so
called "non-institutional" brethren is the Guardian of Truth
Foundation. An outgrowth of the Foundation is Truth Magazine,
having its own additional structure consisting of one editor, one associate
editor, and twenty-seven staff writers. Regarding the right of such orders
to exist, I have been repeatedly told that they are examples of brethren who
have, like Aquila, Priscilla, and Paul formed a
working relationship for financial gain. One
prominent member of the foundation wrote:
"1. The Guardian of
Truth Foundation exists as a business because of the interest of individual
Christians to provide Bible teaching materials...." (Ron Halbrook, "TRUTH
LECTURESHIP: What It Is & Is Not").
In other statements, the
champions of these orders talk about how their work in
these entities is for financial gain. Such causes one to justifiably
wonder. Are all the ten board members of the Guardian of Truth Foundation
members for financial gain? How about the staff writers for Truth
Magazine, are their efforts expended for financial reasons?
Take for example, Truth
Magazine (see addendum). Some want us to think of Truth Magazine as a
book catalog in which books for sale are advertised. The twenty-seven
staff writers spend their time preparing manuscripts for publication in order to
sell the Guardian of Truth Foundation books. All of the energy thus
expended by all these men is for financial gain. What and whose financial
gain, I ask? Are all the ten board members and the twenty-seven staff
writers paid for their work? Some of the staff writers have thus
answered by saying, "It is true that we are not paid by the Foundation, but
as staff writers for Truth Magazine, we are financially benefited
by the meeting work with churches that is produced by
being a staff writer." How about the three
"Guardian of Truth Foundation Annual Lectureships," are the
participates and speakers doing what they do for financial gain, thus,
viewing their relationship to the Foundation as a business for profit?
Are they speaking on their assigned topics just to generate money for the
Foundation and to sell books?
Now let us be honest and stop
playing games with the truth. These men, at
least most of them, are manifestly doing what they do in order to preach the
gospel. They are using the Foundation and the Truth Magazine structure
(joined in nature and linkage) to provide them a means of teaching what
they believe to be the truth. I say this because such is obvious,
especially in view of the usual lack of worth while financial gain being
experienced by these men. So, what is the point? After we remove the
pretense characteristic of some of the promoters and defenders of these orders,
we see the truth and that truth is: Brethren who have banded themselves together
in forming a human institution with its own board of directors, treasury,
president, etc. for the purpose of collectively preaching the gospel to the lost
and edifying the saved.
Ron Halbrook, recognized as a
spokesman for the G.O.T.F., wrote the following in, "Let The Church Be
The Church," an article in which he attempts to
justify the Foundation by calling each person's action working
within and through the Foundation, "individual action":
"In the course of
conducting our business, members of the G.O.T. Foundation often pray together
and even pray with other people with whom we have dealings, especially in
praying for God's wisdom and blessings upon our endeavors. We discuss God's Word
together and with others, especially regarding its proper application to our
work. As circumstances permit, we create and utilize opportunities to teach
people the truth and God's Word and we do everything possible to encourage them
to obey, worship, and serve God faithfully. Such studies have been conducted for
the staff writers of Truth Magazine from time to time. The Truth
Lectureship makes it possible for other interested individuals to share with us
in such studies. By inviting people to read Truth Magazine and to visit
our web site, we hope to better acquaint them with the goods and services of our
bookstores and to encourage them to obey, worship, and serve God faithfully."
Ron and Foundation promoters
would have us believe that on one hand, they are in business to make money and
then, as individuals, they preach the gospel. In effect and at best, then,
they are merchandising the gospel (cp. 2 Pet. 2: 3).
One family that attended the
"Third Annual Guardian of Truth Foundation Lectures"
told me: "Brother Martin, the Foundation is doing a wonderful job in
preaching the gospel. In fact, they are able to do what local churches
I really was not sure what
the family meant by "...what local churches cannot
do...." When I asked them for clarification, their answer was not clear to
me. When I gently pressed the family for Bible authority for such a
Foundation functioning as a local church, they became very emotional and
defensive. It was evident that they loved their Foundation.
In fact, this matter came up in a Bible class that I
was teaching. We were studying the seven
churches in Revelation chapters two and three. I pointed out the
various action scenarios, autonomy, and the fact that these local churches set
forth God's plan and provision for Christians collectively working
together to disseminate the truth. The point seemed to highly upset
the family and the remainder of the class (most of it)
was spent answering their arguments, accusations, and
justification for the Foundation.
These Foundations, societies, and entities being discussed are not
comparable in the least to the matter of Aquila, Priscilla, and
Paul in Acts 18. In the first place,
these Foundations are not selling secular matters. Hence, the comparison
between these orders and the business relationship that existed between Aquila,
Priscilla, and Paul is none existent. Also, while there may be some
"profit" and "financial gain" in the matter of the foundations, I believe all
that know anything about them know that the men associated with and vital to
these societies are not doing what they do for financial profit. Such is a
joke and a ruse.
I do become tired of hearing,
"We are just brethren in business for profit, you have
no right to oppose us!" Do these brethren think that we are so
gullible as to fall for such? Do they think that we can so easily
be placated and silenced?
With the publication of, "We
Have A Right..." (a Guardian of Truth Foundation
publication), it is evident that such Foundations are going to not only
continue, but become more emboldened. The question is, can Christians
collectively do the work of preaching the gospel in the local church as God as
taught? The answer is, "Yes." Must we have these outside, man-made
foundations to offer collective opportunities for preaching the gospel? I
emphatically say, "No!" Are the promoters of these "extra" arrangements
going to push them to the point of division and the disruption of unity?
They already are doing so. However, just as in the forties, fifties, and
sixties, when the promoters of that variant of
institutionalism, a matter totally foreign to the New Testament, accused those
who had problems with their unscriptural teaching, practices, and
arrangements with being the divisive ones, so it is today. Those of
us who present the local church as the only
collectivity having oversight, treasury, and structure
through which Christians collectively labor to preach
the gospel as being scriptural are labeled as divisive. We cannot,
"endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit..." by promoting and defending
something not taught in the scriptures, human foundations doing the work
of the church. We "endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit" by doing
what is taught, in this case, Christians working through God's collectivity to
collectively preach the gospel (Eph. 4: 3-6, I Tim. 3: 15).
In closing, I view those more
honest who say, "We are not satisfied with just being
members of a local church and therein collectively preaching the
gospel, we demand the right to have our own societies, foundations, and
orders in which to preach the gospel. After all, we think that we
with our president, board members and own treasury can
do a better job than the local church with its
oversight and treasury!" The rationale that foundations in
which the gospel is preached are being begun simply for a business for
financial gain enterprise is an insult to every thinking Christian.
I have focused of late mainly on the Guardian of
Truth Foundation in view of its clear emergence into the undeniable realm of
privately supported orders such as being discussed. However, there are other
such like institutions among "churches of Christ" that are exerting tremendous
influence. When one examines the structure, nature, and functionality of Florida
College, one sees the precise same characteristics, traits necessary in
constituting such an entity that provides the opportunity for brethren to pool
their resources to collectively preach the gospel through the human institution,
with its man-made oversight, treasury, etc.