I can't say enough about the encouragement it is to me to
see your continued interest in this effort that we're putting forth. Your
willingness to come and study with us -- it means so much to me. When this
was planned, I thought we could educate those who come as to what really
look place back in the '50s and '60s. But I just didn't know how much
interest there would be. Your presence truly means a great deal to me.
As has been suggested, we're talking about some of the
differences that arose back in the '50s and '60s that brought about division
among churches of Christ. Many people never knew what the issues were
about. One of our problems, when controversies arise, is that we don't
listen to one another. We're so busy thinking about what we're going to say
next or how we're going to answer this person that we really don't listen to
what he says. And consequently, a lot of people knew there were problems
but they didn't really know where the real issues lay in regard to those
It was a difficult time. I'm repeating what we said last
week, but I think we need to do that. It was a terribly difficult time.
Anybody that didn't live back in those days and didn't go through those
things just could never imagine how difficult they were. A quarantine was
called for by the Gospel Advocate of anybody who objected to institutions.
I don't think I stressed that enough last week. That was not just a matter
of somebody writing to the Advocate and saying, "Well, you know, maybe it's
a good idea if we just quit using these brethren.'" It was more than that.
It was a call for quarantine with the total approval of B.C. Goodpasture,
who was the editor of the Gospel Advocate.
Last week I made mention of a book, Reviving the Ancient
Faith, by Richard Hughes, who is a professor at Pepperdine University. He
mentions this quarantine as being a very important event that took place
among churches of Christ. Because of that quarantine, meetings were
canceled, preachers were fired. I mentioned Irven Lee specifically last
week as just one of the best men I ever knew. He was fired, and no longer
could preach for that congregation. Churches divided. A lot of mistakes
were made. I didn' say this last week, but I want to say it this week: I
made some mistakes. I was so anxious for everyone to know as a young
preacher, that I was sound; that I was among those ready to fight the battle
for truth. I made some very serious mistakes. I look back and would change
some things. Not anything I taught. But some tactics that I used. I don't
know, but it may be that nearly every preacher back in those days looks back
and says, "I wish I had done this different or that different." But it was
a difficult time. Now we can look back with cooler heads in a more
objective kind of a way, and ask the question, "What was that all about?"
Last week we talked about the orphan's home, and where
the real issue lay in regards to the orphan's home controversy. The real
issue lay within what I am calling "a middleman organization", a board of
directors that stood between the churches and the work to be done. The
money went from the churches, but the work was overseen by an institutional
That was the issue. A lot of people never knew that.
They couldn't understand why anybody would object to helping orphan
children. "How could anyone object to a church helping an orphan's home?"
they would ask. The objection was to an unscriptural organization standing
between the churches and the work to be done. If somebody should ask, "What
was wrong with this?", the answer is: there just was no authority for that
institutional board. You will remember that we discussed that last Sunday.
Now, today I want to get into the question of the
sponsoring church arrangement. When you talk about the sponsoring church
arrangement, you just erase the words "institutional board" and you put in
here instead a "sponsoring eldership".
Now, many people who could see the error of the
institutional board had a difficult time seeing the error of this. In fact,
if I may make a personal mention, I remember my father, as soon as he
realized what the organizational arrangement of the orphan's home was,
immediately saw the error of that because he said, "The institutional board
is an unscriptural organization; there's no authority for this institutional
board." But then when he saw this, he said, "But wait, this is a scriptural
body of people. How could that be wrong?" He understood when it was
pointed out that, while this was a scriptural body of people -- that is, an
eldership -- it was an eldership, a scriptural body of people, being put in
an unscriptural role. The elders had become overseers of a work of many
churches of Christ to which all of these churches were equally related.
Sponsoring Elderships At The End of
World War II
Now I think in fairness we need to say that there had
been sponsoring elderships through the years on a very small basis, more or
less on a local basis. But right at the end of World War II, there was a
tremendous interest in missionary efforts and especially missionary efforts
in some of the very nations that we had defeated in World War II. And so
the Broadway church in Lubbock, Texas, became interested in evangelizing
Germany. And what they said to all the churches was, "You send your money
here, and the elders of the Broadway church will take on the oversight of
evangelizing Germany." Some of you may remember, Otis Gatewood was the man
that was sent to Germany under the oversight of the Broadway elders in
Lubbock. So the German work was done by churches of Christ, but overseen by
the elders of one church of Christ, the Broadway church in Lubbock.
About the same time, there was interest in evangelizing
Japan. And so one of the churches in Memphis, Tennessee, Union Avenue, took
on the evangelization of the work in Japan. All the churches sent their
money to that eldership and that eldership then for all of the churches took
on the responsibility of evangelizing Japan. One eldership overseeing the
work of many churches.
Somebody says, "What's wrong with that?" Well, the thing
that's wrong with it is: there's no authority for one eldership to oversee
the work of many churches of Christ.
Let me remind you of some scriptures we used last week.
2 Timothy 3:16 and 17: "All Scripture is given by the inspiration of
God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete,
thoroughly equipped for every good work." If this is a good work, then you
would be able to establish it on the basis of Scripture, because Scripture
furnishes us to every good work.
Colossians 3:17: "And whatever you do in word or
deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." You can't do anything in the
name of anybody unless he's authorized it. You may say you're doing it in
somebody's name, but you can't do it in his name unless that person has
given his authority behind it.
2 John verse 9: "Whoever transgresses and does not
abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the
doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son." If this is in the
doctrine of Christ, then let's do it. If this is not in the doctrine of
Christ, we must not go beyond the doctrine of Christ.
Now, let me add to that. Turn with me to
chapter 5, verse 1. 1 Peter, chapter 5, gives us a very definite
statement concerning the extent of oversight of elders of any one church.
Begin with verse 1 of 1 Peter 5: "The elders who are among you I exhort, I
who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a
partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which
is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for
dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you,
but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you
will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away." Now back to verse
2, "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers."
Overseers of what? Shepherding what? "The flock of God among you."
The elders of the Pepper Road church have no oversight
whatsoever outside of those who make up this congregation and the work of
this congregation. They have no oversight of anything beyond this. It's
the oversight of the flock "among you". Now in keeping with that, I think
most of us are familiar with Paul's statement to the Ephesian elders in
Acts 20:28: "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock,
among whom the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of
God which He purchased with His own blood." Now you have a flock. What
flock do you think he was talking about? The Ephesian flock. The Ephesian
elders were to take oversight of that flock, but the Ephesian elders had no
oversight of anything beyond the activities and work and people who made up
Now, there's no way we can look at this arrangement and
say that the Broadway elders in Lubbock, receiving funds from all of these
churches of Christ and taking oversight for them for all the work in
Germany, were limiting themselves to the work and activities of the flock of
God which is among them. They become more than that when they do that.
There's the objection. That's the issue. We need to make sure that we see
what the issue is. It was the same with the elders of the Union Avenue
church in Memphis. They took on more than what God had given them as
The "One Nation Under God" Campaign
The most recent really big program along this line was
the "One Nation Under God" campaign. The Sycamore, and most of you will
remember this, the Sycamore church in Cookeville, Tennessee wanted to send
out literature to every home in the United States, and their original goal
was to collect 17 million dollars. Do you remember that? Then they brought
it down to 10 million dollars. Where was this 10 million dollars going to
come from? Well, churches all over the country were asked to send so much
money. I was living in Florence at the time, and the Shoals area really got
caught up in this, and I think I would not be mistaken in saying that at
least a million of those dollars came from the Shoals area. Then the next
year they were going to evangelize Canada and the Caribbean Islands, and
then the next year another and another.
Now, is that really an example of one church simply
taking the oversight of the activities of that local church, or was it more
than that? One thing I know is, I was down in Florida, and I passed by a
church building that said, "Church of Christ, One Nation Under God". Now
that's a city in Florida, that's not Cookeville, Tennessee. Obviously that
church in Florida thought that the "One Nation Under God" ministry was a
part of its work. They sent money to this Cookeville church for this work
to be done. But all of this work being done, including their work, is being
overseen by another eldership.
Somebody interestingly pointed out that if some of the
evangelistic efforts of some of the churches can be done under one
eldership, then why could not all of the evangelistic efforts of all the
churches be done under one eldership? Why couldn't we just place all the
evangelistic efforts of churches of Christ under one eldership? Why would
we not be able to do that?
But somebody says, "Didn't churches in Macedonia and
Achaia send to the church in Jerusalem?" Weren't there occasions in the New
Testament when funds went from one church to another church? Yes. In fact,
we'll be talking about that more in just a few minutes.
There were funds sent from the churches in Macedonia and
Achaia to the church in Jerusalem. But the church in Jerusalem was in
need. That's where the need was. Now the Broadway church in Lubbock wasn't
a needy church; it was a big church. In fact, I suspect at that time it may
have been the biggest church in the United States, with a huge
contribution. The Union Avenue church in Memphis was not a needy church.
They had all the things they needed. Jerusalem was a needy church. Now, if
we're going to make Jerusalem a sponsoring church, then what you would have
is: Jerusalem wouldn't have any needs at all. Jerusalem would be able to
take care of all of their needy without any problems. But money would be
sent to Jerusalem so the elders at Jerusalem could be the sponsoring church
for all the needy in the eastern Mediterranean territory. That would make
Jerusalem a sponsoring church. The churches of Macedonia and Achaia were
sending to a church in need.
"Surely churches can cooperate", someone may be
thinking. In fact, many referred to these issues as "questions about
cooperation". Churches that objected to institutionalism were referred to
as anti-cooperation churches. Yes, churches can and must cooperate. But
there are two types of cooperation: collective and concurrent.
Let's illustrate these two types of cooperation. I live
in Rogersville, Alabama in the Comer subdivision. Suppose things were to
get somewhat unsightly in the area and an appeal were to be made to clean up
the subdivision. There are two ways all the families could cooperate. They
might all bring money to Jerry, my next door neighbor, and have him to clean
up the subdivision. That would be "collective" cooperation. Or, Jerry
could clean up his own yard; we could clean up ours; Steve, across the
street, his; Dorothy, down the street, hers; etc. But next to Steve there
is an elderly widow who is unable to clean up her own yard. She is needy,
dependent. So we who are able and independent go over and provide help for
the dependent widow. There is no pooling of funds. There is no central
oversight. Each cooperates by doing his own work. This is "concurrent"
cooperation. This is Bible cooperation.
The Herald Of Truth
Now, obviously the sponsoring eldership that created the
greatest division was the Herald of Truth, where the elders of the Highland
church in Abilene took the oversight of the Herald of Truth radio and
television program. A huge number of churches sent to the Highland church.
An interesting outgrowth of the sponsoring church arrangement that I had
never thought of was brought to my attention recently in the book that I
have already mentioned by Richard Hughes, Reviving the Ancient Faith.
Whenever you centralize influence and control, you open the door for a lot
of problems. Richard Hughes is a professor at Pepperdine University. He
and I would be poles apart in our thoughts concerning how to use the
Scriptures. But he made a point about the Herald of Truth that I never
thought of. He said in his book that the anti-institution people missed
this, and that the Herald of Truth people missed this; it was such a subtle
thing that people were not aware of what was taking place. But he says that
when the Herald of Truth began, the greatest influence among churches of
Christ shifted from the brotherhood papers to the Herald of Truth. People
all over the country were supporting it, and people all over the country
were listening to it. He further says that a major change took place in the
preaching on the Herald of Truth. He says that when the Herald of Truth
first began, the preaching was focused on the one true church, baptism for
the remission of sins, no instrumental music, the Lord's Supper every first
day of the week. It was convincing people regarding the idea of restoring
New Testament Christianity. That was the first teaching on the Herald of
Truth. But by the late '60s and early '70s, they had begun to realize that
the radio and TV programs that were really attracting the audiences were
those that's emphasis was more on family relationships, finding inner peace
for yourself, how to build a strong self-image. Eventually the preaching of
the Herald of Truth shifted from this more doctrinal, controversial type of
teaching into this more "finding peace for the soul and a good self-image"
type of teaching. Now, he said, all of the preachers of the country were
listening to Herald of Truth, and as the Herald of Truth made that shift,
the preachers made the same shift, so that by the '70s and '80s you could
attend most churches of Christ for months and months and months and months
and never hear a sermon on the one true church, restoring New Testament
Christianity, or instrumental music. You might hear the plan of salvation
given, but that's about it.
And let me tell you something. There are some (I'm not
going to say a lot. I believe most of the preaching I hear is good
preaching) churches of Christ right now that are considered to be opposed to
institutionalism that rarely ever get any sermons that are distinctive at
all from what you could hear in denominations all over the country. And I
want to make sure you hear me and hear me well. If you attend worship at
some church where you never hear the question of instrumental music, or
baptism for the remission of sins, or the Lord's Supper every Sunday, or the
one true church -- if you never hear teaching along some of those
distinctive lines, you need to get out and you need to go somewhere else.
You'll lose your conviction. If you don't hear it regularly, you'll lose
your conviction. We have to give our support to the kind of preaching that
helps people see that we're different from the denominational world around
us. Be sure you get that point. That was a shift, and the shift was led by
a centralized program. This is not me saying this; this is Richard Hughes,
a professor, giving a history of churches of Christ in America.
What Is The Pattern?
Now we ask the question: What is the pattern? When you
read your Bible, the funds from churches always just simply went to where
the need was. They never sent their funds to some "middleman organization",
whether it was an institutional board or a sponsoring eldership. The funds
just always were sent to where the need was. Now, let's get our Bibles and
just take five minutes or so and look at that very quickly.
Go to Acts, chapter 4. Start with verse 32: "Now
the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither
did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had
all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the
resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was
there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or
houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and
laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had
need." At this point there was only the church at Jerusalem. The apostles
were acting apparently in lieu of elders (there were no elders mentioned
until Acts 11). People were bringing their money, laying it at the
apostles' feet, so distribution might be made within that local church. A
problem arose, you remember, in Acts 6. Some of them said, "The Grecian
widows are being neglected in the daily distribution." The apostles didn't
reply, "We need a central organization and we'll send our money to this
central organization so they can see that this is done right." No. They
appointed seven men, within their number, who could see after this matter.
It was all done within the framework of the local congregation. The money
simply went to where the need was.
On to Acts, chapter 11. We've already read this but
we'll read it again. Acts 11, starting with verse 27: "And in these
days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus,
stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine
throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius
Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to
send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent
it to the elders..." What elders? The elders where the need was. They
didn't send it to some "middleman organization", some board of directors, or
some wealthy large eldership somewhere. They sent it to the elders by the
hands of Barnabas and Saul. The money went to where the need was.
Romans chapter 15. Paul in Romans 15 talks about
his plans to go to Spain, but he says in verse 25, "But now I am
going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from
Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the
saints who are in Jerusalem." Where did the money go? Churches of
Macedonia and Achaia sent to the elders in Jerusalem. Somebody will say,
"Now wait a minute. This doesn't say anything about the elders in
Jerusalem." Well, go to Acts, chapter 21. A study of the chronology of the
life of the apostle Paul helps us. This collection of funds from Macedonia
and Achaia for the saints in Jerusalem took place at the end of the third
missionary journey. Now keep that in mind. All this took place during the
third journey of Paul. Now when we get to Acts 21, the third journey
ends. At this point, Paul is coming into Jerusalem. What is he coming into
Jerusalem with? The money that has been collected from these churches for
the poor saints. Who's with him? Representatives from all those churches
are with him. Now they're coming into Jerusalem. Look at verse 15:
"And after those days we -- we -- Who's in the number? Luke? Yes, Luke's
in the number. He must have joined them at Philippi. "We packed and went
up to Jerusalem. Also some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and
brought with them one, Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we
were to lodge. And when we had come to Jerusalem..." Who is this "we" that
came to Jerusalem? Paul and his company with this money for the poor saints
in Jerusalem. That's what the last of the third journey is about. So they
came into Jerusalem. "The brethren received us gladly, and on the following
day, [the very next day after they got to Jerusalem -- BH] Paul went in with
us to James and all the elders were present." The day after they arrived in
Jerusalem with these funds from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia -- the
day after they arrived in Jerusalem, they met with the elders. Now look at
verse 19: "When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which
God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry." What had God done
among the Gentiles through his ministry? Numbers of things. But one of the
things He had done is He had brought them to make this contribution for the
poor saints in Jerusalem, and when they arrived in Jerusalem, they met with
the elders. This money went to where the need was.
Philippians 4, let's go to it quickly. Look at
verses 15 and 16: "Now you Philippians know also that at the
beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared
with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in
Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities." The church in
Philippi sent to Paul. The money went to Paul where the need was. The
money just always went where the need was. That is the New Testament
What should we do today? Find out where the need is and
send directly to the need, not to some "middleman organization". If we do
this, we might make some mistakes. We're going to err in judgment all
along. But we will be staying with the New Testament pattern. What is the
issue? The issue has to do with "middleman organizations" standing between
supporting churches and the work to be done. It may be a board of
directors, as with the orphan homes, or an overseeing eldership, as with the
sponsoring church arrangement. But wherever you have a "middleman
organization", you have left the pattern of sending directly to where the
All right, you've listened well. Next week I want to get
into the question of the fellowship halls, kitchens, other things that
churches of Christ are doing now that they were not doing when I was a young
man. I am amazed at some of the things that are going on now, at some of
the practices taking place among many churches of Christ. But you have
listened well; we'll talk about that next week. And if you can come back
and study with us that question, we would appreciate your presence very
And please, let's all have the best attitude we can
have. I'm certainly not wanting to just cram something down people's
throats and I hope you can see that. I do want to reason with you and help
you to see why I take the position that I take in regards to these things.
Maybe there's somebody that needs to obey the gospel.
What we've talked about this afternoon and last Sunday afternoon is trying
to keep the local church free of anything for which there is no authority.
Surely that appeals to you. We want to stay with Christ. We want to stay
with His Word. And if you want to be a Christian, then what you need to do
is pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ. Put your trust in Him, believing in
Him, repenting of your sins, confessing your faith in Christ, being
baptized, buried with Him. And then become a part of a local church that is
determined to pattern itself according to the teaching of the New
Testament. Then serve the Lord faithfully unto death. We invite you to
come. Come to Christ and obey the gospel as we stand and sing.