What Is Wrong With the "Herald of Truth"?
Wm. E. Wallace
Why discuss what is wrong with the "Herald of Truth?" Herald of Truth, the nationwide brotherhood broadcast originating in Abilene, Texas, controlled and operated by Highland
Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, is set up in such a way as to infringe on the organizational features of the Lord's church. An organization is established in order to do work. When you have an organizational arrangement unknown to the church of the apostles' day, you have an unscriptural organization. Herald of Truth is more than a religious broadcast. It is an organizational arrangement set up for co-operation on a national scale. It is the organ of expression of many churches of Christ.
"In establishing the identity of the New Testament church the necessity of being scriptural in doctrine, worship,, and name has received due emphasis. While these essential features have not been over emphasized, there are some other points that have been more or less minimized. The organization of the church, for instance, is vital, and scriptural work is an essential feature of its identity."
The local church has a work to do, and it has a scriptural right to receive money from other churches under certain circumstances to help it do the work. But the local church has no scriptural right to create and start a work designed to extend beyond the limits of its own spiritual and numerical needs, when such work is dependent on the funds from other churches. In such a work the elders of the one church become agents for the contributing churches. A society of churches is thus formed, with one eldership acting as the central expediting board. In this arrangement the organizational feature of the New Testament church is transcended.
Some brethren will want to ask, "Where is the scripture supporting your position?" The scripture supporting "my position" is the scripture setting forth the organizational features of the Lord's church. When you read all that the New Testament has to say on these matters you will find the following to be true:
1. No congregation had pre-eminence over another in organizational arrangement.
2. Elders did not oversee a work larger in design than local material, numerical, and spiritual needs.
3. One eldership did not function on behalf of other elderships.
4. Many congregations did not funnel money into and through one eldership for regional or national works.
5. One eldership did not speak for churches of Christ.
6. One local church did not function for many churches in evangelism or benevolence.
7. There were no pressure tactics of "mother" churches on surrounding congregations.
8. There was no shifting of benevolent responsibilities out of the hands of elders and deacons to public or state institutions.
9. There was no centralization of benevolent or evangelistic funds of many congregations in a regional or national coordinating agency of elders of one congregation.
Brethren need to find scripture for their promotions before they ask others to find scripture disallowing those promotions. We walk by what is written rather than by what is not written. Brethren also need to learn that there is no scriptural way to organize the kind of nationwide, brotherhood work such as Herald of Truth, because there is no such arrangement authorized in the scriptures, and therefore, it cannot be scriptural.
We realize of course that there is a matter of expediency, and of system, and of method, but expediency, system and method do not allow for the missionary society of the Christian Church, or for an association of elders of churches of Christ, nor for a convention of preachers, nor for a society of churches. The Herald of Truth arrangement is a sys tem, but it is also an unscriptural organization and thus it cannot be expedient to any command given to the church, and it certainly is not a scriptural method for there is no scripture for such a combination of funds and authority under one eldership.
In the type operation seen in the Herald of Truth set-up of the Highland congregation in Abilene, Texas, a manner of organization is involved which is unscriptural. The term organization is often used in referring to mere orderly procedure. It is also used to mean an orderly procedure in a formal structural set-up, and is used for a formal structure itself. The national broadcast entitled "Herald of Truth" involves the type organization seen in a formal structural set-up. Organization, in the formal usage of the word, is in some way subordinate to administration. In the work being done in Herald of Truth there is a structural organization of supporting churches with one centralized administrative body-the elders of the expediting church. The contributing churches do not give up their overall autonomy, but they do yield funds to a central administrative board which makes the decisions and expedites the expenditure of the funds of this, group of congregations. The principle of congregational cooperation is abused in this procedure, and the error is seen in the delegation or function by the contributing churches to the one central congregation.
Funds and efforts are combined under a central administrative organization. The principle of congregational autonomy is violated to the degree involved in the surrendering of funds to the receiving congregation's administrative board. If congregations can surrender funds to a central administrative agency like this in one thing, they can do it in all things. That type of thing points in the direction of Protestant ecclesiastical organization and the Catholic hierarchy.
If a board outside the local congregation served as the central administrative agency, brethren would more readily recognize the evil. But when the eldership of a congregation serves as the central administrative agency, some brethren fail to see that the same principle is violated. The Christian Church has its "Home and State Missions Planning Council." In the type set-up seen in Herald of Truth we have a nationwide radio and television planning and expediting council.
There must be in every organization of the Herald of Truth type, the office that plans or determines the function and the function which interprets the need and thus expedites the action. The Herald of Truth thing is an organization that necessitates that sort of organization and that sort of function. It is made of contributing congregations, and one functional congregation which plans, determines and expedites the action. The New Testament gives no authority for the eldership of one congregation to function in such a way relative to work that is not particularly their obligation.
When the eldership of a local congregation does the work God intended for it to do, in the way God intended for it to do it, it operates within scriptural authority. When it takes on an obligation calling for council and decision regarding work which is not its own local responsibility, and which is dependent on monies from other congregations, then it becomes board acting outside of the realm of the authority of elders.
Where is the New Testament teaching authorizing one church to solicit other churches for money so it in turn can expedite a nationwide, or brotherhood work? The actual broadcast, Herald of Truth, in an organized effort of a formal organization made up of a society of contributing churches which yields funds and responsibility to a central expediting office which in turn works under a board-the elders of the Highland Church of Christ. For this there is no scriptural authority.
Some may complain in reply to our statements, that the Herald of Truth set-up has no authority over the contributing churches. This defense on the part of the supporters of the type organization seen in Herald of Truth is the same defense the denominations make for their organizations. Consider for the sake of comparison the following statement which is taken from "A Statement Adopted by The Southern Baptist Convention." I am emphasizing what Baptists say about their organizations because their explanations sound like some of the supporters of Herald of Truth in their defense of that organization.
"Christ's people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over each other or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner."
There are some Baptists who have rebelled against the centralization of the Baptist associations and conventions. In spite of the Baptists claim to the contrary, Baptist organizations infringe on congregational autonomy. In opposition to Baptist organizations the editor of the BAPTIST BIBLE TRIBUNE says:
"I have seen what centralized ecclesiasticism did to the apostolic churches, what it did in the days of the reformation, what it has and is doing to the Protestant world, and what it has done to the Northern Baptist world, and what it is now doing to the Southern Baptist world."
The defenders of Herald of Truth make the same defense for that organization as the denominations make for theirs! Even though the operators of Herald of Truth declare that they have no authority over churches, and that the autonomy of churches is not affected in the set-up, they are guilty of centralized control in administration of congregational funds in a work larger than their local responsibility. In this voluntary association they exercise authority which is not authority granted to them by the New Testament.
In the apostolic day there was decentralized administration as pertains to congregational cooperation and to operation in both evangelism and benevolence. There is a doctrine of procedure displayed in the New Testament as surely as there is a doctrine of worship and organization. Congregational autonomy is proven by taking the truth that elders were appointed in every church (Acts 14:23), and in showing that the oversight of elders was limited to the flock which was among them (I Peter 5:1-5). The doctrine of procedure regarding congregational cooperation is ascertained in the same way. That doctrine is one of congregational funds becoming associated for administration at the point of need, rather than at an administrative point in between the giving party and the needy recipient. Those who carried the relief were merely messengers. No congregation stood between giving congregations and receiving congregations and no congregation operated or acted as a center in a brotherhood work. The brethren in Antioch sent help directly to the elders of the brethren in Judea (Acts 11). The churches of Macedonia, Galatia and Corinth sent directly to the needy saints at Jerusalem (I Corinthians 16: 11 Corinthians 8, 9; Romans 15:26). The Philippian church sent directly to Paul as he moved south from Philippi (Philippians 4:14-20), and helped him while he was in Rome by sending direct to him.
In the cases cited above there is absolutely no evidence or hint at centralization of funds with an intermediate agency of some kind-congregational or otherwise. There was no integrated functioning of congregations in the cooperation. It was decentralized cooperation, independent efforts growing out of common interests.
The Herald of Truth arrangement is but another display of the lack of faith in God's ways of getting things done. The Herald of Truth originators, created this arrangement out of dissatisfaction with the examples of church action and church cooperation in the New Testament. The Lord's church is being divided by brethren who insist on promoting organizational arrangements unknown to the New Testament church. When the history of the twentieth century church is written, the Herald of Truth promoters will look like the missionary society advocates of the last century.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XI: 4, pp. 2-4