A Canadian "Herald of Truth"
Bancroft, Ontario Canada
The March, 1971 edition of the Gospel Herald (a monthly journal published by institutional-minded brethren out of Beamsville, Ontario Canada) carried an article by three preachers working in Quebec Province informing us that a "unique way has been found to place the Gospel before the entire population of Quebec Province." This "unique way" involves preaching over some 13 radio stations in an effort to teach the Province's 6,000,000 people. All this looks commendable and naturally stirs all who are concerned with the divine work of saving souls from sin and error. Why then this article?
"The Unique Way"
What this program turns out to be is but a mini-model of the "Herald of Truth" type cooperation. It intends to utilize a plan that violates the New Testament pattern of cooperation and organization. Besides saving souls from sin, these brethren want to "establish New Testament churches throughout the Province." But in their haste to save souls they unwittingly employ denominational machinery and human organization to accomplish this noble desire which, of course, turns the New Testament church idea into a farce.
A Scriptural Way Seems To Be Suggested
In the article it was stated that "we are looking for congregations who will adopt one or more of these stations." Now I can see nothing wrong with such an arrangement. A church or churches sending directly to proclaim the gospel is certainly in keeping, with the New Testament pattern of congregational independence, autonomy and organization. This in no way sets up any kind of hierarchy or "special type" churches with distributing, managing and overseeing rights. And, in fact, in a letter from Brother S. F. Timmerman (a preacher in Quebec whom I wrote requesting additional information), he fully agrees that this would be the "better arrangement." Hear him, "I appreciate your concern for maintaining the autonomy of the congregations of God's people and would be the first to oppose any move that would, in my opinion, tend to militate against it. It was for this reason that, in the prospectus concerning the support of radio preaching of the gospel in Quebec, the suggestion was made that churches or individuals 'adopt' broadcasts over specific stations. This would give them the right to choose how their money is spent and the right to discontinue such support whenever they felt that they are unable to send it or that it is not achieving the results they hoped to accomplish. This, to my mind, is a better arrangement than sending' funds to a church or group of brethren to be used at their discretion."
But This "Unique Way" Prefers Centralization
Instead of the above "better arrangement" they have decided to have all "cheques payable to Church of Christ, P.O. Box 41, Sainte-Foy 10, P.Q. Canada." All the churches participating in this effort are in fact only paying the bill that the Sainte-Foy church area-headquarters receives from the stations. So we have another real live sponsoring, working, adventurous and foreseeing church pleading to all other churches to send, contribute and finance 11 their" work-plan. A Sponsoring church distinction is made which the Scriptures no where teach, and therefore this eliminates them from being a New Testament church in that particular. Or, are we only concerned about the right names, the proper worship and good morals? Should not the Lord's work and organization also be stringently enforced? But brother Timmerman for one is on record in the April edition of the Gospel Herald as he writes on another topic as saying "if we accept the witness of the Scriptures on some points, we are logically obligated to accept it on all others." Did not, the Master have something to say about those who "say, and do not"? "Wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself" (Rom. 2: 1).
Brother Timmerman informs me that "I believe, I'm sure, just as strongly in congregational autonomy as you do... Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:14; etc. but our opinions as to what may constitute an infringement of local autonomy may differ." He said the very expression "congregational autonomy" is "itself not found in the New Testament" but "the principle seems very clearly taught." He "believes" . . . "strongly" in congregational autonomy . . . "the principle 'seems, to be very clearly taught." Now either it is taught or it is not taught. There can be no "seeming" about it if the word of God teaches it and it does in the very verses he used. But what good is it to "know" that the Bible teaches a certain thing if we cannot know what that means or what that entails. Congregational autonomy can mean anything to brother Timmerman from a local church doing it's own work with it's own resources under it's own elders (when and where appointed) to a local church becoming a central station for an area-wide, Province-wide, Country-wide or World-wide work. This he claims are but "our opinions as to what may constitute an infringement of local autonomy." With one swipe of the pen he expects to silence us and close the case exactly in the same manner as a sectarian preacher would ... shoving the subject into that no man's land of "human opinion" and that district of, "to each his own." What a position this puts our brother in! He "strongly believes" in "congregational autonomy" but he is unable to define just what constitutes it. He continues "I respect your opinions along this line, and I am sure you respect mine." My, my.... I would say he is in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to keep congregational autonomy which is a much "better arrangement" (even Scriptural). Nevertheless, his opinion is that a brotherhood sponsoring church is more needful for the present Quebec program.
How Do You Feel About it?
That is the final question asked in the article. Well, since the Bible teaches direct support of preachers and their needs (Phil. 4: 15-16; 2 Cor. 11: 7-9), may I suggest that congregations "adopt one or more of these stations" and in that fashion preach the gospel and thus avoid plunging headlong into apostasy via human machinery and artificial appendages. . Surely a number of churches could and would adopt one of these stations at the low price stated of from $24.00 to $46.00 weekly.
In Conclusion, an Analogy
David selected a group of men to "over see" and carry the ark of God. They did move it but not without a just recompense of reward for their lawlessness. They made an error . . . it was only to be carried by the Levites; not on a "new cart" but upon their "shoulders with the staves thereon" (2 Sam. 6; 1 Chron. 15:2, 13-15). Brethren, it will do us no good to save souls with the gospel being pushed by a new cart (a human board, centralization). Let's get to the work God's Way!
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 33, pp. 7-8