Issues that Divide Us (VI): Understanding the New Testament Evangelism
As we continue our study of evangelism, I want you to take your Bibles and follow along with me. Find out exactly what the Bible says about the local church being engaged in New Testament evangelism. In 1 Timothy 1:3 the apostle Paul is telling young Timothy to abide still at Ephesus. Now here we have a Bible example where there was a man located with the church in Ephesus, preaching the word of the living God, and where an apostle said to continue to abide there. There is Bible authority for a local church to have a local preacher. Sometimes I have had people to say, "No, you cannot have a local preacher at a local congregation where you have elders-the man ought to move when there are elders." But this is not so. The church at Ephesus had elders and Timothy was there, and Paul said, Timothy, I want you to continue to abide there.
But then again, someone might say, "Well, preacher, how do you know that there was not more than one church in Ephesus, and that Timothy was preaching for one where they did not have elders?" I believe that I can give you a Bible answer, if you will turn to the book of Acts 20, and also read in the Revelation letter. When the apostle Paul in Acts 20 called for the elders of the church at Ephesus, he did not call for the elders of the churches. He called for the elders of the church. Therefore there was only one church in that particular city. Where there were a plurality of churches in a city, it was always identified in the plural use, like in Galatians 1, the "churches of Galatia." There was more than one church, more than one congregation, in that particular area; but in the city of Ephesus, there was only one church. Paul said he called for the elders of the church in Ephesus to come over there to Miletus. The same thing is true when he addressed the church in the book of Revelation. As John was guided by the spirit of God, he addressed "the church at Ephesus." So evidently there was only one congregation there. They had elders, and Timothy was preaching there, and Paul said to continue to abide there. So then we have established Bible authority for a local church to have a local preacher.
But let us notice something else, and that is the fact that a local church has the God given right to support a man away from that particular work. Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:15. When Paul was writing to the church at Philippi, he said, "No church communicated with me concerning giving and receiving, but ye only." Alright now, what do we find? We find the church at Philippi supporting the apostle Paul in the preaching of the word of God away from Philippi. Keep in mind that Paul said, "No church communicated with me concerning giving and receiving but ye only." Now the church at Philippi sent directly to Paul. They did not send it through the missionary society. They did not send it through any other organization. They sent it directly to the man in the field. This is the pattern that we read about in the revelation of Christ. So thus far we have established the fact that a local church may secure the services of a preacher and the preacher may remain in this locality and preach the word of God. Secondly, the local church has the God-given right to support a man away from that field and send directly to that man.
But then there is a third thing that we need to know. In 2 Corinthians 11:8 the apostle said, "I robbed other churches." Now note your Bibles carefully-"churches", in the plural. "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them to do ye service." Now here we find several churches joined together in the supporting of a man of God. But take your Bible and look at it carefully, and you will observe that the churches sent directly to the man. Paul said, "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them to do ye service." Note that they did not send it through the missionary society, they did not send it through any other institution; they sent it directly to the man in the field. Now, my beloved friend, I challenge you to take your Bible and find out if this is not so. First, that a local church can secure the services of a preacher and the preacher remain in that locality preaching the word of God. That is New Testament evangelism. Secondly, you will find where one church supported a man away from that field and they sent directly to him (Philippians 4:15). That is New Testament evangelism. Thirdly, you will find where several churches supported a man-they sent it directly to him, and he went out preaching the word of God. This is New Testament evangelism.
Now this is the way that it ought to be done today, and any time you find churches either supporting an institution, building an institution where the churches are joined together doing this, then they have violated Bible authority, and they are going to cause division within the ranks of God. Today we have division within our ranks, and why? Some of it is due to the fact of evangelism. For an example, several years ago, some of the brethren came up with the idea that we will have what you call a "sponsoring church." Now some of these little churches of Christ out here in the rural areas are not able to do very much, so what we need is to gather all these churches together in some way and send out preachers. But, they wanted to stay away from the missionary society-that thing had already divided the brethren and the Christian Church has already formed. So they said, "We don't want a board of directors and we don't want a missionary society, so we are going to have a sponsoring church." Now let me tell you what they labored under: They labored under the impression that if you just put that thing under the eldership of a local church that would make it right. And so they called it a "Sponsoring Church," and to and behold, the first thing you know, you have got a church out here setting itself up as a motherhood church, a sponsoring church, and all the churches of Christ sending their money into it and then the sponsoring church would send out preachers. I challenge you to find the Bible authority for it. I challenge you to show one time in the word of God where there was ever a sponsoring church, where there was ever one church which received funds from other churches to send on to gospel preachers.
Today, we find a lot of people who endorse that idea. They ought to be willing to give book, chapter and verse. They ought to say, "Here it is." I will tell you one thing: When they give book, chapter and verse, that would help heal the division within our ranks. I will assure you that I would join forces with you when you can show me in the Bible where there was ever a Sponsoring Church which received money four other churches to send out preachers. I challenge you to show me the authority for it.
First of all, there is no Bible authority for it. Secondly, it violates 1 Peter 5, where God told the elders to oversee the flock of God which is "among" them. Now what have you got? You have got a sponsoring church, with elders overseeing people away from them. This violates the very principle God laid down in His word. What is it going to lead to? The same thing as when you had a universal bishop. You are going to have a motherhood church, and eventually, you are going to have someone to control the brotherhood, and it is contrary to the teaching of Christ and contrary to the revelation of Jesus Christ.
After the sponsoring church view came in mind, some of the brethren decided that we needed a world-wide radio program. We needed to preach the gospel to people out there, so then what we needed was a world-wide radio program by the churches of Christ! And to and behold, out in Abilene, Texas, they started one called the "Herald of Truth." The Abilene church said, "You send us the money and we will put on a nation-wide church of Christ radio program." Well, this is exactly what they started. Now I ask you, where is the Bible authority for it? I challenge you to give me book, chapter and verse! I want to know where is there any Bible authority for one church to set itself up to have a world-wide radio program by the churches of Christ, to be supported by the churches of Christ, where this church would be the Sponsoring Church? I want to know where is the book, chapter and verse? Now then, if you will give me book, chapter and verse, I will join hands with you. But until then, I am going to stand in opposition to it. What has divided the body of Christ? Why is there division in our ranks? This is exactly why.
How do brethren answer us when we say, Will you please give us book, chapter and verse? What do they say? "Oh," they say, "You folks are anti, you are just a bunch of antis." Anti-what? You mean to say that we are antipreachers? If we are anti-preachers, why under the living sun would we support preachers? Why certainly we are not anti-preachers! We are not anti-sending-out-men-of-God. We are just anti the sponsoring church. We are anti the Herald of Truth. We anti anything that sets up this thing and puts it under an eldership where there is not any Bible authority for it! There is not one bit of difference between the missionary society and the sponsoring church except one is under a board of directors and the other is under a local church or eldership. Both of them violate the principle of Bible authority and that is exactly why they are wrong.
But someone might say, "Preacher, you little antis started all this business." Well, now let me read to you for just a minute. In the 1946 issue of the Gospel Advocate (and most people go by the Gospel Advocate and say that these are the people who stand for the truth and all the rest of them are antis), in the 1946 annual published by the Gospel Advocate, I want to read to you from page 341, in regards to Philippians 4:15-16. Now listen carefully: "Here we see the simple manner in which the church at Philippi joined with Paul in the work of preaching the gospel." Watch it now. "There was no missionary society in evidence, and none was needed." Listen. "The brethren simply raised the money and sent it directly to Paul. This is the way it should be done today. No organization is needed to accomplish the work the Lord has authorized the church to do." Now that is the absolute truth. Now listen again. "When men become dissatisfied with God's arrangement and set up their own, they have already crossed the threshold to apostasy. Let us be satisfied with tile Lord's manner of doing things. " That is exactly right! In 1946 this was where the Gospel Advocate stood, but now she says we can do it in another way, and that is why we are divided. It is shameful, but it is so.
Truth Magazine XXI: 18, pp. 277-279