Issues Facing the Church
I have long known that the brethren who favor church support of human Benevolent Societies and the Sponsoring Church method of cooperation would grab every opportunity to take a swing at those of us who oppose their unscriptural projects. In the February 22, 1963 issue of Gospel Minutes there was a short article by James Bales, entitled "The Issues?", which illustrates this point. Since it was brief I will quote the entire article that all may see the line of reasoning used by Brother Bales.
"It is a sad commentary on the state of thinking of some Christians that when they speak of 'issues facing the church' they mean the question of how to care for orphans, whether or not several congregations can help one congregation carry on a radio program, etc.
"Whatever may be the right answer to these problems 'they' certainly are not 'the issues facing the church'. Here, as I see it, are some of the issues: (1) the lack of interest in world evangelism. Christians squander more on things that hurt the body than they spend for world evangelism; (2) the lack of love--and without love we are nothing; (3) selfrighteousness; (4) the failure to develop real elders; (5) the tendency of some Christians to want to pay a preacher to do their work for them; (6) the fact that 'the issues' to some people are the things mentioned in the first paragraph rather than such things as are listed here; (7) that some people will argue for the way they say is right but not follow the way winch they argue is right."
Brother Bales has some splendid thoughts here and all of us would do well to study and preach more and more on these things, which are a threat and danger to the church of our Lord. However, what brother Bales call the "issues" at all. I think they are more correctly called problems or dangers and brother Bales called them "problems" in the first sentence of the second paragraph. Webster's Collegiate Dictionary gives ten (10) meanings of the word "issue" when used as a noun, and only one of the ten could fit the word as used by brother Bales. Webster says an issue is: "A point in debate on which the parties take affirmative and negative positions." Now just what are the "issues facing the church"? What are the "points in debates on which the parties take affirmative and negative positions?" I can think of several, but I do not think the seven things listed by Bales are such, for they are not debatable with the exception of numbers six and seven.
I am aware of the lack of interest in world evangelism, but is this an "issue''? If so who has the affirmative and negative positions on this issue? Who is affirming that we have too much interest in evangelism? Who is debating this? Do not all gospel preachers strive to stir up more interest in world evangelism? I agree with brother Bales that there is a lack of love, but is this an "issue" in the church, or is it just a problem?
If an issue, then perhaps brother Bales can tell us who those preachers are who are affirming that we have enough love in the church; or who the men are who are denying that we have a lack of love in the church? Surely there are some self-righteous people in the Lord's church, but I do not think such is an "issue" for I have not heard of brethren debating this point.
Yes, I agree that there is a failure to develop real elders. Most of us know places where the church has existed for many years and still there are no men qualified to be elders in the church. But who is denying this? If it is not a matter about which there is debate with parties taking affirmative and negative positions, then it is not an issue. Surely there is the ever growing tendency on the part of many Christians to want to pay a preacher to do their work for them. But, is this an "issue"? Who is taking the affirmative calls "issues facing the church" I do not and negative position? Who is debating this?
Brother Bales' article is merely a slap at those who oppose churches contributing to human benevolent societies, and who speak out against the current sponsoring church method of cooperation. Those who are in favor of such promotions find themselves in an embarrassing position, not being able to give New Testament authority for their practices. Naturally they would like for us all to stop thinking of their pet projects as "issues facing the church", and consequently, to devote all of our time to these other matters. But, brethren, these are some of the REAL ISSUES FACING THE CHURCH! !
I know many men who will take the affirmative position that it is unscriptural for churches to contribute to human benevolent societies. Of course it is growing more and more difficu1t to find a man who will take the negative. There are many brethren who will deny the scripturalness of a modern "Sponsoring church", such as those who sponsor the Herald of Truth, the Nhowe Mission, etc., but it is increasingly difficult to find a brother who will affirm the scripturalness of such. Is this why brother Bales does not consider these matters as "issues facing the church"? Could it be that he knows that an issue is "a point in debate on which the parties take affirmative and negative positions"? He must know that the brethren who promote the benevolent societies and sponsoring churches will not take a position in debate. Therefore he concludes that these are not "the issues facing the church".
How easy it would have been for brethren of a hundred years ago to say, "The issue is not the Missionary Society, or how shall churches cooperate to preach the gospel, but our lack of interest in world evangelism." The lack of interest in world evangelism was the cause of brethren forming the Missionary Society; at least that was their claim. Then when the music question arose and became an issue in the church, how easy it would have been for brethren to have said, "The instrument of music is not the issue facing the church. The real issue is the lack of love--and without love we are nothing. And if you brethren who oppose our instrument had the proper love for us you would not speak out against us, for we are only trying to improve our worship unto God.''
Presently I can think of only one way that I can agree with brother Bales' position that "the issues facing the church are not how to care for orphans, or whether or not several congregations can help one congregation carry on a radio program". For the real problem would be the lack of respect for divine authority. But then if I speak of this basic problem as the "issue", who would take the negative position? Even those brethren who promote human benevolent and missionary societies, and unscriptural practices claim to have the utmost respect for the word of God. But brethren, your action betrays you!
Truth Magazine VII: 11, pp. 12-13, 24