A Partial Review of
"Congregational Fellowship and the Canadian Cause"
Jordan, Ontario, Canada
Brother Alvin Jennings has an article in the September issue of the Gospel Herald, a religious Journal published at Beamsville, Ontario, on "Congregational Fellowship and the Canadian Cause." I have never met brother Jennings but from the filmstrips advertised in the article and from the article itself, he is trying to encourage the "sponsoring church" type of co-operation among the churches in Canada. From the language in the article it was evident that he also was trying to turn his readers against those who might oppose this practice among the Lord's people.
For those who may not be familiar with this type of co-operation among the churches it is basically this: One church decides to sponsor some work that it will not be able to take care of financially. Other churches throughout the brotherhood then send money from their treasuries to meet this obligation.
Churches Can Work Together
As the title suggested, the article was centered around 'churches working together." In the first column the author stated, "It is wonderful how churches can work together in evangelizing new areas, without losing any congregation's own independence or self-governing power, and at the same time without the intervention of such unnecessary institutions as the missionary society."
This is a statement with which there is complete agreement. The churches did this in the first century with such success that Paul could write from Rome near the end of his life that the gospel was " . . . preached to every creature which is under heaven . . ." (Col. 1:23). Co-operation that rests upon the authority of Christ as found in the New Testament has always accomplished God's work with success and peace among the family of God. There are numerous ways the gospel can be supported scripturally. A gospel preacher can work with his hands (I Cor. 4:12; 9; 6-18); individual Christians can help him (Gal. 6:6); one congregation can send to his needs (Phil. 4:10-20); and several churches can send to support him (II Cor. 8,9). By these means of support the gospel was successfully preached and we have these same opportunities available today. Of the above means of support, the only one involving co-operation is the last one mentioned and that was direct, with no "sponsoring church" intervening. With these ways of supporting the gospel, there can be no question. No disagreement can result and peace will prevail.
When the missionary society was first introduced, it first raised questions and then division resulted. With brother Jennings there is full agreement that there is no need for the " . . . intervention of such unnecessary institutions as the missionary society." It not only was unnecessary but wrong and sinful, not being authorized by Christ and producing division.
But in addition to this, if you will simply read your New Testament you will find that there also is no need for a "sponsoring church", if we will support the preaching of the gospel as it was done in the first century. Without it we will meet with equal success and much more peaceably.
Yes, it is a wonderful demonstration of the wisdom and foreknowledge of God that churches can co-operate in preaching the gospel to the world. Full agreement will bond us together as long as the co-operation under consideration is firmly supported by the wisdom of God in word and practice.
"Non-Co-operation in Evangelism"
I do not know of anyone who believes that churches cannot co-operate in preaching the gospel today as they co-operated in the first century. Yet those who advocate the "sponsoring church" type of co-operation find it beneficial to accuse those who oppose it as not believing in co-operation in evangelism at all. While speaking of the Devil, brother Jennings wrote, "He will gain ground with this 'non-co-operation of churches in evangelism' law wherever the saints are 'untaught and lazy.' " He then labels them "unlearned and unstable" by quoting II Peter 3:16.
To print such a statement as this indicates one of two things: (1) Brother Jennings believes you have to accept the "sponsoring church" arrangement of co-operation or you do not believe in co-operation at all. This we have already shown to be untrue. (2) Only one other purpose could it serve; that is to turn the minds of the readers against those who oppose the co-operation he is advocating.
As for the adjectives, "unlearned," "lazy," "untaught," and "unstable," which he used to describe those who disagree with him, they deserve no comment. The brotherly nature of the religion of Christ demands that we have more respect for the integrity and honesty of one another than to make such rash statements as these, which have no foundation in truth.
"I Corinthians 12"
In an attempt to show congregational dependence upon one another, he made this statement in the third column of the article: "No congregation lives to itself; Read I Cor. 12." Also, in the filmstrip, one of the first points made to establish this interdependence between churches was the same scripture.
Paul here is discussing the gifts of the spirit and in verse 12 states, "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ." He defines the bodily members as the foot, hand, ear and eye. In the parallel with the Church, are these members congregations or individual Christians?
The context of the whole chapter shows & that the "members" are individual Christians as they depend upon one another. The different members received different gifts and if congregations were the members, then each congregation would have received a particular gift, not a variety of gifts, as the church at Corinth had already received. (See chapter 14).
However, the clearest proof is always a plain statement. No person honest with himself can read the first three verses of chapter 12 without knowing exactly who the members were. Paul plainly says in verse 3. "Wherefore I make known unto you that no man speaking in the Spirit of God saith, Jesus is anathema; and no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit." The remainder of the chapter shows that the "man speaking in the Spirit of God" is the member of the body likened to the foot, hand etc. As clearly as language could express it, the Spirit spelled it out for us twice in one verse, "M-A-N.'
If we allow ourselves to misuse scriptures like this, it will not be difficult to make them teach anything we wish to believe. The denominational world has already done this with the Word of God. May we have more respect for Christ than to make his teaching a tool for our own personal advantage.
"What Can I Do?"
The author of the article gave warning against those who would oppose the co-operation he was advocating and admonished. "Inoculate yourselves now before the disease has spread to your own area . . .." His solution is then proposed. "You may be asking, 'But what is the best way to acquaint myself with these doctrines that are troubling and dividing the body of Christ? Where is the error stated clearly and concisely, scripturally refuted? Where can I study the issue in capsule form with as little personality interference as possible?' " The one answer to these questions was the filmstrip which he had prepared. It proposed to do three things: (1) It was to acquaint the viewers with the doctrines troubling the church; (2) It was to present "clearly concisely (and) scripturally . . ." a refutation of the error involved in the issues today, and (3) all this would be with as "little personality interference as possible."
First, if you would like to know about the doctrines in the church today, the best place to see both sides presented is to make arrangements to read or hear both sides of the issue where equal time is given to both. The filmstrip presents brother Wood's arguments with additional charts prepared by Star Publications, which are in agreement with brother Woods. One side of a controversy is never a complete picture.
Secondly, as for a scriptural refutation of the error, you have already seen the use of I Corinthians 12 by brother Jennings. If you are honestly concerned about church cooperation and want scriptural answers, the New Testament is the place for you to go. This was the only guide in the first century and it is our only source of "reproof and correction" today.
Thirdly, as for personality interference; there should have been none since only one side of the issue was presented. However, near the end of the filmstrip, a slide was prepared picturing the opponent of brother Woods at the fork of a road. Behind him were three figures representing "Anti Preachers" and this was printed across them. This seems to me to be prejudicial in its very nature. It was not a doctrinal argument of either of the men and could serve only one purpose, that of "personality interference." This was evidently considered an important point because the picture was used not once but twice near the end of the filmstrip.
Every century the church has had its problems and we have ours today also. Disagreement and controversy are nothing new. Jesus promised it and the apostles predicted it, but does this mean that these disagreements cannot be settled without division and personal animosity? Jesus has given us a "perfect law" and if we make up our minds that will be our only guide, our problems can be solved.
If you want to know the extent to which churches of the first century co-operated and that is one of our problems today, read the story of it in its completeness on the pages of your New Testament. Whatever method used at the time of Paul enabled him to say that the gospel had been preached to every creature under heaven. We cannot improve upon that. Any method of co-operation in practice today could have been practiced then. The only difference would have been the speed with which the money traveled. We cannot improve upon God's way nor find greater success with our ways.
When there is need and occasion, there should certainly be "Congregational Fellowship in the Canadian Cause." Our job ahead is a big one, although much has already been done for which we are all thankful. Progress with peace is the desire of everyone who loves the Lord. If we follow God alone and peace prevails among His people, how soon can it be said that the gospel has been preached to every hamlet, village and city of Canada. "God forbid that such a time would ever come that the tranquil, effective, happy, and scriptural co-operation of congregations would be altered or hindered by the propagation of laws contrary to the doctrines which we have learned." May that which we learn be from the New Testament alone, and through the strength which God supplies may we be able to stand upon His wisdom, and through the foolishness of preaching as He ordained, save those who will believe.
Truth Magazine VIII: 6, pp. 8-10 March 1964