Truth Between Extremes, Re-Examined
Under the general heading of "Truth Between Extremes" and in the last of a series on that vital subject, brother Ralph D. Gentry wrote in the July 1963 issue of this magazine on "Co-operation Among Churches." Therein he advocated that one church could scripturally send money to another church for the support of a preacher by the receiving church. In the September issue I responded, suggesting that the only scriptural way is for churches to send directly to the preacher who is to be supported. In the January issue brother Gentry replied, defending his former article. I am grateful that we can discuss these matters without bitterness and that we can disagree without being disagreeable. Brother Gentry's attitude is appreciated.
In the January article brother Gentry suggests that the example in Acts 11:22, wherein the Jerusalem church sent Barnabas to Antioch, proves that a preacher may be sent anywhere and at any time, even to another church. With this conclusion there can be no scriptural objection (Of course, if he is sent to work with the church, this church must be willing. Otherwise its autonomy would be violated). Brother Gentry says, "In sending Barnabas, the Jerusalem church was neither shifting its responsibility in the field of evangelism to another or attempting to do the work of another church. There was no violation of autonomy in such cooperation." Again he is 100% correct. And this is exactly the arrangement for which I am contending. Let's do it that way today.
But in the July article brother Gentry said, "If Jerusalem could send the preacher, could they not have sent the money with which to support the preacher?" That is, he suggests that instead of or in addition to sending the preacher, they could have sent money to Antioch church for evangelism. My response in the September issue was, "It is significant that they did not do it." In his latest article brother Gentry responds by asking, "If there are two courses open to us and we choose one does that necessarily signify the other choice to have been sinful? Of course not." But wait a moment, it "all depends." If both courses were lawful, neither would be sinful, but if one is lawful and another is without authority, the latter would be sinful indeed. So far no one has proved that it is lawful for one church to send money to another for evangelism. What scripture authorizes such? None. To say that Jerusalem could have chosen to send money instead of the preacher is to assume the very point at issue. In the absence of a statement, commandment, approved example or necessary inference, any practice is proved unlawful. The only reason mechanical music in worship is wrong is because it is unlawful. The only reason Thursday night communion is sinful is that it is unauthorized. Likewise, the only reason one church as no right to send money to another for evangelism is that there is no scripture for it.
Because various churches sent money to the Jerusalem church (Rom. 15:25, 26) for benevolence in Jerusalem, and because the money was under the control of the receiving church, brother Gentry says, 'The same can be said of evangelism and edification." Yes, it can he said by preachers in Dayton, Ohio and Aurora, Illinois, but it is not said in the Bible. That makes the difference. He continues by saying, "I believe one church has a greater obligation toward edifying its members than other churches do toward those same persons and that other churches may assist that church in fulfilling its obligation." I suppose all would agree to that statement. But how are they authorized to render this assistance? If one church asks another for help in edifying the members, would the sending church have to send money? Would they not, rather, have to supply one or more teachers? He asks, "What if the preacher happens to be an elder?" In that case, a supporting church would support him as a preacher, not as an overseer.
In my September article I said that if a church can send money to another church for evangelism, it can send support to that church for not only one preacher but for a dozen. To this brother Gentry responds: "I've never advocated a church could send a dozen preachers to work with a church." Well, the N. T. teaches that a church can send any number of preachers anywhere. Of course it may not he wise to send a dozen to one place, but it would not be unscriptural. It would be without N. T. authority for one church to send money to another church so that the receiving church could support either one or twelve preachers.
Then brother Gentry says. "I claim if one church can send help of any kind to another church which will be used by the receiving church in the area of evangelism and edification, it may send funds with which to purchase those supplies and means including payment for services of a preacher." It should be noticed that brother Gentry used "1 claim," "1 believe," "I maintain," etc. at least seven times in that last article. Once when I was a young preacher an old man said, "We don't want to hear what you think or believe, but what the Bible says." He said it rather sharply, but it helped me immensely. Without sharpness, but with kindness, I would also ask, "What does the Bible say?"
Now back to the quotation above that began with "I claim." A conclusion was drawn that had no scriptural basis. One church can send help to another church by sending a teacher, which the latter needs (Ac. 11:22: 2 Cor. 11:8). But no passage teaches that one church can send money to another church so that the latter can support preachers. This is a stubborn fact. Probably brother Gentry and I would have arranged it differently. But we weren't even consulted. We didn't write the N. T. We can't change it.
Finally, referring to my former use of Acts 20:7 and its limiting power regarding the day for observance of the Lord's Supper, brother Gentry says. 'The example of the Lord's Supper observed by the Church on the first clay of the week is exclusively binding because such interpretation is not in opposition to other statements of fact to the same matter." This is certainly true. In other words if another statement anywhere in the N. T. would indicate observance of the Lord's Supper by Christians at any other time, we could not be bound to the first day of the week only. Likewise, if any other statement anywhere in the N. T. indicates that one church sent money to another church for evangelism, we cannot be bound by the examples already given herein. But no other way is identified for the penitent: "ye ought rather to in all of the Bible -- so we are indeed to "what is written."
Again I plead for peace and purity. Why advocate something that cannot be backed by a "Thus saith the Lord?" To proceed just as Jerusalem did (Ac. 11:22) or as Phillipi did (Phil. 4:16) or as other churches did (2 Cor. 11:8) is safe, and it will not diminish the work of the church. To take another course, regardless of its popularity and its appeal to human wisdom, will not increase lhe work, and it will be another step in the direction of apostasy.
Some may say I split hairs by pleading for such close observation of "what is written." I agree that we must not be mere obstructionists. However, we must always be unafraid to split a hair if that is what it takes to get to truth. Finally, we cannot possibly be right with God if we become frightened or discouraged by such discussions as this and fail to support those preachers who are willing to go out into the needy fields. I hope brethren everywhere will determine to "Do more in regarding evangelism at home and abroad.
Truth Magazine VIII: 6, pp. 15-16, 24 March 1964