"Herald of Truth" - The Danger Grows
The international radio-television operation called Herald of Truth is, perhaps, the most notable example of the kind of "church cooperation" which has divided hundreds of churches of Christ in recent years. (The orphan asylum issue is not the only divisive one, contrary to what many people may have been led to believe.) The powerful concentration of the resources of literally thousands
of congregations in one central eldership, such as Highland church elders in Abilene, poses an even greater threat to the identity of simple New Testament churches. The Abilene church elders now function as the board of directors for a brotherhood project that becomes more powerful all along. Brother Clois Fowler, writing in the CHRTSTIAN CHRONICLE (Sept. 11, 1964) declares that Herald of Truth was "begun in 1947 by a young evangelist, James W. Nichols, on WMT." Just three years later the Herald of Truth in 1950 "became a joint effort of James D. Willeford and James W. Nichols." Still later, according to the CHRONICLE, when a major network offered to carry the program, in September 1951 "the six Highland elders agreed to accept responsibility of acquainting the brotherhood with the opportunity and took over the production of the Herald of Truth program. "
From that time until now the Highland elders have bombarded the entire brotherhood with a steady begging campaign to make this combination bigger and bigger. Each year they have asked congregations for more and more donations. There seems to be no limit to the plans they have made for the churches over the country to support. In various ingenious ways they have projected their highly organized system into churches throughout the nation.
Just recently a more complex machine has been organized, of nation-wide proportions, to solicit "grass roots" support of Herald of Truth. The same issue of the CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE tells the story. "200 Gather for Abilene Workshop." And just what was this "workshop'' all about? We are told "some 200 preachers, elders and others representing 33 states, the District of Columbia and Canada, gathered in Abilene August 26-27 for a full and exciting two-day workshop hosted by the elders of the Highland Church of Christ here." So Highland elders have now called brethren to Abilene from all over the United States and Canada, have given them their sales talks in the "workshop" and have sent these agents back to their respective sections of the country to do service for the Herald of Truth.
This increased concentration of power in the eldership of ONE church in promoting a "brotherhood" work is completely foreign to the word of God, brethren. It is unlike anything the scriptures reveal. This development should cause us to remember the lessons from the history of churches in the second and third centuries as the first major apostasy developed. A few "metropolitan" powers emerged, leading finally to the complete centralization of churches in the Catholic hierarchy. This is the kind of thing (centralization of power of many churches in one place) that churches of Christ have been opposing for generations.
Local Conventions Follow
Following the Abilene convocation of elders and other from 33 states, the master plan mapped out in their workshop began to go into operation almost immediately with similar conventions of "preachers, elders and others" in various areas. For example, the CHRISTIAN CIIRONICLE (Oct. 2, 1964) carried a front-page article on one of them. The first paragraph stated:
A total of 390 elders, preachers and other leaders representing 100 churches of Christ in Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri met Sept. 14 in the Cafetorium of Crowley's Ridge College for a marathon four-hour workshop in the interest of the world-wide Herald of Truth radio and television program.
The "Mid-South representative for the Herald of Truth programs" was there to whip up interest in Abilene projects. The thing has now become so highly complex in organization that it has to have area "representatives" to see that the machinery all goes as planned. After the "representative" showed some films and the "workshop" was reaching its conclusion, the results were tabulated:
Of the 100 groups represented, the leaders of 30 committed their groups to support the Herald of Truth program . . . Elders of the Paragould church hosting the workshop indicated they were reasonably sure of later commitments from 100 percent of the groups represented at the workshop.
So the preacher and elder agents who attended the central workshop "hosted" by the Abilene elders have now gone about calling their local conventions of other preachers and elders from their adjacent areas. Will someone who knows please teach the rest of us just what Bible authority exists for such meetings and the laying of such grandiose plans for the "brotherhood" to support.
Voices From the Past
No paper ever carried more warnings against such things as the old GOSPEL ADVOCATE. A brother writing in the GOSPEL ADVOCATE (Dec. 3, 1931) remarked:
Churches should never be tied together in as good a work as preaching the gospel to the heathen. Elders of one church should not try to get hold of the money contributed by others to direct for them in foreign fields or other places. No missionary society should be started by elders of a-church or by any individual.
The same brother also noted in the GOSPEL ADVOCATE (Jan. 11, 1934):
If two or more churches put it into the hands of any kind of board, though the board may be made up of elders of one of the churches, we have a very nice beginning for a missionary society to take charge of the churches.
Even before this time the ADVOCATE editor had become involved in a heated exchange concerning the 1910 episode in West Tennessee. The Henderson elders had agreed to "select and put in the field an evangelist to work in destitute places in West Tennessee." The churches were urged "to cooperate with the Henderson church in supporting the evangelist." (This is so commonly done today that few think anything about it; but not so back in 1910.) Brother David Lipscomb exposed the plans in the GOSPEL ADVOCATE. Part of his reply was:
Now what was that but the organization of a society in the elders of this church? The church elders at Henderson constitute a board to collect and pay out the money and control the evangelist for the brethren of West Tennessee, and all the preachers are solicitors for this work.
Brother Lipscomb then referred to earlier like effort in Texas, noting, "All of them went into the society work." He continued by saying:
All meetings of churches or officers of churches to combine more power than a single church are wrong. God's power is in God's churches. He is with them to bless and strengthen their work when they are faithful to him. A Christian, one or more, may visit a church with or without an invitation and seek to stir them up to a faithful discharge of their duties. But for one or more to direct what and how all the churches shall work, or to take charge of their men and money and use it, is to assume the authority God has given to each church. Each one needs the work of distributing ancd using its funds as well as in giving them.
Brother J. C. McQuiddy declared at the same time that "the work proposed is nothing less than a missionary society in embryo." Not too many years ago brother Foy E. Wallace, Jr. in TORCH magazine said "When churches of Christ arrive at where this centralized cooperation is leading, they will have become carbon copies of the Christian Church." It is to be regretted that brother Wallace no longer speaks thus, but is found building up what he once destroyed.
The Bible Is the Standard
Does anyone think the Herald of Truth conventions and workshops are WRONG simply because the above quotations indicate such? Absolutely no one. Yet thousands of brethren today oppose such centralized cooperation BECAUSE THERE IS NO AUTHORITY FOR IT IN THE BIBLE. New Testament congregations, WITHOUT the complex organizations represented in "sponsoring churches" preached the gospel to the whole world. (Col. 1:6,23). Individual congregations communicated directly with gospel preachers. (Phil. 4:15-17.) They did a rather good job of it before brethren dreamed up the centralized plan. The New Testament contains no teaching to authorize meetings of elders and preachers all over the country getting together to make their joint plans for work through a common agency. If so, WHERE?
Is ANYBODY opposed to preaching the gospel by radio? No! Is someone trying to oppose preaching by television? If so, I have never heard of it. In fact, many congregations, in doing their own work, have radio broadcasts. Some have television programs. CHURCHES CAN WORK WI'IHOUT CENTRALIZATION. That is the Bible way for them to work. It is not the fact of PREACHING that we oppose! It is the "sponsoring church" concept that has arisen in recent years - the sort described earlier in this article. The churches can have UNITY when all respect the New Testament. Division and strife will continue apace as "brotherhood" projects increase.
Truth Magazine IX, 5: pp. 7-9