By Truman Smith
How long will it be before many of the so-called “conservative” brethren begin embracing the sponsoring church method of church cooperation?
Well, I do not wish to be a killjoy or a prophet of doom; for it is simply not my nature to always be engaging in such. I am not like George Burns said, “a man who feels bad when he feels good for fear he’ll feel worse when he feels better.” I am really an optimist. However, I remember back in the 50s when gospel preachers in whom I had the greatest confidence, after fighting faithfully for the “old paths” with both tongue and pen, some of whom engaged in numerous debates at the outbreak of institutional practices among churches of Christ, completed their years of service on the side that favored the sponsoring church arrangement. And how sad many of us were to learn of such a brother having gone that way! Therefore I cannot feel too optimistic about some of “us” today. Am I not accurate when I say that I sense a general softening among some in our own ranks? Please prove to me that it is not so! Could it be that it is only a bad dream from which I must soon awaken? I would most sincerely hope that to be the case.
No, I have not learned of any among us who have started advocating unscriptural church cooperation among churches, nor have I known of any “conservative” churches of Christ that have even begun to stray in this way. However, there are indications that some might be beginning to lean in that direction in attitude. Perhaps there are some who do not fully understand the principles involved in these issues. Seldom is there ever a public discussion between brethren anymore; nor, as for that matter, any private studies of this nature going on either. But I am hearing more and more of our brethren who are beginning to use such expressions as “a congregation of the church of Christ.” Let us not lose sight of the fact that it was just such concepts of the church that paved the way for most of the innovations that have taken place over the last forty or so years among God’s people.
We are hearing the “speech of Ashdod” (Neh.13:23f)! What happened to the idea that each local congregation is a church in and of itself (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Phil. 1:1)? Their concept is that each congregation is a part of the universal church of Christ. Brethren, this is denominationalism pure and simple!
I recently noted in a bulletin published by an “institution- al” church in Fort Worth an announcement of the “Eleventh Annual Tarrant County Area Combined Assembly” to be held on September 15, 1996 in the JR Theatre at the Fort Worth/Tarrant County Convention Center. They say this affair is being sponsored by “The Tarrant County Area Churches of Christ.” Well, I know a number of churches of Christ in Tarrant County that are not involved in this meeting because they know it is unscriptural in both organization and practice. The preacher for the Fort Worth church that published the bulletin said: “One of the ‘BIG’ events coming up in the month of September, Lord willing, will be the combined assembly for congregations of the Lord’s church in Tarrant County . . . This year’s combined assembly is especially important to us at Bridgewood, because this time around we are the hosts!”
Please observe that this is to be a “BIG” event! This whole affair reminds me of the fact that Alexander Campbell and others, back in the early 1800s reached the conclusion that since it was impossible for one congregation to “go . . . into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” they started the American Christian Missionary Society, a combining of many churches. Their desire was to do things in a “BIG” way! But even “our brethren” are beginning to speak of “congregations of the Lord’s church,” indicating that they are already allowing their minds to get conditioned for such in practice. If not, why not! Let us not begin using the “speech of Ashdod”!