August 16, 2018

Defense of “Truth Between Extremes”

By Ralph D. Gentry

An article in the September issue of this magazine was written by brother Leslie Diestelkamp containing objections to an article of mine on "Cooperation Among Churches" and printed in the July issue. Without special request for further argumentation I am content to conclude the matter with this article and let the reader judge on what has been written.

The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch to work with the church there even though this assistance had not been requested by the Antioch church (Acts 11:22). But neither did they refuse this assistance nor charge the Jerusalem church with extension of oversight or of offering unneeded and unnecessary help. Questions: Was this an emergency? Was the Antioch church spiritually destitute? Was there a spiritual famine for the word of God during the whole of Barnabas's tenure there and that demanded the aid of Paul for an entire year? A negative answer to these questions is obvious. This teaches that one may be sent to another church to enable it to do a bigger and better work than it is otherwise capable of doing --a work that in the judgment of the sending churches is needed and would benefit at such locality where done.

Sometimes it is argued that there is no need for one church to contribute to another church for purposes of evangelism because no church is responsible for more than a total of its ability. Quite true, so far as God's judgment toward that church is concerned. But shall not their ability and opportunity be increased if possible? I maintain that if we have the ability to assist such needy groups, it is our responsibility. Otherwise, how could Paul argue for support from one church while he laboured at another? Churches can be in need in the field of evangelism also. Is being "preached to" their only need? If so, why do we utilize our funds for purposes attributary to evangelism other than paying the preacher?

I maintain that the Antioch church had a responsibility peculiarly its own in the realm of evangelism and edification in the area round about it -- that the Antioch church, as the receiving church in this example, had a greater obligation in this matter than did Jerusalem, the sending church. There was a specific need in Antioch to which the Jerusalem brethren felt an obligation to lend assistance. Both churches were doing their own work. In sending Barnabas, the Jerusalem church was neither shifting its responsibility in the field of evangelism to another nor attempting to do the work of another church. There was not violation of autonomy in such cooperation. Jerusalem did not become a sponsoring church and solicit funds for this work in Antioch.

There is, of course, no mention made of financial support to Barnabas from either the Jerusalem or the Antioch church other than what might be implied from the statement "and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch." It was not a preacher who was in need, but, rather, a church that was in need, and that need was in the field of evangelism.

Where do we learn that only in cases of disaster one church may become obligated beyond its ability and may thus receive help from sister churches but that in evangelism this is never true? Answer: From the Second Chapter of Jude! Such is an arbitrary distinction some have sought to impose. I'm told that in the matter of benevolence the sending congregations are doing their own work by helping a needy church -- a church that has a specific need but that if one church sends to another church to enable that church to buy literature, Bibles, song books and otherwise facilitate its teaching arrangements and functions -- that the sending church is no longer doing its own work, but rather, either turning its own responsibility over to another or else assuming the work of another church. Again, where does one learn of this distinction? I believe such is another of man s arbitrary rules. I am unable even to see any logic in this distinction. Every church has the obligation of evangelism, edification and benevolence. But obligation or responsibility is the sum of ability and opportunity.

Not every church has, therefore, the same obligation toward the same individuals in either evangelism, edification or benevolence.

The church in Aurora, Illinois and the church in Dayton, Ohio may be equally related in the responsibility of evangelism in Africa but they are not equally related in the field of evangelism in Dayton, Ohio. The saints in Jerusalem were the obligation of the Jerusalem church. Why not the obligation of the contributing churches? Simply because of the area served and consequent opportunities, the Jerusalem church could regard relief of these saints as its own work. Hence, other churches sent to the Jerusalem church that it (Jerusalem) might discharge its responsibility and the funds sent became the property of the receiver and under their control and use. The same can be said of evangelism and edification. Would my objector say it was all right for one church to send funds to another church if said monies were to be used in support of edifying the receiving church rather than in the general area of evangelism? Possibly not, but 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. Incidentally, suppose the preacher was also an elder. Would funds sent to him be sent to an elder or to a preacher?

I have asked, "If Jerusalem could send the preacher, could they not have sent the money with which to support the preacher?" I argued it should be sent to the one in need and that it was a church in need as evidenced by the very fact that the preacher went there to teach. Brother Diestelkamp says, "It is significant that they did not do it." Proving such to be wrong? No. What does it necessarily signify? If there are two courses open to us and we choose one, does this choice necessarily signify the other choice to have been sinful? Of course not. Often times such choices are made on the basis of expediency as determined by special circumstances and persons involved.

But I am asked, "If a church can send to another church to support a local preacher, why could a church not send to another church to support a preacher in a 'third field'?" I already answered this in my first article; namely, such would be an unlawful extension of oversight on the part of the receiving church toward the third field. Then our brother asks, "if one church can send to another church to support an evangelist, why can't the sending church send to the supporting church for the maintenance of a dozen preachers?" An attempt is made to reduce my reasoning to absurdity. My brother is involved in the same difficulty, if such it is. For example, try this: If one church can send to one preacher to work with a church, why can't she send to a dozen preachers to work with the same church? The answer for the latter question will suffice for the former question. The truth is, the need regulates the gift. I'm asked, " . . . since a church can send to a dozen preachers, why can't she send to another church to support a dozen preachers?" I've never advocated a church could send to a dozen preachers to work with a church. But if she could do this, it would be scriptural to send to the church to support these twelve preachers laboring with it. Brother Diestelkamp's reasoning is not identical as claimed. He keeps confusing my statement with the idea of a sponsoring church set-up for maintenance of preachers, a thing that I affirmed was unscriptural in my first article.

I claim that if one church can send help of any kind to another church that will be used by the receiving church in the area of evangelism and edification, it may send funds with which to purchase these supplies and means, including payment for services received of a preacher. I wonder if it is wrong for one church to request the use of the baptistry of another church? Is it scriptural to loan a tent to another church for a series of evangelistic meetings? Does the New Testament place such a premium on money that everything but the dollar bill may be sent? Or that the dollar bill may be sent only if not paid to the preacher? Many things we use in the area of evangelism come under the general authorization to preach the gospel and no specific example need be cited to justify their existence and utilization. If one church has no obligation toward another church to assist in the realm of evangelism, it has no authority to assist in these matters covered by such general authority. So, if one church can give anything to another church that will be used in evangelism or edification, it is only because one church is obligated to assist another church in this area of work.

I drew this conclusion: "The fact of Paul receiving funds directly from other churches is binding only in that it excludes funds being sent to persons or places other than those in need." I was told that this "quotation ... states an assumption." Webster says assumption means "Act of taking for granted; supposition;" But I did not suppose such to be true. But instead, reached that conclusion after considering other statements relative to the same matter. Please re-read my article. Brother Diestelkamp's reference to and use of the Lord's Supper is not parallel. The example of the Lord's Supper observed by the church on the first day of the week is exclusively binding because such an interpretation is not in opposition to other statements of fact to the same matter.

Portions of the remainder of brother Diestelkamp's article with which I am in disagreement have been considered in the first part of this article though I did quote directly from him.

I appreciate the spirit in which it is evident brother Diestelkamp wrote while commenting upon what he believed to be error.

Truth Magazine VIII: 4, pp. 12-13, 23
January 1964