By Larry Ray Hafley
The African Christian Hospitals Foundation
- is a tax-free, non-profit organization made up of a group of 58 Christian men, all active members of the church of Christ, whose purpose is to promote mission work through the use of medicine administered by Christian medical professionals.
- receives and distributes funds, medical supplies and equipment, recruits medical professionals and seeks churches of Christ to sponsor them. Many individuals also contribute to this program.
- avoids being a missionary society by insisting that all missionaries be sent by a sponsoring church. The ACHF is responsible for maintaining a relationship with government agencies and insuring that the medical works are run professionally (from “Facts about African Christian Hospitals Foundation,” p.2).
“Is Medical Missions Scripturally Sound?”
Jesus showed compassion for the sick, healed man, sent his disciples out to teach and to heal (Lk. 9:2,6) and taught us to let our lights shine by letting others see our good works and thus bring glory to God (Matt. 5). In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus told of the compassion of the one who gave medical care to the man who had fallen among thieves and was severely beaten. The good Samaritan then paid the innkeeper to continue this care (Luke 10). Jesus also pronounced woes upon the Pharisees who had neglected the “weightier matters of the law,” which are mercy, justice and faith (Matt. 23:23). When the question was asked in the judgment scene, “Lord, when did we see you sick and ministered to you?” the answer was “Inasmuch as you did it to the least of these, you did it unto me” (Matt. 25:39,40).
Providing medical care is pure religion (Jas. 1:27). It shows the love of God (1 Jn. 3:17). It fulfills the “law, of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). It changes our words to deeds (1 John 3:18). It proclaims our faith (James 2:17) (From “Nigerian Christian Hospitals,” p.2).
“Dear bro. Hafley, Please notice how many Scriptures are given in answer to the question, ‘Is Medical Missions Scripturally Sound?’ (pamphlet enclosed). Why do you and others in the Guardian of Truth oppose these good works? Shouldn’t we be united in supporting medical missions?”
The note above is a good one, especially since it gives occasion for further teaching. Its spirit is appreciated. Whenever a disciple pleads his case on “many Scriptures,” he deserves to be given a fair hearing. Certainly, if “many Scriptures” establish a thing, none should “oppose” it. Since the Scriptures furnish us completely, utterly and totally “unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16,17), no one should array himself against anything they authorize. Indeed, brethren should “be united in supporting” all “good works” of Scripture (2 Cor. 10:5; Phil. 1:27).
Be assured, therefore, that neither I nor “others in the Guardian of Truth oppose” scriptural “good works.” It is not the approbation or condemnation of myself or of “others in the Guardian of Truth” that means anything. Human views and values are nothing. Divine truth is everything. The word of God, the truth given through the Spirit, is all in all. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is not light in them” (Isa. 8:20).
So, Why Oppose?
The paragraph headed, “Is Medical Missions Scripturally Sound?” contains no Scripture referring to the work of the church – no, not one. However, if a passage did authorize the church to provide medical care, it would not authorize contributions to a “Medical Mission,” an organization separate and apart from the church, which is designed to do the work God assigned to the church. The church is to sound out the word of the Lord (1 Thess. 1:8), but it is not authorized to organize a separate society to do its work. Thus, even if the church were authorized to provide medical care, it could not turn that work over to a human organization.
The pamphlet cited above appears to recognize this when it says that African Christian Hospitals Foundation (ACHF) “avoids being a missionary society by insisting that all missionaries be sent by a sponsoring church.” One wonders if a missionary society could “avoid being” a missionary society if it, too, insisted “that all missionaries be sent by a sponsoring church”? In this way, the missionary organization, like the ACHF, could be “responsible for maintaining a relationship with government agencies and insuring that the (missionary) works are run professionally. ” So, if this were done, would it be scriptural for churches of Christ to fund and finance that organization? If not, why not? Will any of our institutional brethren say yea or nay?
Now, let us apply the same rules to a veterinary clinic. Remember that the Lord showed his approval of being kind and helpful to animals (Lk. 13:15; 14:5). God takes note of the death of a sparrow (Matt. 10:29). The Lord made use of animals during his missionary ministry (Matt. 21:2-7). Shepherds attended his birth (Lk. 2). The good Samaritan used “his own beast” (Lk. 10:34). The care of animals would demonstrate mercy (Matt. 23:23). Horses were used to assist the apostle Paul (Acts 23:23). Numerous noted and noble Old Testament characters cared for sheep (Moses, David, etc.). The animals were saved in the ark. God has used animals to teach spiritual lessons. Hence, a veterinary clinic, an African Christian Veterinary Foundation (ACVF), would be justified (?). Churches could contribute to it and those who brought sick animals could be taught. This veterinary organization would not be a missionary society if it were insisted that veterinary missionaries be sent by a sponsoring church while the organization itself maintained relationships with governmental agencies and insured that veterinary works were run professionally. What say ye, brethren? Would such an organization be “Scripturally Sound”? Or would you howl against it?
Would it manifest pure religion, demonstrate the love of God, fulfill the law of Christ, change our words to deeds, proclaim our faith, allow us to teach and heal, and let others see our good works and glorify God? If so, is it “Scripturally Sound”?
How about an African Christian Recreation Foundation (ACRF)? “Love feasts,” “Fellowship Halls,” “Family Life Centers,” and church owned and operated campgrounds are approved by our institutional brethren (e.g., Bill Jackson, Furman Kearley, Rubel Shelley, Garland Elkins, Calvin Warpula, Dub McClish, Randy Mayeux, Ray Hawk, Richard Rogers, Roy and Mac Deaver, Lewis Hale, Guy N. Woods, Ben Vick, Jr., Bill Swetmon, Gary Workman) to some extent or another. Granting that these various men approve of these items to some degree, what would be wrong with the following recreational missionary mission?
The Lord approves of setting aside time to rest (Mk. 6:3 1; Jn. 4:6). We should follow his example. Jesus will give the saved “rest” (2 Thess. 1:7; Rev. 14:13; Heb. 4:1-11). It is proper to eat and drink and enjoy life. In fact, “it is the gift of God” (Eccl. 3:13). That being true, and seeing that American churches furnish and finance social and recreational activities for their members, and since the editor of the Gospel Advocate contends openly for such church sponsored recreation, I propose the African Christian Recreational Foundation.
The ACRF is to “promote mission work through the use of” recreational activities administered by Christian Physical Education professionals. It “avoids being a missionary society by insisting that all coaches and/or Youth Directors be sent by a sponsoring church. Meanwhile, “the ACRF is responsible for maintaining a relationship with government agencies and insuring that the social and recreational activities are run professionally.”
Will our institutional brethren show us whether they will either endorse or divorce such a proposal? On what grounds do they do so? Are the medical foundations (both human and animal, physical and veterinary) parallel to the social and recreational? If not, how do they differ? Can one accept one foundation and reject the others? If so, on what basis? Institutional brethren need to wrestle with these concepts and questions.
While they are doing so, we might include their institutional orphan homes, homes for the aged, homes for unwed mothers, etc. Could Boles Home and Schultz-Lewis Children’s Home promote mission work as well as benevolent work and “avoid being” a missionary society if they insisted that each missionary was sent by a sponsoring church? Perhaps Ben Vick, Jr. and Guy N. Woods could tell us whether such an “organizational arrangement” would be “Scripturally Sound.” Inquiring minds want to know.
Further, could an African Christian College Foundation (ACCF) be supported on the same basis as the ACHF, ACRF; namely, that its missionaries and math, science and spelling teachers be sent by a sponsoring church while the ACCF looked after relationships with governmental agencies and saw that academic classes were run professionally? Could churches contribute to kindergartens and colleges and avoid being a missionary society in so doing? Remember that Paul “disputed daily in the school of one Tyrannus” (Acts 19:9). And since the Lord said not to forbid little children “to come unto me” (Matt. 19:14), surely we could not deny church support of kindergarten classes and daycare centers. After all, those children have parents who need to be taught!
Just which of these “good works” could we deny? Where is the stopping place? And the end is not yet. If the ACHF is “Scripturally Sound,” all these and myriad others are, too. It is the social gospel gone to seed. Clothing stores could be built and maintained by the principles that would permit ACHF to be called “Scripturally Sound.” “Inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these, ye did it unto me” (Matt. 25:35-40); so, church funded clothing stores could exist (Jas. 2:17) on the very same basis, according to the guidelines of ACHF.
On and on we could go. The truth is that there is no scriptural authority for churches to fund organizations which are established to do the work God gave the church to do. That is true in evangelism and benevolence. The church is not authorized to provide medical or veterinary care. It is not the work of the church to furnish recreation and amusement for its members. There is no Scripture for it.
Concluding Comments and Observations
The pamphlets quoted at the beginning cited Jesus’ sending of the twelve “to teach and to heal” (Lk. 9:2,6). Observe that “whosoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them” (Lk. 9:5). If the passage is applicable, what does ACHF do when a patient, with an IV and a catheter inserted, refuses to believe on the Lord?
What does the ACHF say about James 5:14,15? What of Trophimus (2 Tim. 4:20), Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-27), Timothy (1 Tim. 5:23), and the father of Publius (Acts 28:7,8)? As there were no missionary societies, so there were no medical boards supported by churches in the New Testament. There were no benevolent societies built and maintained by the churches of Christ. Churches did not furnish dining rooms, cafeterias, gymnasiums, kindergartens and day-care centers for general use. There were no sponsoring churches wherein one church was the agent for other churches, providing oversight and direction for the work of other churches (Acts 14:23; 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2).
In the New Testament, there was singing (Eph. 5:19). So, we sing. There were no mechanical instruments of music. So, we do not use them. There was the breaking of bread “upon the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7). So, we do. There is no “Bible” for taking the Lord’s supper on Wednesday. So, we do not do it. Believing, penitent adults were baptized (Acts 2:38; 8:12). So, we do likewise. There were no babies sprinkled. So, we do not do so. Money was collected upon the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:2). So, we do. There were no chariot washes, fig suppers or olive oil sales to raise money. So, we do not have pie suppers, rummage sales, pancake breakfasts or car washes to raise money.
By applying these same principles to ACHF, you will see why we oppose such works. We shall continue to do so. If someone shall supply us with “Scripturally Sound” reasons and answers to our questions, we shall happily and readily receive them.
But, alas, the argument and pleadings above will fall, I fear, on deaf ears, blind eyes and hardened hearts. The twin serpents of institutionalism and the social gospel (“spiritual humanism” if you will) are constrictors whose bodies squeeze every vestige of life from their ensnared, encoiled victims. Their devouring appetites are as silently and subtly deadly as that of an inoperable tumor whose presence is not detected until it has accomplished its murderous mission. It is the nature of the beast.
In the 1940s and 1950s institutionalism was a baby fresh from the egg. All, even its defenders, were aware of its treacherous tendencies and its ill history, but as a wriggling babe it could be controlled or contained, or so they hoped. After all, who can let a poor, little orphan starve and who can deny the need for “Christian” education? So, they fed and clothed it by stuffing its insatiable jaws with money, money and more money. Then, the baby became a monster with hissing in its fangs. It bred and developed corollary institutional structures with even more powerful and voracious desires. Soon the “baby” was ruling the house, demanding similar, subsidiary partners and scoffing with its flicking, forked tongue at the mild and muted protests of its former mentors and masters.
Do you doubt and would you dismiss my morbid, lamented imagery? If so, look about. The mystery of iniquity doth already work. The simple needs of Tennessee Orphan Home have given birth to African Hospitals. Herald of Truth, the initial mother church, overseeing the funds and function of thousands of churches, has evolved into the Crossroads and Boston Church, the epitome and consummation of the sponsoring church concept. Herald of Truth condescendingly ignores its objectors, its former supporters, and preaches its worldly gospel of pap and mush that Lutherans laud and Presbyterians praise. Abilene Christian University teaches evolution and defies its puny opposition with whitewash and ever more liberal teaching while its money, power and influence march on, unabated, unabashed, unimpeded.
“We do many things for which there is no Bible authority,” and “Where There Is No Pattern” (Athens Clay Pullias, David Lipscomb College, 1957) have given rise to the “New Hermeneutics” of Richard Rogers, Randy Mayeux and Bill Swetmon. The Gospel Advocate (How long has it been since you have heard a liberal from the 1950s refer to it as the “Old Reliable”?) is no longer the voice of orphan homes and Herald of Truth. It is the general, vague, soft, above-the-battle underbelly of institutional theology. Its articles arc limp-wristed liberalism, afraid to fight, unable to lead. It no longer rings with power and authority. As such, it is lost to the more conservative minded liberals. It has no teeth to bite and no fists to fight. Indeed, its efforts were the fostering voice of the present developing, enveloping apostasy. It is powerless to turn back. Ironically, it is not progressive enough, not broad enough, for the young princess of the liberalism at Abilene or the denominationalism of Kip McKean and the Boston Church or the Garnett Road church in Tulsa.
The conservative minded liberals of our day (men like Alan Highers, Bill Jackson, Dub McClish, Johnny Ramsey, Ben Vick, Jr., Roy Deaver, Tom Warren, Gary Workman and Garland Elkins) have lost their institutions, the things hev once bred and fed, nurtured and nourished. They have ost Lipscomb, Abilene, Gospel Advocate, Herald Of Truth, nd other lesser known institutional ministries. Within their ~vn ranks, they conduct lectureships, publish books and apers, occasionally spit at the divisive “antis,” and assail veiled, mvstical and mysterious liberalism for which they c unable to account. They see their progeny, their offring, but they deny them. Their slings and arrows against hat they call “liberalism” are as ineffectual as a BB gun ainst King Kong.
What, oh what, would these troubled brethren give if they could turn back the clock! Oh, how fondly must they long for the simple, emotional orphan issue and the mere, harmless presence of a stove, sink and refrigerator in an isolated corner of a “church basement.” Oh, how they would love to hear again the snide little jokes about “Wee Willie, the worried water cooler,” with which they could smite the antis and extend their “kitchen facilities.” Oh, how they would love to see again the innocent, charming face of their muzzled little institutions, nuzzling, gurgling and playing child-like on their breasts! Oh, what would they give to be able again to whip up support for “our” nationwide radio and television program. Devoid of all the choking, denominational machinery and bureaucracy of the present day! But Fifth and Highland in Abilene is now the mother of the Boston Church, in essence. The innocent little Fellowship Hall, which they once compared to old-fashioned “dinner on the grounds,” is now a multi-million dollar Family Life Center, replete and complete with “memberships,” exercise classes, diet center, jogging track, basketball arena, volleyball and badminton nets an the essential locker and shower facilities. That “fifth Sunday” contribution for one of “our” colleges, to support “Christian education,” is not state licensed kindergartens and daycare centers – all of this, of course, is supported by the church, and it is bigger than any fifth Sunday contribution! The dream has become a nightmare.
The men who led the fight for orphan homes, Herald of Truth and for limited Fellowship Hall facilities are now unwelcome in the homes of their children. Oh, how sad it must be to see the abomination of desolation engulf what they have wrought! Oh, how fervently must they crave in the midst of reverie the simple days of yesteryear. But, sadly, those simple days will never come again. They have sown the wind, and they must reap the whirlwind. They have crossed their Rubicon. The bridges have all been burned. Their monsters pay them no mind, and when their greying generation is gone, the apostasy will abound yet more and more. It is inevitable. So history teaches. Read it, observe it and weep.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 1, pp. 12-13, 20-21
January 3, 1991