What is a Sponsoring Church?

Billy W. Moore
Butler, Missouri


Sometimes in our teaching we use a term with which we are very familiar and assume that those who hear us, or read what we write, are just as familiar with the word. However, this is not always true. Someone has asked, what is, a sponsoring church?

A sponsoring church, per 20th century us age, is a church whose elders assume the oversight of a given work, and thus sponsor that work. Usually the work over which they have assumed oversight is a work which is much greater than they are financially capable of accomplishing, and one to which all churches bear an equal responsibility, thus, they appeal to churches across the nation to send money to them in order that they may finance their sponsored program. The Broadway church in Lubbock, Texas became the "sponsoring church" for evangelizing the country of Germany following World War II, and another church "sponsored" preaching the gospel to the country of Japan. The Fifth & Highland Streets church in Abilene, Texas became the "sponsoring church" for preaching the gospel via radio, and later by TV. Another sponsors a school for children in a given city; another a home for children or old folks; and another sponsors a booth at the World's Fair; and on and on it goes until there are many sponsoring churches among us in 1968.

What does the Bible teach about a sponsoring church? I readily admit that one may read the Bible from "cover to cover" and never learn of a sponsoring church. So the Bible does not teach such a practice.

But what could possibly be wrong with such a practice someone asks. Well, the first and greatest thing wrong with the practice is this; it is not authorized by Our Lord. Since the Lord does not authorize it his people have absolutely no right to engage in it. The scriptures teach that each church, regardless of its size, has, exactly the same relationship to preaching the gospel in Germany or Japan or anywhere else for that matter. God's plan calls for each church to preach the gospel to the best of its ability. The big church with greater resources has greater responsibilities, but its responsibilities are governed by its abilities.

The sponsoring church arrangement makes a distinction between churches and between elders of the churches. When one church becomes the sponsoring church for a given project, and a thousand other churches contribute to that one church, they are "contributing churches" and the church that receives is the "sponsoring church." The elders of the sponsoring church exercise complete oversight of the work, of the spending of the funds, and the elders of the contributing churches release funds over which they should, according to the scripture, exercise control and oversight, unto the elders of the sponsoring church. Elders of some of the big sponsoring churches have told the brotherhood that it is because of their superior abilities that they have assumed the role they presently are playing. According to this kind of reasoning they might become popes if given enough rope.

The sponsoring church would activate the church in a universal sense. There are several sponsoring churches that desire to receive contributions from every church under heaven. Of course if two thousand churches have the right to make contributions to one church, and let the elders of the receiving church spend the money, oversee the work, then surely it would be alright for every church that exists to make a contribution to the same sponsoring church, and the elders of these churches would not hesitate at all to become the medium of activating the church of our Lord in a universal sense. But there is no authority for such in God's word. Twenty-five or thirty years ago there were no such projects among churches of Christ, and all churches, elders and preachers condemned such an arrangement. Today it is in vogue, and those who still preach what everyone was preaching thirty years ago relative to this matter are labeled as "legalists," or "anti," while the bandwagon of the sponsoring church rolls merrily along. It has reached the point that brethren cannot have a gospel meeting in a larger city without setting up a sponsoring church arrangement and all churches of the city contributing to it in order to put over a "campaign for Christ." Truly, there needs to be a return to the old paths. Let each church do its own work, under the oversight of its own elders, and with the resources contributed by its own members. This is God's plan! This will bring glory and honor unto God and salvation unto souls of men.

November 1968