Campaign America! If you have not heard of it before, let me assure you that it is not the current presidential campaign. It is another effort by churches of Christ across this country in the name of religion to preach the gospel of Christ. For several months now I have received information concerning this new television show that went on the air earlier this year. It is interesting to note several things about this work that are in violation of God's pattern of work for the church in the New Testament! Let us study this new effort and see if it fits into God's pattern!
We first need to realize that God does have a pattern of work for the church. Over the years many have tried to deny this. If there were no pattern, we would have an "anything goes" type of religion. But the Bible teaches that we must do all things by the authority of Christ (Col. 3:17). Furthermore, God has always had a pattern wherein he accomplished his purpose (Exod. 25:9,40; 26:30; Heb. 8:5). Even so, God's pattern for Christians is found within his will. Paul admonished Timothy, "Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 1:13). It is important that God's people insist on maintaining the pattern which God has given!
God's Pattern for the Work of the Church!
Since God has instructed us to "hold fast the pattern of sound words" there must be a guide which we can follow. When one studies the New Testament concerning the work of the church, he will find that the church is to do its work within the confines of the local congregation! Regarding evangelism, we find that the local church was responsible for preaching the gospel. The church is the "pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). We further note that there is not one example of an organization above or beyond the local church that did this work! Notice some scriptural examples.
"Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Now separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away" (Acts 13:1-3).
"Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent once and again for my necessities" (Phil. 4:15,16).
"For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything" (1 Thess. 1:8).
Each of these congregation did its own work! They did not send their contributions to a missionary society or a sponsoring church in order to accomplish their God-given mission! Each church sent to the preacher directly, in this case the apostle Paul. Moveover, these congregations did their own work! They did not solicit contributions for a work beyond their capability. Hence, any organizational work of evangelism beyond the local church is in violation of God's law and is a sin (1 Jn. 3:4).
Furthermore, we find that the elders of each local church were to oversee the flock of which they were a part! Note these examples:
"Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:28-29).
Moreover, the apostle Peter instructed the elders to shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly" (1 Pet. 5:2). Elders are to oversee the work of which they are a part. When elders take the oversight of more than one congregation, they violate the pattern that God has given, which is sin (1 Jn. 3:4).
Kind reader, with these Scriptures firmly in our minds, let us investigate Campaign America and see if it fits the pattern that God has given in his word!
First of all, Campaign America is a violation of the patterns that we have studied thus far. For example, we find that this work depends on the contributions of more than one congregation in order to function! In the words of the Hillsboro elders: "The Hillsboro elders are asking congregation across the brotherhood to schedule special contributions in 1992" (Vol. II, No. 1; Special Contributions Requested). Furthermore, they say "The key to Campaign America's success is local congregations' financial involvement. And yes, individual Christians' involvement. Without both, Campaign America will not be as effective as it can be" (Vol. II, No. 1; Your Involvement is Vital). Thus, this work depends on more than one local church! Yet, this goes beyond the pattern of the New Testament with each local church doing its own work in preaching the gospel!
Again, we see that the eldership of the Hillsboro church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee is the overseer of this work! Are they not overseeing the work of other churches? Are they not taking oversight of more than God has allowed? Mr. Bill Johnson said, "Campaign America is not a Hillsboro church program. Rather, it is a brotherhood program" (Vol. II, No. 1, A Message From the Field). Where in the New Testament can one find an example of a "brotherhood program" which is overseen by the elders of one local church?
Let us look for a moment at the work that Campaign America plans to do! "Campaign America is an evangelistic outreach which has strong involvement and benefit to local churches of Christ" (Vol. II, No. 1, 5-Point Plan Benefits Local Churches). Of their stated goals, one really sticks out to me above all the rest, that is, their targeted audience. "Campaign America is targeted to reach people ages 35-55 who are searching for God" (Vol. II, No. 2, Campaign America Targets Its Audience). Brethren in Christ, the Bible teaches all responsible men and women regardless of age who are in need of the gospel. Now I am sure that Campaign America would not turn down the opportunity to teach one who is not found in their "targeted audience," but this does not go far enough! These individuals are allowing the changing world to change what God has commanded. God's "targeted audience" is every creature. Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." Thus, their program of evangelism takes away from God's pattern those to whom we are to take the gospel of Christ!
Brethren, over the years, men have come up with missionary societies, sponsoring churches such as Herald of Truth, One Nation Under God and now Campaign America and other gimmicks which are not authorized in God's word. These works, no matter how noble they may be, are in violation of God's Divine Word! Practicing such works is sin (1 Jn. 3:4) and they will be ultimately rejected by our Heavenly Father (Matt. 7:21-23). Campaign America is not in harmony with God's pattern of evangelism found in the New Testament. Will you not return to the pattern that God has given and do what he has said his way?
"Thus says the Lord" 'Stand in the ways and see, and askfor the oldpaths, where the good way is, and walk in it,- then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it (Jer. 6:16).
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 10, pp. 304-306