"Too Big" - "Out of Hand"

Herschel E. Patton
Shelbyville, Tenn.

Because opposition has been voiced to certain "big" brotherhood projects, I see from a religious journal that one brother thinks some believe a thing is "out-of -hand" because it is "big." He asks, would it he unscriptural to have 10,000 in Bible classes? 6,000 in Vacation Bible school? For one congregation to send out 25 preachers to 100 different nations? We are told that the Jerusalem church was big (5,000 men); that big activity characterized the members (went everywhere preaching the word), and that their task was big (make disciples of all nations).

No one, so far as I know, has ever objected to the kind of bigness suggested in these questions and examples, or claimed that such indicates "out-of-hand" or "digression."

Both "little" and "big" things can get "out of-hand." A "big" thing "out-of-hand" is usually more dangerous than a "little" thing "out-of-hand." A trailer tractor truck "out of control" is more dangerous than a little foreign car "out of control." A St. Bernard dog "out of hand" is a greater threat than a Chihuahua "out of hand." No, "bigness" does not necessarily mean "out of hand," but suggests that greater watchfulness is in order.

6,000 in a Vacation Bible school would not necessarily be "out of hand," unless one congregation decided to conduct a Vacation Bible school for all the congregations in a given area with the various congregations "paying" into their treasurv and them doing the job. This would be a "big" thing "out of hand," not because 6,000 attended, but because elders are to "tend the flock of God which is among you," - not dozens of flocks. True, Christ said "teach" and did not say "how" to teach, so we can do it in a Vacation Bible school, various Bible classes, the whole assembly, etc., but to place one group of elders over the "teaching" of several congregations is to get "out of hand" - out of the Lord's hands, and into our own.

10,000 in the Sunday morning Bible classes of a congregation would be "big," but not necessarily "out of hand." But, if 10,000 are in Bible c!asses in several congregations combined, under the direction of a "Sundav School Board," the thing is in "human hands" not the Lord's.

One congregation sending 25 preachers to different nations would certainly have a "big" mission program, but such would not be "out of hand" or "digressive," if this congregation was able and willing to carry out such a program. But, if this congregation sets itself up as an agency through which numerous congregations send out 25 preachers, then the elders of said congregation, and their program are "out of hand" and "digressive."

2 000 congregations sending 2,000 preachers to 100 nations would be a wonderful program, and certainly not out of hand because of its proportions. But, if these 2,000 congregations send their preachers through a central agency, be it the UCMS or the elders of one church, they have an organization or system which is "out of hand," for elders are to oversee or tend the flock of God among them (I Pet. 5:2)-not the activities of numerous flocks.

True, the Lord said "go" and didn't say "how," so these preachers may go by air, train, car, etc. But the organization God specified for doing church work is a local congregation, not a "society" or "agency" established and maintained by numerous congregations.

Indeed, we have a "big" task before us which requires "big" plans and "big" efforts. The Lord has equipped us with the necessary organization and instructions for doing the work. "Big" plans and organizational systems contrary to His are most certainly "out of hand" and "digression."

Objections have been, and are, filed against "big human organizations" for doing a "bigger" work than a local congregation can do, and elders of one congregation stretching their oversight beyond God's limits so as to do a "big thing" which they could not otherwise do.

Truth Magazine IV:1; p.3
October 1959