Pages from the Past

Cash and Carry

W. E. Brightwell

Gospel Advocate, July 4, 1935

There was a certain flattering satisfaction about the old credit system of purchasing groceries, but we paid for all the gratification we got out of it. Generally speaking, the "cash-and-carry" plan is more intelligent. Just to the extent that religion is more important than groceries it is more important that an intelligent plan be followed. There is no better plan in religion than "cash-and-carry," with all that the expression may be employed to cover.

1. Remote Control. Under the old system we did not know what we were doing, and there was only one time that we knew where we were-when we paid the account. We suspected the grocer, blamed the family, bawled out the collector, boosted the blood pressure but we paid and forgot about it. We were running loose on the axle. We thought we were doing big business, and had no time for food shopping, but we were doing no intelligent business at all. We were blundering along without a plan.

Too many churches go it blindly. They carelessly hand out dribs and dabs, here and there, with much the same abandon of the man who signed the check for the oversized grocery bill. They spend much of their time helping pay deficits which they had no voice in creating. No intelligent planning, no well defined interest-they know nothing, think nothing, care nothing! To them helping "good causes" is a necessary evil to be dispatched with as little bother as possible.

2. High Tariff. We imposed heavy duties upon ourselves under the old system of buying groceries. We purchased too much "service" and not enough groceries-clerks to take our orders, boys to deliver them, collectors to take our growling as we wrote out the check at the end of the month. Looseness in Christian work is just as expensive as it is in grocery buying. Churches that dabble in religious enterprises waste money on unworthy projects, and those that are worthy cost too much. It takes promoters and collectors to keep the "dribs" system functioning. Middlemen have to be paid. The high cost of religion is partly due to the fact that it is always expensive to have somebody else to attend to our business for us.

3. Know Your Groceries! We did not really buy groceries; we just ordered them. The merchant did not really sell groceries he just delivered them. Now he has to sell, for the customers to buy. Naturally the customer will not buy anything he cannot pay for; neither will he buy anything that is not worth the price asked. Groceries have to stand or fall upon their merits.

Churches should know their "groceries." We are told to buy the truth and sell it not. It is not necessary for any church to attempt a work that it cannot do. It can shop and buy intelligently. It can pick out something it can pay for! It can select an opportunity that fits its size. With its own project, the church will know and care. The task will depend exclusively upon that church. If a church merely subscribes to a number of things, it can, and often does, drop out. There is no voice, no initiative, in subscribing to something already planned. That church has no personal interest in its own investment. Is it any wonder that its investment is small, in keeping with its interest; and that its interest is small, in keeping with its investment?

4. Take Time to Shop. Some rebel against devoting so much time and thought to the mere matter of buying groceries. To what do they give their attention? If we have somebody do our housework, order our groceries, drive our car, and black our boots, what contact do we have with actual life? But religious shopping is all-important. It is worth all the time and thought it takes to do it, and it must be done personally. People live too artificially, and they often try to make their religion conform to their way of living.

What is all the hurry about? God never hurries. Christ was always busy, but never in a hurry. It was not because we were so busy that we used to order our groceries by telephone. We worked no harder then than now. Many of us have simply found out that we are not in as big a hurry as we thought we were. We must keep eternally vigilant, but God does not expect us to convert the world in a day. He does not expect us to attempt that which we cannot do. We often go beyond our ability in building church houses. It costs us more - millions in interest on church debt - and we often lose it all. We can get in too big a hurry. We lay out five-year plans. We set goals and arbitrarily fix time limits, but spiritual work cannot be forced. It cannot be hurried. Its success depends upon too many elements outside of ourselves for us to direct it with such nicety.

5. Completed Transaction. When we buy groceries now, the deal is closed. There are no bills, no headaches, no dread of the first of the month to come. Are you doing some work, or just running up a bill? Anybody can start something, just as anybody in the old days could buy extravagantly. Anybody can spend somebody else's money. The government has set an unlimited example. It is no trick at all to put over big things, provided somebody will foot the bill.

News reports often fool us. We read of a proposed radio broadcast, but it turns out that the brotherhood is expected to pay for it. Anybody can arrange for a national hookup, if-. One church wrote that it was going to see to it that a certain State, in almost one hundred per cent missionary territory, was evangelized. It sounded great, but it turned out that they were merely going to "see to it," stand on the side lines and coach. There is a place for promotion, but the church is literally saturated and surfeited with it now. We have plenty of starters; what we need is "finishers."

Thinking up a plan is no novelty. Our premises are cluttered up with unfinished schemes; some have gone sour and injured the cause. We do not need architects now-we need hammer and saw men. We have engineers to spare, but we are short on shock troops, somebody to carry a transaction to completion. I had rather hear of a church holding one mission meeting and following it up until the cause is established than to hear of an elaborate plan for taking a whole continent for Christ which depends upon the brotherhood sending the succor. The church needs somebody today who will pick out something he can do, and do it!

Why stress motive and method ? Because the new church building is not the real end to be sought. The missionary project may or may not save anybody, our best thought-out plans may or may not work; but this we must not forget: the Christian who is doing this work is seeking to go to heaven. It is of tremendous importance to that "end," that he be guided by the right motive and follow spiritual methods only, for his service will reflect eternally upon his character. Will God exclude a man for using doubtful methods? That is beside the point. It is only by training in spiritual methods that God can possibly include him, because the biggest factor in heaven will not be place nor circumstance, but the training of the heart which he will carry with him!

When we stand before God, it will not matter about the kind of house in which we worshiped, nor the self-appointed goals unreached. A trained heart is all we can carry with us to that other world. We can lead others no higher than we have gone-our service must be spiritual.

Truth Magazine IV:, pp. 6-7
October 1959