Church Cooperation in Evangelism (2)

By Guthrie Dean

“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come. And when I arrive, whomsoever ye shall approve, them will I send with letters to carry your bounty unto Jerusalem; and if it be meet for me to go also, they shall go with me.” This case of poverty in Jerusalem should not be confused with the famine which struck all of Judea in the days of Claudius Caesar which has already been discussed.

2 Corinthians 8:13-15

“For I say not this that others may be eased and ye distressed; but by equality; for your abundance being a supply at this present time for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want; that there may be equality: as it is written. He that gathered much had nothing over; and he that gathered little had no lack.” This passage also refers to the case of Jerusalem’s poverty, as mentioned in 1 Cor. 16:1-4 and 2 Cor. 8:16-24 (which follows).

2 Corinthians 8:16-24

“But thanks be to God, who putteth the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus. For he accepted indeed our exhortation; but being himself very earnest, he went forth unto you of his own accord. And we have sent together with him the brother whose praise in the gospel is spread through all the churches; and not only so, but who was also appointed by the churches to travel with us in the matter of this grace, which is ministered by us to the glory of the Lord, and to show your readiness: avoiding this, that any man should blame us in the matter of this bounty which is ministered by us: for we take thought for things honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have many times proved earnest, by reason of the great confidence which he hath in you. Whether any inquire about Titus, he is my partner and my fellow-worker to you-ward; or our brethren, they are the messengers of the churches, they are the glory of Christ. Show ye therefore unto them in the face of the churches the proof of your love, and of our glorying on your behalf.” Some have tried to use this example of church cooperation to prove a sponsoring church arrangement, or to prove the formation of a board of directors to oversee and head up a work for a number of churches. But such is not the case. These messengers merely took the funds from the contributing churches and delivered them to the “poor among the saints” which were at Jerusalem (Rom 15:26, A.S.). And this should not be taken to mean that the Jerusalem elders were by-passed in the delivery of the funds. David Lipscomb makes a clear and concise comment on t hi se messengers. “These messengers of the churches were sent by the churches, and sustained the same relation to the churches sending them as the apostles sent by Christ sustained to him. The apostles of Christ were sent by Him to deliver a message. They had no authority except to deliver the message and perform the work Christ sent them to do. They had no authority as delegates. They had no right to confer one with another to determine how the Lord should act. They had no right to legislate for God. The messengers or the churches had no more right to assemble, confer, determine how or what Christ and God should do. The messengers of the churches were sent to carry the message and do the specific work the church sent them to do, without direction or power to change or otherwise direct the work of the churches. Messengers have no right to meet other messengers and organize a body, nor to consider or determine what is best, nor to form a new organization, nor to legislate. Scriptural messengers carried a message or gift, went to do a work and return. Their power was limited to this” (A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles, Vol. 3, p. 117-118).

2 Corinthians 11:8

“I robbed other churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you.” This is a case of churches cooperating through concurrent action, by sending wages directly to Paul as he labored in the gospel. No sponsoring church nor society stood between Paul and the support sent to him.

Philippians 4:15-16

“And ye yourselves also know, ye Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving but ye only; for even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my need.” This is another case of support being sent directly to the evangelist in the field.

None of the above verses authorize a missionary or benevolent society. And none of the verses authorize the sponsoring church type of cooperation. The sponsoring church idea is foreign to the teachings of the Bible. Elred M. Stevens had a good article in the Firm Foundation (August 3, 1965) that I shall quote from with regards to the “sponsoring craze” among us: “A local church alone cannot even have a great gospel meeting any more. It has been told that `the day of great meetings is over.’ However, if that church will find one or two more congregations to cooperate in a ‘campaign’ to be financed by the cooperation of many churches, the picture changes. This is particularly true if arrangements are made for a brotherhood public relations firm to do the ballyhoo and handle the promotion. This author was recently shocked (to put it mildly) to learn the cost of postage and promotional commissions involved in some well-known cooperative ‘campaigns.’ We are traveling rapidly toward the need for turning over some tables and driving some moneychangers out of the temple! The local congregation has lost its appeal to preachers. We cry about our preacher shortage. Local preaching no longer challenges. It is only for one who is too limited in talent and void of ambition to break in at the higher levels, particularly the promotion of projects that are too big for the local church. We speak much of the scripturalness of our congregational autonomy; however, let a congregation try to exercise it and see what happens. Watch how quickly it is labeled and gets into trouble.”

Truth Magazine XXII: 19, pp. 312-313
May 11, 1978