By Keith Sharp
On an almost daily basis the Northside Church of Christ in Conway, Arkansas, where I preach, receives advertisements from various individuals, churches and organizations appealing for money. Except for requests for support from faithful evangelists, this material quickly reaches “file 13.” But an advertisement recently came to the church that caused me to do a “double-take.”
I was startled to find that the Church of Christ now has its own, full-fledged, undisguised missionary society just like the Christian Church. The appeal was from the World Christian Broadcasting Corporation, which came into being in Abilene, Texas in 1976. “This non-profit organization is under the leadership of a Board of Directors.” “The President is Chief Executive officer” of the corporation. He is Dr. Robert E. Scott of Abilene, Texas. The chief objective of this organization is “to provide facilities and services by which the message of Christ can be shared with people in all parts of the world.” This corporation is appealing for individual Christians to send money and for churches to take a special collection “for a one time contribution” (enclosed article by Reuel Lemmons from Firm Foundation, October 13, 1981). Also enclosed was a form addressed to the “Northside Church of Christ” which included the following alternatives on its checklist: “Here’s our special gift to help WCBC” and “We plan a special contribution (date).”
The conclusion is inescapable. Brethren, this is a missionary society, pure and simple, precisely parallel to the American Christian Missionary Society formed in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1849, which served as the original and primary wedge between the Church of Christ and the Christian Church.
The monetary appeal of WCBC, though of enormous importance, should not be surprising. This corporation in Abilene is nothing more than the legitimate offspring of the Herald of Truth, also located in Abilene, which has divided churches of Christ for a generation.
For years proponents of the Herald of Truth have denied the obvious parallels between that sponsoring church arrangement and the missionary society. Although they have blinded themselves to the parallels, they have always used the same defenses that were used for the missionary society by Christian Church preachers.
Now a new generation has arisen. Thirty years of apostasy has borne fruit. The false arguments in support of the Herald of Truth have been accepted by those who have not been told what is wrong with the missionary society. The results? Now, a generation later, the Church of Christ does indeed have its own missionary society.
In defense of the missionary society, brethren argued the need for the preaching of the gospel to the lost (which none deny and which faithful churches do proportionately more of than institutional churches, that it was merely an “expedient” means for churches to cooperate and that something needed to be done on a larger scale than one congregation could accomplish (cf. Earl I. West, The Search for the Ancient Order, Vol. I, ch. 9). The same defenses have consistently been used for Herald of Truth. Not surprisingly, these are precisely the arguments used by Reuel Lemmons in his futile attempt to uphold WCBC. He did not bother to cite even so much as one Bible verse to prove the organization to be scriptural.
And why shouldn’t institutional churches of Christ have a missionary society? For a generation they have had such sponsoring church organizations as Herald of Truth and World Radio, which were nothing but missionary societies under elderships. For over a generation they have supported human organizations under boards of directors to relieve the needy. Recently they have begun sending support to colleges under boards of directors to do the work of edification. Why shouldn’t they also put their evangelistic society under a board of directors rather than an eldership? Either way it is a corruption of the organization of the church, a violation of the autonomy of local churches, centralization of churches and a vain attempt to organize the universal church on this earth.
Just as missionary society advocates of the nineteenth century feebly tried to avoid the stigma of destruction of local church autonomy by claiming they could not dictate to the churches, even so WCBC vainly attempts to dodge the stigma of being a missionary society by claiming, “Remember, we’re not seeking funds from the church treasury.” Such an hypocritical, shallow, transparent disguise! In the same letter they request: “Use the enclosed Reply Form and envelope to tell us if your congregation will help.” Reuel Lemmons explains they are looking for a “special collection” from the churches on “a one time” basis.
If the church, under the oversight of its elders, takes a special contribution from its members, and the elders write a check for that sum to do a work for the congregation, is that not the church at work? Pray tell how does that differ from taking it out of the treasury? Does this mean churches will never hear from them again for more money? If you believe that, let me talk to you about buying the Brooklyn Bridge.
The list of brethren endorsing WCBC is impressive. It includes such well known preachers as Jimmy Allen of Harding University, Batsell Barrett Baxter of David Lipscomb College and Herald of Truth and Jimmie Lovell of Action Magazine, who can be counted on to endorse practically any new apostasy among the brethren.
More significantly, the list includes Ira North, editor of Gospel Advocate, and Reuel Lemmons, editor of Firm Foundation. Beginning in 1855 under Tolbert Fanning and William Lipscomb and later under David Lipscomb and his editor heirs, the Gospel Advocate adamantly and stridently opposed the American Christian Missionary Society. From 1885 under Austin McGary and on, the Firm Foundation did the same. Will these brethren yet deny they have changed?
Noticeably absent from the roll of supporters was Guy N. Woods, editor of Gospel Advocate. Brother Woods, could we hear from you? Do you approve this new Church of Christ missionary society? If so, what will you say about the one started in 1849? If not, how will you defend church support of the orphanages and Herald of Truth? Will you stay with Ira North and the Gospel Advocate, which uphold WCBC?
For a generation brethren in institutional churches who know their practices are wrong have been claiming, “If they bring in such-and-such, I’ll leave.” Dear brethren, how much farther must they go? They have church recreation, church socials, church support of human organizations, universal benevolence, centralization of churches and now a missionary society. What difference does it make whether or not these churches bring in the organ? They are already apostate. One more bullet will not make a man who has been shot to death any more dead.
Brethren, leave those dead churches now, or simply admit you are as spiritually dead as they are.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2 Cor. 6:17, 18).
Guardian of Truth XXVI: 5, pp. 71-72
February 4, 1982