By Weldon E. Warnock
We are hearing a great deal about “collectivities.” That is a big word that might need defining for us country folks. I could not find it in the Bible, so I had to go to Webster’s dictionary for the meaning. Webster says that “collectivity” means “the quality or state of being collective.” That definition did not help a bit until I looked up “collective.” Webster defines that word to mean “of, as, or characteristic of a group; of or characteristic of individuals acting together; common to several or many; as, the collective effort of the students.” Now we can see what a collectivity is. It is individuals acting together.
But well-meaning brethren are telling us that individuals may not scripturally act together in teaching the word of God, other than in the local church. Such would be an unscriptural collectivity, we are told. It seems their objection is to the pooling of money of two or more individuals to teach the Bible. Apparently, they do not oppose the collective action of energy, labor and time – just money.
A brother may spend a whole week in research and in writing an article for a religious journal (a collectivity of workers and writers), but not a dime may be sent to the same religious journal to promote its welfare. Pshaw! This is the most convoluted logic I have ever seen. The sin becomes the collective action of money rather than the time and labor expended together.
You brethren who oppose individuals acting together to teach the Bible are going to have to quit using someone else’s journal to present your views on the scripturality of collectivities. You are utilizing an individual collectivity to oppose an individual collectivity. Some consistency! In fact, you must quit writing anything for anybody else’s religious paper in order not to violate your own rules. You must start your own paper, write all the articles, do all the work, and then you will have individual action. The only alterative to this is to write exclusively in church bulletins.
As to the scripturality of collective action of individuals teaching the Bible, the home is a good example of such. Both father and mother may work collectively to teach their children the word of God (Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). In so doing, they may want to use a tutor or a Bible department of a high school or college in furthering their child’s knowledge of the Scriptures. While the child is studying science, history and English, he also has the opportunity to study about God and the Lord Jesus Christ. The school is a business – educational business – collectively working together in both secular and religious education. Of course, the “collectivity” brethren cannot agree with one another about the school. Some say the school wherein the Bible is taught is a collectivity and others say the school is not a collectivity. If the school is not a collectivity it is the biggest operation of everybody doing his own thing that I know anything about, anywhere.
We see collective action in the case of Aquila and Priscilla. When Apollos was erroneously preaching the baptism of John, Aquila and Priscilla “took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:26). This–was collective action. Paul and Silas engaged in collective activity in praying and singing together while they were in jail at Philippi (Acts 16:25). Peter and the six Jewish brethren were collectively involved when they went together to the house of Cornelius in order for Peter to preach the gospel. These examples should settle the matter, but they most likely won’t for some brethren who only see collective action when dollars and cents enter the picture, except when a debate is involved. The Jenkins- Willis Debate was conducted in an individual collective arrangement and the opposition to that has been as quiet as the thief in the night.
Brethren, the same passage that allows us to use our energies and time to work together in a collectivity is the same passage that allows us to use our money in the same work. I stand amazed at the number of issues that are continually created which alienate and polarize brethren. Some are afflicted with “issue-itis.” Seems like Romans 14 does not have a place anymore in our relationship and treatment of one another. All issues are made to appear to be the most emergent situation since the Jerusalem conference.
In the midst of some trying to crystalize every disagreement that arises among us (such as collectivities, Sunday night communion, weddings in the meetinghouse, Bible colleges, woman’s covering, women teachers and several other things), we have, to some degree, lost sight of the great and pressing need to preach the gospel to the lost.
Certainly, real and threatening issues to the faith must not be ignored, but every point of disagreement, regardless of how small it may be, does not deserve the limelight of our attention. The time is way past due that conservative brethren join hands in love and respect for one another and in the words of Jesus: “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35).
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 5, p. 145
March 3, 1983