Denominationalizing the Church (III)

By Roy E. Cogdill

When the doctrine of Christ is adulterated with human doctrines and traditions by the people of God; when the mission and work of the church of the Lord is prostituted to serve human pleasure and will; when the worship of the church is corrupted; when the name and speech of God’s people becomes unscriptural; and when the government God has established over his people is forsaken by the effort to remodel and modernize the church in its organization, the church is no longer undenominational. The church of Christ, God’s dwelling place among his people (Eph. 2:19-22) can be. defiled by bringing in any of these unholy things. Profane things cannot be mixed with those things made holy by the blood of the New Covenant without bringing upon ourselves God’s judgment (1 Cor. 1:19, 25, 17-31; Rom. 1:16-18; Eph. 5:6).

Many churches of Christ today are being corrupted by federating themselves into “inter” congregational arrangements under the guise of “co-operation.” No one likes the charge of being “non-cooperative.” That is an ugly spirit and has become a dirty word in our vocabulary. We want to avoid it and sometimes we are willing to “co-operate” with that which is contrary to God’s will rather than be given such a stigmatized label. We need to remember that it is possible to “co-operate” with Satan and fellowship him. We cannot do so and enjoy fellowship with God, however (1 Cor. 1(1:20-21). In this passage Paul was writing to Corinthian Christians who were trying to be “co-operative” by attending the idolatrous feasts of the heathen people of that city. But one cannot partake of the cup of devils and the cup of the Lord!

When any movement transcends congregational limitations and boundaries, it becomes “inter” congregational instead of “intra” congregational and is thereby federated into an unscriptural arrangement. There is no such thing as an “inter-congregational” function of the church in New Testament scriptures. The man does not live that can find it. We have seen some of the experts try to justify such and always it has been by perversion, sophistry, and human reasoning and wisdom. God has authorized nothing of the sort and to engage in it is to corrupt the government of God’s Church, rebel against divine authority, depart from God’s ways, and denominationalize the church. The church cannot remain undenominational when its government is corrupted and human arrangements set aside divine authority.

The “sponsoring church” method of federating the efforts of the churches is but an example of such “intercongregational” arrangements. The Herald of Truth radio and television broadcast by the Highland Church of Abilene is such an arrangement. There are many others but this is an outstanding one. Brother Harper in the debates with Brother Tant tried to defend it as a scriptural organization. He tried to make out of it a local church and identify it with the pattern of New Testament church organization. But his defense was of the form of organization of the Highland Church and Dot of the Herald of Truth. The Highland Church has elders, deacons, and saints in it. He argued that this made the Herald of Truth scriptural. But in order to make this contention it was necessary that he contend such a position. However, he and they found to be indefensible and they abandoned it. In the debate at Birmingham on this issue Guy N. Woods threw this contention out of the window in his first speech on the Herald of Truth and argued that the work of Herald of Truth was the work of many churches and that one church had undertaken to take care of the details or manage it. This, of course, is the truth of the matter.

The Herald of Truth transgresses congregational boundaries. It has a brotherhood treasury; a brotherhood work; a brotherhood eldership. It is not a local church! It has its own treasury, its own name, its own address, its own employees, its own contracts, its own mailing permit, and its own program of work which cannot in any sense be identified as the program of a local church. This is so evident that it needs no argument to support it in the minds of the honest informed.

The very fact that such a work is “intercongregational” in its scope, financing, promotion, and nature makes it an unscriptural undertaking. All of the propaganda in the world cannot change that fact. If it were doing all of the good that they claim for it, and it is not, it would not justify such a denominational organization. Mr. A. T. DeGroot of Texas Christian University, refers to it as the Church of Christ Million Dollar Missionary Society. And he is right! That is exactly what it is! When any work or promotion crosses congregational boundaries it is a denominational affair.

This same thing is true of such promotions as the. “World’s Fair” advertising and evangelistic campaign. Under the direction of one group of elders, to whom God gave the right to govern and oversee only the program of work carried on by one congregation, they have amalgamated workers, and money from many churches. Some congregations in certain vicinities have become very enthusiastic over such a program and have sent their preachers and other workers to have a part in this “inter-congregational” promotion. It is bigger in every aspect than a local church. The fact that the eldership of a local church in New York City is directing it does not do away with the fact that it crosses congregational boundaries with abandon. In their zeal, without knowledge or respect for divine authority, those participating have become “workers of iniquity” which the Lord will not own in the last day unless they repent. Iniquity comes from “anomia” which means without authority or contempt for Divine law. This they are guilty of and they cannot successfully deny it. They have even lost the courage to try to defend it by the scriptures.

The modern projects called “Campaigns For Christ” are other setups that claim to be accomplishing great things. But, suppose they are, does that establish the scripturalness of them. Does the end justify the means? Shall we do evil that good may come? Some brethren evidently think so. One congregation, and there are several engaged in the business, through their preacher or some other promoter solicits money from many churches, in order that they might engage a preacher of the “Billy Graham” type, take charge of the advertising and promotion, engage workers from many congregations in a “personal work” high pressure campaign and hold an evangelistic meeting for another “church of Christ.” This is happening all around us. It has happened in Ventura and is to take place in Santa Barbara. Of course, the faithful of the Lord in neither place are counted in nor would they participate. But a high-pressure campaign ,is promoted and it crosses congregational boundaries. It is purely and simply a missionary society and putting it supposedly under the direction of a local preacher and a local eldership does not change its complexion one whit.

These are just a few of the modern day promotions that are leading the churches of Christ, many of them, into denominationalism. Their identity is being lost and complete apostasy ensues. Out of these unscriptural practices a new denominational body is emerging just as certainly as the missionary society and instrumental music gave birth to one (The Christian Church movement) more than a hundred years ago! Deny it if you can, and give us a chance and we will prove that you can’t do so successfully. Ugly epithets and a bad spirit will not answer the truth!

Truth Magazine XIX: 47, pp. 743-744
October 9, 1975