By Larry Ray Hafley
Not much of a bead needs to be drawn on the letter from Bib Rigdon which appears below. It looks like a clear case of a self inflicted bullet wound. However, there is no use in watching the wounded suffer. Therefore, after the letter is read,- a quick shot or two may put the error out of its misery. If not, perhaps some misery can be given to the error.
“Dear Christian Friends:
“To my dismay, on August 17, I was suddenly notified that the unoccupied minister’s house in Cherokee, NC, had burned during the night . . . .
“This tragedy occurred while plans were underway for the arrival of a new minister . . . .
“The elders of the Concord Road Church of Christ, Brentwood, TN, have the oversight of this mission congregation, and they have requested that I look after the work since I am located only 13 miles from the Reservation . . . .
“The replacement cost is $38,000. The Indian members are barely able to meet the operating expenses of the church. We need your help. If every congregation contacted will give something, we can rebuild this house, which is a vital facility for effectively carrying on the Cherokee work . . . .”
Of course, no one is opposed to a preacher’s home. Every preacher should have one. Obviously, everyone is sorry for the tragic fire. If someone is mean enough to believe that we are not in sympathy regarding the situation, they need more help than we can provide.
With that aside, how can any Christian, even one with just a smattering of knowledge about the work and organization of the local congregation, fail to be shocked and appalled by the statement: “The elders of the Concord Road Church of Christ, Brentwood, Tennessee, have the oversight of this mission congregation?” The worst thing I could do with a statement like that is to quote Acts 20:28; 14:23; and 1 Peter 5:2. Reading those verses would be cruel, if not brutal. Imagine talking about “elders in every church” “taking the oversight” of “the flock of God which is among you” after Brother Rigdon has said that the “elders of the Concord Road Church . . . have the oversight of this mission congregation.” It would be just too unkind to bring up those Scriptures in view of his remarks, so, I shall not even so much as mention them.
What are the scriptural qualifications of a “mission congregation”? Who determines which church shall assume the oversight of “mission” congregations? What happens when a “mission congregation” decides that it does not desire the “oversight” of another church? Is there an example of a “mission congregation” in the New Testament; if so, what church had “the oversight” of it?
The denominations, especially the Baptists, have for years talked about “mission points,” or groups that are too small to be fully organized as churches. But anyone who claims to be a member of the church of the Lord and speaks of such things is a “mission point” in and of himself.
In the last paragraph quoted above, Rigdon realizes that the “Indian members” constitute the church, for he says they “are barely able to meet the operating expenses of the church.” Thus, the “elders of the Concord Road Church of Christ . . . have the oversight” of another “church.” Really, if I were not in such a good mood, I would be sorely and severely tempted to quote every word in Acts 14:23; 20:28; and 1 Peter 5:2.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 7, p. 123
February 15, 1979