By Cecil Willis
Much is being written these days about how the world is changing, and no doubt many changes have been made. Some of these changes have been improvements, and some of them have constituted a downward course. But while many things do change, many have not changed at all. Of course, some things should never be changed, such as the gospel, which contains the pattern for Christ’s church in organization, work, and worship. But particularly at this time am I thinking about the fact that the begging churches are still begging. Jesus related an account of a man who said he was “ashamed” to beg (Lk. 16:1-4). Such could never be said of some of our brethren.
The paradox of the perpetually begging churches is that, without exception, they are among the largest and the wealthiest churches in the world. The Broadway church in Lubbock, Texas is reputed to be the second largest church of Christ in the world. Their February 18, 1973 bulletin reports that the preceding Sunday 1925 were present for Bible School, and “We had over 3,000 worshippers in the two combined services Sunday morning.” These impressive figures still leave them only second to the Madison, Tennessee church.
The same Lubbock bulletin gives a summary of their budget for 1973. It calls for weekly contributions of $10,382.00, or for an annual total of $539,842.00. You would think a church with that much money would not perpetually have out its hands to receive the donations of hundreds of smaller churches throughout the world. But if there has been a single year since the 1940’s when the Broadway church was not begging brethren to send them money, it has escaped my notice. They always have some grand ideas about how to spend other churches’ money, as though these other churches were not wise enough to administer their own funds.
One of their projects, for which they expect the brotherhood to pay, is “Children’s Home of Lubbock.” To the embarrassment of the Gospel Advocate people, these Broadway elders continue to insist that they do oversee the “Home” as elders. In case you are not aware of it, the Gospel Advocate position is that these brethren must not oversee the “Home” as elders.
Brother Guy N. Woods probably now is considerably embarrassed by what he thought was a great point in the Woods-Porter Debate held in Indianapolis in January, 1956. Brother Woods then, with great satisfaction, quoted a letter from the Broadway elders in which they said: “The children’s home of Lubbock is not incorporated, but is under the direct supervision of the elders of the Broadway Church of Christ, as is the regular Sunday morning Bible classes, the Texas Tech Bible Chair, and other work carried on by the congregation.” (Woods-Porter Debate, p. 286)
Some of the liberal brethren have tried to tell us that childcare legally could not be attended to without incorporation, but Lubbock said theirs was “not incorporated.” Further more, they said they oversaw the “Home” “under the direct supervision of the elders . . . as is the regular Sunday morning Bible classes. . . .” In 1956 Brother Woods had not learned he was supposed to argue that they oversaw the “Home” not as elders. Tom Warren had not yet sold the brotherhood (liberal) on his significant differentiation of overseeing as elders as opposed to overseeing not as elders. Woods, and the Lubbock elders, then were blindly stumbling along thinking the “Home” was being overseen by the elders as elders. Woods has since decided that to do what he in 1956 argued Lubbock elders were doing is sinful.
The Lubbock elders still maintain they oversee the “Home” and its operation just as they oversee “the Sunday morning Bible Classes . . . Now either they oversee the “Home” as elders, or they oversee their Bible classes not as elders, for they insist they oversee both the “Home” and the Bible classes alike.
Keep in mind that this Lubbock church, with a budget calling for over $10,000 a week in local contributions, perpetually begs churches all over the world to send them money either for evangelistic or benevolent programs they dream up. This large and wealthy church operates “as elders” a 160-acre farm, unless they have recently disposed of it. Before me is a clipping from The Childrens Home, which is a Broadway church publication, that reads as follows: “The chief development for the month in our agricultural activity has been the planting of our cotton crop. We are now farming 160 acres and will plant the allowable allotment tinder Plan A of the government program, which will allow us approximately 65 acres. Other portions of the farm will be planted in grain sorghums.” (The Childrens Home, Vol. 6, No. 3, May, 1959)
Also before me is a letter addressed to W. W. Otey and signed by Emerson A. Shepherd “for the elders” that states, “The approximate value of the Childrens Home of Lubbock is $200,000.00” (Letter dated January 19. 1957). Reckon what a farm worth $200,000.00 in 1954 is now worth??? But Lubbock is still holding out her hand and wanting more churches to send her ever more money. Another issue of The Childrens Home shows elder John B. White “examining the fruiting of this cotton grown on the 160 acres made available to the home. . . . Also shown is one of the farm tractors being operated on the “Home” property “under the direct supervision of the elders of the Broadway Church of Christ ……
Broadway is yet begging money. When a church sends them some money, how does the sending church know what they are paving for with their money? Would they be purchasing a new carburetor or tire for a farm tractor? Or, cotton seed, herbicide, or fertilizer for the cotton or grain crop? All of this is done under the guise of caring for orphan children. Yet actually they have turned the Broadway church into the supervisor of a large farming operation, which they insist they oversee as elders. But when one opposes any of this, he is said to be opposed to helping poor little orphan children. Or as was published by the liberal Blue Island, Illinois church; “We read so much these days where men, who claim to be gospel preachers, strike out at orphanages. It seems to be an obsession with them…. It is hard to understand how they have come to hate orphans so much.”
I wonder why they don’t charge us with “hating cotton,” or “hating wheat,” or “hating hogs,” or “hating beef cattle programs,” or “hating broiler growers,” or as haters of some of the other business operations which some of these liberal brethren operate and subsidize with church funds under the guise of caring for poor little, starving orphan children. They seem unable to see that these brethren, no matter how well-intentioned they may have been, have turned the Lord’s church into the supervisor of or the subsidizer of perhaps a score of different businesses. Boles Home, which also solicits funds from churches, owns and operates a 2300-acre farm, besides its commercial office buildings and apartments, and has assets considerably in excess of $2,000,000.00.
In the New Testament, churches sent to relieve poor saints, and in so doing, they sent their relief funds to the elders (Acts 11:27-30; Rom. 15:25-31; 1 Cor. 16:1-4). A little church, like the one for which I preach, can spend hundreds of dollars attending to the needs of its own poor members, or sending to relieve needy saints elsewhere, but if it does not go along with the big-time promotions and projects of the large and wealthy churches who are perpetually begging, someone will label it as “orphan haters,” or will say, “We like the way we are doing it better than the way you are not doing it.”
The man about whom Jesus spoke was ashamed” to beg, but such a sentiment has never entered the heart of Broadway, Highland, or Manhattan, all of whom have begged constantly for over a score of years, and in some instances, for 25-35 years. With a $10,000 a week contribution, and more than half a million dollars a year annual budget, you would think a little sense of “shame” would well up in the heart of Broadway when they beg the monies of small, and in some instances, very poor churches. But instead of “shame,” they simply set their budgets higher for next year. The Highland church in Abilene, Texas spends nearly $200,000.00 a year just for “support solicitation” (begging). They even beg money with which to beg more money, and if they have ever felt any shame in doing so, I have not heard of it.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 23, pp. 3-5
April 12, 1973