By Earl E. Robertson
In 1869, twenty years after the founding of the American Christian Missionary Society, Isaac Errett editor of the Christian Standard of Cincinnati wrote a report of the Society’s meeting which had to do with church cooperation. He wrote of some remarks a Dr. Richardson made in the meeting, saying, “His remarks on that sort of church independency which leads a dozen or two to assemble and style themselves `the church of Christ,’ and, while doing nothing beyond self-edification, glory in the thought that they are `the pillar and support of the truth,’ were exceedingly pointed and forcible. `What truth do they support?’ he asked. The world does not even know of their existence, and they live and die without one earnest forthputting of missionary enterprise to make the world better. He thus laid the basis of a strong appeal for co-operation” (Memoirs of Isaac Errett, Vol. 2, p. 44, Lamar).
May 18, 1946, Guy N. Woods said, “Now, get it, ladies and gentlemen: There never was a church on earth that could carry out this commission unaided. There is in the commission absolute authority for church cooperation. By cooperation, I mean the pooling of resources . . . . There never was a New Testament church on earth that had sufficient means by which to carry out this commission unaided” (Cooperation in the Field of Benevolence and Evangelism, pp. 10, 11).
These two men have said essentially the same thing. The Missionary Society did not become the utopia in converting the world as dreamed by men like Errett. In fact they have realized and acknowledged its failure in their “missionary enterprises.” Their efforts to pool the monies of all the churches into the treasury of the society to convert the world has not only proven a failure, but they split churches everywhere too. Churches do cooperate in evangelism as each congregation acts independently (organically of all others) in carrying out the great commission. The same commission is given to each congregation – take the gospel to every creature (Mark 16). Though the efforts of some may be meager in means they are nonetheless carrying out the commission given by Christ, Woods and Errett to the contrary, notwithstanding. Do these men not know that when the commission was given it was given to just a few men – the apostles. The people taught and baptized were to teach exactly what they had been taught. They have not done the wonders imagined in covering the earth with their human schemes.
Errett’s stated objection to “church independency” for world evangelism was a bold effort to get all these “independent churches” to pool their financial resources into one pot – the Missionary Society. At that time there were approximately sixteen thousand congregations. The efforts of others of Errett’s persuasion resulted in about fifteen thousand of these churches getting on the band wagon and riding into total apostasy. Yet, all this was the real thing the Lord wanted, aid’ through Fsuch “co-operation” they would soon convert every creature! Check the intervening years for their work and see if they did for the Lord all the things promised. The truth of the matter is by October 1968 there were only some six thousand congregations still identified with that movement they lost nine thousand congregations in one century! Furthermore, those remaining six thousand through a period of ten years of intensive effort which was climaxed in a dancing festive .in Kansas City, Missouri, transform themselves from a “loosely allied’ Federation of Churches into a representatively organized denomination.”
Man’s way did not work in the “pooling of resources” from 1869 to 1968. It was not scriptural then and it is not now scriptural for one church or a society of men to receive the financial resources of all the churches to do the work of evangelism – a work each congregation equally sustains to the great commission given by the Lord (Mark 16; Matt. 28), though Woods says the commission itself is “absolute authority” for churches to so pool their resources. It seems strange to allege the commission is “absolute authority” for a sponsoring church but deny the missionary society the same authority. No congregation has scriptural authority to assume an evangelistic work which it financially can not do, and then beg other churches all over the world to furnish it the necessary funds to accomplish this work. Jesus and His apostles never taught such and no church in the New Testament ever did such, so on what basis do churches today try it?
If one church can do nothing in carrying out the commission and there is “absolute authority” for the “pooling of resources” in it, then we would conclude the “pooling of resources” is a must to carrying out the commission. Woods’ statement argues this conclusion. Are the liberal churches now willing to surrender their power to this extend? I think many of them are conditioned with looseness to accept it.
We are glad to tell you though it really isn’t true.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 37, p. 594
September 20, 1979