By Bill H. Reeves
The very fruits of liberalism (I use the term in the context of the division in the brotherhood), with its sectarian concept of the church (a collectivity of all the local congregations in the world), is beginning to cause many of the converts of liberal preachers in Latin-America to see the error of the system. The very essence of any centralization, call it a Papacy, a Convention, a Missionary Society, or a Sponsoring Church, is control and domination, no matter how indirect and concealed it might be!
In the last 25 or 30 years, liberal preachers, speaking the Spanish language (Anglo-Americans and Latin-Americans), have made many converts, and established congregations (as well as Preacher-Training “Institutes”), in many countries, in some of which we conservatives have not made any in-roads. In the meantime, we conservative preachers also have been busy preaching the gospel and making converts. The liberals have not informed their converts of the division in the U.S.; we have. Now that some of the converts, made by liberals, are themselves Christians of many years and some maturity, they see that something is wrong in that domination of local churches is being exercised by certain self-styled “leaders”; it is part and parcel of the sponsoring- church concept. They resent this outside control. In the Providence of God, many of these have learned of Wayne Partain and me (and others), mainly through the commentaries, etc. in Spanish, which we have produced through the years. We are being brought together, allowing us to teach them on the “issues,” concerning which they have had virtually no prior knowledge. (They are amazed to learn that churches in the U.S. have been divided and have been out of fellowship for many years!)
In New York City, there are now five conservative Hispanic congregations. In the Dominican Republic, there are seven or eight. In Puerto Rico (where I have held two debates on the issues in the last two years), there are now three. Just this year we have preached for the first time in Costa Rica and in El Salvador, and now have an invitation to visit brethren in Guatemala. In January of this year, I was allowed to preach in only one congregation in El Salvador, in March, I preached in four; and now that Wayne and I are going again the 17th of this month, about ten congregations are inviting us. Between our trips in January and March to El Salvador, a new congregation of 50 or so was formed, and after our study with them in March, elders were appointed. Five churches in southern-most Mexico recently left liberalism, and are asking me to come help them with teaching and preaching. Invitations are also coming from Spain and Venezuela.
Of course, all this has not been without repercussions. Self-styled “leaders” among the liberals, seeing their control of churches being challenged, have, in their desperation (and I might add, in their carnality), stooped to defamation and lying, and to disfellowshipping of those who have received us, to hear us. In Costa Rica this year the big, downtown liberal church circulated a flier representing Wayne Partain with having passed through New York City last year “like a hurricane,” with the result that five churches of about I 10 members each were decimated, leaving only 40 or so members. What a colossal lie! The five churches together hardly had 110 members; one had only six at the time Wayne arrived. I had the five churches write letters, exposing the lie, but the liberal church in Costa Rica refused to confess their misrepresentation. In El Salvador I counted a dozen different lies being circulated against us, such as: we are not even members of the church of Christ, we use only one 4 4cup ” in the communion service, we don’t believe in Bible classes, nor in having church buildings, nor in American churches supporting preachers in Latin-America, we don’t believe in the Trinity, etc.
Brother Partian and I have been producing literature in Spanish for twenty years now: books of sermons, commentaries, and works on special topics. The mailing list grows almost daily, and readers among those converted by liberal “leaders” are wanting to meet us and hear us. We have prepared several works dealing with the “issues” which divided the brotherhood in the fifes and sixties. Our most recent work, just mailed out, reviews a new book written and circulated by Brother Dewayne Shappley, of Puerto Rico, in which he defends the sponsoring-church concept. Brother Gardner Hall, of New Jersey, joined Brother Partain and me in reviewing Shappley’s work, inasmuch as Shappley in his book cites and comments on a work by Gardner in Spanish. This work of ours will doubtlessly do much good, giving the Spanish-speaking readers both sides of the issue. Brother Shappley defends the position that there are two organizations revealed in the New Testament: the local church, and something else which he hasn’t yet named-that is, to my knowledge-made up of “church leaders,” like him, who propose projects to be financed by local churches.
Everywhere the liberal preachers have gone in Latin-America, they have set up a “central” church, where a “Bible Institute” (preachers’ school) is organized, and a Bible Correspondence Course is conducted, and as churches are established, everything (within their “jurisdiction” or “zone”), is controlled by the “missionaries” or “leaders,” as they call them. Pure sectarianism! Even though in studies and sermons local church independence and autonomy are taught, they are not practiced! In time the converts mature enough to see the inconsistency, but find it difficult to oppose those who converted them. As we enter the picture, not only teaching the truth on the autonomy and all-sufficiency of the local church (this takes care of the so-called Bible Institute, or preacher-school), but also practicing the same, respecting the independence of the local church and trying to set things in order so that it can have its own elders, the sparks begin to fly!
Already in recent years (and even months), a number of brethren have disassociated themselves from liberalism. Sometimes the entire congregation is saved; sometimes new congregations have had to be formed. There are men, capable of preaching and defending the truth, who need to be giving full-time to these new conservative beginnings. Their number grows almost daily as more and more are turning from liberalism. Brethren, it won’t take much to support these men who are willing to give themselves to preaching the Word. There are innumerable congregations throughout this land which can easily contribute one or two hundred dollars per month to such men, if the members are motivated to do a little more sacrificing, and this will come by informing them of the “doors of faith” (Acts 14:27) opening up to us. I have the names and addresses of the men willing to preach full-time; let me put you in contact with them. (Individual support is also an important consideration in the matter.)
Poverty is rampant in many parts of the world; there will always be poor people (Matt. 26:11). However, this fact is no consolation to the poor! God could miraculously send them manna from heaven to eat, but He has chosen to care for His own by having His own share their blessings with the needy. He has told us in His Word that one of the main reasons for working is to have wherewith to give to the needy (Eph. 4:28). Brethren, do we go to work each day with that thought in mind? A number of individuals and churches have had me be a messenger for them, to deliver financial help to extremely needy brethren in Latin America. I am glad to serve in this capacity. More of this should be done and who would be benefitted the most from it all? Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Churches have been very responsive to the requests of those of us willing to go and preach in these Spanish-speaking countries where brethren are turning from liberalism, supplying funds for the trips. There is no lack of money for this. God bless them for this. Now let more and more churches take on the (very modest) support of a good number of capable and sacrificial brethren, who in turn could accelerate the wave of conservatism that is already growing. After each trip we make to Latin America to preach, we come home with a list of new names to whom to send literature, and the recipients in turn tell others, and the daily mail includes more and more names. It is exciting to see this tremendous interest in turning to the Truth. We must not let these opportunities pass.
Write me, brethren, and let me put you in direct contact with men who with little support (as we view “regular” salaries), can get the Word to places very difficult for us to reach, and under circumstances (little food, no personal transportation in which to ride, sometimes no roads!) in which we American brethren would not care to work. We have the wealth (yes! we’re rich); they are willing to go preach. God wants us to use our blessings, which He has given us, to supply the needs of brethren elsewhere, that His Cause might be prospered throughout the world.
Where and when possible, I (and others) would be glad to come in person to inform churches in detail, so that churches and preachers might be put in direct contact, for greater evangelism in this world of sin and error. Just last week (as I write this article), two preachers returned from southern-most Mexico, forming a border with Guatemala, and reported that five congregations have recently separated themselves from liberalism. A particular brother there walks many miles, where there are no roads to travel, to reach other congregations and preach. Other brethren there work two weeks, to have wherewith to eat, and then spend two weeks preaching the gospel. Now, what do we do to match that? Just think how much more could be accomplished if some of these men could give full-time to preaching, supported by rich brethren of another country. Just what do we think God’s will is in the matter? Each one knows the answer!
Upon returning from the next proposed preaching trip to Central America (including for the first time, Guatemala), to be made in September, if God wills, I am sure that we will have exciting news to share with you. It has been like this after each trip for the last several years. May each reader glory in the exciting news!
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 21, pp. 641, 665
November 1, 1984