By Johnie Edwards
A number of churches of Christ in this area have sent money to the Sycamore Church of Christ in Cookeville, Tennessee to help pay for a ten million dollar evangelistic campaign throughout the United States. The projects was conceived and is overseen by the elders of the Tennessee church of Christ. The Ellettsville church of Christ did not and will not contribute to this project. The Herald Times recently singled out the Ellettsville Church of Christ as one who “abstained” (Herald Times [July 12, 1991]). Some have asked why we have not contributed to the promotional effort. Here are some reasons:
1. The Tennessee elders have planned a brotherhood work beyond their financial ability. Elders of the church of Christ have no scriptural right to plan a work of evangelism beyond the ability of the local church to pay for. When elders try to do a work larger than they can pay for, in evangelism, then the work becomes a brotherhood action, with the receiving church overseeing it. “The Sycamore elders . . . are overseeing the project” (July, 1991 update). Some argue that it is okay to send funds to the sponsoring church and that the sending of funds does not affect the autonomy of the sending church because they decide how much to send. This is also true of the Christian Missionary Society which divided the Lord’s people more than 130 years ago. Try telling the receiving church how to spend the funds!
2. The oversight of elders is limited. Peter said to elders, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight” (1 Pet. 5:2). The oversight of elders begins and ends in the local church where they have been appointed elders. For elders to oversee a brotherhood project like “One Nation Under God” is outside the scope of this page. It is easily seen that the $10 million project is not the work of a local church, but is a brotherhood work being overseen by a local eldership. And there is just no scriptural authority for such an arrangement!
3. No stopping place. Every church is to have its own elders (Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5). If the elders of a local church can turn some of their funds over to a sponsoring church, what passage of Scripture would stop them from turning all of their funds and all of their work over to them? This arrangement carried out to its fullest would lead to the setting up of a central center through which all churches of Christ could function! If not, why not?
4. Funds sent directly to the preacher. In the New Testament, when a church did the work of evangelism, the church did not send to another church, but directly to the preacher in the field. A good example of this can be seen in these words: “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity” (Phil. 4:15-16). The church doing its work God’s way was able to teach the gospel to “all the world” in a few short years (Col. 1:16). And so can we!
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 22, p. 678
November 21, 1991