By Wayne Goforth
Recently, Southern Christian University (new name for Alabama Christian School of Religion) sent their paper to churches across the country to inform everyone of their name change. In News and Notes (volume 1, number 2) Rex Turner, Sr., co-founder of the school, had some articles at-tempting to justify the school as an adjunct of the church and the schools involvement in missions.
On page 21 there were charts on mission work showing the various “methods” he believes the Bible allows in organizing such. The typical sponsoring church arrangement was presented, using the cooperation of churches in the area of benevolence as his proof. “The argument is that if the sponsoring church concept can be Script rally verified in the benevolence work of the church, then the concept could be employed in supporting missionaries or preachers,” said Doctor Turner. Not only is that a gross assumption on his part, but also he does not then prove a sponsoring church in the area of benevolence. He cites Acts 11:29-30 and 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 as his examples of such. But, where is the sponsor in these passages? Where is a church taking on a project knowing it is bigger than it can support? Where is the middle man church collecting and overseeing the use of said funds as it is distributed then to other churches? In-stead, these funds were simply sent directly to the destitute church giving us authority for concurrent cooperation, not joint. Though this is standard operating procedure for the institutional mindset, he then took a sharp twist from such in the next part. He raised the question, “Is the sponsoring church concept the only authorized method for sending out missionaries? No.” The article then answered, “. . . (Phil. 4:15) The church sent directly to Paul. To say that one must have a sponsoring church is to make a law where God has not made one.” (Liberals define “Anti” as one who “makes a law where God has not.” Does this mean that those who argue that the sponsoring church is the only correct method are “Anti”? By this, Guy N. Woods, Roy Deaver, Ben Vick, et al, are “Anti,” awg).
Brother Turner even went as far as to admit that churches lose their autonomy under the sponsoring church by saying, “The autonomy of a church is maintained when it sends its support to an individual to do mission work… . There are many churches and individuals who do not want to go through a sponsoring church but would rather have direct contact and reports from the one they are supporting.” I could not have said it better! Thank you, Rex
Turner. One does wonder how he could have begun the article by saying the sponsoring church is scriptural if he admits that autonomy is lost under such a practice?
What makes his appeal to Philippians 4:15-16 so unusual is that this passage has been consistently used in debates by these brethren as a proof text for the sponsoring church. He will no doubt have some backlash from his own brethren in this. The argument generally runs as follows: Philippians 4:15 tells us that only Philippi sent to Pauls needs, while 2 Corinthians 11:8-9 states that many churches came to Pauls assistance. Therefore, it is argued, many churches sent their support through the Philippian church. They have argued that the expression “giving and receiving” of Philippians 4:15 is a banking term indicating that Philippi simply kept the books of all the donations and funneled them on to Paul, diagrammed thusly:
Guy N. Woods, like Rex Turner now, taught the truth on this passage at one time. In his Annual Lesson Commentary of 1946, brother Woods stated “The brethren simply raised money and sent it directly to Paul. This is the way it should be done today” (Via Cogdill-Woods Debate, p. 291). But, in the debate with brother Cogdill, he then denied that Philippians 4:15 is an example of direct support. Brother W.W. Otey taught the truth on this verse in his debate with J.B. Briney in 1908. Brother Otey stated,
Now who sent it? Was it some great missionary society or organization? Oh, no, but the church at Philippi, sent directly to Paul, the man in the field. . . . The largest single working organization in the world for more than 100 years after Christ, was a local congregation” (Otey-Briney Debate, pp. 280-281).
Ben Vick, liberal preacher for the Shelbyville Road church in Indianapolis, Indiana says however,
You cannot prove if your life depended upon it (and your soul may) that Philippi sent directly to Paul. However it is my contention that Philippians 4:15 and 2 Corinthians 11:8 refer to the same thing and that Philippi set up an account to receive monies from churches and then, in turn, sent to Paul. Otherwise, how could Paul have robbed other churches when he says only Philippi sent?
(Personal letter dated 5-19-86 after my coming out of liberalism. The content of his letter is well known, for he has written and debated publicly the same on numerous occasions.) Perhaps we shall soon see a Turner-Vick debate since Vick denied in his 1984 debate with L.A. Stauffer that there is any New Testament example of direct support! Let me know and I shall be most happy to moderate for you, brother Turner!
When properly examined, the incidents of Philippians 4 and of 2 Corinthians 11 actually have more differences than they do similarities:
Philippians 4:15 2 Corinthians 11:8
At the time Paul left 1. At the time Paul was at
Philippi only church 2. Many churches gave
who gave to Paul. to Paul.
Philippi only church 3. Many churches had
who had fellowship fellowship with Paul. with Paul.
Can two examples so different be the same case?
Much time and many incidents separate Philippians 4:15 from the occasion of 2 Corinthians 11:8, so that there is not even a chronological connection between the two. In Acts 16 we find Paul along with Luke, Timothy, and Silas at Philippi. Luke remained at Philippi (Acts 16:40) while Paul and the rest went on to Thessalonica (Acts 17:2). Paul and Silas next traveled to Berea (Acts 17:10). Paul then moved on to Athens (Acts 17:16), thus leaving the region of
Macedonia and going to the region of Achaia. Silas and Timothy remained in Berea (Acts 17:14). Paul preached in Achaia waiting for Silas and Timothy to come (Acts 17:15). Paul went to Corinth and made tents (Acts 18:1-3) while he waited for Silas and Timothy to come bringing the sup-port from Macedonia (Acts 18:5; 2 Cor. 11:8-9). From Philippians 4:15 we know that Paul received their support as he was leaving Macedonia (his last stop being Berea). Adam Clark estimates there may have been up to a year between leaving Macedonia and the arrival of Silas and Timothy to Corinth, as mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:8-9.
What then is the meaning of the expression “giving and receiving” in Philippians 4:15? Thayer states, “A giving .. . an account of giving and receiving . . . Phil. 4:15; Here Paul, by a pleasant euphemism, refers to the pecuniary gifts, which the church bestowing them enters in the account of expenses, but he himself in the account of receipts . . . of money given and received.” Thus, Paul is in no wise saying that Philippi kept the books on all transactions of monies which other churches sent to an account at Philippi, and then of transfers and bookkeeping of monies sent from the account at Philip-pi to Paul.
Thank you, brother Turner, for clarifying this passage for your institutional brethren. It is my prayer that you and others will accept this as the pattern and drop the sponsoring church machinery. By your own admission, it is destructive to local church autonomy.
When conservative brethren speak of direct support as op-posed to the sponsoring church, we are labeled as “Anti cooperation” and “Anti evangelism.” Is brother Turner now “Anti Cooperation” and “Anti evangelism” for suggesting concurrent cooperation of churches? If not, will his brethren cease to refer to us in such language? Alas, the “legs of the lame are not equal.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 2, p. 6
January 21, 1993