By Mike Willis
Since Truth Magazine began in 1956, its owners, editors and staff have changed more than once. The paper merged in March 1970 with the Cogdill Foundation, a corporation which had previously been known as the Gospel Guardian Foundation which had published Gospel Guardian and other gospel literature for years. Every effort or movement must in ,time die or be passed to people of like mind. This is true of New Testament Christianity, local churches and businesses. It is as true for spiritual endeavors as for financial institutions. As the change of hands occurs, each new generation must ask again, “Who are we?” “What are we doing?” For the good both of ourselves and of all honest inquirers, we shall reaffirm the nature of Truth Magazine and the Cogdill Foundation.
The Cogdill Foundation: A Business Enterprise
The Cogdill Foundation is a private business enterprise which is operated in compliance with the Federal Government’s requirements regarding non-profit organizations. This simply means that none of the acquired profits from the sale of our goods can ever inure to the benefit of any private person. Its funds must be used for religious, charitable, educational and eleemosynary purposes.
As a business enterprise, Cogdill Foundation is authorized in exactly the same way as any other business endeavor is authorized. I can find positive divine authority but cannot find specific authority for Cogdill Foundation, any more than I can find specific authority for General Motors, Inc. Yet, both businesses are authorized under the general authority for a man to earn a living for his family and to work good for mankind. Here are some passages which authorize business involvements: Luke 5:10 authorizes a collectivity for business purposes inasmuch as James, John and Simon Peter were in a business partnership. Ephesians 4:28, 1 Timothy 5:8, and 2 Thessalonians 3:10 give responsibility to man to work in a business which can be described as “that which is good” for the purpose of providing his living. Cogdill Foundation is a business enterprise. It is one of many possible means for individual Christians to engage in jobs which are in keeping with Scriptural mandates and principles. (Publishing religious literature can certainly be described as “that which is good” toward both brethren and all mankind [Eph. 4:28].) Hence, the positive divine authority which I give for Cogdill Foundation’s existence is that which is given for any other legitimate business enterprise.
The fact that the profits from our business cannot inure to the benefit of our board members does not alter the fact that this is a business. This special status is granted to businesses of this nature by the Federal Government to give them special tax privileges. We have compiled and are complying with these regulations and, therefore, enjoy these special tax privileges.
What Is Our Work?
Our articles of incorporation specifically detail that our work as a non-profit corporation shall be to publish literature designed to disseminate the teachings of the New Testament. In keeping with this, Cogdill Foundation is involved in publishing the subscription journal Truth Magazine, two series of class literature (Walking With God and Truth In Life), many books, numerous tracts, and a Bible correspondence course. All of these items are marketed and available through our bookstore, Truth Magazine Bookstore (Box 88, Fairmount, IN 46928).
The only persons receiving funds from Cogdill Foundation are those who are working for Cogdill Foundation in regard to operating its bookstore, editing the subscription journal Truth Magazine, and overseeing the publication of other products. Many churches through the years have published teaching bulletins which are free to local members, prospects, and other interested people. Occasionally some brother has published a periodical which is free for the asking. This arrangement generally becomes a joint effort or collective work as he solicits help from other brethren in writing articles, donating equipment, giving low or no-interest loans, doing secretarial work, submitting names to receive the paper, and helping to get it in the mail. Cogdill Foundation with Truth Magazine represents the publishing work of individuals rather than churches, but falls into another category. We are a business arrangement which gives away nothing free (except for advertizing, promotion, or some other exceptional reason, as other businesses do at times). We publish and sell books, publish and sell tracts, publish and sell workbooks, publish and sell a teaching journal.
Cogdill Foundation is not giving away money to gospel preachers or anyone else, though we purchase goods and services for our business so that we can continue publishing and selling. There are no men supported from the funds of Cogdill Foundation as gospel preachers providing free classes with free workbooks, free sermons, free radio programs, free tracts, free books, free outlines, and the like, any reports to the contrary notwithstanding. Our work is not now and never has been that of an individually supported missionary fund, arrangement, or society.
Individuals purchase our goods, sometimes for resale, sometimes for their own use to give away. Churches purchase our goods for their own uses in free distribution. We are glad to provide the service of publishing and selling to any who wish to purchase, but Cogdill Foundation is not in business as a receiving agency to disperse free religious literature throughout the world. To my knowledge, we have never sought to be a general receiving agency for the purpose of distributing religious literature to the general public or Christians in particular. Hence, any reports regarding Cogdill Foundation being an individually supported missionary society are the figment of someone’s overheated imagination! When people send in their orders for our products, they may be assured that a bill will accompany the goods to be sent. In fact, like any other business which depends largely on cash flow from customers, we would be happy to receive the payment with the order! We are trying to provide our goods at the lowest possible prices so that we may render our customers a genuine service while keeping the Cogdill Foundation financially sound.
Cogdill Foundation Does Receive Contributions
Throughout its history, Cogdill Foundation has received contributions from those who have been generous enough to cooperate with us in our work. The contributions for various purposes and projects have come in many forms (outright donations, low-interest loans, equipment, labor, promotional help, and the like). Truth Magazine has never produced enough income to cover its expenses of publishing and marketing; consequently, some brethren have made contributions to cover our losses. To give our readers an example of the kind of contributions which have been made to Cogdill Foundation, the following information is cited: when Cogdill Foundation undertook the work of publishing Truth In Life and purchased the copyright to Walking With God (formerly known as Journeys Through The Bible), funds were solicited to enable us to publish these two genres of literature. Tax deductible contributions were made to Cogdill Foundation to enable us to publish this material for market among the brethren.
We have other publishing projects in mind at the present which can only be accomplished through charitable brethren who believe in what we are trying to do, helping us to make them available for market to the reading public. Hence, we have no plans of changing our method of operation because of the objections of one or two in perennially critical circles.
Some are of the opinion that brethren cannot make donations to Cogdill Foundation. That is fine with me; I have no objection to them holding this opinion. I shall continue to consider them as faithful brethren. Certainly I do not teach now and have never taught in the past that a Christian must make a contribution to Cogdill Foundation to have fellowship with God or with me as one of his children. If someone’s conscience forbids him to make a contribution to an organization such as Cogdill Foundation, I have no problem in fellowshipping him.
I do have problems, however, with the man who teaches that anyone who makes a donation to Cogdill Foundation is separated from God and from all of God’s children because he has committed a sin. When and if brethren start teaching such a doctrine, I shall be compelled to raise my voice in protest because such would constitute an addition to the conditions of salvation in exactly the same manner as early Jews tried to teach circumcision as a condition for salvation (Acts 15: 1-2; cf. 1 Tim. 4: 1-3).
Cogdill Foundation Has Given Away Some Of Its Products
Cogdill Foundation has, on occasion, given away some of its products. With every issue of Truth Magazine which is mailed out, several sample copies of the paper are given away for promotion. There have been times when we have given away copies of tracts to indigent or poor brethren in the Philippines. I also have given away subscriptions to Truth Magazine to several brethren who had no ability to pay for their subscription. What other business of any kind operated by saint or sinner has not done the same thing on an occasional basis? This is called by brethren “the milk of human kindness” when done by other businesses, but is called a sin when done by a religious publishing business!
Have we sinned in doing this? Some would answer in the affirmative. If this is the case, then no business can ever give away anything or else it would be guilty of the same sin which some would charge Cogdill Foundation with committing. The truth of the matter is that Cogdill Foundation, as a legitimate business enterprise, has exactly the same rights as any other legitimate business enterprise. If brethren can see that a grocery business has the right to give away a basket of groceries, they can surely see that Cogdill Foundation has the same right, if it so desires to do so, to give away some of its products. We even have the same right as other businesses to give away to anyone merchandise which is old, soiled, or for some other reason unmarketable, rather than to burn it, if such an occasion arises.
Whatever rules are laid upon Cogdill Foundation must be rules which are applicable to any other business enterprise. If some brethren are going to take the position that Cogdill Foundation cannot receive donations and cannot give away any of its products, then they are going to be compelled to apply the same rules to every other legitimate business enterprise in the world. The local hardware store can never receive a dime contribution from anyone and can never give away any of its products, if this is the case. Florida College can never receive a dime from anyone and can never give any scholarships, if this is the case. Certainly, Cogdill Foundation’s business organization is not unique! Whatever rules are imposed on it must be the same rules which are imposed on any other legitimate business enterprise.
If this article does not answer whatever questions which you might have regarding Cogdill Foundation, write to me personally and I shall attempt to answer your questions. Be patient with me in replying; it might take some time to get my correspondence answered. However, I think that this article should forever lay to rest the idea that Cogdill Foundation is an individually-supported missionary society. But in recent years, a concerted effort has been made to create suspicion in the minds of brethren regarding Truth Magazine and the Cogdill Foundation. Several years ago, brother William Wallace repeatedly made the charge through the pages of Gospel Guardian` that Truth Magazine and Cogdill Foundation were seeking to gain exclusive control of the brotherhood. More recently, brother Gene Frost has generated doubt toward Cogdill Foundation by charging that it is a privately supported missionary society. A few other critics have referred to Truth Magazine as the Gospel Advocate of conservative brethren or otherwise have implied that we are seeking “political” power and partisan influence among the churches. We can never please everyone and brethren may disagree with our judgment at times, but the affirmative discussion provided in this article shows how utterly unfounded are the wild accusations sometimes shouted at us in shrill voices, sometimes whispered in the hushed tones of juicy gossip.
We will never stop the manufacture of suspicion in some circles, but it will be well for us to periodically clarify who we are and what we are doing, both for our own good and the sake of brethren who have honest questions. Though suspicion-peddling from some quarters may not stop, we are only too happy to answer sincere questions and to receive the suggestions of brethren who speak out of a genuine desire to help us improve our work.
Furthermore, when there are objections to what we teach as to doctrinal soundness, Truth Magazine has been unwavering from its beginning in the provision for open debate. Cogdill Foundation with Truth Magazine is just one of many possible arrangements for individual Christians – not churches – to be “ready unto every good work” (Tit. 3:1). While we are glad to clarify what and who we are, we are also happy to wish well and bid God speed to all faithful brethren doing similar work in their own way, so long as it too complies with the Scriptures!
Truth Magazine XXIV: 6, pp. 99-101
February 7, 1980