“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
1) The Sponsoring Church Arrangement (Ethan R. Longhenry)
2) Love or Legalism? (Steven F. Deaton)
3) Looking Into God’s Mirror (James 1:22-25) (Mike Johnson)
The Sponsoring Church Arrangement
Ethan R. Longhenry
God wills for all people to be saved in Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9); Christians must go out and proclaim the Word of the Gospel to their fellow human beings (Matthew 28:18-20, Romans 10:14-17). The local church, as the Body of Christ manifest in a given area, has an important role to play in facilitating, funding, and encouraging the work of evangelism (1 Corinthians 9:1-14, 12:12-28, Ephesians 4:11-16). But are there limitations to the means by which a local church facilitates evangelism?
One of the major disagreements which led to the division between the Disciples of Christ, Christian Churches, and the Churches of Christ by the end of the nineteenth century involved the missionary society. Most among churches of Christ at the time recognized that the Scriptures did not authorize the local church to fund such endeavors. And yet, as many associated with the Gospel Advocate began agitating toward greater congregational support of parachurch institutions and organizations within a generation or two, a new and novel form of cooperation among local churches emerged. The means by which such coordination would take place became known as the sponsoring church arrangement in which the elders overseeing one local congregation would become the “sponsor” of a missionary family, an area of evangelistic effort abroad, or a regional or national evangelistic endeavor. Other congregations who agreed to help provide financial support for these endeavors would thus send their money to the “sponsoring” church, and they would then distribute the money as they saw fit. Early examples of the “sponsoring church arrangement” in terms of consolidating support for missions included the Broadway church of Lubbock, Texas, as the sponsor for the work in Germany and the Union Avenue church in Memphis, Tennessee, as the sponsor for the work in Japan. Meanwhile the Highland church in Abilene, Texas, established themselves as the sponsoring church for the Herald of Truth radio (and later television) program, ultimately supported by churches around the country. More recent examples of such arrangements include the “One Nation Under God” campaign sponsored by the Sycamore church in Cookeville, Tennessee, attempting to distribute religious literature to houses around the country in 1991, and the Gospel Broadcasting Network (GBN), sponsored by a church in Southaven, Mississippi, receives funding, from among other sources, the donated collections of local congregations.
By what authority does the sponsoring church arrangement exist? Its proponents believe that the major problem with the missionary societies was not the cooperative effort but the intermediating human institution. It is believed that financial cooperation can exist among churches as long as a given evangelistic work remains under the oversight of the elders of a local congregation. It is defended as being more efficient and providing the opportunity to maintain evangelistic endeavors which may go well beyond the ability of one local congregation to fund and maintain. Many will point to Philippians 4:10-19 as authority for the “sponsoring church arrangement,” claiming that the church in Philippi was Paul’s sponsor. Are these claims true?
While the presence of an intermediating human institution was assuredly one of the unauthorized and challenging aspects of the missionary society, it was not the only concern. The New Testament betrays no command, example, or suggestion that any local congregation took upon itself to organize the funding of evangelism for a given area.
The eldership of a local church has every right to encourage and promote evangelistic endeavors in their local areas and to provide sufficient funding for them; they also have the right to directly support evangelists working in other areas. But if a local church gives money to another church to do any such thing, they have given up all control over the resources, acceded their autonomy to a degree, and thus have abrogated their responsibilities before God in so doing, for God has not commanded local churches to give to other local churches to fund evangelism and evangelists, but for them to do the work and the support of the work themselves!
God expects each local church to carry out the work which He has given them independently, and for good reason. To abrogate that work to another congregation to create a greater or more efficient work centralizes influence to an unhealthy and unauthorized degree and neglects the very reason why the work is based in and centered around local congregations. Each local group must understand its own context and encourage people locally; mass media programs may provide some teaching but does not facilitate the important relational connections with the local church. What if the nationwide radio program no longer teaches the truth or seeks to tickle itching ears? What if people become dependent on the programming and neglect the development of spiritual relationships and accountability among God’s people in the local church? Why must the work of evangelism be done in these ways?
The “sponsoring church arrangement” has no more Biblical authority or standing than the missionary society. Elders and local churches should exist; nevertheless their existence does not justify the overreach of their authority and levels of cooperation not authorized in the New Testament. May every local church seek to accomplish the work of evangelism God has given it in its own area and context, financially supporting evangelists as they have opportunity, but always seeking to encourage reconciliation between God and the lost!
— Via the La Vista church of Christ
Love or Legalism?
Steven F. Deaton
When we insist men must adhere strictly to the commandments of God, is it love or legalism?
Men say it is legalism. They say, “We should obey a Savior, not a system.” Or, “Give me the man, not a plan.” Their idea is that to admit the existence of a law by which man must live in order to be right with God, is legalism.
God, however, calls this love. The Spirit said, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (I John 5:3). Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Keeping the commandments of God is an expression of love, not legalism. To insist others do the same is love for God and man, not legalism in a system or plan.
The Holy Spirit was sent to reveal all truth (John 16:13). Why would anyone think the truth was revealed so men could be cavalier toward it? It was revealed so men could obey it and be set free (John 8:32). Paul wrote, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (Romans 6:17). This does not destroy a relationship with the Savior, for it is His system — the gospel (Hebrews 5:9).
— Bulletin article from the Collegevue church of Christ, Columbia, Tennessee, February 7, 2016
Looking Into God’s Mirror
Mirrors are everywhere. Most bathrooms have a mirror. They also may be strategically placed in various places in a house. We see them in stores, they are in our automobiles, and a woman will often carry a mirror in her purse. It is not usually very difficult to find a mirror.
What is a mirror for? We look at mirrors to see if something about us is amiss — to see if anything needs to be changed. Our tie might be crooked, our hair might not be properly combed or brushed, we might have food around our mouths or toothpaste on our lips. A woman, for example, may look in a mirror to see if her make-up is properly applied.
James 1:21 points out we are to put away sin and wickedness and are to receive with meekness God’s Word. Verse 22 says we are to be “doers” of God’s Word and not “hearers only.” It is not enough to simply be a hearer of God’s Word; we must also obey it. The writer then gives an illustration about looking into a mirror in verses 23-24. He says, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.”
Generally speaking, a person does not look into a mirror; see something wrong and then not make a correction. It is not uncommon, however, for a person to look into God’s mirror (the Bible); see sin in his life and make no changes whatsoever. As with the analogy, this does not make much sense.
Many people hear the Word of God but are not willing to make changes. It is great that one is willing to hear the Word of God, but it is also essential to do what it says. On one occasion Jesus asked (Lk. 6:46), “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” In Luke 11:28, he said to a woman, “…blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
In verse 22, he said those who hear the word and do not obey it are “deceiving” themselves. In what sense is this true? They think that hearing the Word of God is good enough, and there is enough merit in only hearing the Word to make themselves acceptable in the eyes of God. If someone thinks this, he is deceiving himself.
How you looked into God’s mirror lately? If so, what did you see? Seeing imperfections is not enough. We must make the corrections!
— Via The Elon Challenger, Volume XIII, Number 10, June 2016
Isaiah declares: “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me’” (Isaiah 6:8).
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)