Welcome to Midway Church of Christ
In September, 1908, W.E. Otey debated J.B. Briney in Louisville, Ky., on the Missionary Society that brethren had established in 1849, through which churches cooperated in accomplishing their work. The same arguments Mr. Briney used to defend the practice were later used to defend churches working through benevolent societies.
Mr. Briney’s first argument for the M.S. was: “They are voluntary organizations composed of Christian people who are banded together for the promotion of the cause of Christ...And just here I lay down this principle, and it is to constitute the foundation of nearly my whole argument upon this question...When a thing is commanded to be done, and the method of doing it is not prescribed, those commanded are at liberty to use their best judgment in devising ways and means to carry out the command…” (pg. 161,162).
What is wrong with this argument? The Missionary Society was not a method of preaching the gospel, but an organization that used methods, just as the church was using methods. The same is true of Benevolent Societies, and other human organizations (Preacher Training Schools, Colleges, etc.), which assume that since they are doing good works churches may support them.
His next argument was “a church building committee” that takes the lead in supervising the construction of a church building. His conclusion was “when you have a committee like that, you have a missionary society.” He also used the seven men chosen to serve tables (Acts 6), as parallel to the Missionary Society (pg. 168).
What is wrong with this assertion? The church provides methods of doing any of its work, but the missionary, or benevolent society, is a separate organization doing the work. Another argument was to accuse those who opposed the Missionary Society of doing nothing. He said: “I would be very glad to know of him and those who sympathize with him in his ideas, if they are doing anything worthy of the name in mission work...I would be glad to rejoice to know that they are doing something, either orderly or in a disorderly way” (pg. 195).
What is wrong with this argument? First, churches of Christ had probably grown faster than in any period since the first century by following the New Testament pattern of local churches doing their own work. Second, even if the Missionary Society was doing good, the end does not justify the means. It was an unscriptural organization.
Some brethren accused the M. S. of dictating to the churches. Briney said: “I say to you it is voluntary...An individual or a church may go in today and out tomorrow: going in is voluntary, remaining is voluntary and going out is voluntary” (pg. 197). Those who objected were accused of being “anti-missionary” because they contended for the sufficiency of the local church.
The Missionary Society was wrong because it was an addition to the Lord’s organization. The fact that it was voluntary, and did good work, had nothing to do with whether the Scripture authorized men to form organizations and solicit funds from churches to do their assumed work. That does not fit the N.T. pattern.
Mr. Briney denied “that these societies are anything else than agencies employed by the church, the one body, to carry on this work systematically” (p. 284). His concept was that the universal church is composed of local churches and when local churches cooperated through the M.S., that was simply the one body working through that organization.
What is wrong with that concept? The universal church (the one body) is composed of individuals, not congregations. Local churches were given organization (elders and deacons), and joint functions. The universal church was given no earthly organization and no joint function to perform. When men depart from God’s pattern, they are engaged in that which is not authorized, which inevitably leads to further apostasy, as illustrated in the Christian Church today. It has no respect for Bible authority. The same process is evolving with those who began defending church support of Schools, then Benevolent Societies in the work of churches, and the same result is almost inevitable.
Copyright Midway Church of Christ 2014 This page last modified July 03, 2014