Darrell's First Affirmative 7/22/99


In this leg of the debate my job is to affirm the scripturalness of several congregations sending a missionary’s funds to a sponsoring congregation, which would send those funds to the missionary in the field. Some brethren have labeled this arrangement as error and completely without New Testament authority. I asked Carey this question:

1. Does a local congregation have Bible authority to assume oversight of any work of evangelism beyond her own financial ability?

This has been an issue of controversy in past discussions about sponsoring church arrangement. Notice the following statements:

No church has the right to assume oversight of anything beyond her ability. A man does not have that right. Neither does a congregation. 1

If a man has a million dollars the Lord expects him to do a million dollars worth of work with it. If he has only ten dollars, he cannot say to his friends, "Friends, I assume the oversight of a million dollars worth of work. Give me your money and I’ll do the work." He has no responsibility; he has no obligation; he has no work beyond that which he is able. We have always taught that. The Bible teaches that. And the work of the church is co-extensive with her ability. 2

A church’s responsibility is co-extensive with her ability. Her responsibility does not extend beyond her ability; when "she assumes the oversight" of that which is beyond her ability, she over steps the bounds of that which God permits or allows. 3

Carey answered the question like this:

The local church can make any decisions they want. Oversight is a word limited to the eldership in the New Testament and only the local church for which they serve as elders are to observe their oversight. Financial ability has little to do with the issue we are going to debate, however it does serve as a catalyst to start a movement in the direction we are to discuss.

The questions raised about ability limits were the reasons I asked Carey question 3:

3. Are there geographic boundaries which limit the area to which a church may do its evangelistic work? If so, how are these boundaries determined?

Which he answered by saying, "No. Second question n/a." These are also the reasons I asked him this:

6. Did any of the saints in Jerusalem during the dearth have the ability to give?

To which he answered: "I do not know? Whether any individuals had the ability or not is not the issue at hand."

Past discussions about the sponsoring element of congregational cooperation have also been discussions about the New Testament pattern for congregational cooperation. Therefore, I asked Carey this question:

2. Is there one exclusive pattern of New Testament authority only for congregational cooperation?

In the past those opposed to this arrangement have affirmed that there is one specific pattern only for congregational cooperation. Notice the following statements:

But my friends, we have specific authority for the kind of cooperation set forth in the New Testament. It is not general authority; it is specific; it is particular; and it is exclusive. 4

Somebody asks, "Cannot churches help one another?" Certainly so; but under certain conditions. And what are the conditions? The conditions are: when a church is in want, another church or churches with abundance, may send to supply her need. This is the cooperation taught in the New Testament; and that is the only kind of cooperation taught there. That is the purpose of it; that is the design. 5

Carey answered like this:

Taking the New Testament as a whole the answer is yes. To break down to what is written in the scriptures which deal with specific congregations, the answer is dependent upon that example given (thus the possibility of many patterns in N.T.).

Another point of contention raised by those opposing the "sponsoring church" arrangement is that it violates congregational autonomy. Therefore I asked:

4. Under the "sponsor arrangement" do the churches which send funds to the sponsoring congregation loose their autonomy?

Robert Turner said: "So we may say we lose autonomy to the extent of the portion of the work done collectively. Exactly so." 6

Carey answered the question like this:

No. They still retain their identity. The issue is whether they have the scriptural right to send their money to another church or human institution to do their work that God gave them to do.

I also asked this question: "Did the funds mentioned in Second Corinthians 11:8 go directly to Paul. If so, how is the affirmed?" It has been affirmed that this was the method of distribution denoted in II Corinthians 11:8. For example, Dudley Spears once affirmed that "when you find examples of churches in Macedonia sending to Paul in Corinth, they sent directly." 7

Carey said:

Scripture does not record how he received this money. The point of the passage is that Paul did not place himself as a burden upon the local Corinthian church. Other churches supported him.

I am pleased to debate this issue with a man who is obviously a free thinker. As this debate unfolds the importance and relevance of the above questions should become more and more obvious. Thank you Carey for answering them.

This debate is really a debate focused on Bible authority. Christians must have Bible authority for all that is done in religion (Col. 3:17). Before anything can be expedient in religion a matter of Biblical obligation must be established. The Bible authorizes through direct statements, approved examples and implication. None of the three areas used to establish authority is more authoritative than the other.

The church of Christ has been commanded to evangelize the world (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:44f; Phil. 2:15-16; Acts 8:4). Therefore, a matter of Biblical obligation has been established. Now that Biblical authority for evangelism has been established, one must begin to examine the Lord’s will in fulfilling the obligation. Tant referred to authority in terms of specific and general. For clarity these two terms will be retained in this affirmative.

Specific authority is both inclusive and exclusive. By inclusive it is understood that specific authority is limited to the specifics given by God when obeying or fulfilling God given obligation. By exclusive it is understood that specific authority excludes the employment of any additions to what has been specified. An example of specific authority is the command that God gave Noah to build the ark. In this command the type of wood and the dimensions of the ark were given in a specific pattern. Gopher wood included only gopher wood and excluded pine, oak, or particle board.

General authority is the realm where expediency comes into the picture. Local congregations of the Lord’s church are commanded to assemble and engage in corporate worship (I Cor. 11:18,20; Acts 20:7-12;; I Cor. 16:1-2). Assembling is a matter of obligation, but the Lord did not give the church specific authority about where the church must assemble. Therefore, general authority is established and the realm of expedience is opened to the local eldership, or to the men of the congregation if she does not have elders. Some congregations meet in homes, some rent a place to meet and others purchase a place to meet. All of this is authorized under the heading of general authority. General authority does not license the church to fulfill obligation through an avenue which is sinful. It is understood that expediency would not authorize the church to meet for worship in an establishment where illicit behavior is present.

Does the "sponsoring" arrangement of congregational cooperation line up under the guidelines of specific or general authority, or does it violate specific authority as far as congregational evangelism is concerned? That the "sponsoring" arrangement as noted in the debate proposition is authorized under the heading of general authority is without question. That does not mean that it will not be questioned. Proving something is one thing and proving that thing to some people is another thing all together.

How is this affirmed from the Scriptures? As previously noted the church is obligated to the work of evangelism. No where does the Bible set forth specific authority as to how one congregation may financially cooperate with other congregations in evangelism. No where in all of Holy Writ is it specified that the only conditions of cooperation are: "when a church is in want, another church or churches with abundance, may send to supply her need." When the pattern of New Testament Christianity is examined it is evident that the above statement is just one avenue of expediency under the heading of general authority.

Another way in which congregations can support a man in the field is through direct help. Among other truths, Second John 9-11, Third John 3-8 and Acts 15:3 provide authority for a congregation and individuals to directly aid a faithful worker for Christ. The contextual idea herein is a faithful worker or workers being sent on their way by the church. This type of support also lines up under the heading of general authority. It is error to say that the Bible teaches that this is a specific pattern of authority for churches to support one of the Lord’s workers in the field. It is damnable error to bind this as the only authorized way to support a worker for the Lord in the field.

Another Biblically approved method of supporting a worker for the Lord in the field is through the sponsoring church arrangement. This arrangement is not a specific pattern of authority. It lines up under the heading of general authority. Paul’s first work on European soil was in the city of Philippi (Acts 16). After his labor in Philippi he labored in Corinth (Acts 18). In Corinth Paul exercised his right to refuse support from the church there. Later Paul told the Corinthians that he "robbed other churches, taking wages of them," to do service in Corinth (II Cor. 11:8).

It can not be affirmed that each of the churches supporting Paul sent his wages directly to him. It may be the case that the church in Philippi was serving as Paul’s sponsoring congregation. To the Philippians Paul wrote: "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" (Phil. 4:15). The terms "giving" and "receiving" are most interesting. Paul used words which have to do with keeping the books. These words can be replaced with the words debit and credit. This congregation was not giving only as the assumed anti-cooperation position would DEMAND [Carey, I am not yelling. The caps are used here for emphasis sake]. They were giving and receiving!

You see this too is authorized under the heading of general authority. About this verse Thayer wrote: "An account of giving and receiving [i. e. debit and credit accounts]. . ..8

Vine wrote: "euphemistically referring to gifts as a matter of debit and credit accounts. 9 The church in Philippi was obviously "receiving" wages for Paul as well as giving to Paul's work; therefore, they were following the "sponsoring church arrangement" as denoted in the debate proposition. Therefore, I have fulfilled my obligation to prove that this arrangement is authorized by the Bible.


1 Fanning Yader Tant, "Tant’s First Affirmative" in The Harper Tant Debate, (Abilene, TX.: Chronicle Pub. Co. Inc., 1956), 7.

2 Ibid., 29.

3 Ibid., 50.

4 Ibid., 30.

5 Ibid.

6 Robert Turner, "Cooperation of Churches" in The Arlington Meeting, (Marion, Ind.: Cogdill Foundations Pub., 1976), 280.

7 Dudley R. Spears, "The Work of the Church" in The Arlington Meeting, (Marion, Ind.: Cogdill Foundations Pub.,1976), 215.

8 Joseph Henry Thayer, "doseos," in A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Book House, 1901; repr. 1977), 157.

9 W. E. Vine, "giving," in Vine's Expository of New Testament Words, (Mclean, Virginia: MacDonald Publishing Co., n.d.), 487.

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