SOME PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS
T. PIERCE BROWN
Since I have written extensively for almost a dozen of the most widely read brotherhood publications for the past 50 years, I have confronted many problems and questions, some of which it seems appropriate to share with you. There are two reasons for this. First, there are those who may find help in my analysis and conclusions. Second, there are those who may differ with them, and will help me to find better ones.
First, the question has been raised, “Since Jesus commanded us to get the gospel to every creature in all the world, yet all of us cannot be missionaries to some foreign field, how can we obey that command?” The question implies something that is not true. It implies that Jesus was asking that all of us go into some foreign field. Each of us has a mission where he is, and therefore should be a missionary where he is. If Jesus meant that every individual is required to go into every nation in the world, then no person, including the Apostles, ever carried out the Great Commission.
Second, the question was raised in Alexander Campbell’s day, “Since it is evident that no one congregation or individual can carry out the Great Commission alone, is it not logical and scriptural to form another entity or society to do it?” Again, the question implies something that is not so. It implies that if one individual or congregation can not do a particular task alone, the only alternative is form another entity to do it. There is no authority in the scripture for any organization or organism to do it except the church and individual Christians, but the scriptures are plain that churches and individuals could cooperate in doing what God commanded without forming another organization to do it. Surely no one can read Acts 11:29-30, Romans 15:26, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 without being impressed that both individuals and congregations cooperated to get a job done that needed doing. If there can be a pooling of resources in order to do the task of benevolence that God ordained be done, there is no logic or scripture of which I am aware that suggests that the same principle is not valid in the more important task of evangelism.
Of course this issue has been debated by men far more able than I, and conclusions drawn that are both logical and scriptural. That is, it seems evident both by scriptures and by logic that it is both appropriate and necessary that there be cooperative efforts to get the job done. There are still those who claim that the scriptures do not authorize cooperative efforts in evangelism, but still must admit that they were done in the case of benevolence for the poor saints inJerusalem.
A third question has been raised which deserves our attention. “If we engage in a nation-wide cooperative effort in evangelism, how can we be sure that only those who are sound in the faith will participate and we must, of necessity, be having fellowship with the wrong people?” It might help to see the proper answer to that question, if we raise another one and answer it. “If we engage in a congregational effort at evangelism, with cooperation only among those who claim membership in the congregation, how can we be sure that only those who are sound in the faith will participate?” The answer to both questions is the same. We may have fellowship at any given moment in any congregation or effort with those who are unsound in doctrine and life. That does not mean we have sought that fellowship. It does mean that the fact that an unsaved person participates in any scriptural activity that we are doing does not invalidate that act. For example, how do you know that the person sitting next to you as you partake of the Lord’s Supper is a Christian? If he hands the tray to you, or vice versa, it does not change the propriety of your action.