Working Together in Business, Really?


     We can observe in scripture different ones who worked together in a secular endeavor.  For instance, some of the disciples owned a commercial fishing business and worked in that pursuit for financial profit, at least before they became followers of Jesus (Luke 5: 7-10).  The word "partners" (metochois, suggests sharing, the sharing of work and profit and partnership) is used to describe the business relationship that existed between Peter, Andrew, James, and John (Luke 5: 7).  We also read:

     "2: And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. 3: And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers" (Acts 18).

     Hence, I know that it is not necessarily wrong for Christians to band themselves together to perform secular work with financial gain as a goal. In actuality, I do not know of not even one who is simply opposed to such a scenario.  You will notice in the case of Aquila, Priscilla, and Paul that their business was indeed secular and their arrangement financial.  By this I mean that they had not formed the "Protector of the Truth Foundation" that functioned as a fully organized entity, having its own president, board of directors, charter, and treasury, organized for the expressed purpose of preaching the gospel to the lost.  In fact, when it comes to a functioning organization through and in which Christians collectively worked in preaching the gospel, the local church, with its overseeing elders and treasury, is the only observed entity (I Tim. 3: 15).  Faithful Christians are satisfied with God's arrangement and content to abide in God's teaching.

     More and more, though, we are observing the formation of foundations and orders that are not local churches and while they do not accept monies from local churches, they are doing the work God assigned to his collectivity, the work of preaching the gospel and edifying the saved. We ("non-institutional" brethren) also now have a fully functioning relief organization, designed to assist needy saints out of its treasury.  I think we have only seen the beginning of such societies.  Most of the promoters and members of these church like institutions justify their organizations and work on the basis, "We are just Christians who have come together to form a working relationship for financial profit."  I find such a claim both interesting and highly suspect, even to the point of dishonesty.

     Perhaps the most notable and certainly the largest foundation presently among so called "non-institutional" brethren is the Guardian of Truth Foundation. An outgrowth of the Foundation is Truth Magazine, having its own additional structure consisting of one editor, one associate editor, and twenty-seven staff writers.  Regarding the right of such orders to exist, I have been repeatedly told that they are examples of brethren who have, like Aquila, Priscilla, and Paul formed a working relationship for financial  gain. One prominent member of the foundation wrote:

"1. The Guardian of Truth Foundation exists as a business because of the interest of individual Christians to provide Bible teaching materials...." (Ron Halbrook, "TRUTH LECTURESHIP: What It Is & Is Not").

     In other statements, the champions of these orders talk about how their work in these entities is for financial gain.  Such causes one to justifiably wonder.  Are all the ten board members of the Guardian of Truth Foundation members for financial gain?  How about the staff writers for Truth Magazine, are their efforts expended for financial reasons?

     Take for example, Truth Magazine (see addendum). Some want us to think of Truth Magazine as a book catalog in which books for sale are advertised.  The twenty-seven staff writers spend their time preparing manuscripts for publication in order to sell the Guardian of Truth Foundation books.  All of the energy thus expended by all these men is for financial gain.  What and whose financial gain, I ask?  Are all the ten board members and the twenty-seven staff writers paid for their work?  Some of the staff writers have thus answered by saying, "It is true that we are not paid by the Foundation, but as staff writers for Truth Magazine, we are financially benefited by the meeting work with churches that is produced by being a staff writer."   How about the three "Guardian of Truth Foundation Annual Lectureships," are the participates and speakers doing what they do for financial gain, thus, viewing their relationship to the Foundation as a business for profit?  Are they speaking on their assigned topics just to generate money for the Foundation and to sell books?

     Now let us be honest and stop playing games with the truth.  These men, at least most of them, are manifestly doing what they do in order to preach the gospel. They are using the Foundation and the Truth Magazine structure (joined in nature and linkage) to provide them a means of teaching what they believe to be the truth.  I say this because such is obvious, especially in view of the usual lack of worth while financial gain being experienced by these men. So, what is the point?  After we remove the pretense characteristic of some of the promoters and defenders of these orders, we see the truth and that truth is: Brethren who have banded themselves together in forming a human institution with its own board of directors, treasury, president, etc. for the purpose of collectively preaching the gospel to the lost and edifying the saved.

     Ron Halbrook, recognized as a spokesman for the G.O.T.F., wrote the following in, "Let The Church Be The Church," an article in which he attempts to justify the Foundation by calling each person's action working within and through the Foundation, "individual action":

"In the course of conducting our business, members of the G.O.T. Foundation often pray together and even pray with other people with whom we have dealings, especially in praying for God's wisdom and blessings upon our endeavors. We discuss God's Word together and with others, especially regarding its proper application to our work. As circumstances permit, we create and utilize opportunities to teach people the truth and God's Word and we do everything possible to encourage them to obey, worship, and serve God faithfully. Such studies have been conducted for the staff writers of Truth Magazine from time to time. The Truth Lectureship makes it possible for other interested individuals to share with us in such studies. By inviting people to read Truth Magazine and to visit our web site, we hope to better acquaint them with the goods and services of our bookstores and to encourage them to obey, worship, and serve God faithfully."

     Ron and Foundation promoters would have us believe that on one hand, they are in business to make money and then, as individuals, they preach the gospel.  In effect and at best, then, they are merchandising the gospel (cp. 2 Pet. 2: 3).

     One family that attended the "Third Annual Guardian of Truth Foundation Lectures" told me:  "Brother Martin, the Foundation is doing a wonderful job in preaching the gospel.  In fact, they are able to do what local churches cannot do...."

     I really was not sure what the family meant by "...what local churches cannot do...."  When I asked them for clarification, their answer was not clear to me.  When I gently pressed the family for Bible authority for such a Foundation functioning as a local church, they became very emotional and defensive.  It was evident that they loved their Foundation.  In fact, this matter came up in a Bible class that I was teaching.  We were studying the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three.  I pointed out the
various action scenarios, autonomy, and the fact that these local churches set forth God's plan and provision for Christians collectively working together to disseminate the truth.  The point seemed to highly upset the family and the remainder of the class (most of it) was spent answering their arguments, accusations, and justification for the Foundation.

     These Foundations, societies, and entities being discussed are not comparable in the least to the matter of  Aquila, Priscilla, and Paul in Acts 18.  In the first place, these Foundations are not selling secular matters.  Hence, the comparison between these orders and the business relationship that existed between Aquila, Priscilla, and Paul is none existent.  Also, while there may be some "profit" and "financial gain" in the matter of the foundations, I believe all that know anything about them know that the men associated with and vital to these societies are not doing what they do for financial profit.  Such is a joke and a ruse.

     I do become tired of hearing, "We are just brethren in business for profit, you have no right to oppose us!"  Do these brethren think that we are so gullible as to fall for such?  Do they think that we can so easily be placated and silenced?

     With the publication of, "We Have A Right..." (a Guardian of Truth Foundation publication), it is evident that such Foundations are going to not only continue, but become more emboldened.  The question is, can Christians collectively do the work of preaching the gospel in the local church as God as taught?  The answer is, "Yes."  Must we have these outside, man-made foundations to offer collective opportunities for preaching the gospel?  I emphatically say, "No!"  Are the promoters of these "extra" arrangements going to push them to the point of division and the disruption of unity?  They already are doing so.  However, just as in the forties, fifties, and sixties, when the promoters of that variant of institutionalism, a matter totally foreign to the New Testament, accused those who had problems with their unscriptural teaching, practices, and arrangements with being the divisive ones, so it is today.  Those of us who present the local church as the only collectivity having oversight, treasury, and structure through which Christians collectively labor to preach the gospel as being scriptural are labeled as divisive.  We cannot, "endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit..." by promoting and defending something not taught in the scriptures, human foundations doing the work of the church. We "endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit" by doing what is taught, in this case, Christians working through God's collectivity to collectively preach the gospel (Eph. 4: 3-6, I Tim. 3: 15).

     In closing, I view those more honest who say, "We are not satisfied with just being members of a local church and therein collectively preaching the gospel, we demand the right to have our own societies, foundations, and orders in which to preach the gospel.  After all, we think that we with our president, board members and own treasury can do a better job than the local church with its oversight and treasury!"  The rationale that foundations in which the gospel is preached are being begun simply for a business for
financial gain enterprise is an insult to every thinking Christian.

     Addendum:  I have focused of late mainly on the Guardian of Truth Foundation in view of its clear emergence into the undeniable realm of privately supported orders such as being discussed. However, there are other such like institutions among "churches of Christ" that are exerting tremendous influence. When one examines the structure, nature, and functionality of Florida College, one sees the precise same characteristics, traits necessary in constituting such an entity that provides the opportunity for brethren to pool their resources to collectively preach the gospel through the human institution, with its man-made oversight, treasury, etc.