Self-supporting and Self-propagating Churches

A model for self-supporting churches.

By Caryle B. Haynes

As we study the work of the apostle Paul in the establishment of churches, it is altogether clear that these churches were both self-supporting and self-propagating. In most of the large cities of the Roman Empire, in both Europe and Asia, Paul held meetings, won converts to the gospel, organized the converts into churches, trained the believers for bearing church responsi­bilities, and then passed on to other cit­ies, leaving behind him native churches fully prepared to carry on without his presence. We find that at nines he re­visited these churches, and encouraged the believers, but upon the shoulders of local officers and members was placed the responsibility for self-sup­port and increase of membership.

Take, for example, the groups of Christians which were established by Paul at Lystra, Derbe, Thessalonica, and Corinth. These churches were wholly composed of, and officered by, the permanent residents of the coun­try. They managed their own internal affairs, under the leadership of their own officers; they administered their own ordinances, controlled their own finances, admitted or disciplined their own members, and through strong mis­sionary advance established new churches in towns and villages near at hand.

This self-supporting, self-propagat­ing plan was also followed by the other apostles. Wherever they went, they trained the new converts to provide for their spiritual and temporal needs, and to provide their own place of worship; and in consequence, when the apostles went on to new places, the work did not disintegrate, but instead the num­ber of believers multiplied.

The result of this apostolic method of establishing churches was that, in one generation, those well-established, zealous adherents to the Christian faith won more than five million con­verts to Christ, and the gospel was proclaimed throughout the whole known world of that time. In writing to one of these churches, Paul refers to this fact thus: " If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which )7e have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister." Col. 1: 23.

The apostolic method of establishing churches is the right method to be employed to-day, and it applies to churches in all the circle of the globe. Human nature is much the same every­where. If churches established in mis­sion fields go to pieces when the mis­sionary leaves, it is not the fault of the believers, but it is the missionary's fault. He has not trained the believers to stand alone and carry on the work, as did Paul; he has done everything himself, and has not taught the people how to care for their needs in spiritual life and growth in membership.

If newly organized churches are en­couraged to believe that their financial needs will be met from mission funds, it is not surprising if they have no ex­pectation of meeting such needs from their own resources. If they are given help to build a church,— furnished with seats, books, a schoolroom, and a teacher for the school, and everything necessary is supplied,— why should it be surprising if the people refuse to pay for all these blessings out of their own pockets, when they have been led to think that all these can be expected without paying for them? Just so long as these things continue to be supplied from mission funds, just so long will the new believers accept them on that basis, and refuse any other basis. Would not you do the same? None of us pay for things which we can secure free. Yes, human nature is very much the same everywhere; and converts in the mission fields have the same ten­dency in this respect as we recognize within ourselves.

To fail to understand and apply the method of self-support and self-propagation in the establishment of churches, is to defeat the very purpose of our endeavor. The missionary or the evangelist is hindered from push­ing on Into new territory with the message of salvation, because of the necessity of shepherding saved men and women whom he should have trained to stand alone and to supply all their own needs. The believers themselves are weakened by such a course on the part of the pastor. In­stead of attaining unto fully developed Christian character, trained for car­rying responsibility, they remain spoon-fed Christians. The pastor, or the missionary, or the evangelist re­fuses to wean his children, and they remain infants in the gospel. It is not to be expected that infants voluntarily wean themselves. No, they have to be weaned. And here is where the re­sponsibility rests upon the preacher who establishes the church.

In defense of the position that it is impossible to establish self-supporting, self-propagating churches in the mis­sion field, the reason is often stated that there is not the right kind of lead­ership to be found among primitive peoples. But this is not justifiable de­fense, for leaders are to be found every­where. The truth of the matter is not so much that leaders cannot be found, as that they are not found. The lead­ers are there; they need finding and training. The biggest task of the church builder is the finding of them and imparting to them the requisite knowledge and training.

About the most important duty de­volving upon the worker who organ­izes churches is to make himself un­necessary. Are you establishing self-supporting, self-propagating churches, according to the apostolic example; or are you making it necessary that these new converts shall be so weak and " spoon-fed " as to need you perpet­ually to lean upon?

Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Native Leadership in, the Far East

"More and more are responsibilities being rolled upon the native workers," writes Pastor J. G. Gjording, superin­tendent of the East China -Union Mis­sion, in a recent letter. At the annual meeting of the Anhwei Mission, the chairmanship of the conference ses­sions was turned over by Elder Gjord­ing to Pastor Wu Tsung Shan, and all the subcommittees but one had Chinese serving as chairmen. That this plan worked well is indicated by the state­ment: " Business was all finished on time and in a very acceptable man­ner." The Chinese treasurer's report is especially referred to, as follows:

"The treasurer's report rendered at the Anhwei meeting was absolutely second to no treasurer's report I have ever heard. The report from first to last was intensely' spiritual; as a mat­ter of fact, there was a regular Bible study in it on the support of the Le­vites, even to showing that some time back there in the experience of the children of Israel the Levites had to go and do other work when their reg­ular support failed them. He laid a very good foundation for the graphs and charts which he had prepared to show the negligence of the constit­uency he was serving as treasurer in the matter of faithful tithe paying. Step by step he made plain the plan of blessing, and the duty of all in this respect. I believe that his report, to­gether with his remarks and the dis­cussion that followed after the report was concluded, did more to place be­fore the believers in Anhwei their duty in the matter of tithe paying than a whole year's preaching on that sub­ject could have done."

Concerning the stability of the Chi­nese Seventh-day Adventist churches in standing alone in the midst of trou­ble and persecution, and by way of comparison with the recent history of converts of other missionary societies, Elder Gjording refers to one place in particular, where a year ago one mis­sionary society had more than 200 members, but during the strenuous ex­periences of the past few months, this membership has been scattered to the four winds, and only three loyal mem­bers remain. He adds:

 Our work there is small, but solid. We had only a tenth of their member­ship, but we have those twenty mem­bers still; and what is more, they are warmer and more zealous, and de­cidedly more courageous, than they were a year ago. They have led the mission in tithes and offerings, and have followed the plan of a special donation, in addition to regular offerings, of a-copper-a-day per member. With these returns they have purchased a burial lot. Old Pastor Han, the leader in this special copper-a-day movement, was the first to be buried there, and there is room for several hundred more to be buried in that plot on the moun­tainside. Besides this, they have bought rice to distribute to the worthy poor, and have about $15 left with which to start a church building fund. I might say that they now have agreed to give two coppers extra per member per day toward a church building fund."

In another city there is a company of less than twenty Chinese Seventh-day Adventists who were necessarily left without help during the months of siege and destruction. In this same place four other missionary societies had been operating, and were estab­lished to the extent of over a thousand membership and large property in­vestments; but at the present time their membership is reduced to one hundred, with a heavy loss in prop­erty. Elder Gjording recently visited our little Seventh-day Adventist com­pany there, and this is what he found:

"Every man is with us to-day who was with us a year ago. Three candi­dates were awaiting baptism. All were exceedingly happy to see us, and we were indeed grateful as we bowed and worshiped the God who in His love had kept them and us of one mind and one heart while we had been separated one from another. The members of this company all resolved to win one soul each during the present year, and to do their utmost to give back new workers in return for the money re­ceived from the homeland."

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By Caryle B. Haynes

August 1928

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