Sponsoring church (Churches of Christ)
The sponsoring church arrangement describes a resource-pooling strategy employed by some congregations of the Churches of Christ. Under this arrangement, congregations and individuals send money or other resources to a congregation, which oversees those funds and resources earmarked for an individual preacher, work, project or program which the eldership of that congregation oversees. The "sponsoring church" identification is sometimes seen as a means to distinguish certain Church of Christ congregations from Churches of Christ (non-institutional) congregations. "Sponsoring church" Church of Christ congregations have sometimes been called "mainstream" or Bible college-supporting congregations.
Churches of Christ are autonomous congregations without formal ties between each other. After World War II some churches created the sponsoring church arrangement to coordinate their efforts in evangelism. This began with the Broadway church in Lubbock, Texas and the Union Avenue Church in Memphis soliciting funds for evangelism in Germany and Japan, respectively.
The historical foundation of the "sponsoring church" movement is traced to the speeches, writings and advocacy of G.C. Brewer at Abilene Christian College in the 1930s. Brewer encouraged Church of Christ congregations to actively support, both financially and through talents, the work and activities of Bible colleges, or other "institutional" entities such as orphan homes or nursing homes, which may be traditionally associated with churches of Christ. Other Church of Christ leaders who spoke out in favor the concept included B. C. Goodpasture, N. B. Hardeman and Robert M. Alexander. However, the "sponsoring church" movement was famously opposed by Foy E. Wallace Jr. in his writings and speeches.
The most well-known of some of the early efforts in the "sponsoring church" movement was the Herald of Truth, a radio (and later television) program begun in 1951 by the Fifth and Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas.
Doctrinal disagreement over the sponsoring church arrangement was one of a number of issues that led to the division between the "mainstream" Churches of Christ and the non-institutional churches that occurred in the 1960s.
One more recent well-publicized sponsoring church arrangement is "One Nation Under God", wherein the Sycamore Church of Christ in Cookeville, Tennessee in 1991 solicited $10 million in order to send out evangelistic mailings to every household in America. Later plans to contact every household in the world were never realized.
While the arrangement is less common in recent years, it remains in use among many mainstream Churches of Christ today. An example is the sponsoring of a church in Washington, England by the churches on Olton and Broadway, Lubbock, Texas, from 1988 to 2006. The practice continues to be one of the features which helps distinguish the "mainstream" congregations from the so-called "non-institutional" congregations. The sponsoring church concept is particularly popular in "church planting," where an existing church sends funds, personnel or missionaries to an area to establish a church and then oversees the nascent congregation for a period of time.
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