Is The Sponsoring Church Arrangement Scriptural?
Much of what the Bible says about New Testament Christianity has been so distorted by denominational dogma that even the simplest of truths seems strange to most “religious” people today. Some of the most common errors (Non use of instrumental music in worship, preacher vs. pastor, weekly collection and Lord’s Supper) lead to confusion, division, and can be a real hindrance to evangelistic efforts.
Yet there are some things that have divided even like-minded brethren because of some erroneous exegesis. This has certainly been the case when it comes to how a congregation uses the weekly collection in support of the work of the church. Among the polemics of this issue range from whether a congregation can pay a located preacher, the benevolence support of non-Christians, and whether or not the general fund can be used for purpose of edification. Some of these issues may seem silly on the surface but some brethren have made a lifetime (and salvation) issue of them.
A more complicated issue revolves around whether or not several congregations can send funds to a single congregation overseeing a particular work. This is called the sponsoring church arrangement and the arguments vary from a “no example and thus no authority” dispute to a contention that the sponsoring congregation somehow takes an authoritative position over the contributing congregation. However, if we can rightly conclude from Scripture (recorded by inspiration) that in the first century church used such an arrangement then all these arguments against it are then voided. What do the Scriptures say?
When the Apostle Paul left Athens for Corinth he was destitute and in need (2 Corinthians 11:9). He found there in the city fellow Jews (Aquila and Priscilla), who were also tentmakers like himself, and he stayed with them and worked with them. In Acts 18:5 we read that, “When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.”
One of the reasons Silas and Timothy came to Corinth was to bring financial support to Paul. This support came from various congregations and Paul would later write to the Corinthian brethren of how he had “robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren [Silas and Timothy, emphasis mine – TLD] who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself” (2 Corinthians 11:8-9). Notice multiple congregations were involved in supporting Paul’s missionary efforts.
Several years later Paul wrote to the church at Philippi (the chief city of the eastern division of Macedonia) and said, “Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only” (Philippians 4:15). Notice the phrase, “giving and receiving.” According to Gingrich this phrase means a “debit and credit.” Lenski says, “…as opening a ledger account with credit columns.”
What this shows is that in order for Paul to continue his missionary work, without pause to do secular work, several congregations sent money to church at Philippi. The Philippian church then distributed those funds to Paul and kept a record of what came in and went out. The church at Philippi served as Paul’s sponsoring congregation.
Therefore we have biblical authority for a sponsoring church arrangement. This collaboration serves as scriptural means for the local church to carry out its duty to the Great Commission. Denominational doctrines and fallacious teachings are the inventions of Satan and are a hindrance to the salvation and unification of an untold number of precious souls. This is why we are commanded to be diligent in our pursuit of knowing God’s Word and being able to handle it correctly (2 Timothy 2:15).