In writing against some of the Hardshells who today are part of what is called the "liberal movement," Elder Claud McKee has an Internet article titled "Today's Primitive Baptist Missionary Movement" (see here) in which he tries to show how those involved in this movement, in sponsoring missions to foreign countries, are violating the principles of the Black Rock Address. At this time I want to analyze some of the things McKee says. In the first paragraph he writes (emphasis mine):
"Would the Brethren who wrote or supported the Black Rock address support today's Primitive Baptist Missionary movement? Even though some in today's movement have implied their compatibility with those Brethren, the truth is that the present movement among us has very similar markings to the early 1800's movement, which the Black Rock brethren opposed and finally declared against. The similar marks are: Soliciting funds through various sales schemes (today tapes and books); emphasizing the spread of the gospel and outreach ministries; perverting the teachings on giving (tithing) to gain monetary support; teaching that the commandments commonly referred to as the great commission was given to the church rather than to the Apostles; having ministers conferences and meetings to train their followers. Basically these same marks re-appeared around 1900 in the progressive movement. Both the 1800 and 1900 movements culminated into further departures from the faith and practices and gave faithful brethren of that time no other course but to oppose the departures."
Whether or not today's Hardshells are violating the principles of the Black Rock Address should not be of concern. Rather, the greater question is whether they are violating the Scriptures. And secondarily, are they in keeping with the practice of the first Particular Baptists in England and America? But, this will not be sufficient to such men as Elder McKee who puts the Black Rock Address on a par with Scripture.
It is a good thing that some Hardshells are seeing the truth about the Great Commission. Remember that Elder Watson confessed that the Hardshells had violated their commission. Further, the missionary movement of the early 19th century was not a new thing among Baptists, as we shall see, but it was a great expansion. Also, the Progressive movement was simply another attempt to bring the Hardshells back to the place from which they had departed, to bring them out of their extremist position. I plan to have a chapter towards the end of this book on various reform movements among the Hardshells which have tried to bring the "Primitive Baptist" church back to the Old Baptist position. Also, it is good that some Hardshells are seeing the error of denying that the church is under the Great Commission. In my series on the Great Commission I fully show that the church was indeed given the commission to go into all the world and preach the Gospel and to baptize or make disciples.
What can possibly be wrong with selling items and giving the money to the work of the Lord? Is this not what the early Christians did? Luke wrote:
"Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." (Acts 4: 34-35)
I can see very little difference in selling tapes and books and selling lands and houses. Granted, the monies raised were to support the poor saints, but the Scriptures also show that the churches supported missionaries as well as the poor. Luke also mentions a Christian woman named Dorcas and, at her funeral, those in attendance showed Peter the "coats and garments which Dorcas made." (Acts 8: 39) It may well be that Dorcas sold some of these clothes and donated the money to the church for support of the poor and of the missionaries.
Further, as I have already mentioned, some Hardshell churches have raised money to build meeting houses by selling items and through various fund raising enterprises. Will McKee condemn these also? Or, is it that he thinks it is okay to sell items to build meeting houses, and to pay for radio preaching, but not to support missionaries? And remember, such opposition to using funds raised by selling tapes, for support of Gospel missionaries, does not mean that the Hardshells are opposed to spreading the Gospel!
Further, throughout the years Hardshell editors of periodicals have frequently "solicited" funds for the support of their papers. Hardshell preachers have also solicited support for radio programs. Of course, men like McKee may find fault with this also, but most Hardshells would not. Thus, all solicitation of funds cannot be an evil. However, Jesus said - "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away." (Matt. 5: 42) I see no difference between "asking" for money and "soliciting" for money. But, Hardshells are famous for calling anyone who asks for money for missionary support "beggars." The early periodicals of the 1830s are filled with Hardshells calling all preachers who asked for money for mission work as "beggars" and denounced them as being covetous, preachers for filthy lucre, and "hirelings."
Paul also taught the early Christians to be givers. He wrote:
"Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. " (Eph. 4: 28)
Is it wrong for preachers and other Christians to stand up in a gathering of Christians and inform them of needs and request that any who could help to do so? Most Hardshells would not find it wrong to do so when it came to helping a member who was suffering from lack of necessities, or to help with a radio ministry. But, they will think it the worst evil to request money to help preachers out on the mission field.
It is astounding that McKee would condemn others for "emphasizing the spread the Gospel"! He says this is what the Black Rock Address condemned! And, in spite of such condemnation, we are not to believe that Hardshells are against preaching the Gospel! McKee condemns "outreach ministries." Would that not condemn all Hardshell periodicals and other printed media? Would it not condemn all radio preaching? Paul commended the church at Thessalonica for their outreach ministry and their desire to spread the Gospel, saying "for from you sounded out the word of the Lord," and that "in every place," so that the Gospel was "spread abroad." (I Thess. 1: 8)
McKee also thinks that it is a great departure from the faith, and worthy of declaring non-fellowship, that some teach tithing, which he says is "perverting the teachings on giving (tithing) to gain monetary support." Now, I am not saying that tithing is the new testament way, but I am saying that it is wrong to condemn other preachers for teaching it. If God thought 10% was a good rule for the old testament saints, under the law, it ought to be good for Christians to give at least this much, if not more, under the new testament or under grace. But, what McKee chiefly objects to is teaching the people about the importance of giving to the support of the ministry.
McKee also condemns preachers having meetings where they help each other learn more about how to be effective pastors and teachers! He says that this is against the Black Rock Address. But, we have already shown how the Black Rock Address went to an extreme in their condemnation of all biblical schooling, whether it be Sunday schools or seminaries.
"Some of those supporting today's movement claim harmony with the supporters of the Black Rock Address, indicating that the errors made in 1832 are being avoided by closely following historical and scriptural precedence. "Great effort was made to build these churches while following historical and biblical precedence. Historical study was made of the Baptist division of 1832 so that the errors of that day would not be repeated" (Elder Gus Harter, Atlanta Newsletter Jan 1997)."
Here are some Hardshells who want to be obedient to the Great Commission and in such a way as to keep the local church the base of operations and yet this is still not acceptable to the general body of Hardshells, to such men as Elder McKee. It becomes quite apparent that the Hardshells just do not want to do anything to help take the Gospel to those who have never heard it.
And, in spite of such opposition as McKee shows, we are to believe that he is not against preaching or spreading the good news!
To show what the Hardshell mentality is in regard to supporting preachers who desire to act as missionaries in preaching the Gospel in foreign lands, let us recall these words from the Mt. Carmel Church Trial (part 4 - see here). A Hardshell is being questioned about supporting preachers who have a burden to go and preach to those who have never heard the Gospel.
Q. Now, Mr. Compton, you are some sort of a missionary Baptist, aren’t you?
A. Well, I don’t know about that.
Q. You heard Brother Dalton’s deposition with reference to missions. Do you endorse Brother Dalton’s views?
A. Well, I would say this: so far as the bible directs missions, I am a missionary; but no further.
Q. You are a missionary Baptist on bible plans?
A. I don’t like to be called a Missionary Baptist.
Q. But you believe in missions on the bible plan?
A. I believe that if a minister of the gospel feels a call, a spiritual call, to go out and preach the gospel anywhere at all, it is his duty to go. Now, if you call that missions, why, then I am.
Q. Well, suppose one of your ministers would feel himself to be called to go into foreign lands and preach the gospel, would you believe that he ought to go?
A. Yes; if he felt like he ought to go.
Q. Would you believe that he ought to be encouraged in that?
A. No; I wouldn’t encourage him at all.
Q. You wouldn’t encourage him, even though you thought he felt in his heart---
A. If he felt like going anywhere at all, let him go. Let him go like he is directed by the bible, go without purse or scrip.
Q. But you would not encourage him in it?
This is a good example of Hardshell opposition to supporting those who go forth to preach the Gospel. All who are outside of the cult will recognize this stubborn opposition for what it is.
"The present day movement has alluded to this quote to emphasize that the ministers involved in the Philippine endeavor worked out of local churches and not out of distinct separate societies or "outside boards". The impression is left that all is well because the new movement is working out of local churches. "We did not form mission boards but worked out of local churches"(Elder Gus Harter, Atlanta Newsletter Jan. 1997)."
Next, McKee cites the following words of Elder Bradley who is also involved in mission work.
"Obviously for a people who had always believed that the church is the highest ecclesiastical organization on the earth, the idea of having ministers approved, sent and sponsored by an outside "Board" was cause for alarm." (Elder Lasserre Bradley Jr. Baptist witness, Nov. 1996)"
Of course, as we shall see, none of this was acceptable to the extremists.
McKee cites Bradley again, who wrote:
"Did some fail to rejoice when the Lord opened a door in the Philippines and a number of our brethren went there preaching without the direction or support of man made societies but with the approval of their own local churches?" (Elder Lasserre Bradley Jr. Baptist Witness, Nov. 1996)
Not only did some fail to rejoice, but most Hardshells got angry at such news! It is more proof that the Hardshells are against preaching the Gospel, no matter what they may say. Thus, as has been said, it is not a question of which way to support missionaries, but whether to support them at all!
The Hardshells of today obviously do not share the view of Elder C.B. Hassell, one of the founding fathers of Hardshellism, for he wrote:
"Should the Lord create an humble, teachable and inquiring disposition in the heart of an inhabitant of China, Japan or the unexplored parts of Africa, He would sooner send an angel from Heaven, or a minister from the uttermost part of the earth, to show him the way of salvation, than leave him destitute of that knowledge, for which he longs and prays without ceasing. The alms and supplications of such persons spring from right principles and motives, and go up as a memorial before God, not to merit His favor, but to plead with Him to fulfill His gracious promises." (pg. 203 of Hassell's History)
The Hardshells of today either do not value the Gospel and therefore lack any desire to see that others have what they have, or else they will have to admit that others besides themselves have been sent of the Lord to give the Gospel to those who have never heard a Hardshell preacher. Those in destitute areas of the world who now have the blessing of hearing the good news owe no thanks to the Hardshells.
"In the Black Rock address it is stated:
"...the Lord has manifestly established the order, that his ministers should be sent forth by the churches. But the mission plan is to send them out by a mission society."
After citing these words, McKee then cites Elder Gus Harter, one who is involved in mission work.
McKee then wrote these words as a rebuttal to the practice.
"The Black Rock brethren's opposition was to a man made system (any men, churches included) implementing a money based mission society (in or out of the church) that departs from the order the Master commanded. They stated "But we at the same time contend, that we have no right to depart from the order which the Master himself has seen fit to lay down, relative to the ministration of the word". In their address concerning missions they clearly emphasized the belief that the Spirit of God should be the guiding influence in determining where a minister labors and gave no indication that it should be part of a churches duty to sponsor any outreach mission program. The Black Rock brethren's statement "ministers should be sent forth by the churches" is expanded and clarified as to their meaning by re-emphasizing where the ministers were to be sent. "Again, each gospel church acts as the independent kingdom of Christ in calling and sending forth its members into the ministry." [Not into the mission field or on mission trips but into the ministry to be guided by the Spirit of God!]"
It is interesting that McKee left out these words from the Black Rock Address:
"We also believe it to be the duty of individuals and churches to contribute according to their abilities, for the support, not only of their pastors, but also of those who go preaching the gospel of Christ among the destitute."
Why would he omit this? Is it not because it overthrows his interpretation of the Black Rock Address? Is this a "money based" system? Do the preachers not depend on the financial support of the churches?
McKee judges that the Holy Spirit was not guiding Bradley, Harter, and other ministers in their efforts to preach the Gospel in foreign lands. But, how can he set himself up as a judge in this matter? Are we to believe that the Holy Spirit was rather guiding McKee to denounce their efforts? Further, why would the Holy Spirit put it in the hearts of such ministers to preach the Gospel in foreign lands but not also put the same desire into the hearts of churches to support them?
McKee then tries to defend the idea that the Black Rock Address does not condone a church giving any support to missionaries, or for ever sending out an already ordained preacher to preach in a certain area. But, we have already seen how the Address speaks of churches supporting missionaries. McKee takes umbrage at the thought that churches can be involved in the decision where missionaries ought to go, that the minister should do this without any advice from the churches. Does McKee think that the church cannot have any thoughts on the matter? The example from Acts 13 has already been cited as proof that a church may send out missionaries.
In chapter 66, in the first chapter on the series "The Great Commission," I cited Hardshells who wrote:
"We find no scriptural basis for the belief that the "great commission" was given to the church and that the church is responsible for the spread of the gospel in the world today...We stand with our Baptist forefathers in rejecting the heresy that the "great commission" was given to the church body."
It is obvious that the only ones who are supposed to have a burden to see that others hear the good news are Hardshell preachers, and the overwhelming majority of them only go preaching it to those in existing Hardshell churches. What spirit is motivating such an opposition to seeing that those who have never heard the Gospel get an opportunity to hear it? They must not care much for the Gospel nor want to share it with those who have never heard it!
"The scriptures teach that churches should recognize God called men among their membership by ordaining and sending them into the Ministry. God does the calling and the Holy Spirit still influences/guides the minister into his field of labor. A minister's field of labor should not be under direct control of the church or any other set of men. This is not to say the church has no rights of discipline concerning where a minister labors. A minister has no authority to take part in the services of churches not in fellowship with his home church without ample evidence of God's Spirit moving and a general support or willingness of orderly brethren to try the spirit and see if the Lord is truly in the matter. Neither should he generally visit and fellowship those that clearly entertain unscriptural practices in their services.
I find this highly inconsistent. A church can condemn a preacher for going to certain places to preach but has no authority to tell him where he can go preach?! McKee wants to have it both ways. He wants to say that a minister's field of labor is his own decision, but here he wants to say that a church does in fact have some say. They cannot tell him where to go, but they can tell him where not to go?
The subject of the above words of McKee really concerns the relationship of a minister to a church or churches. I have thought that this might be worth having a separate chapter as the Hardshells entertain errors regarding this relationship. From the words of McKee, the church is the organization or society that determines whether a man is given the credentials of an elder or minister of the Gospel. Also, Hardshells will acknowledge that the church judges of a minister's calling and gift. Generally this is done by giving a person opportunities to preach or teach in the church for a time and to see whether this person is truly called and gifted. This is a good and long standing practice in the Baptist church and is based upon Paul's instruction regarding prospective gifts. He said that they should first be "proved" or tested prior to being officially ordained. (I Tim. 3: 10) This time of proving is also a time for the newly called minister to develop his gift, a kind of qualifying of him. This is interesting because the Hardshells, in condemning seminaries for supposedly "qualifying" such men to preach, actually do the very thing that they condemn. The only difference is that the church oversees the developing of the young gift, or his becoming qualified, but in the latter case it is done by a theological school. In many Hardshell churches, there is at least one elder in the church where the young gift begins to "exercise" himself in preaching.