The Rescue Mission's Relationship to the Churches
Herbert E. Eberhardt
It may seem strange that we even have to discuss this subject. Some years ago Dr. W. E. Paul quoted Dr. Steinier of Grinnel College as saying, "The rescue mission is the purest example of the early Christian church I know of." The term "church" does not appear in the Bible. The word there is "ecclesia"——made up of two Greek words "ec" meaning "out" and "kaleo" meaning "to call", in other words, "called out"——the original meaning of the word which we have translated "church". Can you think of any group who are more called out than we of the rescue mission field? We are the "ecciesia" a part of the universal body of Christ, and where could you find a finer demonstration of the true body of Christ and the complete fulfillment of our Lord's ideal for the church found in John 10:16. "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; they shall hear my voice and there shall be one fold and one shepherd." That pattern is completely fulfilled in the rescue mission, for here you find all evangelical denominations melted together and working in one common cause. We are the church.
The church is God's chosen instrument, however imperfect, and ever will be in this present dispensation. We can never expect perfection in the church, any more than in ourselves. Even our Lord could not accomplish that ideal——witness His twelve apostles, one who betrayed Him, another who denied Him, and all who fled from Him in His crucial hour. Witness, again, that prophetic picture of the final stage of the church in Revelation, where we find imperfection in all of the seven churches. If we are going to hold ourselves aloof from those whom we consider imperfect, then we will indeed, like David in Psalm 139, have to "take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea". But even there we shall find imperfection, for lo and behold, we have carried our own with us. Elijah is not alone in the temptation to sit under the juniper tree and bewail, "I, even I only am left," recorded in I Kings 19:14. Two things jolted Elijah out of this super—critical attitude. One was the Lord's announcement that He still had 7,000 like Elijah, who had not bowed the knee to Baal. What a jolt that must have been to him! The other one was that God had a great job for Elijah, namely to anoint a new king over Syria, a new king over Israel, and Elisha the prophet who was to succeed him. If ever we are tempted to sit under the juniper tree, let us remember that we are called out and that God has a great job for us to do, particularly in the rescue mission.
There are at least seven good reasons why we should and need to cooperate with the churches. First, most rescue missions originally are organized by the church. Second, our Board of Directors who govern our affairs come from our churches. Where else can we look for them? Third, our staff workers all come from the churches, and in the I.U.G.M. a superintendent must be a member of a church before he can affiliate. Fourth, our support primarily comes from the churches. Where else can we look for our funds? Fifth, our volunteer workers, such a vital part of every mission, must come to us from the churches, and it is there that we turn for help. Sixth, it is the churches who come and help us conduct our services. This is a two—way road, and we are thereby also contributing to the spiritual life of the community. Imperfect as they may be, they still are by far the best in any community, and we cannot afford to cut ourselves off from them. Whenever a new mission is opened or planned, the churches and pastors are always the first ones consulted.
Our perfect pattern, of course, is the Lord Jesus Christ, and we certainly cannot go wrong if we follow Him. In Luke 4:16 we read, "As his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath Day. Certainly, He knew how imperfect that synagogue was, how ultimately it would turn against Him and demand His crucifixion. Nevertheless, He went "as was His custom." You find the same is true of the apostle Paul all through his missionary journeys, as well as the other apostles and early Christian workers. One of the most misquoted passages of the Word of God is II Corinthians 6:17, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing." This has no reference whatsoever to churches or groups of believers. It is clearly applied to the worship of idols and the pagan practices of the heathen temples of Paul's day.
There are three general areas in which we may cooperate practically with the churches and find it, indeed, a two way road, mutually helpful.
First, at the top level by cooperating and affiliating with the city— side organizations such as the Ministerial Union. The mission superintendent can well afford to become a member of and attend these meetings, and in time will find opportunity to present the work of rescue missions. This Union should be invited occasionally, perhaps once a year, to hold one of its regular meetings in the mission. We have seen this done many times with benefit, and we make it a practice in Washington. They are eager to come. Indeed, when they have met in our building they have brought in as their speakers such top men as Harold E. Stassen, the brother of Walter Ruether, and Frank Lauback. It is well to attend the annual Church Federation dinners and some of their other functions and to show a genuine interest in the city—wide spiritual life, even though we may not be in accord with all of the individuals or methods. It is on this score, you remember, that Billy Graham has had his most severe criticism, but God still continues to honor and bless his ministry, and we believe that this is one of the principle reasons. He is following the practice of Jesus and Paul "as was His custom." In our thirteen years in Washington, I have been a member of the Board of Directors of the Washington Federation of Churches and a member of its Evangelistic Committee. Well do I remember a meeting of that committee when we were deciding whether to invite Billy Graham to Washington. Each of us was asked to express our opinion. I had just heard Billy Graham on the radio the day before and so stated in this meeting, with this comment, "I thought he was wonderful." Immediately a fellow minister of another denomination and a member of that committee said, and these are his exact words, "I thought he was rotten." You will be interested to know that that minister since has been promoted to a high office, and the other day I read in a paper published by our St. Paul's House in New York City a statement by this bishop urging the Episcopal ministers to cooperate with the Billy Graham meetings. He eVen went so far as to say, "Any man is a fool who will not cooperate." Men do change their minds, and sometimes we may be instrumental in helping them to see the light. I certainly do not mean to infer that we had anything to do with the change in this instance, for that certainly was not true.
Will you pardon a few personal examples, for if this could happen in our nation's Capitol and a city as large as Washington with its many distractions, it surely could happen in your city. Last Winter we were on our way to visit a lieutenant at Andrews Air Force Base when we stopped in for a moment at the annual New Yearns Reception of the Organized Bible Class Association of Washington. This is an organization of several hundred leaders of the Bible classes of the various churches. We only wanted to show our interest and pay our respects, but we had hardly entered the door when, to our surprise, and I might say disappointment, the leaders announced over the public address system that we were at the door and should come up into the reception line. Well, we were stuck and had to remain for the rest of the meeting. Mrs. Eberhardt and I were privileged to be in the reception line of the leaders of that great organization to meet the friends of the many churches. Over Labor Day weekend both of us have been asked to take part in their annual retreat at Western Maryland College at Westminster, Maryland, where there will be probably 700 of the leaders of all of our churches present. What an opportunity! Some time ago a forum was held in one of our churches representing several public schools. There were three panelists to discuss the subject of youth delinquency. One was an offer in our juvenile court, the second the principal of one of our largest high schools, and we were invited to be the third panelist representing the church and religion. This is purely the result of cooperation and a kindly attitude, and can happen in your city.
It was not always so. There was a time when, in a mistaken zeal and inexperience of youth, I was a "come—outer" myself. I remember some years ago being invited to speak to the Methodist ministers meeting at Indianapolis. Here was an opportunity for me to "tell them off" and I certainly had both guns loaded. I had read somewhere of a Methodist preacher at Evanston, Illinois, who had preached on the subject, "The Laughter of God." How I did go after these Methodist preachers for such a foolish subject! But I stuck my neck out. The message is always followed by a group discussion. One of the preachers present, and a good friend, said very kindly, "I don't know but I consider one of my finest sermons to be on "The Laughter of God," and he referred to such passages as Psalm 2:4, "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh." Well, another preacher changed his mind at that meeting, for he got more out of that meeting than anyone else, I am sure, and that was myself! Perhaps you have never been that foolish. Who of us haven't again and again felt like John in Luke 9:49, "Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name, and we forbade him because he followeth not with us." How often we have needed the reply of Jesus when He said, "Forbid him not for he that is not against us is for us." This is nothing new. You will find it back in the Old Testament in Numbers 11:27, "A young man ran and told Moses and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua said, My Lord, Moses, forbid them. And Moses said, Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets?" The temptation to root up the tares is terribly strong, and there are many times when we want to "take the bull by the horns," but we need the relaxing words of Jesus in Matthew 13:29, "Nay, lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them." I fear that a lot of wheat is being rooted up today by those who have zeal without knowledge. Let's remember the old Chinese proverb that "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."
The second manner in which we can cooperate with the churches is on the church level by visiting and cooperating with local churches. Of course, as we have said, to become a member of the I.U.G.M. a superintendent must be a member of a recognized church body and certainly all of our Directors should be members of churches and various denominations should be represented. It is good not to confine ourselves, however, to our own membership but to visit various churches even though we may not be invited, and when we do to greet the pastor at the door and tell who we are. I have never seen this fail to get a pleasant reaction, sometimes a surprise to the preacher and often an invitation to return. It can be the "open sesame" for future service. It is good to gather the various church bulletins and to select names from those bulletins for our mailing list, particularly the leaders in the churches. One superintendent visiting us from North Carolina the other day spoke of the hesitancy of the churches to cooperate, when the Board asked him to call personally on every minister in the city, inviting him to their next meeting. The results were good and it paid off. Not a bad example for the rest of us. Place the ministers and the churches upon your mailing list and see that they get every thing that you mail out. In time it will bring results. If you have any of the mission films, write or phone the churches and offer to show to any organization in the church, however small. Take some of the mission converts who have proven themselves into the churches to give their testimonies. Seek and accept opportunities to tell the mission story before the various groups, missionary societies, young people's meetings, etc. Always be brief and be sure to keep within their time limit, and to respect their wishes. Once you gain their confidence, other opportunities will come. This will lead to calls for pulpit supply. Some of us do not find time to accept all of these calls. Just this month we had to turn down one of the finest churches in Washington for its morning service because of lack of time. We did this reluctantly because a man who was an alcoholic and converted in the Central Union Mission about eight years ago is now one of the principal laymen in that church, holding about five different positions. However it was not he, but the pastor, who called us.
The primary consideration in this second category is to slowly but surely build up confidence in the churches. This is particularly true in a city where the mission has had an unsavory reputation in the past, as has often happened. It will take a long time to first break down the prejudice, and then second, to demonstrate that you are different and that your work deserves support. But be patient; the results will~come. The old means save some. And this I do for the gospel's sake." What a pattern and program for we missionaries. It worked for Paul. It will work for us.
With our every night gospel services we have an ideal opportunity to work in many church groups, and it is better to use just as many as possible. In Washington we started with once a month, but found that we could not accommodate enough groups, so now we must limit them to once every other month. Keep the services within your own charge, usually giving the invitation yourself. But give them ample opportunity to cooperate and use their own originality. Cooperation here can also include picnics for your children and your summer camp, filling of Christmas bags, and sponsoring of children at Christmas time, women of the churches to take part in your women's auxiliary and other organizations. Arrange for tours of your building with church groups, and invite church organizations to hold their regular monthly meetings in your building. Many will welcome this opportunity, especially missionary societies. Place these groups on your mailing list and watch for interesting information in the newspapers regarding church leaders, church elections, new pastors, etc. Add them to your mailing list and occasionally write a letter of greeting or congratulations. Often churches have leftover food from their church dinners, especially on a rainy night, and are glad to send it to the mission. Never refuse such an offering. The good will is worth many times the value of the food.
It is probably not the best policy to have ministers on the Board of Directors for several reasons, but it may be well, as in Washington, to have a separate Ministerial Council of advisory capacity with carefully selected ministers representing various denominational groups who meet at your building regularly and hear reports. They form a liaison with other churches and ministers. The opportunities for cooperation are infinite. You can plan special occasions in your mission that will interest church groups.
Never criticize churches nor invite speakers to come in who make it a practice to do so. This is one of the most common causes of alienation of the churches cooperation. Do not invite speakers for your annual meeting who are of either extreme. One year we invited Dr. Daniel A. Poling, editor of CHRISTIAN HERALD MAGAZINE, and one who is largely responsible for the success of Billy Graham, and one of the strongest supporters and friends of rescue missions in America.
As a practical demonstration, I have here the copy of our 1956 report on church relations, made by our bookkeeper, a report which is made every year. There are 113 different churches of about a dozen different denominations, all of them, of course, evangelical. Some of these churches contributed cash, but there are also included lunches, Christmas bags, speaking engagements, etc. In some of these churches as many as nine different groups and classes contributed. They are all listed individually and the amount shown. The Presbyterians topped the list in contributions, and the Baptists in contacts. The National Presbyterian, our President's church, is at the top of the list in individual churches in amount given. That is, I believe, interesting. A study like this is worthwhile and very interesting to your church groups and pastors. The total amount received in cash is $5,133.00, some of it from church budgets, and some from offerings. It would be well worthwhile to make such a study in your own community.
In conclusion may I say again that such cooperation really pays off, not only financially, for that is the least consideration and is really a by—product. Financial results will always come when the ground—work is done in spiritual matters. We do very little appealing for funds, especially in our church connections. That is not our object but it inevitably follows. We repeat, this is a two—way road. You will recall that Sunday School teachers will often use "mission examples and testimonies" in the teaching of the lessons. Pastors will also use such stories and examples in their sermons. We've seen this happen again and again, and in our earlier ministry before we went into rescue mission work, we did that very thing. I remember some time ago visiting a Presbyterian church in Petoskey, Michigan, utterly unknown. To our pleasant surprise, the pastor used a mission story in his sermon. We have heard the same thing in the Bayview Methodist Conference in Michigan.
A very much confused lad of 18 came into the Wheeler Rescue Mission one Christmas night because it was the only place open on Christmas Day. He gave his heart to the Lord, completed his college and seminary, and is today the pastor of a large church in Ohio, with two morning services. When we were invited to speak in a Presbyterian church at Aurora, Illinois, a service which was broadcast, we were pleased to hear the pastor tell his radio audience how he and his brother, both ministers, had gotten their start in the City Mission in Dayton, Ohio.
One time in Indianapolis years ago there were three different Sunday School superintendents who were converts of the Wheeler Mission. One of our Evangelical missionaries in Japan tells us that much of the inspiration in his early Christian life resulted from a sign which he saw in the Sunshine Mission of St. Louis, "We should see Jesus." He was the president of the Christian Endeavor who conducted the service that night in the mission, representing a Presbyterian church. Some of us were present in the Presbyterian church in Wilmington, Delaware, when its pastor, Dr. Willard G. Purdy, told his Sunday School how he got his start in the Sunshine Mission of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Examples like this are almost infinite and in the final analysis this is about the strongest reason for full cooperation between the churches and the rescue mission. This, indeed, is the ecclesia at its best, the "purest example of the early Christian church."