In recent years brethren have gone on a real binge - an organizing binge. For several decades after its inception the proprietors of the Restoration Movement just dabbled with organizing efforts. They built a school here, an orphanage there, but nothing elaborate. In the last few years, however, all heaven (?) has broken loose in this regard. Inspired by "visions" of grandeur rather than the Holy Spirit, uninspired men have set out to synthesize, to unify organizationally, the varied resources of God's people on earth. The results are a matter of record.
Hardly a week goes by without news arriving of some new enterprise being put together for the benefit of the Brotherhood. No matter what the problem is, somewhere among Churches of Christ you can find an organized solution for it. Thus we have "Brotherhood organizations" to care for the sick, feed the hungry, tend to the troubled, produce the preachers, train the Church leaders, coordinate the work of missionaries, etc. At this point our Brotherhood cannot be nearly as efficient in the use of these organizations as the "denominations" are, mainly because we have no established governmental system in place that can properly oversee this growing network of organizations. It will be several years yet before a way to control all these institutions can be worked out. Still, for "new kids" on the block of "organized" Christendom, Churches of Christ have done quite well. Yet for all their organizing efforts, the ecclesiastical engineers among us have miserably failed in one particular area. Their negligence is strangely unaccounted for and entirely inexcusable. Something needs to be done about it, and I mean pronto.
The Church of Christ is in bad need of its own investigative agency, something on the order of the FBI. Perhaps a sacred "CIA" would be better. The CHRISTIAN INTELLIGENCE AGENCY. Doesn't this have a good sound to it? Anyway, whatever we call it, this is without doubt the greatest organizational void among Churches of Christ today. While we have just about every other kind of "Christian'' organization available for our beck and call, we do not have an organization we can turn to when we need to check up on all these other organizations. Therefore someone out there needs to get busy.
Now I realize there will be critics of my idea. But let us not be dissuaded. To satisfy the old fogies who still want everything to look and sound "Scriptural," the newest Brotherhood Agency no doubt will have to be "put under a local Eldership" somewhere. This poses no problem. There are many local Elderships out there ready and waiting to be "put in charge" of world wide programs of the Churches of Christ. In any event, we must not allow skeptics to deter us. An investigative Agency is desperately needed by the Brotherhood. How we have survived thus far without one is a mystery. Just think how many investigative departments the United States Government has - the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Treasury Department, the Border Patrol, the Office of Attorney General, plus several Special Prosecutors, not to mention a veritable host of state and local agencies. Now if a nation like ours must have this many agencies just to keep track of its citizens, how in heaven's name can we expect the kingdom of God on earth to get by without having even ONE agency like this?
Brethren! Wake up. As matters now stand, no one but GOD knows what is going on among Christian people upon earth, who is doing right, who is sinning, etc. This is an extremely dangerous situation. It needs correcting. The solution is a Christian Intelligence Agency (CIA). There is no other answer. Someone should be raising funds for it right now. As soon as the money begins coming in, someone needs to acquire land, build an adequate facility, purchase appropriate equipment and hire the necessary personnel, preferably Christians with experience in law enforcement. As quickly as possible an elite corps of special "agents" should be trained, men who can go out and find out what is REALLY happening throughout the Brotherhood. To get the full story these "agents" of the Sacred Secret Service may well have to undertake covert operations from time to time. In spite of the dubious nature of surreptitious snooping, especially by Christians on Christians, the benefits will far outweigh the hazards. Just consider, if you will, the various situations in dire need of investigation at this very moment.
For one thing, vast sums of money are moved every week into the coffers of the Churches. In cases like the infamous Sixth and Izard Church of Christ scandal in Little Rock, Arkansas, the very disciples who donated money have been forbidden by Church "Rulers" to know where the money went. Just think how much a Christian CIA could have helped in this instance. Vast sums are also moved each month, not only between Churches of Christ, but from Churches to a vast horde of para-Church organizations, sometimes known as "Church-related" institutions. For the most part the Brotherhood is given inadequate accounting of these funds. The financial statements I have read leave many unanswered questions With so much money involved, is there not a danger of a "diversion of funds" in some cases? Where do all these dollars go? Are large sums being sucked up by inordinate salaries and under-the-table "perks" given to the Officers in charge of these operations? We simply cannot afford to have The Charlotte Observer uncover a Jim-and-Tammy scandal among Churches of Christ. To keep this from happening we need a Church, or Church-related Agency whose business it will be to monitor the financial affairs, both of the Churches and the para-Church organizations within the Brotherhood. At the moment no one, officially anyhow, is in the business of doing this. My proposed CIA would take care of this great need.
For another thing, there are rampant rumors that a few gospel preachers are out baptizing bona fide SINNERS! Not just those "raised in the Church," but real sure 'nuff SINNERS of the world. Some of these sinners have even committed "adultery" no less. Obviously, every suspicious ease of this kind must be investigated quickly and completely, lest the Lord's Church be filled up with folks who have actually made serious mistakes in their past life. Can Church leaders allow this? If these wretched souls (assuming they turn out to be adulterers of the married/divorced/married species) are to be accepted at all, they will have to be made into eunuchs by some method or other. Making eunuchs out of folks is a painful business. Before taking such drastic action, Church leaders MUST know the whole sordid story of each suspect. But who pray tell is going to gather all the necessary information? The poor beleaguered "local Preacher" certainly cannot be expected to undertake this enormous task. Why, to get all the correct facts on even two or three multi-divorced, cross-married couples would send him wildly chasing geese all over the country, talking to divorce lawyers, researching court records, comparing motel bills, interviewing family members, cross-examining witnesses, taking depositions, etc. Even then "the truth" might not emerge. For sure, with all his other heavy duties, the average Preacher could never hope to jump over a job this big.
Other considerations aside, while a few Preachers do a little amateur detective work in this area from time to time, on a whole they are not trained in professional methods of gathering such sensitive information. Hence the need for special "agents" from our own CIA. You see, if Church leaders just had a dependable agency to turn to in times like this (I mean one existing only for the benefit of Churches of Christ, and "under a local Eldership" to make it scriptural and legal), they could get to the bottom of every ugly case. They would be able to sort out confessed adulterers into two piles: Type "A" and Type "B." Type A would be the better grade adulterer, the fellow who shamelessly carried on a three-year love affair with the divorcee next door. Upon being converted this adulterer would be accepted and granted full membership in the local Church. He would also be permitted by the Church fathers to have a wife.
The Type B adulterer would be the man who steadfastly refused to sleep with the divorcee next door without the benefit of clergy. He insisted on doing what he thought was honorable, so he divorced his wife and married the divorcee. Now as you Bible scholars know, his particular brand of adultery is much worse, for by it he unwittingly "forfeited his right to ever have a wife." Upon being converted three years later, this adulterer would either be rejected outright or be forced to separate from his wife and take a vow of' celibacy. This is the heavy penalty imposed upon this type of adulterer by our clergy, for the one who is "living in adultery" as they like to describe it. Church leaders certainly would not want to err here and make a eunuch out of the wrong fellow. Therefore I see no alternative. Local leaders need access to an investigative Agency that can provide them with the FACTS in every ease that comes up.
Then too, there are reports coming in almost daily indicating there may be illegal aliens in our midst. As you well know, although the Church of Christ practices open communion, it also practices closed fellowship. (This is quite interesting, by the way.) For this reason all undocumented aliens need to be expelled immediately. But before an alien can be deported he must first be identified. This means that the "conversion" of every member will need to be carefully scrutinized by the Authorities. Here is where a reliable "agent" of our CIA would come in handy. In the event of a suspected alien, the CIA could be called in. A trusted investigator could be put in charge of the case. This agent would then look into the particulars of the baptism in question; who performed it, where, what exact words were spoken at the time, etc. Later a lie detector test would also be given to the suspect in order to ascertain his true and full state of mind at the time of his baptism. By such means the CIA could assist brethren everywhere in knowing who their brethren really are.
Worse than this, however, is the problem of undocumented Preachers. There are constant reports these days of men who have somehow managed to get hold of a pulpit without being fully validated, either by a preacher school, a Christian college, or the editor of a legitimate gospel paper. These maverick ministers are rumored to be preaching from sermon outlines that do not have the imprimatur of ANY preacher-producing Agency of the entire Brotherhood. Furthermore, it is also a known fact that a few preachers who passed through a proper ministerial "oven" still came out half-baked. The indoctrination did not "take" in some cases The Brotherhood cannot survive a situation like this for long. All such preachers need to be branded and blackballed.
Now, frankly, keeping up with all the Church of Christ preachers of the world is a king-sized job. No matter how plugged in they are to the grapevines that have been laid in recent years, a handful of big-time Preachers simply cannot keep tabs on all the preaching of all the preachers who preach in all the places. It becomes more and more vital, therefore, that the Brotherhood have a recognized Bureau of Investigation to take care of this critical problem. If professionally staffed, if given sufficient funds with which to operate, such an agency could soon build up a full bank of information on every gospel preacher in the world, no matter how remote his locale. All this information could be safely stored in the Christian Computer Center up at CIA Headquarters. There it would be readily available to anyone authorized to ask for it, such as previously documented Church Officers and/or Preachers. True, it might take a number of years to assemble all this information. But in time EVERY preacher who dares to deviate from the orthodox conclusions could be clearly identified, isolated, and eventually forced out of the Brotherhood. Yes, it will cost a great deal of money to set up an investigative agency of this magnitude and make it effective. Yet who can doubt that it will be worth what it costs? After all, how else can we hope to rid the Churches of Christ of preachers who make us think?
Now all this will sound silly to some. But think it over. Right now we have a terribly sloppy system of investigating evil and error inside the Churches of Christ. Presently everybody is sort of investigating everybody else, pell mell. It is true that certain "famous" preaching brethren, with all the apostolic eminence of Paul, have sort of assumed for themselves "the care of all the churches." But bless their hearts, these men labor under a severe handicap. They simply do not have at their disposal the information gathering capability necessary for doing this job adequately. Too many adulterers (of the Type B variety) are slipping into the kingdom undetected by God. And there is strong suspicion that some folks sitting on Church of Christ pews claiming to be Christians are not. They may in fact be tares rather than wheat. And, in spite of all efforts to get rid of them, a few undocumented preachers still survive here and there. NONE of this would happen if the Brotherhood just had its own CIA. Of course, to be effective it will have to be an Agency with great credibility, one set up and run by "sound" brethren, one that all Christians everywhere can safely rely on. Then should a suspect show up on the local scene (like a strange preacher or a twice married saint), Church leaders could merely submit his name to the CIA and quickly receive a computerized printout with all the dope on it. This way Church leaders would always know what action to take.
Does anyone inquire into WHOSE RESPONSIBILITY it is to set up this new Church Agency? The same people, I suppose, who have set up all the other agencies that presently fuel (or are fueled by) the Churches of Christ. In any case, some energetic Preacher with experience in setting up para-Church organizations needs to start working on this project. With luck it could be fully operational in a matter of months. Once set up, securing a staff will certainly be no problem. Several brethren have been doing investigative reporting for some time now anyway. They will probably be the first to volunteer. As for myself, I do not plan to apply for the job. Right now I am happy to let the Lord do his own detective work.