In the 1831 article “The Co-operation of Churches,” Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott presented the biblical basis for co-operating churches within “districts.” Co-operation should be greatly encouraged. Few congregations work together toward common goals any more, and “non-institutional” congregations reject such a scriptural practice. Here is an exert from what Campbell had to say:
A church can do what an individual disciple cannot, and so can a district of churches do what a single congregation cannot. But although reason and the nature of things make this apparent, it must, pass for nothing as respects the conscience, if we cannot show that in the apostolic churches such co-operation existed, and that it was a part of the means adopted by the authority of the Lord for the furtherance of the gospel. This we hope to make very apparent in stating and illustrating a few propositions:
1. The churches were districted in the age of the Apostles. This is evident from the classifications so frequently mentioned in the Epistles. For example: ‘The churches of Galatia,’ mentioned 1 Cor. xvi. 1. ‘The churches of Macedonia,’ mentioned 2 Cor. viii. 1. ‘The churches of Judea,’ named Gal. i. 22. ‘The churches of Asia,’ spoken of 1 Cor. xvi. 19. That they were so districted with a reference to some object, or for some cause, must be obvious. The question now is, For what cause were they so districted? This we answer in the form of a separate proposition–
2. The churches planted in those districts of country, because of some local and discriminating interest, as well as because of their co-operation for certain specified purposes, were denominated from the districts of country in which they lived.
That churches of certain districts had peculiar interests, arising from their own peculiar circumstances, is evinced on sundry occasions. Hence all the churches of the Gentiles gave thanks to Priscilla and Aquila, because they hazarded their lives to save the life of Paul. The Gentile churches show, in this their deep interest in Paul, because he was their Apostle.
Particular districts also, co-operated in contributing to the necessities of those who lived in another district of country, because of some consideration which called forth their peculiar energies, made it their duty more than others’ to assist them. Hence Paul ‘gave orders to all the churches in Galatia,’ and to some if not all ‘in Achaia,’ to make collections and contributions for the suffering poor in “the churches of Judea.” But that which most immediately bears upon the object in view is expressed in the following proposition–
3. The primitive churches in certain districts did co-operate in choosing certain persons for the work of the Lord, and these persons when chosen were called the ‘Messengers of the Churches’
We are expressly told, 2 Cor. viii. 19. that a certain person was chosen by the churches to accompany the Apostles in ministering to the saints; and that persons so chosen were messengers of the churches, who co-operated in employing them for certain purposes. This is all that is necessary to our present purpose. It is now shown from the authoritative book that the ancient churches did, in certain districts, unite in choosing and appointing certain persons for religious purposes–and that these persons, chosen by the churches of any district, were the messengers of the churches of that district. All that we infer from this, is, that we have good authority, when occasion requires, to go and do likewise. But of this more in our next.
Walter Scott wrote in addition,
When the church of Jerusalem wanted people to attend tables, they chose seven, and set them over this business. When the church of Antioch determined to aid the poor saints in the Jewish capital, they sent their contribution by the hands of special messengers, Barnabas and Paul; and when the matter of circumcision had to be determined, these two champions were sent for the judgment of the Apostles to Jerusalem. The church of Philippi sent Epaphroditus to Paul, and the same people had formerly sent once and again to him while in Thessalonica, and in Revelations the seven messengers which came from the Asiatic churches to John in Patmos, were returned with letters from Jesus to their respective institutions at Ephesus, Smyrna, &c. &e. Besides these and many other instances which could be adduced of single churches despatching their business by the agency of chosen men among the brethren, we have several instances of a number of churches in the same district concurring in the election of individuals to do special business–e. g. In 2 Cor. chap. viii. the Apostle speaks of a person whose praise was in the gospel through all the congregations; and not only this, but ‘who,’ says he, ‘was chosen by the congregations to travel with us,’ &c. Paul himself was chosen of the Macedonians to carry their contribution to Jerusalem, and he speaks of men who were the messengers of the churches and the glory of Christ. And let it be observed that the choice of the brethren was not overruled by the Apostles; for then it would not have been their choice. The Apostles said, ‘Look you out from among yourselves seven men’ It does not read, ‘We will look out seven men;’ nor ‘Look out seven men whom we shall name.’ Again, Paul says, (1 Cor. chap. xvi.) ‘And when I come, whomsoever you shall approve by letters, them I will send to carry your gift to Jerusalem.’ The brethren, then, of any individual church, and the churches of any individual district, did, as we see, enjoy the right, and did exercise the liberty of concurring in the free and uncontrolled election of chosen men from among themselves for the accomplishment of special purposes–i. e. evangelical purposes.