I Am Afraid
C. D. Plum
Paden City, West Virginia
Paul was afraid of certain practices and movements among the brethren in his day. He said, "Ye observe days, and months, and times and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain" (Gal. 4:10-11). I am no less afraid of certain practices and movements among the brethren in my day. I do not mean that because I am afraid I am a coward. I have not once thought about running. The thought of surrender has not even entered my mind. But I am just what the subject of this article says, "Afraid."
I am afraid of this so-called "youth-movement" in the church of Christ. I just don't like the name "youth movement" to start with, and this name is as unscriptural as "Christian Endeavor Society." Some one said this movement started in Russia. That may be true. I am sure of this one thing however, this movement is not scriptural. Yes, yes, now, I believe the youth should be taught and trained; taught the word of God and trained in the way of righteousness. Most certainly I am not opposed to dividing into classes for Bible study. All of this has been going on in the Ohio Valley and elsewhere for years, with my endorsement and encouragement. This isn't what I mean by the so-called youth movement. Most certainly I am in favor of encouraging the faithful young men of the congregation to take public part in speaking, leading the singing, praying, waiting on the Lord's table, and such like public services. This isn't what I mean by the so-called youth movement. Then what do I mean? Just what is the thing of which "I am Afraid," and which I think is fraught with danger:
This is it. Going like a forest fire is the calling of "young peoples' meetings" in our part of the world. I have before me several letters calling such meetings. I understand that this condition is general instead of local. Hence the publicity of this article.
In these letters I note a number of things the trend of which is everything else but scriptural. The letters received by the various congregations are addressed to: "The Young People of the Church of Christ." Emphasis is laid on: "The Youth of the Congregation are planning." And the youth of your congregation are invited to "a meeting of Christian youth in this area." Also the "elders and preachers may attend as chaperons," and be served as guests at a picnic supper served by this church. While it is stated that no ages are barred from attending, only those between the ages of "fifteen and thirty years of age" will take part in the service that follows the supper. Only ages up to "thirty" are "especially" invited. In some places the youth of the local congregation is pledged in the letters to furnish "the drinks and trimmings."
The subject matter in these meetings ranges from "singing only," to other acts of worship and discussions of such subjects as "The Christian Home and Missionary Work." Good subjects, these, but perhaps a little heavy for tender youth.
These letters are variously signed: "Committee" and "The Young People -------- Church of Christ." And some are just signed Church of Christ, and the address given. Not one time have I seen the elders names signed to these letters calling these meetings. At least two times it has been reported to me that letters were received, and statements signed "The Young Peoples' Church of Christ." Those letters I have not seen, however, but this latter step is only in keeping with the trend away from that which is scriptural and safe. This is why I am afraid. Once started in the wrong direction it is hard to call a halt.
What Is Wrong in This?
1. The elders are not the leaders of this so-called youth movement. They are chaperons. The elders are not making the plans nor calling the meetings. Young preachers, and other young of the congregation, are planning on calling these meetings. This "committee business" is a step in the wrong direction even if I am on the committee. To by-pass elders with committees is fraught with danger whether among the young or old.
2. But even if the elders called these meetings I'd have to cry against them for they are setting up age barriers in the church. Christ died to remove the "middle wall" that separated those who were to be his people. Why should we set up another barrier between the people of God, the age barrier? Deny this the young people will, but it is true, nevertheless, as the soberminded Christians can readily see. I am told of one place where the young people of this youth movement have gone so far as to have a separate place of worship from the older members. They have junior elders and deacons, and a young preacher. Yes, brethren, I am afraid of this youth movement. And my judgment is that you should be afraid of it too.
3. Great oaks from little acorns grow, some one said. Yes, it was a little movement, insignificant some people then said that launched the Christian Church. This great transgression of the people of God, call it digression if you wish, was started in a very small way. At the root of it all was a disrespect for a Christian example, and for a thus saith the Lord. Oh this is not like that, the followers of this youth movement will say, but just as urgently did the Christian Church once say they were not going into digression. A man by the name of Linkletter, a Christian Church preacher, built himself up a following among the young people in these parts years ago. He made his movement appear innocent to the young. At the proper time these young people voted the elders out in some places. Linkletter took charge. Digression was born. Already, in the words of another, "Outsiders are calling some of the lectureships 'the preachers' convention of the church of Christ.' "just so it is taking place that this youth movement is being called the "young peoples" convention of the church of Christ."
4. Deny it the followers of this movement most surely will, but this youth movement is creating cleavage in the body of Christ. You are not in my age class, go to your "own" meeting is taking shape already among us, if what I read and hear is reliable evidence.
I have encouraged a number of young men to make preaching their vocation. Many will testify that I have helped them get started. Surely no one can justly accuse me of being against young people. But what these young people can do by way of speaking in a young peoples' meeting, they can do in an "all peoples' meeting," without the cleavage element being present.
Now please get me right. I love the young people connected with these past young peoples' meetings, assembled from various places. They are the salt of the earth. Their intentions are good and true. They mean well. But they are young and inexperienced. They have not learned to fear little movements that trend in the wrong direction.
5. My judgment is they are impressed and held largely because of the social aspect. And herein is also a danger. Secular education is teaching the church to be a social medium. These young people are unconsciously falling in line. It is alright to be sociable, but the church is a divine institution, its work is largely spiritual. The Christian home has the responsibility of getting the young people together, not the church. The church is not an amusement agency. Innocent amusement belongs to the home, not the church. Yes, the Christian home is responsible for the education of children, and also their sociableness and amusements, not the church. Separate the social aspect from these young peoples' meetings and I believe the movement will die.
6. In some of the young peoples' meetings I have heard that the girls take public part in being on the floor, reading a paper or making announcements. So far as I know this is not generally true, but wrong nevertheless and is only used here to show the trend is not apostolic. So, in view of all I have seen and read and heard, I am sure the so-called youth movement is dangerous and I here raise my voice against it.
Truth Magazine VII: 2, pp. 10-11