By Mike Willis
“Gymnastics For Christ”
Several years ago when I first started preaching, I heard brethren criticizing the denominations for some of the shenanigans they used to draw crowns which were clearly unauthorized in God’s word. Some of the things which denominations have used in areas where I have preached are as follows: (1) Karate For Christ. A man who held the black belt in Karate came to a certain church to break a few brick bats and to slip in a little gospel while he was there. (2) Talking Birds. Another evangelist had a different presentation in that he had certain birds which he had trained to quote scripture. Of course, the birds received greater advertising than did the scriptures. (3) Chalk Artists. Several denominations have used men who were expert in the use of chalk to draw people out to see them, I mean to hear the gospel. (4) Fooey Louie, The Gospel Magician. One of the most ridiculous displays I have seen, however, occurred in Avon, Indiana where a local Baptist church had Fooey Louie, The Gospel Magician entertain, I mean teach, the children. During the course of his ad, he produced a dove (or pigeon) which subsequently started flying all over the auditorium. The whole group became concerned about catching it. Having witnessed that scene, I can guarantee you that there was not much gospel taught there.
But, my brethren, in recent years, some who call themselves “Churches of Christ” have gotten in the act. Hence, we do not hear many sermons from them in which they criticize the denominations for these ridiculous acts to draw a crowd. In the January 1, 1970 issue of The Examiner (bulletin of the church which meets at 1201 Meeks Street in Corinth, Mississippi), W. Eural Bingham published a picture and article regarding some of our liberal brethren’s escapades at that time. Under a picture published in an Oxford, Mississippi newspaper which showed Jack Exum holding a shotgun was this caption:
“Evangelist Jack Exum holds two of the 35 weapons that will be on display at the Sunday evening service at 7:30 p.m. at the Church of Christ on North Lamar. Mr. Exum has been conducting services at the church each night this week. Calvin Conn is pastor of the local Church of Christ.”
Now you know why you are not hearing Jack Exum preach lessons about the ridiculous things the denominationals are doing to draw a crowd. He is one of them!
Last week, another bulletin crossed my desk. It was the Medina Children’s Home News (June, 1977). Under the heading “An Unusual . . . But Interesting Lesson,” the News featured a picture of a man dressed in the outfit which gymnasts wear while performing a routine who was going through a gymnastics routine. Underneath the picture was this caption:
“Ben Zickefoose, Assistant Professor in Physical Education at Abilene Christian University brought a very interesting lesson, ‘Gymnastics For Christ’, to the staff and children at Medina Home. We are grateful to Ben for sharing with us his time and talents in such a manner.”
Frankly, I would just as soon send orphans to a Baptist group if this is typical of the “religious upbringing” these kids are receiving at the hand of “Christians.” Regardless of whether or not it is right to support benevolent institutions from church treasuries (which I am convinced is altogether without Bible authority), those who are running the show at Medina Children’s Home are teaching those children who are being raised there a gospel of gimmicks and not the gospel of Christ.
New Herald Of Truth TV Programs
The next quarter of TV programs to be shown by Herald of Truth has been announced. I think that the titles of these programs reveal the direction in which the program is headed. Here are the titles for the next quarter of year of programming:
“The High Cost of Fear”
“I’m Facing Divorce”
“I’m Getting Old”
“I Feel Guilty”
“I’m Drinking Too Much”
“I’ve Lost Everything”
“I Have a Rebellious Child”
“My Health Is Gone”
I think that you can see the emphasis of this series of programs; it has turned away from teaching men the nature of the Lord’s church in contrast to denominationalism and from teaching God’s plan of salvation in contrast to what the denominations are telling men that they must do to be saved. Instead, it is concentrating its time to meeting the social needs of man.
For a number of years, the representatives of Herald of Truth have bragged about the fact that certain denominations are using their films and that the television networks are giving them free air time. Why shouldn’t the denominations use their material? Herald of Truth is not teaching any distinctive doctrines! They are not teaching the oneness of the church and the exclusive plan of salvation revealed by Jesus Christ. Instead, they are teaching the same things that denominations have been teaching for years.
During the years from 1966 to 1971 (the latest figures which I have available to me at the present), the networks paid for 61.5- of the air time which was used by Herald of Truth. Does it ever occur to you to ask why the networks are willing to donate $4,180,488 in free air time to the Herald of Truth? Is it because the men who are managing the networks are such devoted Christians? Is it because they are in sympathy with what the Herald of Truth is trying to teach as to the oneness of the church and the divine plan of salvation? Certainly not! The reason that the networks are willing to donate so much free air time to Herald of Truth is because it is the best entertainment they can air on Sunday morning. They are interested in but one thing-having the largest viewing audience. They apparently feel that Herald of Truth is the most likely to be watched of the programs to be aired. You brethren who are on the radio and television in the various areas across the country, are radio stations giving you free air time? Why would they give free air time to Herald of Truth and not to you? I suggest that one reason is that you are not coddling the denominations as Herald of Truth is doing.
I continue to be amazed at some of the things which I have heard used as gimmicks to persuade children to ride the “Joy Bus.” I have heard of brethren hiding $5.00 under one of the seats of the bus so that the lucky kid who happened to be sitting in it would become $5.00 richer. I have heard of them promising the kids Kool-aid and candy, a stop at Burger Chef or McDonald’s, a free ice cream cone, etc.
I know of one man who decided that it was time for him to leave the liberals when he was asked to write a check for $98.00 to pay for one month’s supply of candy which was being given to bribe the children to ride one church’s “Joy Bus.” As the treasurer of the congregation, he refused to write the check and decided to identify with a sound congregation in this area.
But, of all the stunts which I have heard used to increase the number of people who ride the “Joy Bus,” this one has got to take the cake, I mean the pie. It seems that the church in Centerville, Ohio was trying to increase the number of persons who were riding their “Joy Bus” so they offered to let the team captain of the bus who brought the most to the services hit one of the elders in the face with a cream pie during one of the services of the church. And so they did at one of the Wednesday night services!
Can you imagine that, my brethren? One of the men who is supposed to be respected for his spiritual leadership and his concern for the Lord’s church, allowing this to go on in the meeting house of the Lord’s people? He who should be one of the respected leaders being made the laughingstock of the church and the world! Woe be to the shepherds of Israel who lead the Lord’s people to such travesty. Instead of being hit with a cream pie at that end of his body, the elder who would allow this needs to be kicked at the other end of his body.
But, my brethren, if you want to be with the religious “in” crowd, you are supposed to close you eyes to such like and preach about the wonderful grace of God and the sweet unity which exists among God’s people. (Frankly, if these be God’s people, I have trouble distinguishing them from the Devil’s children; they look too much alike.) However, we are to keep saying “peace, peace” regardless of what we see going on among us, if our unity-in-diversity brethren are correct. After all, no one was ever cast out of the kingdom of God because of imbecility-not even imbecility of intellect. So, keep your mouth shut and go on preaching peace and love.
Frankly, I am not going to shut my mouth. I am going to oppose sin whenever and wherever I see it, even if in so doing I must oppose those who once stood for the truth. Truth is truth and sin is sin regardless of who practices it and preaches it. The fact that those who are guilty of sin have been properly baptized does not alter the fact that what they are doing is destroying the Lord’s church. He who destroys God’s church must be opposed.
Truth Magazine XXI: 45, pp. 707-709
November 17, 1977