We Can Yet Restore New Testament Christianity
It has been observed that we have not restored first century Christianity. The implication alarms some; it implies that we do not have the truth. You may be more startled when I voice agreement - we have not restored first century Christianity! But my reference is not to the doctrine of the apostolic age, but to the spirit (attitude) of those Christians. I believe with all my heart that we have the doctrinal truths of the New Testament, but it is time our zeal caught up with our knowledge. The early Christians were "scattered abroad ... went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). It took those disciples less than 35 years to preach the gospel to the whole inhabited earth (Col. 1: 23). They had additions daily because they taught daily (Acts 2:47; 5:42).
We have the advantage over first century disciples in nearly every way, but we allow our stepping stones to become stumbling blocks. We have nice buildings, automobiles, mass media, better education - and I favor them all. Yet in many ways we have been substituting physical accomplishments for spiritual accomplishments. Attend a business meeting sometime, and you will see what I mean. The most important question that should be discussed in business meetings is "Where can we preach the gospel next?" It should have top priority. But usually the care of the building, parking lot, and the shrubs is what we spend our time on. Let it be remembered, the Great Commission does not say "Go ye into all the world and build church buildings. . ." We have become so wed to the church building that we do not think the Lords work can be accomplished without it. In many ways the building becomes a stumbling block instead of a stepping stone. (This may merit a future article on "church buildings.")
I am alarmed to hear brethren argue that personal evangelism is not necessary for their salvation. Is being faithful necessary, or is a man "once saved, always saved?" On what basis do we decide that Acts 20:7 is binding but Acts 20:20 (house-to-house teaching) is not binding? The apostle said both were binding (Phil. 4:9).
It is easy for brethren to ridicule the "house-to-house" teaching of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Frankly, I cannot see that we have a leg to stand on. I am persuaded that it is their attitude toward their beliefs that causes them to make many conversions and not their doctrine (it is repulsive to many) We should be astonished that a man who has an eight-hour-a-day job and a large family can spend five hours per week doing personal work in order to teach error, while many brethren who have better working hours and smaller families spend no time doing personal work in order to teach truth. It is difficult to say which is worse.
Congregations would do well to follow the example of the North Street church in Tampa, Florida. They have baptized more then 235 in the past three years. Ninety-seven of these came in 1968. In 1969 there were 101 baptisms (94 of these resulted from home studies). If they had not engaged in personal work, they would have had only seven baptisms last year. Thus far in 1970, they are having responses at nearly every service. In reply to a letter from me, Brother Paul Andrews (preacher at North Street) said "One thing we do, which seemingly many overlook, is that we continue to teach for at least a year after a family has obeyed the gospel. As a result we lose very few that we baptize." They have outgrown their present facilities and plans have already been made to start another congregation. This is the kind of "Church split" that is always good. May we imitate this example.
Brethren, let us not be like the barren fig tree which produces nothing but leaves. Jesus said good seed would produce "some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty, He that hath ears, let him hear" (Matt. 13:8, 9).
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 8, pp. 9-10