A Tragic Show Oft Repeated
A few days ago a long-time friend and faithful brother in the Lord phoned to talk with me as he passed near Port Arthur in his work. He phoned to see how the family and I were doing, to tell me of his work in a new congregation begun about two years ago, and to ask my advice.
He lives in a small town, about 6,000 population, near a large metropolitan area, and for years he and his family drove into the city to worship, about 35-40 miles round trip. Desiring to begin a faithful, scriptural church in his own community (there was already a very liberal-modernistic church of Christ in the town), he consulted with several other families from different congregations who are within driving distance of his community, and they agreed together to begin a "faithful" church in that community. They set the date, met in the city hall, and began with thirty-seven people present and shortly grew in number to fifty or more, had a contribution of about $275.00 per week, bought a lot on which to build a meetinghouse, and the future looked bright. Two or three were baptized, several confessed neglect, and all prospects were for a good work, a good church, and steady growth.
Then it began. As the men took their turns preaching at the worship hours and teaching the classes, their opinions began to be expressed, resulting in disagreements, strife and strained relationships. One brother preached on the Lord supper, proving (?) how sinful it is to have and to take the Lords supper on Sunday evening, that this evening supper is "a second supper," and that if it is after 6 p.m., it is in reality Monday because the Jewish days began at sunset. Brethren tried to teach him the truth but when they would not accept his opinion, he pronounced his anathemas upon them and left to join himself to the liberal church in town where they also have the Lords supper on Sunday evening!
Another brother in the congregation preached on the sin-fulness of the Bible college (a college where the Bible is daily taught in classes) and how sinful it is for parents to permit and pay for their child to attend such a school. (One family in the church has a daughter in Florida College, Tam-pa, Florida.) Discussion with the brother by this family and other brethren availed not, and even though Florida College is not connected with any congregation, has never taken a contribution from a church and has no intention of doing so, the brother who preached his opinion still insists the college is sinful and this family is committing sin!
And two brethren strongly insist it is sinful to have a wed-ding or funeral in the meetinghouse, although they have no meetinghouse, no one has died, and no one has gotten married. And another young man has preached the past two holiday seasons how sinful it is for the other brethren to give gifts to loved ones, decorate a tree or have a family gathering during the holidays.
My friend concluded in about these words: We have thirty now meeting, hobbyism reigns, relations are strained, there is little love for each other, every opinion is a matter of faith to some, brethren are suspicious of each other, and associate very little with one another. We began so well but have got-ten crossed up over a bunch of opinions.
This is a sad, tragic story but not an isolated case by any means. Many conservative (?) churches are majoring in minors, pushing opinions as matters of faith and gospel, resulting in divided churches, alienated brethren and hindrances to spiritual growth. Many churches and preachers have little influence for good because of extremism. Brethren pride themselves on "standing for the truth" when the truth of God in the New Testament says nothing about the opinions they hold so dear as they make these opinions matters of faith and conscience within themselves. Then they bind these "matters of faith" on others, wanting their con-sciences to be everyone elses guide.
Hobbyism and opinionism have ever been the bane of the Lords work. The missionary society and mechanical instruments in worship hobbies led to division and strife over one hundred years ago, resulting in the Christian Church. In our generation, opinions and hobbies over institutions supported by churches and unscriptural centralized co-operation between churches has resulted in a new sect of liberal-modernistic churches, denominational in attitude and practice, but still calling themselves churches of Christ. On the other hand, many brethren and churches who opposed those innovations of liberalism, have gone or are going to opposite extremes, making all kinds of opinions matters of faith and doctrine. There are the old ones which have ever been with us, such as: sinful to use printed literature; sinful for women to teach a class of children of women; sinful to have Bible classes for different age groups; sinful to have a located preacher; sinful to cut a womans hair or to wear make-up; sinful for a woman to worship without an artificial covering on her head; sinful for a Christian to vote or have anything to do in or with civil government. Then some of the new ones going around: sinful to sing an invitation song; sinful to have Sunday night communion; sinful to have a wedding or funeral in a meetinghouse, sinful to give contribution by check; sinful to put the name "Church of Christ" outside the meetinhouse (it must be "Church of Christ Meets Here"); sinful to send a child to Florida College, etc.
When the world (and the church) so desperately needs good sound gospel preaching, godly living and strong, loving churches, we are giving them opinions, strife and ill-will. Some of us may just go to hell along with the world for such ungodliness if we do not repent.
(Reprinted from Messenger of Truth, Jan. 1975, published by Imhoff Ave. Church of Christ, Port Arthur, TX)
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 14 p. 12-13