Observations on the Eastern Frontier
Alvin O. Raney
This writer has just finished a meeting in Lebanon Va., a section of the country that has been of particular interest to us since our oldest son moved into the area over a year ago. He found that, though there are a few churches which are strong numerically and financially in some of the larger cities, most of the smaller' towns have very small groups (where there are any at all) who are struggling against heartbreaking odds to establish and maintain the Lord's church. In the main they have had little publicity and little notice beyond their immediate boundries. Some have fought heroically for a long time, with very little gain to encourage them, for the pure Faith of the Bible; neither asking for nor receiving any help or encouragement from outside their own group. Others have simply drifted along, content for a dozen or so members to simply "keep house for the Lord." This has been going on since the smoke of the first great battle which tore the body of Christ in this country died down nearly a hundred years ago. Now things are changing, with sometimes bewildering rapidity and stunning force.
Suddenly, even the smallest churches in even the remotest places are being not simply noticed, but wooed with vigor and ardor by large congregations from both near and far. Such unusual tenderness and concern is both flattering and a little frightening to churches that have had to live or die by their own efforts and sacrifices for so long. Over-attention is a heady wine indeed, and both neglected maidens and forgotten congregations have had their heads turned by it. Yet some of these suddenly popular congregations have not quite taken leave of their common sense, ...and ask themselves cautiously, "WHY? WHY NOW... after so many years of neglect?"
Most of these isolated congregations have only lately come to an awareness of a distant rumbling of discord in the universal church over something called "the issues." Very few of these people have more than the vaguest idea of what it is all about. The liberals from the larger congregations around them, after years of ignoring them, are now sending them both money and ~ missionaries who speak contempteously of "Antis" who are splitting churches everywhere because they do not believe in preaching the Gospel to all the world and caring for "poor little orphans." This prejudicial appeal to the untaught emotional sensibilities of a people long steeped in the natural humanities of love and mercy of Christianity and vitally concerned with the need of the Gospel being preached everywhere, is tremendous. They cannot know, of course, that the lately-born concern for them by the big liberal churches is the same concern as the farmer has for the growing calf... which fed, not primarily for the calf's benefit, but that it may later be milked to profit the farmer. Certainly it is a good investment to feed into a small, growing congregation a few hundred dollars so that when it grows financially solvent it can be milked of thousands to feed the greedy mouths of the institutional monsters that the promoters are seeking to fatten on the pap of local church treasuries.
The church in Lebanon, Virginia is a small church. The only "issues" with which they are familiar are the issues of Truth vs. Error; Bible versus Creeds; the church of Christ versus Denominationalism. They are not presently aware of all the deadly deeps and fateful wides of this present controversy which is pitting, in a frightening Armageddon, the immovable verities of eternal Right against the almost irresistible forces of human ambition for change and show. Yet these good people, deeply believing in the all-sufficiency of the Word of God and the church of the Lord, are instinctively distrustful of anything that does not measure up to "thus saith the Lord" If they are shown the whole Truth they will embrace it and will have nothing else at any price. They are even now in critical need of a sound and mature preacher who is both wise and courageous enough to stand against the flood tide of cynical liberalism which threatens to engulf the entire area where New Testament Christianity was born upon the American continent. And they need, for the first year, money to support him. Commitments have already been received for about half of the needed support. The other half will soon be secured. It is the MAN we now need to locate. He must be the RIGHT man... else we will have wasted not only the money but, what is even more important, the OPPORTUNITY! Besides a Scriptural soundness, he will need patience, courage, ability and willingness to teach publicly and privately, purity of life, and an unshakable calmness of mind and tranquility of soul that will bear him up in times of great stress. There are many preachers within the ranks of the faithful who are possessed of these qualifications. Can any one of them go to Lebanon to do what may be the greatest work of his life?
Truth Magazine VII: 10, pp. 13-14