By William C. Sexton
Perhaps I am completely in the dark and fail to understand what Peter meant in (1 Pet. 3:15) when he said, “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; .. . .” I have come to understand Peter to be saying to give the basis for what you believe and practice when called upon to do so. I understand him to be saying show proof that your hope is legitimate! If I am missing the message, I pray that someone tell me what is meant by this revelation from Peter. In light of the verse and my understanding of it and something that has happened to me recently, I present the following for your consideration. I would be pleased to hear from any one who can show me that I have missed the mark that the Lord has set for me, a child of His trying to proclaim the good news of Christ.
An ad was placed in the El Dorado Kansas paper by the church which meets at 1924 Dearborn in Augusta, Kansas, inviting the children to attend a Vacation Bible School. At the bottom of the ad, in bold type capital letters was “REFRESHMENTS WILL BE SERVED.” Again in a box appeared “FUN & GAMES.” In as much as this ad had been published in the paper for the community to examine, I felt it in order to ask for some scripture to sustain this type of activity by a congregation claiming to be a church of Christ. So, I wrote the following letter:
I have seen a copy of your advertisement that you ran in the El Dorado paper. I would like to have an explanation, if you were interested in truth and righteousness, as I assume you feel that you are. I see a contradiction: You say “BACK TO THE BIBLE” and then you say “REFRESHMENTS WILL BE SERVED,” and “FUN & GAMES.” Brethren if I know my Bible and what is going on in the religious world today, then these things are not compatible. In my mind, instead of going back to the Bible, you are adapting the SOCIAL GOSPEL concept of the denominational world. If you think otherwise, where is the passage that authorizes the church to use as a drawing card REFRESHMENTS AND FUN AND GAMES?
I trust that you are sincere in your efforts. Therefore, I believe that such as you have advertised to the community is degrading to the church of Christ: you have left the impression that the church of Christ, like the denominations, uses the social gospel appeal to gain people. I don’t believe that such is scriptural, and I would like to have a public discussion of the same, to examine the scriptures to see if such is authorized. I propose that we discuss the matter one night or two if your desire in your building in Augusta, then the same amount of time we can use in discussing it in facilities that we will provide in Wichita. You can affirm that the church has the right to use REFRESHMENTS, FUN AND GAMES to draw people and I will deny it. In Wichita, I’ll affirm that the church of Christ is limited in its appeal to the use of the gospel, thus it is unscriptural to do what you have done. You may word the propositions as you like as long’ as they conform to the above.
I believe that such a discussion could be very profitable if we are really interested in truth and righteousness-which I believe I am and if we conduct ourselves as brothers in Christ. I promise to conduct myself as a Christian, seeking the truth.
I would be pleased to have quick response.
Your brother in Christ,
William C. Sexton.
I wrote the above letter August 6, 1975. A few days later, I received the following letter:
In response to your letter of August the 6th it will be of no useful benefit for us to “discuss” the issue that you presented since they do not represent issues, but rather your own warped view of what the scripture says. Secondly, we have several babes in Christ in this congregation and I would not subject them to your poison at any price. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the ad which you referred to in your letter. We are talking about a Vacation Bible School in which each child received a minimum of 100 minutes of Bible teaching per day. In the past week we have been put into direct contact with more new prospects for teaching than you and your persuasion have seen in the past year. I am quite confident that you received word of this ad from . . . (brother’s name withheld because it would serve no good purpose to use it here) in El Dorado, I’m insulted by this second hand challenge.
May I wish you the best as you try to put down the “Kool-aid” rebellion, meanwhile we’ll be converting souls for the Lord. I believe that if you look you will agree that before you try to find the “mote” in our eye, that there is some “beam casting” that needs to be done from your own.
Beloved, I wonder if you feel “insulted” by being asked to give scripture for what you are doing? If you do, then I ask, Why? I hope that you are not insulted by such a request. Instead I hope that you are willing to give a scriptural basis for all that you do, and if you find that you are doing something that is without scriptural authorization that you will gladly and quickly give it up. I believe with all of my heart that such an attitude and stand is required by the Lord. However, if you believe this or not; if you feel insulted or not – I am still asking you to give me a reason for all that you preach and practice. I ask for it because I believe that it is my duty and I want you to be saved and I want to be saved, too. We not only have the right, but we are duty-bound, if I understand my Bible, to call upon all to be governed completely by the scriptures (1 Pet. 4:11; Col. 3:17; Gal. 1:6-8; 2 Jn. 9-11). If you or I develop such an attitude toward our practice and the scriptures, beloved, we have become somewhat like the religious leaders of Jesus’, day, (cf. Mt. 23). Such, I believe, is a spiritual sickness that will destroy the soul.
Anyone can get angry and falsely charge the inquirer with being wicked and thus less right than self. However, remember, as you engage in such activity that the Lord was thus charged by the self-righteous Jews. I can think of no reason why I should become angry at a person who is asking me to prove that I am doing what the King wants. I might get angry if I am doing something that I have no authority to do and I want to keep on doing it.
My final appeal is this: if you can show me the scripture that authorizes the church to use SOCIAL APPEALS to bring in members, then beloved I will start using them and I will announce to the world that I have been wrong these years. Until you can show me that such is approved of God, then I am determined to keep on challenging you, beloved. Perhaps I can cause you to re-think, re-consider, and re-direct your life. I stand ready to defend what I preach and practice. Futhermore, when I come to the point that I cannot defend by the scriptures what I am doing, I will quit preaching. If I am ever convinced that scriptural proof is not needed, then I will stop preaching, because it will not matter if people are right according to the scriptures any how. Beloved think on this matter, and if I am wrong then tell me; and if I am thinking and acting correctly in this regard, then be glad when one asks you if you have scripture for what you do. Such is an indication that he loves your soul and wants you to be saved, as did Jesus in His day and as His ministers do today!
Truth Magazine, XX:5: p. 11-12
January 29, 1976