By Mike Willis
In an effort to provide more good writers for Guardian of Truth, I have asked brother Bobby Witherington, who preaches for the Mountain View church in San Bernardino, California to join our staff of writers. Brethren all over these United States have appreciated his work in the past and we are thankful to have him laboring with us in the venture of teaching the word of God through the printed page. In an effort to introduce Bobby and his family to our readers, I am giving this biographical information about him. I think you will have a greater appreciation for him after reading it.
BIOGRAPHY — Bobby Witherington
On February 15, 1934 Bobby Witherington was born in a farm house a few miles north of Kenton, Tennessee. He attended grade school and High school in Kenton, graduating in 1952. In the fall of 1952, he entered the University of Tennessee (Knoxville), intending to major in animal husbandry. However, while enrolled at U.T.; he also attended worship services at the Laurel Ave. church of Christ, during which time he re-evaluated his own standing before the Lord. He was supposedly “restored” one Sunday night at Laurel Ave.-a “restoration” which was invalid because further consideration, based upon a closer study of the scriptures, convinced him that he had not repented prior to being baptized.
Nevertheless, notwithstanding the fact that the church at Laurel Ave. was “liberal” (and in those days he did not know the meaning of “liberalism” or “institutionalism”) and notwithstanding the fact that his “restoration” was not a restoration, he was to some extent a changed person following his first year in college. In the summer of 1953, he returned to Chicago, Ill., where he had spent the previous summer, to earn moneys for his next year’s schooling. On the first Sunday night after returning to Chicago, he assembled with the Grand Ave. church where he met Norman Fultz (whom he had first met the previous summer and who was also there for the purpose of earning school money). After the initial “hello,” Norman’s first remark was, “You are going to attend church on Sunday night this summer!” During that summer several persons influenced him, but it was mainly through Norman Fultz’s persistence that he finally decided to enroll that Fall in Freed-Hardeman College, instead of returning to U.T.
In December of 1953, as a penitent believer, he confessed his faith and was baptized into Christ “for the remission of sins.” In the spring of 1955, he graduated from Freed-Hardeman College. At the time of graduation he, though concerned about the “issues” affecting brethren, was convinced that the position espoused by most of the Freed-Hardeman teachers just had to be right. After all, how could such pious and intelligent brethren possibly be wrong!
Of great significance in brother Witherington’s life was his chance meeting of the former Sue Troutt at the Trimble (Tenn.) church in January, 1953. Knowing a good thing when he saw it, he deemed it wise to get better acquainted with that Troutt girl. He did! They were joined in marriage on Dec. 26, 1954. Theirs was the first wedding ceremony solemnized by the then nervous Norman Fultz.
To this union four children have been born. Connie, the eldest, is married to Ted Doss, Jr. They are both faithful Christians who work and worship with the Northside church of Christ in Dyersburg, Tennessee. James, the second child, now living in Selfner, Florida, is married to the former Cheryl Chapman of Brandon, Florida, and both are faithful members of the church in Brandon. David, the middle child, is now attending Florida College and also is a faithful member of the church in Brandon. Philip, age 12, is in the seventh grade, and is the last child still at home. Bob and Sue deny being prejudiced, but they will tell you that their grandsons (one to each of their married children) just happen to be the finest and brightest of all!
Following his graduation from Freed Hardeman, Bob and Sue moved to Chicago, Ill., where he labored first with the church meeting at 410 S. Michigan Avenue. In the fall of 1957, he helped establish the Englewood church of Christ. During their six-year stay in Chicago, brother Witherington also labored fit, secular work, while preaching every Lord’s day. For five years of that time he worked as an Ironworker, during which he was able to support a growing family and pay off his college debts. It was also during this time that he learned the truth regarding institutionalism, the sponsoring church arrangement, etc.
In June, 1961, the Witheringtons moved to Owensboro, Kentucky to labor “full-time” with the Southside church of Christ. They had to learn a lot, and fast – like how to get by on one third as much income as he formerly made as a structural ironworker. They also learned that problems among brethren need not be unresolvable. Consequently, in cooperation with Thomas Hickey, who diligently labored with the Central church of Christ, and with the help of a number of concerned brethren, the differences which had resulted in a division in the Central church in 1960, were ultimately resolved. In fact, in January, 1963 the two groups merged. Eventually the old, inadequate meeting house was sold, a, new one was erected, and a good work has continued to be done by the Southside church of Christ.
In June, 1965 the Witheringtons moved to Louisville, Kentucky to labor with the Haldeman Ave. church. While there, brother Witherington became more aware than ever of the value of home Bible studies-especially a planned series designed to give an overview of the Bible, with particular emphasis placed upon man’s obligation in this age. As a result, an “old” congregation began to get younger that is, with reference to the average age of the membership. And in connection with such work, he became more keenly aware of the tremendous help which faithful, retired brethren, like the late Robert McClellan, can give to a young preacher. Working together for one year, they baptized upwards of 40 people – and in an area where the “nobody is interested” refrain had been repeated over and over. He is still convinced that no church can expect to grow numerically unless the members get out of their comfortable recliners, and get out and teach.
Following a six-year stay in Louisville, the Witheringtons moved in June, 1971 to Murray, Kentucky, to labor with the West Murray church of Christ. While living in Murray, the Witheringtons learned more about the damage done by the “quarantine” which a lot of “liberals” like to place on churches. At West Murray, he worshipped with some faithful brethren who had been withdrawn from by some of the area churches -withdrawn from for no reason other than the fact that they were willing to go hear such men as Irven Lee preach, and for insisting on “book, chapter, and verse” before building a “fellowship hall!” He had contact with a number of area brethren who admitted that some practices where they attended were unscriptural, but for business reasons, or because of the quarantine’s stigma, several of them lacked the courage to make the change.
In June, 1977, the Witheringtons moved to California where they worship and work with the church of Christ meeting on Mt. View Ave. in San Bernardino. The Mt. View church is served by four elders, with Sunday a.m. attendance normally running around 180. In many respects their labors with the Mt. View church have been the most productive and enjoyable of any to date. One thing they have learned in San Bernardino is that many in California keep the faith! There are still brethren who want to serve the Lord according to His revealed will. And there are still aliens who are interested in learning the truth. In fact, in a recent week brother Witherington scheduled three home studies with people who initially asked him to go and study with them – and two of these studies resulted from calls made by people whom he had never heard of prior to their call.
Brother Witherington, coming from a broken home, learned by observation what an unselfish, povertystricken, hard-working, loving mother of six can do, even without a lot of government handouts- provided she has enough faith and enough determination to never give up. He does not claim any special talents. He does profess gratitude that, notwithstanding his own imperfections, he can be usefully engaged in the Lord’s work.
The first assignment which has been given to brother Witherington is a series of ten articles devoted to a discussion of the home. Having already read several of those articles, I can assure you that you are going to profit from reading his material. His loyalty to the truth manifests itself throughout these articles, as also does his wisdom in making practical application of the truths of God’s word. I think that you will soon agree, if you have never had contact with brother Witherington before, that we have made a wise choice in adding him to our staff of writers.
Guardian of Truth XXV: 3, pp. 35-36
January 15, 1981