Church History: To The Present Day

By Aude McKee


I. In our last lesson we traced the division that came to the ranks of the Restoration Movement.

A. Developed on two major points:

1. Organizational – Missionary Society formed.

2. Worship – instrumental music added.

B. Division recognized by our government in 1906.

II. We observed that as time went on, the differences multiplied.

A. Denial of verbal inspiration, miracles, etc.

B. Open membership.

C. Fraternization with denominations.

D. Transition into just another denomination.

III. In this lesson, we look deeper into the causes of division and into present-day conditions.


I. Basic Difference Between the Church and the Christian Church Was Attitude Toward Authority.

A. Historical background.

1. Martin Luther: “Whatever the Bible does not specifically forbid, we may practice.”

2. Ulrich Zwingli: “If the Bible does not authorize a practice, we must reject it.”

B. When the Christian Church was formed, these two basic attitudes were the bases upon which “battle lines” were drawn.

1. Formation of the Missionary Society: Campbell and others reasoned as follows in regard to the organization of the church:

a. The church is referred to both universally and locally in the New Testament.

b. Local arrangement or organization is provided for in the New Testament.

c. Local churches acting independently can never accomplish their divine mission.

d. Therefore, there must be some means devised in order that local churches may act together.

e. Since no revelation has been given to tell us how, we are free to devise a plan. In other words, the Bible does not tell us how to organize the church universal, so we may do it as we please!

2. In regard to the introduction of the instrument into the worship, many of the arguments in favor could be summed up with: “The Bible does not tell us not to have it.”

C. One is reminded today of our brethren who write tracts and articles entitled. “Where there is no pattern.” If there is no pattern, there is no authority, and if there is no authority, man cannot move.

1. Scripture limits a person to what is written:

a. 1 Corinthians 4:6

b. Ephesians 3:1-4

c. John 20:30-31

d. 1 Timothy 3:16-17

e. 2 John 9

2. Man cannot add or subtract (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18-19).

II. Our Present-day Difficulties in the Church Find Their Origin in the Same Historic Difference in Attitude Toward Authority.

A. Organization.

1. Institutionalism. Today we find the church establishing and maintaining organizations of various kinds:

a. Benevolent institutions:

(1) Old Folks Homes

(2) Widows Homes

(3) Orphans Homes, etc.

b. Social service institutions:

(1) Hospitals

(2) Homes for unwed mothers, etc.

c. Educational institutions:

(1) Kindergartens

(2) Grade schools and high schools

(3) Colleges

(4) Schools of preaching, etc.

2. Sponsoring church arrangements:

a. Examples:

(1) “Herald of Truth” sponsored by Highland Avenue church in Abilene, Texas.

(2) Area-wide evangelistic efforts. Each one has a sponsoring church.

b. Here are some of the reasons why such are wrong:

(1) Such an arrangement constitutes a violation of the autonomy, equality and independence of local churches.

(2) Such an arrangement ignores the limitations placed on elders (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:14).

(3) There is no more authority for activating the church universal through one eldership or one local church, than through the Missionary Society.

(4) Such “cooperation” has no scriptural authority. (Acts 11:22-23, 27-30; Rom. 15:25-32; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8-9; 11:8).

B. Work.

1. Churches across the land are involving the church in recreation, entertainment, and all sorts of social activities.

a. Summer camps

b. Student centers located near colleges and universities.

c. Youth rallies.

d. Bowling, baseball teams, etc. Some churches employ a “recreation director.”

2. Hundreds of churches provide facilities (and often the food) to feed “rich” people (see 1 Tim. 5:16).

3. Interesting to walk the parking lot of Opry Land and see the number of “Church of Christ Busses” that have (at church expense) hauled kids.

4. Common today for preachers to plead with churches to “minister to the whole man.”

5. Notice the parallel between the work and worship of the church:

Worship Work
Sing – Eph. 5:19 Preaching – 1 Tim. 3:15
Pray – Acts 2:42 Edification – Eph. 4:16
Teach – Acts 20:7 Benevolence – Acts 4:32-37
Give – 1 Cor. 16:1-2 Discipline – 1 Cor. 5
Lord’s Supper – Acts 20:7

To these nothing can be added or subtracted. You can no more add recreation to the work, than you can instrumental music to the worship.


1. The seed that produced the Christian Church has been planted again.

2. Luther and Zwingli could not agree 450 years ago. These basic attitudes toward authority continue to divide people in the twentieth Century.

3. Here is where authority directs:

a. There is one body (Eph. 4:4). That one body has been so arranged or organized that it can function according to God’s plan.

b. That one body has been given responsibilities in the areas of worship and work.

4. What is your attitude toward the authority of Christ? Must we speak where the Bible speaks and be silent when it is silent?

5. Do we walk by faith or by sight?

Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 3, pp. 72-73
February 2, 1989