By Connie W. Adams
July 1996 marked the third year of a two-week preacher training pro-gram at Ellettsville, Indiana conducted by Johnie Edwards and his son, Johnie Paul, both excellent and experienced preachers of the gospel. I had heard many good things about it from some who had attended but had no personal contact with it until this year when I was invited to come and talk for a couple of hours on the issues which divided churches in the 1950s and 60s. What I found there was most encouraging to me and I came away with renewed hope for the future.
Arriving earlier than my own speaking appointment, I watched with interest and admiration as a serious-minded group of 30 students sat around tables in a classroom which was obviously much used. All of them had huge notebooks crammed with hand-outs, booklets, and their own handwritten notes. Reading assignments, outlines due, speeches to be prepared and delivered all of these were required in rapid fire by Johnie Edwards.
I listened with interest as Johnie Paul Edwards continued his practical survey of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (which books each student is required to read every day during the two-weeks school). They were forming a list of 60 specific directives to gospel preachers. There was no theological jargon, just simple, down-to-earth, easy to understand instruction. Assignments for the following day included reading Trends Toward a New Apostasy by Ron Halbrook and preparation for discussion on the subject of apostasy. There was also to be a section devoted to the difference between the Lord’s church and denominationalism.
Classes run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a break for lunch and a five minute break every hour. Work assignments have to be done between 4 p.m. and midnight. I found thirty men there, ranging in age from high school up to about 50. Some who are presently doing full-time preaching work, and others who preach part of the time, were among the students. Some had taken vacation time to attend. Members of the Ellettsville church provide housing for the students and the one-hour lunch break provides food for them at a private meeting room in a mall with food prepared and served by some of the women of the congregation. While the students and teachers are dead serious about what they are doing, there is a relaxed atmosphere and a comraderie that is unmistakable. These men are not only receiving valuable information but they are also having a fire lit under them and some starch put in their backbones.
What can be done in two weeks? If you are in doubt and would like to spend a couple of profitable and practical weeks, watch for the announcement of the training program next July.
Baptism Becoming an Issue
While in a meeting in Florence, Alabama in July, I was handed some tapes of sermons delivered by Alan Highers, editor of The Spiritual Sword, at one of the congregations in Florence recently. He was invited there partly in response to a seminar in which Rubel Shelley had spoken along with some denominational speakers and in which he de-livered more of his brand of ultra-liberalism. For the most part, the sermons presented by Alan Highers were some of the best sermons I have heard lately. In one of them he addressed some of the issues they were facing and on which he said members needed to be alerted and informed. The first thing he listed was baptism. That’s right, baptism. He pointed out that the teaching that baptism is for the remission of sins and necessary for one to put on Christ and be added to the church was being seen as a threat by those committed to the “new hermeneutics.” It is a threat to their yearning for an expanded fellowship with the denominations. Baptism stands in the way of that, at least scriptural baptism does. Did you ever think baptism for the remission of sins would be an “issue” among any who profess to be followers of the Lord?
In that same vein, Carroll D. Osburn, who teaches New Testament at Abilene Christian University, said some interesting things in his book The Peaceable Kingdom which purports to be a collection of “Essays favoring non-sectarian Christianity.” On pages 90 and 91 he dealt with 2 John 9 and limited it to those who denied the incarnation of Jesus. He stated that it “was never intended as a carte blanche for rampant sectarian disfellowship.” Among those items for which he said room must be made in our fellow-ship were support of orphan homes, whether the Lord’ Spper must be taken every Sunday, or whether instrumental music should be used in worship. He also said room should be made for premillennialism and for those who differ on “whether baptism is `for’ or `because of’ the re-mission of sins.” That last statement opens the door for fellowship with the Baptists and trivializes every gospel preacher who ever engaged in debate on the purpose of baptism.
Ah, “the times they are a changin’.” But the word of God “liveth and abideth forever” (1 Pet. 1:23).
Speaking of Tapes.. .
I have also recently listened to some sermons by an increasingly popular preacher which were fine orations with very little scriptural content. They were as weak as branch water. And some of the brethren “love to have it so.” Alan Highers is connected with those brethren to whom some refer as “conservative liberals” (or Consiberals, as one brother put it). He, along with others, is rightly concerned about rank liberalism among them. Much good material has appeared in The Spiritual Sword with which many of us would have to agree. Much of it sounds like a pagefrom the Gospel Guardian of the 1950s and early 60s. For their trouble they have been branded as “antis” by some of those in the vanguard of the “new hermeneutics” crowd. But isn’t it a shame that Alan Highers, Roy Lanier, Jr., Wayne Jackson, and a few others we could name, are preaching more Bible and taking a more definite stand than some of the growingly popular preachers among those of us who style ourselves “conservatives?”
Where is all of this soft, wishy-washy, stand-for-nothing, make’em cry, make ’em laugh, story telling, drivel coming from? From what common fountain are these men drinking? Where is the common denominator in all this? There has to be one.
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 18, p. 3-4
September 19, 1996