By Steve Wolfgang
Footnote” Stephen D. Eckstein, History of the Churches of Christ in Texas (Austin: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1963), pp. 92-93.
In History of Churches of Christ in Texas, S.D. Eckstein, Jr. gives a brief account of affairs in Longview. We regard this as a tribute to brother John T. Poe, pioneer preacher.
“On June 7, 1875, twenty members dedicated the new edifice. During the next decade, the church grew rapidly until the organ question arose.
“Although the congregation did not use instrumental music in its services in 1884, some members indicated their sentiment for an organ by circulating the following advertisement: ‘A magic lantern entertainment for the benefit of the Episcopal Church will be given in the Christian Church – Admission 250, children half price – proceeds to be applied toward purchasing a new organ for the Episcopal Church.’
“Immediately, minister Poe denounced the advertisement as an endeavor to ‘court favor with all the Babylonish sects,’ and cried for an Elijah who might give ‘thus saith the Lord.’ In spite of the resulting controversy, the church increased to about seventy by 1899. However, when L.A. Dale introduced the organ into the church in January, 1895, the inevitable division occurred. The twenty-five anti-organ members, who withdrew under Poe’s leadership, termed the majority ‘heretics and schismatics.’
“Even though the minority group reorganized within a week, the discouraged Poe soon moved away. When he returned in February, 1900, he found only a few still opposed to the organ. Evidencing great tenacity, he gathered seven anti-organ disciples who worshiped together for a year without receiving any additions.
“When the first convert was added in March 1901, Poe exclaimed, ‘Praise the Lord!’ Within six months, the church numbered nineteen staunch members” (pp. 92-93).
It is not difficult to “read between the lines” here, for a human-interest story, oft-repeated today.
(1) A church divided (though they still meet together) with liberal fun-and-popularity-loving members, and staunch conservatives.
(2) The preacher’s denunciation of the “magic lantern” trick; with his appeal for scriptural authority.
(3) Appeal ignored, organ introduced with majority backing.
(4) Minority thus forced out of the building, for conscience’s sake.
(5) Charges and counter-charges, and – no doubt many hard feelings.
(6) The “anti’s” reorganizing, but experiencing early discouragement and losing members. (Personal feelings do not make for loyal Christians.)
(7) After long, hard struggle, the “faithful few” begin to move forward once more.”
It may be interesting to ask yourself: “If I had been there would I have stayed with that small group of so-called ‘anti’s’ and contended for a ‘thus saith he Lord’?”
Don’t kid yourself. Take a look at how you stand today.
– Robert F. Turner (from Plain Talk, September 1965)
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 8, p. 245
April 19, 1990