By Arthur M. Ogden
In the June 19,1986 issue of the Gospel Advocate, R.C. Walker, Director of the Bible Correspondence Course for the
Madison Church of Christ in Madison, Tennessee, asked, “Where is the preaching that has set forth the basic fundamental truths that makes the churches of Christ truly the New Testament church?” He then laments the fact that he has not heard distinctive preaching on such subjects as baptism, the five steps of worship, singing, the church, and Christian living in a long time. He says, “Oh yes! I have heard faith, repentance, confession and baptism mentioned in the invitation, but when have I heard them emphasized as God has emphasized them? Echo. When?”
In the June 24, 1986 issue of Firm Foundation there appeared an article entitled “Powerless Preaching” by John Waddey. After showing that the apostles and early evangelists, many of whom were “unlearned and ignorant men” (Acts 4:13), “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) by the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16), and showing also how “our forefathers in the move to restore original Christianity, found this power and harnessed it in their preaching” said, “In our day a generation has arisen that went to a different school. They have imbibed a different spirit. A new way has been found to preach to modern sinners. We hear them on the radio, presenting a beautifully worded message with no gospel. They quote no Scripture, they make no mention of God’s will for man. Christ and His shed blood are omitted as are His church and His plan of salvation.” He asked, “Is it too much to expect gospel preachers to preach the gospel?. . . Observant brethren know that liberal denominational churches have generally deleted God’s word from their message over the last 40 years. Their faith is dead, their numbers are shrinking. Their missionary forces are drying up, their seminaries are closing. Why should we follow them down the broad road that leads to destruction?”
In the July issue of Contending for the Faith, edited by Ira Y. Rice, Jr., there appears an article by Leon D. Schrei, a recent graduate of Abilene Christian University, under the heading of “Where Have The Sound Churches Gone?” He raises the question, “Have the faithful churches of our Lord all but disappeared? If so, why? It appears there are essentially two reasons. First, elders are not being the faithful guardians of New Testament teaching that God intended. Second, ‘gospel preachers’ no longer are preaching sound words.”
It’s about time some folks woke up in the institutional camp and asked these questions. Watered down preaching and unsound churches are the result of following liberal denominational churches down the road that leads to destruction. None of this is of recent origin. It all began forty or more years ago when it was imagined in the minds of some that we ought to outdo the denominationals in our good works and our appeal to the world. We were told we needed a “loving” gospel, greater potential to take the gospel into all the world, and greater works of service for humanity. To accomplish this the gospel had to be watered down, God’s ordained organized structure for doing His work bad to be revamped and in many cases ignored, and many unauthorized works had to be implemented.
Once the attempts were made to restructure the church of our Lord, the cries of outrage and opposition began to be heard. The new found philosophy had to be defended but it could not be defended by Scripture. It could only be defended by human reason, emotion and perverted Scripture. Sound gospel preachers and faithful churches called for the Scriptures authorizing benevolent societies such as Boles Home, Tennessee and Potter Orphan Homes, etc., and sponsoring church arrangements such as some orphan homes (Tipton) and the Herald of Truth, etc., but Scripture was not and could not be given. It was reasoned that “we do many things for which we have no authority.” “It is better to do something wrong then do nothing at all.” “Where there is no pattern we have liberty to do as we please.” According to those defending these projects, Scripture was not needed. After all, if the sectarians can do these things, why can’t we?
Emotions won out over the Scriptures and the majority of brethren headed down that road that leads to destruction in an attempt to outdo the denominations. Every kind of scheme imaginable began appearing in the effort to outdo the sects. The churches of men conducted campaigns, crusades and workshops. Brethren who sought to outdo the denominations conducted them, too. The denominations made ministers out of every person who served his congregation in any way, and our brethren followed suit with Pulpit Ministers, Associate Ministers, Youth Ministers, Music Ministers, Bus Ministers, etc. Brethren also followed the sectarians into “Outreach” ministries as they sought to reach the lost with the social gospel. They are reaching out with Fellowship (?) Dinners, Family Life Centers with recreational facilities of all kinds, Family Counseling, and Relief and Rescue missions of all sorts. What Scriptures are given for these works? None! Should one be amazed then when he hears Pulpit and Associate Ministers preach without citing Scripture? If they used Scripture in their sermons someone might ask for the Scriptures that authorize their practices. They no doubt have reasoned that it is not the best practice to get into the habit of using Scripture.
It would appear to me that in the midst of all these unscriptural practices which are upheld by our institutional brethren that no one would dare ask, “Where is the preaching that has set forth the basic fundamental truths that make the churches of Christ truly the New Testament church?” The truth is that distinctive preaching went out from the institutional brethren when their projects came in, just like it did with the Christian Church when they insisted upon Missionary Societies and Instrumental Music.
“Have the faithful churches of our Lord all but disappeared?” No, there are still many faithful churches and gospel preachers who still hold to distinctive Bible teaching and practices, who still ask for a “thus saith the Lord,” who “speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent,” and who insist upon “book, chapter and verse” to substantiate all their teaching and practices. These churches and preachers, though comparatively small in number, refused to follow the denominations down the broad way leading to destruction where faith dies and the faithful number shrinks. Refusing to follow the crowd, we have continued preaching the word “in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2) proving by the Scriptures what we believe, teach and practice, and our faith grows stronger and our numbers increase daily. I would to God that our brethren who chose to follow the denominations into apostasy would awake, because their numbers are indeed shrinking, their faith waning, and damnation is awaiting.
Maybe, just maybe, there are a few brethren who have been warming toward a boil in the denominational sauce pan who will become aware of what is happening to them and jump clear of the whole mess before they are consumed by it. There are some evidences of an awakening already. In most cases, however, I fear these brethren will simply stick their heads above water just long enough to croak like the proverbial frog and then continue right where they are until the boiling waters of denominationalism completely destroy them. Perhaps, if we who have refused to walk the denominational way will keep our eyes and ears open, we shall be in the right place at the right time to extend a helping hand to rescue those who are seriously and sincerely concerned about where the ship of Zion is headed. May the numbers of those concerned increase and their determination to correct their course be strengthened by the power of the gospel until all of them have returned to the Lord.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 19, pp. 577, 600
October 2, 1986