By Paul K. Williams
My attention was caught by the following item in the September 27, 1991 Zululand Observer, the weekly paper which serves this area of South Africa.
Church groups from all over Zululand will take part in a colorful ‘March for Jesus’ in Empangeni and Richards Bay on October 12 as part of a countrywide campaign to say to the nation that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and that His church is ‘one and undivided.’
Empangeni churches will be holding a prayer and planning meeting on Friday September 27 at the Church of Christ to make arrangements for the local march. All enquiries to be directed to Rev. Arthur Loans at 0351-26096.
The church of Christ in Empangeni is sponsored by a large church in Abilene, Texas and their preacher, Brian Lister, is a South African with a Masters Degree from Abilene Christian University. They have long been active in community affairs, being hosts for dinners and parties to various community clubs. When their building was opened about five years ago the Methodist preacher was one of the speakers who welcomed them at the afternoon tea. They have also been moving in the direction of observing religious holidays. On Easter morning the members brought lawn chairs and sat in the parking lot of the building watching the sun rise.
When I read the news items I phoned Mr. Loans, who is the Methodist minister in Empangeni, and asked him if the article correctly represented the purpose of the March. He said that the paper gave part of its purpose, but that it was also to pray for the land at this time. Brian Lister was not present at the prayer meeting at the Church of Christ because he was out of town, but Mr. Loans phoned him about the March and Brian was happy to announce it. A member of the Empangeni Church of Christ told me that it was announced as a “march for peace” and the members were invited to take part.
This sad affair illustrates two truths: (1) The liberal churches of Christ are becoming indistinguishable from the denominations. Their departure from the old paths while seemingly small in the 1950’s and 60’s set them on a path of further departure. We brethren who opposed that departure predicted exactly what is happening now. Once set free from the need to prove all things by the Scriptures they have been guided only by what the feeling of the people is. As a congregation becomes filled with denominationally-minded people there is nothing to keep it from denominational practices.
(2) The liberals have long been noted for their softness in condemning sin, especially denominationalism. It is important that everyone be happy in their services. At Emvanizeni those who have birthdavs durina the week are given a special badge to wear during the service on Sunday morning and “Happy Birthday” is sung to them. During the communion “spontaneous” songs are sung. Everything is saccharine-sweet. The amount of solid, scriptural explanation is very small and naming a denomination and showing from the Scriptures that it is in error is strictly taboo. Since the congregation is obsessed by a desire to be accepted in the community it leans over backward to be involved in community affairs. How then can it refuse to “March for Jesus”? The denominations are always trying to drag the Church of Christ into cooperating with them; nothing would make them happier. And after years of softpedaling opposition to their doctrines the congregation is ripe for taking its place as a sister to the rest of the denominations.
What a heartbreaking business.
But those of us opposed to the institutionalism and softness of the liberals need to keep our guard up. We need to hammer sin without mercy, especially the sin of denominationalism. Without constant teaching on this subject the future generation can easily succumb to the same sweetsounding spineless “gospel” that has seduced the liberals into complete denominationalism.
Further, we need to cry rut publicly so that all who are in the world will know of our stand against the denominations. When Mr. Loans learned that I opposed their March for Jesus he was astounded. I was the only person who had voiced any criticism of their unscriptural project! The world needs to hear our protests of denominationalism, no matter how unpopular it makes us. Pray for boldness, brethren.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 23, pp. 705, 726
December 5, 1991