By P. J. Casebolt
In the summer of 1963, I moved to Paden City, West Virginia, from Akron, Ohio. For the next six years, I labored with this good congregation in the gospel. Besides preaching in the community and on a local radio program, I had the opportunity to preach in several meetings, many of them within driving distance of Paden City. During this time I was able to confirm a long-held conviction that there was another good work in this area which someone needed to do. During the last year or two of my association with the Paden City church, I began to make plans for this work.
Brother Earl Rockwell, one of the elders at Paden City, accompanied me on many of my preaching trips to those congregations within driving distance. I valued his song-leading ability, as well as his wisdom and advice as an elder in the Lord’s church. One evening, while traveling to a meeting at Narrows Run, Ohio, we were discussing the tide of liberalism which had swept into the Ohio Valley from other parts of the country. It took longer to reach us than it did some other places, but come it did; with its coming, some congregations stood and some fell. Most congregations of any size had already set their course for better or for worse. Brother Rockwell suggested that our best course of action now was to strengthen the smaller congregations, or establish new ones. In a few words, he was able to give my plans a sense of direction which I have followed these past nine years. I would like to share the results of these efforts with others.
To Elk Fork, and Beyond
Many of the smaller congregations in this area had been receiving what teaching they could afford, generally in the form of a different preacher each Lord’s day, and a gospel meeting or two each year. While this system had done some good, I could see some disadvantages, especially now that new issues had come to the front. In some congregations there would be a liberal preacher in the pulpit one Sunday, a conservative preacher the next, a middle-of-the-roader the next Lord’s day, followed by one who was not sure what he was. As a result, the congregations were confused as to what the real issues were, and what their attitude toward them should be. This is where I decided to concentrate my efforts. I had always felt that several of these congregations would stand for the truth when it was pointed out to them, and blamed the preachers more than the congregations for their predicament.
Brother Paul Rockwell had been preaching at Elk Fork for a number of years, going one Lord’s day each month, and teaching a Bible class each week. When these brethren learned that I was going to remain in the area and was available, they invited me to preach for them on a regular basis. They would furnish part of my support, I would provide the rest of it working at the construction trade, and I would still be free to preach in meetings wherever I saw the need. With this accomplished, I was now ready to proceed with the next step in the plan to salvage what we could for the Lord’s cause.
By filling the pulpit each Lord’s day, I not only kept some undesirable teaching out, but was able to build on what Brother Rockwell had already accomplished, along with others like him. Now that I had “taken” one of his Lord’s day appointments, I encouraged him to concentrate his efforts on one congregation. This he did, and accepted the invitation of the church at Narrow’s Run, Ohio, to preach for them each Lord’s day, while teaching a Bible class during the week. They later began their own radio program over a local station, and I had the pleasure of helping with it.
These moves had a domino effect on other congregations and preachers in the area. Each time, I encouraged the preachers affected to concentrate their efforts on one congregation, helping others as they had opportunity. Right here, I would like to give credit to Brother Paul Rockwell, and several others like him, not only in this area, but all over the country. These are faithful and able men who support themselves at secular work, and still accomplish as much as some who are fully supported by the church. They preach in the pulpit, on the radio, in meetings, teach Bible classes, edit and publish bulletins and papers, and preach at funerals. They may only be supported “part-time” by the church, but some of them are doing a full-time work that would mostly be left undone if it were not for them. I have used both methods of preaching the gospel, and have the deepest respect for those doing the work of an evangelist, whether supported by their own hands or by the church. We need both kinds, and I hope that we will let the situation determine what is the best course to follow.
During the past nine years the Elk Fork church has spent about seventy thousand dollars preaching the gospel, performed needed repairs to the building (we just recently moved the rest-rooms inside), helped train speakers and song leaders (some of whom are now helping the church in other places), and still has a healthy bank balance at this writing. Similar things could be said of other congregations in the area who have taken a stand against the innovations of our generation. Some thought that these congregations would “go liberal,” and some (both liberal and conservative), thought that they were too small to fool with.
I will come to “visions and revelations” in a figurative sense. When I was invited to preach in Canada a few years ago, these small congregations were the first to rally to my support. They were also the last! When brethren heard that I had been invited to preach in the Philippines, and was willing to go, they asked me to let them help. Several small congregations and two individuals had assured me of support in this effort, and everyone of them volunteered to help, long before I was ready to go. I could also cite examples of benevolence toward needy saints in these congregations, which would total thousands of dollars. I have preached for some of the larger congregations in the Ohio Valley, both in what we called located and meeting work, and may do so again in the future. I am sure that some of these congregations would have responded in the above cases, had they been asked. Many of them are already doing a lot similar works. But, I decided to let these smaller congregations have fellowship in such matters also, that they too might have a reward, and that I might be encouraged by their willingness to support the gospel. Some of them may not be able to furnish a preacher’s house, or his full support, but they need to be encouraged to do what they can, and then given an opportunity to do it.
Personally, I have been more satisfied with the results of my labors during these past nine years, that I have for several years prior to this time. When some of the liberal brethren heard that I had started “working with my hands” they immediately prophesied that my conservative position on current issues was depriving me of a place to preach. When some read this they will know what i have “been up to,” and there are some around here that know full well that I am still “alive and well.” In fact, I have done more preaching using this method, than when I was supported fully by the church.
And, to those good brethren who were really concerned about me “giving up preaching,’ let me apologize for not keeping you informed with monthly or annual reports. The fact is, I have been too busy! If some of you are favorably impressed by my methods, then let me say, “Try it; you may like it. And maybe the Lord will too.”
Truth Magazine XXII: 25, pp. 407-408
June 22, 1978