By Ron Halbrook
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase (1 Cor. 3:6-7).
We are not to “glory in men” or to “think of men above that which is written,” but we are to glorify God alone for the good accomplished in the salvation of souls through the gospel of Christ (1 Cor. 3:21; 4:6). At the same time, we can be thankful for men who faithfully plant and faithfully water, and we can “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:24).
Otto Alvarez of Merida in the Yucatan area of Mexico is doing the work of ten men in Mexico and neighboring countries. There are few preachers in Latin America who arc supported on a full-time basis because many people do not have regular work, and when they do, salaries are very low. Brother Alvarez gave up a lucrative job with a Japanese pharmaceutical company in order to begin the work of full time preaching. This was in 1987. He began immediately working with brethren over an area of some nine hundred miles. As brother Wayne Partain once said, brother Alvarez “is perpetual motion, and is all over the country.”
When Otto left the pharmaceutical firm for which he used to work, fie received $25,000 severance pay. He used half of it to get a van to use in his preaching travels and has spent all the rest in the Lord’s work. He has a wife and two children who share his labors and sacrifices. He is working with seventeen different churches, and travels hundreds of miles to reach many of them. So many poor brethren call him collect to ask Bible questions that he has considered disconnecting his phone in an effort to save on expenses, but he does not want to cut off his brethren from this avenue of study. Quite frankly, Otto is getting in desperate straits financially and yet does not complain!
Living costs in the Yucatan area where Otto lives are inflated by the tourist industry. He hopes to move to another location soon to open up additional labors from a more central location, but living costs are inflated in that area by the oil industry. In preparation for his move he is diligently trying to get some of the churches ready to stand on their own without his regular visits. He is preparing printed materials to help preachers and other brethren to be able to equip themselves to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2). He occasionally goes into Guatemala to preach, sometimes staying a month or six weeks at a time, but expenses for such trips are very high.
Otto is a veritable modern-day Paul in the nature and plan of his work as an evangelist. He desperately needs more regular support but is virtually unknown to American brethren. His work is well known to sound men in America who help with the work in Latin American countries, such as Bill Reeves (312 E. Zipp Road, New Braunfels, TX 78130) and Wayne Partain (806 Charming, San Antonio, TX 78210). His work is also well known to the churches at Pecan Valley (268 Utopia Road, San Antonio, TX 78223) and West Avenue (106 Sherwood Drive, San Antonio, TX 78201), both in San Antonio, Texas, and also the church here at West Columbia (15th and Jackson, West Columbia, TX 77486). These three churches have been helping with his support on a limited basis, but we are all aware that this is inadequate for the work he is doing.
Because of their confidence in Otto and their recognition of his desperate need, the elders of the church here (Charley Alexander, J.D. Harris, and James Moore) asked that this brief report and appeal be printed in hopes of stirring up other brethren to take an interest in this work. Otto’s sincerity, ability, and devotion are very evident in both his reports and his visits with us. In addition to all of his other work, he has been determined to learn English and to speak to us in English. When he visited us on 31 March 1991 he spoke to us in English part of the time by reading from a prepared manuscript, and we had Carlos Antunez to translate the rest of the time.
Not only is he reaching the alien sinner with the gospel, but also he has many opportunities to teach brethren from a liberal background, some of whom are so untaught as to be involved in Pentecostal practices and to defend social drinking. In view of all the work Otto is doing and the way he pushes and taxes himself, we pray that his physical health will hold up. May God continue to bless his labors and may God open our hearts to help, encourage, and support this faithful brother in every way we can! (Otto is now moving to a new area, I just learned, and Mexican mail is not forwarded. Write him in care of Bill Reeves, Wayne Partain, or myself and we will get your letters to him as soon as we get the new address.)
Thomas G. O’Neal
Torn O’Neal was born in 1938, was baptized in 1952, and began preaching the gospel of Christ in June of 1954. He has preached regularly for churches in Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee, has had several debates, has authored or coauthored tracts and booklets, and has written for gospel papers. For many years he diligently used every ability and opportunity to spread and to defend the gospel of Christ in its purity and simplicity. Younger preachers desiring to walk in the old paths of divine revelation have found Tom to be a warm friend and helper.
Tom held up the hands of H.E. Phillips and James P. Miller in the work of the gospel paper Searching the Scriptures almost from its beginning. Beginning in 1968 and continuing through December of 1983, his regular columns appeared in Searching the Scriptures.
All of his teaching and preaching has been noted for three elements. First, he has been characterized by Script ure- filled reaching and teaching. He once told me that when he hears speaker go the first two or three minutes into his sermon ithout introducing passages of Scripture as the basis of the ermon, he immediately begins to wonder where the speaker headed. Secondly, a strong stand for the truth of the ospel has been characteristic of Tom’s work in the ingdom. No one has ever had to wonder whether he would and or where he would stand when false doctrine and err have raised their ugly heads. Tom has been noted as a iend of truth but also an enemy of error. Those who teach ror know it well. Thirdly, simplicity has always aracterized Tom’s teaching. The common man can derstand the truth as preached by Tom O’Neal.
Few Bible characters are beloved as King David and the apostle Peter, partly because the mistakes and failings of such men are recorded and we can so easily identify with in. David became guilty of unrestrained lust, adultery, deception, and even murder. Passages like Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 reflect the genuine repentance of David as he was restored back to his Lord. After Peter denied the Lord three times, and became conscious of his great failure, he “wept bitterly” (Lk. 22:62). The Bible does not record the tragic failures of these men in order to embarrass them but in order to forewarn us of the bitter sorrows of sin and to help those fall to find their way back.
During the spring of 1984 Tom O’Neal quit preaching and left the Lord. Many who loved him and benefitted from his labors were crushed, but we continued to plead with Tom to pray unto God that he might be recovered from the snare of the devil. On 3 December 1989 Tom made the following confession before the Vestavia church of Christ Birmingharn, Alabama:
My purpose in coming before the congregation on this Lord’s Day is to make acknowledgment and repent of each and every sin of which I have been guilty. I am sorry for the reproach that has come upon the name of Christ as a result of my sins. I ask forgiveness and your prayers that God might forgive me. Should you see fit, I am willing to serve in any way you may in time request.
I ask for your love, understandings, friendship and encouragement. Through a very difficult period in my life, I am thankful for the encouragement of Connie W. Adams, Ron Halbrook, H. E. Phillips and Ida Cogdill Terrell.
I plan to cause this statement to be circulated in other places where I think brethren will have an interest.
“The Lord wants men to change in the right direction” (Searching the Scriptures, December 1983, p. 561). Tom wrote those words and Tom has applied them to himself. Like David and Peter before him, Tom has taken a step which forewarns us all not to leave the Lord and which encourages those who have fallen to return to the Lord. Welcome home, Tom!
Tom has tremendous talents to give in the service of the Lord. As he has steadied his course, he has been used in the teaching program at the Vestavia church and has preached in the pulpit both there and elsewhere as needed. He has revived his excellent publication Walking in Truth, dated January-February-March 1991, an effective tool for teaching the truth in years past. The publication is free, Those who wish to be added to the mailing list can write Tom at P.O. Box 723, Bessemer, Alabama 35021. Please write him a note of encouragement that he may go forward in the work of the Lord, redeeming the time, planting and watering, so that God may use his life for the increase of the kingdom of heaven.
East Memphis Church and Larry Hafley
During the week of 15-21 April 1991 1 had the privilege of laboring with the church in East Memphis, Tennessee in a gospel meeting. I met young people and young couples who are devoted to the Lord and who are developing their talents in the kingdom. I met middle-aged men and women who love the truth and are raising godly children. I became acquainted with older men and women who are stable in their faith and represent a stablizing influence for good. Above all, I was impressed with this congregation because it has endured a great trial of afflictions in order to maintain the purity of the gospel. Although such trials are always heartrending, they serve a purpose by purifying and strengthening the church.
For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you (1 Cor. 11:19).
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us (1 Jn. 2:19).
The East Memphis church is smaller than it was a few months ago, but it is spiritually stronger and more united in the truth than ever before.
After seven years with the church in Pekin, Illinois, Larry Hafley and his family moved to East Memphis in the summer of 1988. A dark cloud began to gather on the horizon in the fall of 1989, and the storm broke in its full fury in November and December of 1990 when an effort was made to fire Larry.
Larry’s preaching did not suit the tastes of those who wanted a generalized, sophisticated, all-positive gospel. Larry was adhering too closely to the concept of Jeremiah, that the Word of God is designed “to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” (Jer. 1:10). Brethren in some churches today have the idea that it is possible to plant without rooting out. Larry’s positive, faith-building sermons were balanced and matched with lessons which reprove sin and rebuke error (2 Tim. 4:2). Themes such as the cross of Christ, the conditions of pardon, and the Christian’s hope were regularly also presented from the pulpit, but the doctrines and commandments of men were exposed as the cause of souls falling into the ditch.
Murmurers and complainers said that they did not mind the truth being preached, but it should not be so plain, so pointed, and so direct. For instance, preaching against worldliness should not involve specific applications to the modern dances and proms, to gambling, to social drinking, and to immodest dress, especially immodest dress! Preaching against denominationalism must be sanitized to remove all direct references to denominations, their preachers, and their errors. Catholics who visit our services should not be offended by preaching that Peter was not the first Pope. We should not observe Christmas religiously but neither should we preach plain and pointed lessons exposing the sin and error of the religious observance of Christmas. False teachers and false doctrines among us should not be specified and identified in the pulpit. In other words, the time had come when some would “not endure sound doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:3).
Brethren at East Memphis who came out of denominationalism insisted that they had already heard the kind of preaching which the murmurers and complainers demanded, and had heard it in denominational churches. They did not care to hear it in the pulpit at East Memphis. The brethren at East Memphis are to be commended for stopping the mouths of those who would subvert the truth and subvert souls and for their determination not to compromise with error, “no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue ” (Tit. 1:10-11; Gal. 2:4-5). Finally, the false brethren who could not endure the truth left and, as always happens, others left because they could not endure the battle between truth and error.
Even though the attendance and contribution have suffered, the brethren at East Memphis are standing strong for the truth of the gospel. They want Larry to stay, and he has agreed to do so if at all possible, even though it means raising outside support for the first time in his life. Make no mistake about it, brethren, other churches among us are in to face the same battle because a spirit of compromise is slowly but surely creeping in among us. By standing in the gap, the church at East Memphis and Larry Hafley have set an example which should strengthen all of us for the days that lie ahead. We must remember that God will give the increase which is according to his will only who we teach the truth of the gospel with boldness and great plainness of speech. Write a note of encouragement to the East Memphis church of Christ, P.O. Box 341535, Bartlett, Tennessee 38134.
While some young preachers have defected from the faith, others have been growing stronger and stronger in the Lord, My wife and I first became well acquainted with Stan and Carla Adams when we preached for the Midfield, Alabama church and they were working with the brethren at Calera, both near Birmingham. The Midfield church had suffered a division while resisting a rebellion against the elders in the form of such political tactics as petitions. Because the church had been through this problem, some brethren had a sort of “hands-off” policy and stood off from us, but Stan was not afraid of that stigma and was a true friend to Midfield and to my family. Whereas some brethren professed confusion over whether petitions might be right or wrong, Stan never once faltered but recognized the petitions to be a challenge to God’s ordained pattern of church government, This should be no surprise because his father who trained him in the truth is a faithful gospel preacher of many years, J. Wiley Adams.
Perhaps some younger preachers are weak and compromising because they have never been through the fires of controversy. I have had the opportunity to watch Stan’s dedicated and consistent work in a context of peace. He did a good work at Calera and then also a good four years at the Southern Oaks congregation in Lake Jackson, Texas. Stan is the same dedicated, consistent person when passing through the trials of controversy. The same spirit of humility and patience is there. He is soft-spoken in personality and yet firm in faith and convictions. One of his strengths is the willingness to engage in self-examination, so that if he needs to make corrections he is ready and willing to do it. Whether in a context of peace or controversy, both his love for truth and his hatred of error are evident.
Stan is to be commended for his family life. As he faces the opportunities and pressures of preaching the gospel, he is mindful of his wife and children. While preaching the truth to others, he is also putting it into practice by raising a godly family.
Stan is currently working with the good church at Edna, Texas. We are fortunate to have the example and influence of this godly man in our area. He is not alone in the characteristics which are mentioned here. Other young men are walking in the old paths of divine revelation and are planting and watering by preaching the gospel of Christ in its purity and simplicity. It is evident through men like Stan Adams that the torch of truth will be passed to a new generation. If all of us will resolve to preach the Word of God, God will indeed continue to give the increase.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 18, pp. 562-564
September 19, 1991