By Irven Lee
When we read the Bible, we should read with special interest because of the depth of wisdom that is there for us. The doctrine of Christ can be a blessing in any community and to any individual if there is an eagerness to learn and apply the teaching. His message is precious for any attentive student anywhere in the world in any century. This is true because the message is from our Creator who knows our need. Its universal application is proof of the divine origin of the word.
Christians are to be watchful or vigilant. One way to look around and see what is going on is to read about what others are doing. I get several papers that are published by men or churches that have their recreational centers and support some of the big central collecting and spending agencies. Some churches are publishing books of sermons. The fact that churches are publishing books interests me, but the content of some of these books interests me very much. Many of these papers and the sermons in these books are very able presentations of truth on many different subjects. Much Scripture is used in these lessons. There seems to be sincere earnestness and an eager desire to arouse all to the seriousness of our responsibility. The writings I have seen lately are not promoting the “bus ministry” craze or even referring to their “family life” buildings. Neither are they telling of the wonderful accomplishments of Herald of Truth or of their merit in building institutional homes for orphans and the aged. Topics they deal with are denominational error, worldliness and indifference among members, and of the need for more workers with knowledge, courage, and determination to spread the truth. They may have a whole book of sermons without one cutting remark about “anti-cooperationists” or about us under any other title. This reading interests me very much and leaves me wondering where we go from here. Some of their radio sermons interest me also.
The hate and bitterness of two or three decades ago built up a wall that is both sound proof and opaque. People on that side of the wall may hardly know we are over here. We must put forth some effort to know what is going on over there. When I hear that some “Church of Christ” has won a soft ball game it played with the “Church of God,” I have little desire to attend worship services at either place. It then amazes me to hear that the “pulpit minister” at that church has an excellent knowledge of the Bible and preaches the truth very effectively. These better preachers among them may be losing their zeal for these unscriptural carnal additions. It would not be easy to get them to defend in public debate the very things that brought about the pathetic division and built the wall between us.
The bus ministry, picnics, games, and steak suppers brought growth to many churches where preachers were skilled as entertainers, but this growth was cancerous. Such unhealthy growth left these churches very sick in many cases. Maybe the promoters of the bus ministry have had treatment in mental health clinics or maybe the bankers from the banks where the churches do business talked to them. It may be that the wild behavior of children brought in by the excitement of bus trips to Opryland or Six Flags, stops by the ice cream store, and cash prizes hidden under the bus seats scared parents who wanted their children to have reverence. Something, whatever it was, seems to have gotten through to these sensational promoters. they seem to be quiet now as far as I know.
Some of the churches never did buy buses, build kitchens, or organize ball teams. They just gave to Herald of Truth, some orphan home, or to some sponsoring church that had assumed the oversight of preachers in some foreign country. They were also taught to say “fanatics,” “trouble makers,” and “antis” when referring to those thus labeled by some of the influential editors and preachers. In their preaching, some never made so much change.
Some preachers became defenders of denominationalism rather than of the faith. They copied the teaching of Calvinistic commentaries and modernistic protestants until they now are a part of the crowd. They are even changing the marks of identity on the signboards in front of their buildings. They are gone. Any comments about their parents and former brethren are critical. Papers they send out should be sent to the Baptists or Presbyterians because they would be more acceptable to them.
A few men ran backward past Jerusalem and on to Jericho. So many of their scruples are made laws that they find very few followers. It is a long way from this position of these ultra strict people to the sons and daughters of church members who have become defenders of modern Protestantism, which no longer protests. No bridge will ever span this gulf. The church grew rapidly during the depression years and the war years, but there came a sort of explosion about thirty years ago. Former brethren were scattered in all directions. The Christ was put to an open shame (Heb. 6:6).
I have written to a few of my old school mates who write good articles and send their papers to me. The usual response is absolute silence. No answer is returned. I have sent copies of my book, Preaching In A Changing World, and asked them to point out errors in it. No response comes from this request, either. On a few occasions I have found men who would preach on some subject like benevolence or the sponsoring church immediately after I have preached on the same subject. The two of us would preach on the same subject to the same audience on the same night. Audiences on such occasions have been large, courteous, and attentive.
It may be that many individuals will return to the old paths. Some have returned, including some whole congregations. The only satisfactory way for us to get together is by teaching and conversion. Evidently, the more conservative among- them are not far away. They would not have to make many changes to be much appreciated brethren among us.
The apostasy of the Herald of Truth opens the way back. Some have lost all respect for this expensive project. Now that colleges can appeal to churches for money without opposition, the keen drive to build institutional homes for the aged and orphans has ended. The “homes” that are in existence generally have large amount on savings. They are quiet.
A word to devout young Christians may be in order. They need to be well informed on the principles that are involved lest they be deceived. With much patience they may reach a few. It will not be easy because so many have been taught to be blind and deaf to us. Social ties will make it very hard for any who decide they should reject the things that are without scriptural authority. The sermons and articles that are true to the book and evidently common among them give some room for hope. Compromise is no good solution to any problem. Good sermons from heretics may do much harm.
A word of caution is very much in order. Young people who have grown up since the digression of thirty years ago may visit the churches that practice several unscriptural or unauthorized things, but they may hear a few good sermons and suppose that all is well. First they should notice the announcements and look at the financial report. Is that church going beyond the doctrine of Christ? (See 2 John 9-11). If it has already added a few things, it may add others any time. If it does not hesitate to go beyond that which is written it is already in trouble. See that you walk circumspectly (Eph. 5:15). Beliefs, attitudes, and practices will have to change before they are in the safe way. Preachers of the Christian Church may no longer preach on instrumental music, but it still practices it and many other unscriptural things.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 15, pp. 464-465
August 2, 1984