By Leslie Diestelkamp
Since my return from Africa a few months ago, and in view of the fact that I am now engaged altogether in meeting work which takes me to various parts of this country, many people often ask: “What changes do you see in the condition of the church and what is your view of present conditions?” My answer is that I see much cause to rejoice. However, in view of the division that seems to be spreading, and also in consideration of the widespread abandonment of many Bible principles by brethren in so many places, my answer may seem strange. And because so many seem to have a downcast, pessimistic attitude that is hurtful to themselves and to the cause of Christ, I present the following reasons for such rejoicing:
Conservative Brethren Are Liberal
In spite of the fact that in some places some brethren have become so obsessed with the need of fighting error in the churches that they have almost forgotten the equally important work of “sowing the good seed of the kingdom,” yet other brethren are eager to be busy in constructive work and are also happy to help those who want to go out into needy fields. It took me only three weeks to raise almost seven thousand dollars in travel funds when I was preparing to go to Nigeria, and almost all of this was received from churches that are very conservative. Brethren Sewell Hall and Aude McKee had similar success when they decided to go to Nigeria also. In fact, everywhere brethren seem to welcome the opportunity to engage in such work. This is as it should be. We cannot expect a harvest from a field simply because we have carefully chopped the weeds out, but we must have also planted good seed there and cultivated it well. So, while we urgently watch for every error, and oppose it with all our might, we might also carefully teach and practice the true principles that will build up the cause of Christ and that will lead the lost to salvation. I indeed rejoice that many, many brethren who stand solidly against every innovation and departure are equally committed to the constructive work of upholding with positive work and teaching every principle of righteousness.
Conservative Churches Are Growing
I know that in some places there are liberal tendencies that are shaking the very strongest of churches, and in some quarters many preachers and churches are drifting away from truth and fidelity to Christ. This is sufficiently extensive to cause any sincere person to grieve and to cause every real Christian to pray earnestly for strength and wisdom for the tasks that lie ahead of us in these next few years. However, there is also cause for great joy and those who consider the complete picture of the church today cannot be pessimists. Consider the following examples: Just a few years ago most of the churches in and around Indianapolis were climbing on the institutional bandwagon. Some would have then said that there were only two or three churches that could be counted upon to hold the line against innovations. Today there are eight or more churches in that area that preach and practice only those things that are authorized, and if one will reach out into neighboring towns and cities, that number will be increased to many more that are altogether sound in word and activity. Likewise we must all surely rejoice at the advancements in the Nashville area. Reliable sources indicate that there are now several churches there that actively oppose the liberal trends and many others do not “go along” with the idea of burdening the churches with support of human institutions. Then in Chicago-land changes have been amazing. A few years ago only a small handful or less could be counted upon to even decline the introduction of almost every conceivable thing and only two or three churches actually opposed such. Today at least fifteen or more churches in the metropolitan area refuse any participation in the unscriptural sponsorship arrangements or in support of human institutions. An equal number of preachers in the area openly and steadfastly oppose those departures. Furthermore, if one reaches out into the neighboring towns and cities, many more conservative preachers and churches will be found.
I am sure these three illustrations could be multiplied. In view of such facts I cannot be pessimistic. As one writer has so ably said, we have reached a time for sifting, and those who are weak, those who are filled with material ambitions and those who desire the favor of men may be drawn further and further into entangling and contaminating activities. But at the same time more and more sincere Christians will revolt against departures. Many will emerge with even greater strength than we had dared to hope. Surely a mighty army will remain faithful to the Captain of our salvation, and even if such army be only a remnant of the whole church as we know it today, it can be, if we make it so, a great and powerful force for bringing the lost to Christ and for restoring the wayward to the truth.
Truth Magazine, VI: 5, pp.120-119