Riding the Tide

By Robert C. Welch

A great host of preachers and churches are now riding the tide of opposition to the engaging of churches in the support of human systems and organizations which in turn perform the work of evangelism, edification and benevolence. They had and have nothing to do with stirring up or increasing that tide; they are merely riding it.

Some of these preachers are enjoying popularity among the churches; not because they are rigorously opposing the institutional systems which are catholicizing the churches of the Lord, but, to the contrary, because they are, at least publicly, refraining from discussing it. Of course, when asked they are happy to tell you privately where they stand. Many of the churches who are now using these preachers who are riding the tide do not any longer see the need of using some of those preachers who dared to fight the battle when the cause was so unpopular.

Such preachers and churches even consider those who pitched and waged the battle in the heat of the fray as controversial and radical figures, unworthy of the one-time respect, as without any influence locally and throughout the brotherhood. Such churches forget that these men sacrificed their popularity in order to keep the institutional machine from destroying the faith and righteous function of these churches. Such preachers forget that these men counted themselves expendable in order to maintain the independency of the congregations where others are now provided a place to preen their wings and enjoy their popularity.

Much of the teaching which opposed the -institutional movement was done in writings in religious papers. Many of the preachers who are riding the tide of present popularity no longer subscribe to those papers and no longer think it profitable to read what those same men are continuing to say. Perhaps they think that they have outgrown the thinking of these men who made it possible for them to ride the tide.

It is true that the man in the front of the battle does not have the time to polish his gun as does the man who is spending his days back in camp. But the polished gun may not fire as well, or may not fire at all, as does the gun which has been tried on the line. The man who has sat in camp while the battle was raging may have polished his manners and his sermons, but the glint of the steel is meaningless unless his sermon will continue to push back the error and sin.

Churches of the Lord, now as in the last century and always, will have to keep pressing the battle and stirring the tide against error one kind or another. As was the Lord and his apostles they must be controversial in nature. There can be no relenting. There can be no riding the tide.

Written in December 7, 1961 in the church paper of the Nacogdoches, Texas church.

August 17, 1972