By Larry Ray Hafley
The Baptists: “There is an old saying that ‘Birds of a feather flock together.’ Well, Bob Sumner worked for years side by side with Dr. John R. Rice. . . . Dr. Rice loved Billy Graham and supported him far longer than many thought he should. Only when Brother Billy began to compromise with his liberal friends like James Pike, Bishop Oxnam, and other notorious liberals, had them on the platform and sent converts to their churches, did dear Dr. Rice sadly withdraw his support. He was never Billy’s enemy, but he could no longer support him and said so. His stand hurt Dr. Rice and cost him an enormous price, because of Dr. Graham’s fame and prestige, but knowing John R. Rice, no one would expect him to do otherwise” (Dr. Wayne Wall, “Points For Preachers To Ponder,” The Biblical Evangelist, November-December 1999, 12).
The Brethren: Explaining why the congregation endorses the Billy Graham Crusade set for June 1-4, 2000, Lovelines, the bulletin of the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ, Nashville, Tennessee said:
Woodmont Hills supports the decision of Dr. Graham and his ministry team to be in Nashville. . . .
It is important for the members of our church family to understand why we will be enthusiastic participants.
Billy Graham presents Jesus Christ as mankind’s only hope for eternal life. “My one purpose in life,” he insists, “is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which I believe comes through knowing Christ.” If it is right to link arms with other believers to oppose pornography and drugs, surely it cannot be wrong to join with them to preach Christ crucified.
Dr. Graham has a reputation of honesty, accountability, and moral uprightness. In a generation when so many evangelists have been tarnished by scandal, he has exhibited Christian character throughout his career.
The Graham Crusade will challenge the church in Nashville to reap a harvest of souls to God’s glory. The most important part of the crusade will not be four days of preaching at the coliseum but the months of prayer, teaching, and seed-planting that will lead up to the first week in June of 2000.
The invitation to be given each evening will be for persons to make a decision to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Respondents will then make a self-designating choice to be counseled about the meaning of their decision by people from several different groups. We will be working closely with the campaign effort to advise and teach those who mark Church of Christ. We will also try to connect such persons with a congregation that can minister to them appropriately and help them in their spiritual pilgrimage.
With the blessing of our shepherds, Rubel Shelly is serving as a General Committee Member on behalf of this outreach effort. Several of our shepherds wrote letters of invitation to Dr. Graham to encourage him to come to our city. Training sessions for crusade workers will be hosted on our property. And we ask all of you to pray for the success of this effort to exalt Jesus Christ in our great city.
Jesus is not only the hope of the world but of our city, your block, and a non-Christian friend you can begin now to pray will attend the crusade with you next spring (September 19, 1999).
Commentary: Brother Shelly may have “the blessing of (his) shepherds,” but does he have the blessing of God? When David moved the ark of the covenant, “the thing was right in the eyes of all the people” (1 Chron. 13:4). However, their plan of operation did not meet the approval of heaven, and neither does Woodmont’s congregational cooperation with a digressive denomination.
When brother Shelly speaks of “the church in Nashville” (“The Graham Crusade will challenge the church in Nashville”), we wonder who or what is included in “the church”? Does he mean to include all the denominational participants? Yes, he does. Let him deny it! Does he mean that churches of Christ, along with Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and others, constitute “the church in Nashville”? Yes. Let him deny it, if he will, and we shall happily apologize.
We know what the Bible says about the acceptance of false teachers, those who “bring not this doctrine (the doctrine of Christ).” It says, “receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11). The Lord commended the Ephesian church for refusing false apostles (Rev. 2:2). He rebuked those who held “the doctrine of the Nicolaitans,” and not the doctrine of Christ (Rev. 2:15). Further, he condemned those who allowed a false prophetess “to teach and seduce my servants” (Rev. 2:20). Jesus gave no consolation to those who (like Billy Graham) love the traditions of men above the truth of God (Matt. 15:12-15; 16:6, 12).
“But, Rubel is using this as a way to reach those who signify interest in the church, so it is but a tool to reach others.”
(1) If so, he is a deceiver. If that is indeed his motive, ask the Billy Graham crusade what they think of it! (2) How, then, does that differ from every Baptist, Methodist, or Presbyterian church in town? All will seek to identify with their own. (3) The truth is, Rubel and the Woodmont church have (contrary to Scripture, and contrary to the practice of conservative Baptists) given endorsement to a man and his ministry that have damned the souls of millions of people (Eph. 5:11; 2 John 9-11 — Do those passages mean nothing?!). “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness . . . and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? . . . Wherefore come ye out from among them and be ye separate saith the Lord” (2 Cor. 6:14-17). (4) Can we imagine that Paul would invite Hymanaeus and Philetus to “campaign and crusade” with him (2 Tim. 2:16-18)? “The circumcision” party may have believed nearly everything Paul taught except for his refusal to bind circumcision. Did Paul, therefore, reach out to a lost and dying world in cooperation with those erring ones (Acts 15:24; Gal. 2:5; Tit. 1:10-13)? If not, how can Rubel and Woodmont do so?
If it be argued that Rubel accepts Graham as Paul accepted those in Philippians chapter one who sought to add burden to his bondage, we reply that Paul rejoiced only that Christ was preached (Phil. 1:18). Mr. Graham will not preach Christ as per Acts 8:5, 12, 35-39. He will not preach “Jesus Christ and him crucified” as Paul did, for when the Corinthians heard it, they “believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8; 1 Cor. 2:2). This will not occur when Graham preaches. Paul preached “the gospel of the grace of God” in Ephesus, and “when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5; 20:24; Eph.1:13). Baptism in the name of the Lord is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Billy Graham will not so preach in Nashville. No one, based upon his preaching, will ask, “What doth hinder me to be baptized?” After hearing Mr. Graham allegedly preach the gospel of the grace of God, none will be “baptized . . . in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,” as they did when Paul and Peter preached.
Let not our enthusiasm be dampened by these sad events in Nashville. Rather, let them serve as a spur to renewed diligence and devotion. Truly, these tragic things are but the harvest we have predicted for many years. We must acknowledge that softness, compromise with the world, churches turned toward entertainment, and acceptance of denominational methods of work and worship have simply produced their fruit. Learn from them. Be determined that more fervent prayer, greater faith and humility, and bolder and stronger preaching are needed to stem the tide of error, prevent its reoccurrence, and establish our children in the faith once delivered.
4626 Osage, Baytown, Texas 77521 LarryHafley@compuserve.com
Truth Magazine Vol. XLIV: 4 p14 February 17, 2000