By Louis J. Sharp
Two letters received from the Sylvan Hills church of Christ, Sherwood, Arkansas, have some revealing and disturbing statements. They are disturbing because they indicate a complete lack of understanding in regard to the work and organization of the church. They reveal a departure on the part of these brethren undreamed of thirty-five to forty years ago. We certainly did not think any of us would live to see churches of Christ publicizing and promoting a state or national convention of any kind, but we were wrong!
From the letter dated November 23, 1987, we quote:
The Sylvan Hills church of Christ is pleased to announce that we will host the 4th Annual Arkansas State Lads to Leaders and Leaderettes Convention on Saturday, March 5, 1988. We encourage you to begin now to make plans for sharing with us this special event.
The theme for this year’s convention is once again based on that of the National Convention. The theme for 1988 is “One Another Relationships. ” There are many scriptures that deal with how we are to treat one another.
The Bible Bowl book for study is The Old Testament Book of Exodus.
Please keep these in mind as you prepare for both the State and National Conventions.
From another quote, we learn of the origin of these Conventions:
We wish to express appreciation to the Downtown Church of Christ in Searcy, Arkansas for the excellent job they have done in hosting the State Convention from 1985-1987, with the first one originating there in November of 1985.
In the second letter, dated January 20, 1988, we learn something about Convention rules and pre-registration:
Award certification will be given to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places in each category. National Convention rules apply to all competition. . . Bible Bowl questions will be taken from the Old Testament Book of Exodus, and will be worded from the New American Standard Version.
Pre-registration fee is $6.00 per person. This includes the cost of the banquet and awards fee. This will be non-refundable. Please make your checks payable to Sylvan Hills Church of Christ.
Please bring at least one adult per five Lads/Leaderettes to act as judges and chaperones. Remember, ladies can judge Lads, but gentlemen cannot judge Leaderettes. (They may have trouble here. What about equal rights? L.J.S.)
In reading the above, I could not help but wonder, “Where do the elders come in?” If they are going by National Convention Rules, did the elders have a part in formulating those rules? Do they even know what the rules are? Remember, this is conducted by the church that is supposed to be under their rule and over-sight!
And where do we read of the church charging for any of its services? The pre-registrants were instructed to make their “non-refundable” checks to the Sylvan Hills Church of Christ. One reason this is so sad to me, personally, is I preached for this church in its very beginning, when two or three families desired to establish the church in their area. It is another example of a work I helped with thirty-five to forty years ago who consider me narrow and uninformed today.
How far must the departure be before there is an awakening among our brethren of years past? *e read of their sectarian and denominational concepts. I am reminded of the plight of the Jews who returned from Babylonian captivity. They began to inter-marry with the people of the land. “And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews language, but according to the language of each people” (Neh. 13:24).
We have a generation that knows not the language of Scripture. How different the admonition given by Paul to young Timothy:
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. . . . Take heed to thyself and unto thy doctrine, continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee (1 Tim. 4:12,16).
I agree our young people need training and guidance under the oversight of our elders, but not under the rules of a state or national convention. We are hearing the language of Ashdod today!
Brethren, we have drifted!
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 15, p. 453
August 4, 1988