By Fred A. Shewmaker
Since 1957 I have had in my possession a tract entitled “What Is The Church of Christ”. The following Statement appears on the inside back cover of this tract: “The material in this article was presented in a sermon on January 23, 1955 at the Hillsboro Church of Christ, 2206 Hillsboro Road, Nashville, Tennessee, and heard over radio station WLAC.” Although the overall content of the tract is good it does contain the following ambiguous sentence: “Congregations do cooperate voluntarily in supporting the orphans and the aged, in preaching the gospel in new fields, and similar work.” Since this sentence is given to more than one interpretation, it needed clarification.
The tract begins with an introduction and then proceeds by asking questions that are immediately followed by answers. The portion of the tract from which I have taken the preceding is the answer given to question IV: “Are the churches of Christ organically connected?” The full answer given in this old tract to question IV is as follows:
“Following the plan of organization found in the New Testament, churches of Christ are atonomous. (sic) Their common faith in the Bible and adherence to its teaching are the chief ties which bind them together. There is no central headquarters of the church and no organization superior to the elders of each local congregation. Congregations do cooperate voluntarily in supporting the orphans and the aged, in preaching the gospel in new fields, and in other similar works. There are no conventions, annual meetings, or official publications. The `tie that binds’ is a common loyalty to the principles of the restoration of New Testament Christianity.”
In my estimation this is not a forthright answer to the question. The author of the tract, brother Batsell Barrett Baxter, apparently agrees with this estimation. The evidence that he does is to be found in the change made in answer to question IV in the new issue of his tract.
I have recently come into possession of brother Baxter’s new issue of the tract. On the front cover in addition to the title, “What Is The Church of Christ”; are the words “Revised Edition” printed at about a 30 degree angle. A careful reading of the “Revised Edition” reveals that, other than an addition in the introduction and the updating of statistics, there is only one change to be found. That change is found in the answer given to question IV. In the new issue the author clarifies what he means by the sentence, “Congregations do cooperate voluntarily in supporting the orphans and the aged, in preaching the gospel in new fields, and in other similar works.” In the “Revised Edition”we find the following, entirely new, paragraph inserted, immediately after that sentence:
“Members of the church of Christ conduct forty colleges and secondary schools, as well as seventy-five orphanages and homes for the aged. There are approximately forty magazines and other periodicals published by individual members of the church. A nation-wide radio and television program, known as `The Herald of Truth’ is sponsored by the Highland Avenue church in Abilene, Texas. Much of its annual budget of $1,200,000 is contributed on a free-will basis by other churches of Christ. The radio program is currently heard on more than 800 radio stations, while the television program is now appearing on more than 150 stations. Another extensive radio effort known as `World Radio’ owns a network of 28 stations in Brazil alone, is operating effectively in the United States and a number of foreign nations, and is being produced in fourteen languages. An extensive advertising program in leading national magazines began in November 1955.”
Why did brother Baxter write about all these organizations of human origin in the new issue of his tract? With this in mind look back at the question he is answering. “Are churches of Christ organically connected?” If I were not a member of the church of Christ, would brother Baxter’s answer mean Yes or No, to me?
Brethren who have opposed taking money from the treasury of a local church and supporting the human organizations, mentioned in this new answer to question IV, have long argued that such support constitutes an organic connection of churches. Although brother Baxter may wish to deny it; his answer in the new issue of his tract admits those who so argue were, and are, correct.
How appropriate are the words on the front of the new issue of the tract. This new tract does not tell about the church of Christ as it is revealed in the word of God. This new tract tells about the revisions of the church of Christ that have been wrought by men who were not satisfied with the church described in the Holy Scriptures.
How suggestive of a name are the words on this new issue of the tract. Will the brethren who have organically connected many local churches of Christ soon find that their organization has become popularly known as the Church of Christ Revised? Time will tell!
Truth Magazine, XVIII:19, pp. 9-10
March 14, 1974