That Third Group

By Irven Lee

It is sad but true that the church is divided from coast to coast, and even in continents beyond, over church support of entertainment, and over central agencies through which the churches are encouraged to do their work. The division is already here, and it will evidently be permanent. There are two groups. The two groups will get further and further apart since the break down in the respect for the silence of the scriptures opens a flood gap for many innovations. Exactly the same principles were involved when the instrument and societies were added in the last half of the last century. These first innovations were only keys to open the flood gap, so that now the Disciples of Christ, so called, can work with Methodist preachers much more intimately than they can work with gospel preachers. The “far out” groups among us today just started a little earlier or traveled a little faster. Sister churches are going in the same direction if they have added some doctrines and practices beyond the authority of Christ.

There tends to be a high sound-proofed wall between the two groups. Neither hears the sermons preached in the others buildings. Even private discussions tend to become an exchange of insults. There are some exceptions to this closed door attitude. Some among the digressive churches seem to be getting awake to danger and apostasy. Let us all be thankful and hopeful when we see courtesy and respect shown over or around the iron curtain of former prejudice. Would it not be good for us to get together and hear each other more? Misunderstanding is involved. There are those who have been told and have believed that those opposed to doing benevolent and evangelistic work through boards or national elderships do not believe in preaching the gospel or in helping the needy. Control of temper, patience in teaching, humility, and all other good traits are needed.

Each group accuses the other of causing division. The Lord calls the game and keeps the score. There is no doubt that He will mark each error of doctrine or attitude against either team. When there is a break in fellowship, there are usually some things objectionable on both sides before things settle into permanent and hopeless division. Let each examine himself and walk circumspectly. Surely the serious and divisive influence will be charged against the group that brings in the unscriptural or unauthorized doctrines and practices.

If digression gains momentum with time, and certainly it does, efforts should be put forth in earnest to reclaim as many individuals as possible. A few whole congregations have turned around and come back. This is a rare thing, but many individuals who were at first deceived may be restored. Work hard because souls are involved. Even children of the restored will have a better chance to find the narrow way that leadeth unto life. Some who say that the church should not support institutions and entertainment continue to give financial and moral support to the churches that support both. They know that none would be allowed to warn of the digression in those pulpits. They should come out and stand.

It is not necessary to wait twenty or thirty years after digression has taken over the churches in an area before it is proper to start over on the rock of truth. Start while there are still those who can recognize the ring of a gospel sermon. Start while there is at least a remaining remnant for the nucleus of the true church. Be patient when the lies and persecution set in, and work heartily as unto the Lord.

There is that third group which has set up camp in the comfortable wooded area on the hill above the battle between truth and error. They are like the monkeys on the paper weight. They see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. They cannot keep from knowing that thousands of congregations have been divided but they see no reason to warn any one of danger. They may be more inclined to warn against concern, study, and conviction, rather than against addition to the scriptures. Preachers of this “see no evil” group can preach for the liberals in one place and then preach for the conservatives in another. They are a bit like the geography teacher in the old days who could teach the shape of the earth to be round or flat, according to the request of the board.

This third group should be ashamed to claim ignorance and uncertainty as to where the truth lies. There have been twenty-five years for a study period after the contest was thrust upon us. All should search the scriptures to see. Do members of the churches of Christ not know that it is a sin to go beyond the teachings of Christ? (2 John 9-11; 1 Peter 4:11; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 2 Peter 1: 3; 2 Cor. 5:7.) Is it all that hard to see that there is no denominational machinery authorized in the Bible? Nothing larger than the local church is mentioned in the good Book. Where does it authorize church support of central agencies or entertainment?

These things are authorized or they are not. They are right or they are wrong. We should warn and rebuke when error blows by to destroy. (2 Tim. 4:1-5; Titus 1:13; 2:15; Acts 20:29-31.)

June 8, 1972