The People In The Pew

By David E. Dicus

For several years I have had considerable contact with brother Charles Holt. Although we attended neighboring congregations, this association has been more of a social nature rather than religious. During some of the darker periods of my life brother Holt was “there for me.” His influence and encouragement is due a great deal of credit for helping me get turned around, both physically and spiritually. I shall always be grateful for his attention.

Like so many of our brethren, I had often wondered if brother Holt still espoused many of his old concepts in regard to the eldership, etc. So, in 1982, in all sincerity, I requested a discussion with him on a one-on-one basis (Matt. 18). Brother Holt’s answer consisted largely of a tirade, asking who was I to be calling him in question. Needless to say I was hurt and confused. Obviously, he considered me to be beneath his knowledge and position, and to grant me an audience would be a waste of time. However, it was perfectly clear that he still clung to his old ideas.

Within the past several months, I have been privileged to attend both debates between brother Holt and brother J.T. Smith. The first of these was in Lake Jackson, Texas and the second here in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In both of these brother Smith often chided brother Holt for failure to approach the issues as raised by the debate. (See Truth [April, 1986 issue] “News and Notes” by brother Elmer Moore.) Instead of complying, brother Holt repeatedly stated that his intent was to preach to the people in the pew.

Now this seemed to be a rather curious attitude for a brother who has agreed to debate certain specific differences of opinion. What about the audience? Some of us had come from afar, and at considerable expense, to hear these advertised issues discussed. Do you suppose they could have been short changed? At any rate, brother Holt did, in his very capable ability, deliver several elegant and emotional discourses, directed, as he says, to the people in the pew. It seemed to make no difference that they bore little relationship to the questions at hand.

Just who are these people in the pew? One could suppose that they are a cross section of Christians like you would find in most any local congregation. Sprinkled in among them would be elders, deacons, preachers, etc. These all occupy a seat in the pew. (It has been at least two generations since I have seen these elders etc. sitting down front in those old over-stuffed chairs. They now sit in the pew.) At any rate, brother Holt seems to have no trouble recognizing the average Christian. But his opinion of them has deteriorated greatly. Listen to what he has to say about them:

But even worse in my view, is the fact that “the people in the pews” are so ignorant of God’s word, so fearful and intimidated that they are in such slavery to men and an unscriptural corporate structure that they accept and bow to such treatment as this (The Examiner, 1:2, p. 15).

These average Christians who sit in the pews are viewed by Holt as ignorant, fearful, and intimidated. As such they should be fair game for most any precept that could be made plausible to them. Right? Is it possible that brother Holt hopes to build a following among a group like this? Does this pattern sound familiar? It ought to. Paul cautioned the Ephesian elders about it some 2000 years ago (Acts 20:29,30). No wonder he is trying to reach the people in the pew. And he is not the least bit subtle about it. He openly proclaims this to be his intention.

Now you would think that the admonition to the pew people to bolt from the shackles of congregational authority, would catch on. After all this is the age of “do your own thing” and E.R.A. (Holt issues a special appeal to Christian women to speak out and stand up for their rights.) So, where is the problem? After some 20 years, give or take a few, why are so few people willing to accept this concept? It is true that a small handful had adopted the idea, but then most any radical can get somebody to follow him, no matter how far out in “left field” he may be.

But the real reason these poor ignorant, intimidated, and superstitious people in the pew are not buying these ideas is that they have been “programmed” to investigate them in light of God’s word (Acts 17:11). They have been taught to ignore sensationalism and emotionalism and to stand on the Bible and the Bible alone. They have always been proud of this principle and have used it successfully down through the years to withstand error. So if brother Holt and his followers would cease these trite tactics and get down to the business of “chapter and verse” perhaps they could reach more people. On the other hand the results might turn out surprisingly different. The people in the pew might be able to reach them.

Guardian of Truth XXX: 12, p. 370
June 19, 1986