By Dee Bowman
In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s a tremendous upheaval ripped the Lord’s church asunder. Brethren who were determined to introduce innovations into the work and organization of the church quarantined those who were wont to have a “thus saith the Lord” for all that is done by the church. Sides were drawn, labels applied, charges made. A full scale civil war ensued. Families were divided, friends estranged, and in many areas churches were left in rubble and ruin.
I have no doubt that most of these introductions were motivated of conscience and were done out of concern for the progress and growth of the Lord’s church.
Such deviations from the divine pattern came slowly. Benevolent societies, like orphan homes, homes for the aged, and later, homes for unwed mothers were introduced as a part of the work of the church. Later, the “whole person” concept was promoted and the churches began projects to provide for their members not only spiritual nourishment, but social refreshments as well. “Family Life Centers” sprang up, especially in the ’60’s and ’70’s, equipped with gymnasiums, exercise rooms, banquet halls, completely fitted kitchens designed to care for the “outer man” in the same way that the auditorium was to care for the “inner man.”
Those who opposed such arrangements were branded as “anti,” or “binding brethren” and told that they could either accept these philosophies or make arrangements to worship elsewhere. The social gospel concept became the rage. Large mergers were made, mergers where several smaller churches banded together to form huge churches, ones with the financial wherewithal to construct huge edifices and finance large and impressive programs of various sorts.
A strange vernacular followed the trend. Because of the financial strength to do so, large “staffs” began to be assembled, headed by a “board of elders,” and supervised by a “Pulpit Minister.” The “Minister of Education” was responsible for the highly efficient Sunday School Pro gram, one which included special classes for singles, cven divorced persons. “Bus Ministries” sprang up all over and they were guided by “Bus Ministers,” who concocted sometimes outlandish publicity schemes in order to induce neighborhood kids to ride the bus. Finding the children mostly unmanageable, some churches resorted to “Children’s Church,” where the youngsters themselves were taken to the basement and allowed to conduct their own services, in some cases even electing their own elders and deacons. Such things as “Youth Ministries” have gained reputation over the past several years and it is not now uncommon for churches to have their own choirs, and entertainment groups, comprised mostly of young people and some of which make annual tours as a part of their “Music Ministry.”
Lately strange cries are coming from the men who were the leading lights in the movement in the early days. “Liberals are among us!” they say. And they are! But it seems strange to me that these men cannot see that they are reaping what they have sown. Let me illustrate.
There are nine instances in the New Testament where the Lord’s church did benevolent work. In all nine of the instances, the benevolence was extended to needy saints. When I call that a pattern some of my friends in the more liberal churches say I am binding where the New Testament does not bind. But now that same argument is being made by their own “liberals.” There are also nine instances in the New Testament where music is referred to, and in all nine of these cases, the music specified is singing. The same brethren who reject the passages regarding benevolence as being a binding pattern are having trouble making their “liberals” understand that the nine cases regarding music necessarily limit the kind of music to singing. Their “liberals” don’t think they ought to bind those passages. It sounds very much like a case of reaping what has been sown.
A recent bulletin from the Burke Road Church of Christ in Pasadena is reported to have said that they did use instrumental music “but not in our regularly scheduled Sunday morning, evening and Wednesday night . . . because we do not want to offend the few who have a problem with this kind of praise” (quoted by Contending For The Faith, Ira Y. Rice, editor).
The only way to stop the on rush of liberalism, no matter whose “liberals” they are, is to return to the old paths, to ask for a “thus saith the Lord” for all that we do. Other wise, there is no end to the spread of this disease. (Reprinted from The Southside Reminder.)
Guardian of Truth XXX: 10, pp. 290, 310
May 15, 1986