Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 16, 1958
NUMBER 24, PAGE 9a-10

"Those Pressing Needs"

Arnold Hardin, Lancaster, Texas

The front page of the Gospel Advocate has been occupied again by Brother Thomas Warren as he wrote under the question, "What are our most pressing needs?" We are certainly in agreement with much of it but other parts of it, in typical fashion, are pure nonsense. Brother Warren says, "No doubt there are literally thousands who would be receptive to the gospel if they were but to hear it and see it lived by Christians." Amen. He says again, "And the tragic thing is: we, the members of that one church, are not touching the "hem of the garment" in carrying the gospel to them."

He then wrote of the marvelous means of communication available to us and believes that we are not utilizing these as we should. We can but agree. He feels that the free amount of space and time given to the Catholics is an indication as to how they have grown. However, it would be nearer the truth to say that it indicates that the Catholic Church has grown more in political and economic strength, thus holding a club over more heads than before. Be that as it may, our brother seems to intimate that if the church was really doing its duty that it could be the recipient of a lot of free time and space. It certainly seems that "our" standard in many things has become the infamous society of Catholicism instead of the Bible. We are not just shooting in the dark for such confused thinking appears in print all too often to be an accident.

In the closing part of Brother Warren's article he says, "Brethren answer this question: "Who have a better reputation for benevolence among men, the Catholics or the churches of Christ?" Brethren have become obsessed with the idea of being great in the eyes of men. Certainly the Catholic Church does a lot of benevolent work. How do they obtain the money? They do it by begging (and some brethren have been guilty), gambling, selling liquor, beer and a multiplicity of ways sinful and in defiance of God and truth. Masons have a good record of benevolence; but, are we to deny God and the authority of Christ in an effort to match the benevolence of that pagan religious institution? The truth of the matter is that God's people will never be able to match the charitable works of ungodly and politically inspired systems of religious dictators who have no hesitation to become bosom pals with the Devil in order to receive his favours. God help us to quit measuring the church by the applause of men and the Satanic forces of evil and open our eyes to the Divine measuring rod, the word of God. Modernism says that the church is a social institution and denominationalism stands as a monument to this idea. However, faith accepts the church as God planned and designed it; a saving institution.

The church is fast leaving it's moorings and one of the most pressing needs is that we be conscious of the source of our troubles. Many brethren have put the church into forbidden fields of effort and when challenged they yell "anti" and "Negativists". But it is granted that to match the efforts of Satan's forces we must use his tactics. Where did we ever get the idea that the church must keep stride with all the actions of men before it could be pleasing to God and fulfilling its mission of rescuing men from sin? This is a basic fallacy. It is eating into churches and causing division and heartache. These institutional men do not hesitate to push themselves into churches and stir up trouble. It has been brought to this writer's attention that a certain congregation is having trouble and that it is largely caused by outside forces. This has happened to other good churches and for the same reasons. But let us notice this one. This particular church is a good sized church and is helping to support, either fully or partially, several preachers out in the world. They are caring for needy people and are even buying services of one of the private care taking Homes operated by brethren. They can't be charged with error and they have not refused to send the gospel nor to feed and clothe the needy.

However, unrest and trouble has come to that church largely instigated from without. It is standing with the Spirit's sword fighting another "Sword." Its elders, deacons and preacher are under fire. Why should such a church of our Lord be attacked from without? The answer is very simple. Determined brethren condemn such churches all because they will not support human institutions to which these brethren have become wedded. In their misplaced hopes of matching the Catholic Church they have forsaken truth and substituted human manipulations. They despise churches that will not yield and place their necks on the chopping block. But, as reported, something revealing is advocated by some in this church of which we have just spoken. It is being maintained that benevolence is as extensive as the commission, "into all the world". They quote certain preachers on this point. Hence, one advocated the withdrawal of some of the money being sent to preachers in order that it be sent to Boles Home. Just think of Christians advocating such things. And, just ponder on this a little: A church can be doing everything God has directed for it to do and yet these liberal minded brethren will not extend it fellowship until it is willing to turn some of it's money and responsibilities to human societies either for preaching or benevolence. Hear Brother Warren again: "While Catholicism runs rampant, we have let a little group of would be creed makers cause us to withdraw within our shells and do almost nothing lest we bring down upon our heads the misrepresentation and criticism of which this group is so capable." Talk about misrepresentations and error; our brother is not the man for his hands are too stained. He writes of creed makers and yet he knows well that only a "thus saith the Lord" has been demanded. And he and the Editor of the Advocate well know that the people that read these misrepresentations will never be given the chance of hearing any explanation from those falsely accused. This is the lowest form of cowardice.

Warren says that elders and preachers must stand up and be counted in the fight against "anti-ism" within our own ranks. This is no time for spiritual cowards he says. We detect more fodder than grain just at this point. Brother Warren will you stand up and fight in Fort Worth? Will you attack the practices of faithful brethren other than by your "Sword" of misrepresentations? Remember that he that teaches another ought first to have taught himself . Many fine men would be willing to meet you in a brotherly discussion of what you call "anti-ism" in Fort Worth. "Anti-ism" as you view it is in Fort Worth and is growing. Should it not be considered by you as a pressing need to do as you are advising other brethren to do? Or did you mean such advice to only include a fight so arranged that the opponent would never be allowed a defense at least before those that had witnessed your shadow boxing and fancy foot work.

Brother Warren admonishes Elders to remember the work that God wants done among the needy and he uses such as Matt. 5:38-43 to show the extent of that work. Then he advances the question, to which reference has been made, as to which has the best record for benevolence the Catholic Church or churches of Christ. Now just before I give a most timely statement from Brother F. B. Shepherd I would like to ask Brother Warren a question. Brother Warren how many needy people in Fort Worth remain untouched by the church for which you preach? If brethren in Fort Worth will give you the names and addresses of needy people will you see to it that the church will furnish their needs even if it has to cut your own salary in order to get the money? You advocate general benevolence and call those who disagree "antis." Will you practice what you preach or is it just hot air?

Just here we deem it fitting to give a statement by Brother F. B. Shepherd as delivered in the Abilene Lectureship of 1943. "A third misconception of the divinely ordained function of the church Christ built is that it should assume the burden of supplying the physical and material needs of the world today. Certainly the Lord Jesus never spoke truer words than when he said, "The poor you always have with you." But in that very expression and that very time he quite clearly indicated that primarily the church was not instituted as a benevolent or eleemosynary society to be burdened with the obligation to assume responsibility for the eating, wearing, and housing of the world. The Jerusalem church is found early in its history concerned about the physical needs of its less fortunate members and efficiently caring for the situation. But one reason for the appointment of the seven was that the apostles themselves might not be handicapped in their most important "ministry of the word". And be it noted this was not the organizing of an independent subsidiary, or auxiliary to the church itself that would function to the seeking out of all and sundry, in the church and out, persons to whom some money, clothes, or food might be given. (Read Acts 4:32-37; 6:1-6) In the cases of the activity of the churches of Macedonia to raise money to relieve the physical distress of the brethren in Judea, the help was evidently sent to relieve the distress of the Saints exclusively and not for general distribution. (2 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8 and 9; Acts 11:29) In one of the few explicit instructions given by the Holy Spirit to govern this sort of church work the apostle limits the donations to a particular type of needy (1 Tim. 5:9-10) He at the same time gives some direct instructions regarding the relief of the church itself from responsibility. I am not opposing the giving to the relief of the needy, child or adult. Such is the natural expression of a heart warmed with the love of God. It is Christianity. What I have in mind is that the New Testament nowhere teaches, either by precept or approved precedent, that the church or the churches shall be committed to the dispensation of "charity" promiscuously. That the church should go into the business. Christianity has to do mainly with the soul and its salvation rather than with the body and its preservation."

That was in '43. Was Brother Shepherd an "anti"? Few in '43 would have disagreed. Yet, for the same to be taught now one becomes the object of scorn and hatred. Truth is still truth and is worth all sacrifices in its behalf. Never be afraid to plunge the Spirit's Sword "into the heart, not the heel of sin." For truly these are distressing and trying times. The words of the Firm Foundation Editor of recent weeks should be pondered. "It is a distressing sign indeed when the people of God reach the place where they look with disdain upon any one who questions a practice. The pendulum swings from one extreme to the other. We often see one who is most conservative, when he gives it up, becomes most liberal. We have always been a conservative people. Perhaps that is why when a gospel preacher goes liberal, he goes all the way. The bent to apostasy being what it is, we fear that brethren in reaction against extreme conservatism may swing completely over to the position of allowing anything and everything, and of looking with suspicion upon anyone who calls any practice in question."