Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 24, 1959
NUMBER 20, PAGE 12-13b

A New Type Of Thinking

Frank Driver, Sioux City 3, Iowa

Brethren who have occupied the negative position of the present controversy have been accused of changing their thinking, and introducing new ideas for brotherhood acceptance that are without precedent. Those who press these charges are either willfully misrepresenting the facts, or have failed to be properly informed on what faithful brethren have always taught on these subjects. It has been repeatedly and abundantly proven that brethren who are urging church support of human institutions and general, universal church action are the ones who have changed.

Even the most zealous supporter of the above mentioned innovations can surely see that many practices among us have gradually evolved into acceptability that a few years ago would not have been tolerated at all. The rate of progress this movement is making, as well as the bold, brazen, and blunt declarations that are being made in their favor, has provoked great amazement among those who love the truth and are determined to stand for the old paths. But we would do well to be even more amazed at the type of thinking that has grown on the brethren through the years, and given birth to these things we see, and by which we are now directly affected.

The New Type Of Preaching

When we discuss a new type of thinking that takes hold of a people, there is no more logical place to begin than with the type of preaching they hear, or teaching they follow. Whether good or bad, true or false, the kind of preaching a community of people hears will determine their course. I started preaching during those years of transition from the straightforward, plain Bible teaching, contrasting truth and error, the church and sectarianism, to the new type of less reference to the Bible, special care not to refer to denominations or even their peculiar evil practices, and to make our preaching interesting, appealing, and acceptable to alien sinners. Through the attitudes implied in such preaching, barriers between Christian and sinners, Bible teaching and false doctrine were broken down, and the church has emerged into an era of acceptance by the proponents of evil, and we are proud of it! Little by little, degree by degree, we are picking up elements of human wisdom from the "nations about us", and w are becoming more and more like those whose favor we desire.


While a practice is not wrong just because denominations have it first, yet there is danger, to say the least, in encouraging such, even though constructive and potentially good because it works so well for disciples of false doctrine. It seems that even a moment's reflection should convince any one that just because a "method" or "idea" works well for disciples of error, does not necessarily mean it would do the same for the cause of truth. Yet, every major project promoted by brethren, enlisting the aid of all the churches, has been launched on the basis of what the denominations are doing along the same line. In the minds of some, regardless of what the denominations are doing, we must do it as well or better — and especially, bigger. There is no time in history when the church grew faster than in Bible times, and even then, it never reached the point of threatening the position of error with out persecution. No effort was made then, as now, to conciliate the forces of evil, nor obtain their favor. The attack was always direct, and God's people suffered the consequences. There was no effort made on the part of the church then to "keep up" with the heathens, or maintain a position of honor and favor among them. Yes, there was much difference between the growth the church made then, and the "march" it is making now.

Social And Political Improvement

The recorded activity of early preachers shows that they went into all the world and preached the gospel, converting and saving souls from sin. They did their work in the midst of all sorts of political conflicts and civil strife, which surely resulted in the economic impoverishment of multitudes; yet there is not the least hint of their launching their work of ministering to souls on a relief program for the world's needy. In contrast to this procedure, it has been the common practice of brethren to initiate their work in new fields on this very basis. Not a few have taken to the idea that if we evangelize the world as we should, we can even promote peace among nations and keep the world out of war!

But this course is just as obvious on the local level. It is becoming increasingly more general for church programs to include entertainment, outings, athletics, etc. One can scarcely read regular bulletins from some churches without some such events or programs being promoted. I distinctly remember a few years ago, how sectarian and contrary to scripture a "church social" or "youth rally" sounded to all of us — now "we" are doing it too! The tendency toward integrating social and even community life with the spiritual work of the church is drawing increasing criticism from some of the very ones who have most actively and zealously encouraged and defended the organizational and institutional tendencies of the day. There was a time when gospel preachers would often point to this as a well established difference between the church and denominations, but now it is also a difference among churches of Christ — distinguishing between those still different from denominations on this point, and those who are not.


Many good and worthy things have been said against organizations outside the church, but we have failed to recognize the growing danger of organizations inside the church. All through the years we have successfully refuted the charge of brethren who oppose Bible classes that they are an organization within the church, by showing that they are only a function of the church in carrying out its work. But it would not be easy, if possible, for some of "us" to refute such a charge today.

Churches in New Testament days carried on all their work as a function of the church under the immediate direction of the elders. There is no record of any collective spiritual activity other than that of the church. But now we think of much of our work in terms of what this class does, or that committee, or some group, etc. We used to condemn denominations for distinguishing such classes or groups in their church with organization and names or titles, but I know of one church with a special name or title for one of its classes. I also know of an orphan home who makes regular appeals for contributions, not only from churches, but from classes and groups within the churches. The idea seems to be that if the elders of a church do not choose to contribute to an institutional home, those in such a church who are favorably inclined should do so, even to the point of "sponsoring" a need in the home on a regular basis. And if such action creates a problem of differences in the local church, that is for the elders to worry about and cope with, while the institutional home receives what it went after — money. There can be no doubt that one chief cause of such growing organizational functions within the church, acting independently, has been the promotional activities of institutionalism. Yes, we wanted what the "sects" have, and we are certainly having it.

The Universal Concept

Another cardinal doctrine of Bible teaching concerning the church is the twofold sense in which the word "church" is used: universal and local. As these are two different senses, they cannot overlap in meaning; when we speak of the church, we must mean one or the other. When we read the word in the Bible, we must know which "sense" is meant if we get any "sense" out of what we are reading. As the sense is twofold, the application to Christians also is twofold — one to relationship and the other to function. We are thinking today of the universal church, not only in its scriptural sense of the individual Christian's relationship to God, but also of his, and even local churches collectively, function in spiritual service. Some brethren are even teaching that local churches are "members" of the body! The Bible records church activity in terms of what local churches did. We write and talk today in terms of what local churches collectively, or the church as a whole is doing. "The brotherhood", "we", "our", etc. are familiar words used in expressing the work and activity of the church today. We even have a form of discipline exercised in this "sense." "The churches" of a city area, or state can be known to withdraw or withhold fellowship, collectively, from a given church who doesn't line up. The lack of formal organization does not reduce the reality of this "combine." It is here, and its pressure and effectiveness are increasing.

It is my settled conviction that many brethren who are most zealous in promoting and supporting these innovations of our times are unaware of the type of thinking which has given birth to them. For the sake of peace among brethren, but most of all the purity of the church and obedience to God, let us urge a fervent examination of our thinking that has influenced us into this course of questionable practice that honest brethren who sincerely love the truth may yet be saved from the terrible end of departure from the faith.