Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 28, 1959

A Visit To Fort Worth


One Saturday afternoon last month I found myself in Fort Worth, Texas, with a three hour lay-over between trains. Taking a leisurely walk through the business section, I was suddenly gazing upon the huge stone meeting house of the "Central Christian Church." I remembered that this was the congregation which was "pastured" by Homer T. Wilson back in the 1890's (before they introduced the organ), and whose members had ignored and all but boycotted a meeting held by my father, J. D. Tant, at the Southside Church of Christ in June, 1896. Central Christian Church in the 1890's was definitely "on the march", and was taking considerable pride in her vaunted progress. In reply to my father's criticism of their worldliness, Homer T. Wilson wrote in the Gospel Advocate:

"Our church, unscriptural as it is, gave over a thousand dollars for home and foreign missions last year. We have made no report of the work done, nor fired a single shot at others who differ from us as to the methods of doing the work. I held a meeting for Central Church in May, resulting in fifty-four additions, the most of whom were by obedience. Very few of the members `forgot to come'. If I had made a report of the meeting, it would have been a report of work done, not a fling at some imaginary monster . . . . The only people in our congregation who agitate the organ question are those who are opposed to it, and who, in their visions and dreams, like Brother Tant, see nothing but innovations accompanied by the sweet music of the organ.

"I am exceedingly tired of these unkind and unjust flings from either side of this unpleasant controversy. Let me kindly admonish Brother Tant that when he comes to South Side again to hold a meeting to 'preach the word', unmixed with bitterness and insinuations toward others, and perhaps his meeting will be more largely attended."

Needless to say, the organ was soon introduced in this congregation, along with an ever increasing emphasis on those outward and materialistic projects which always hold such a fatal fascination for the weak and carnally minded element in any congregation. Central Church seemed destined to overwhelm the weak and struggling little bunch of "antis" on the South Side, and sweep all before them in their glorious onward march!

Well, as I said, I had a few hours to while away that Saturday afternoon last month, so, finding myself immediately in front of this huge building, I decided to walk in and look around. I tried the front doors, but found them locked. I peered through the glass in the door at an auditorium which looked like it might seat 800 or 1,000 people. Just as I was turning away to walk back down the steps, I noticed a movement within the auditorium, and soon a very nice looking gray-haired matron came to the door, and asked if I were looking for some one. No, I replied, I was just curious about the building, and this church.

She was most agreeable to talking about "her church." She had been baptized here in this very building, nearly fifty years ago (1910, in fact). The present preacher, L. D. Anderson, had become pastor of the congregation two years later, in 1912. He was the oldest pastor in Fort Worth is point of years served with one congregation.

How is the church doing? I asked. What is her membership? her work? Well, the friendly matron told me, "We have about 5,000 to 6,000 members on the roll. And on Easter Sunday we completely filled the auditorium. But on other Sundays, you know how it is, not very many come. And on Sunday night, it is really pitiful — just a handful."

How about prayer meeting attendance?" I asked.

"Well, that was sort of like Sunday night until we changed it a while back to Friday night instead of Wednesday nights. This has been wonderfully successful, and our attendance has shot way up since we began our Friday night 'fellowship meetings'. We meet at 6:30 p.m. in the Banquet Hall of the Sunday School building, have our supper; and then have an inspirational talk by some visiting clergyman of the Fort Worth area. We have talks by pastors of various churches — Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian; and then, of course, we have fifteen Christian Churches in the city, and quite often we have a talk by the pastor of one of these churches.

"We promise all those who come that the entire service will be concluded by 7:30 p.m., and this gives them time to go on to any other engagement they may have for the evening. This has been wonderfully successful, and has revived our prayer meeting attendance to the point now where we have given up all plans of abandoning this part of our program. For a while we considered abandoning both the Sunday night service and the prayer meeting service. But this new plan has proven so successful that I am sure we will continue the Friday night prayer meeting and fellowship."

"And about what is your attendance on an average Friday night?" I enquired.

"Oh, it is wonderful!" she responded enthusiastically. "Why, sometimes we have as many as a hundred or even one hundred twenty-five to come! We are all thrilled at the response!"

We think there ought to be a lesson of some kind or other in this for those brethren among us today who are so "hell-bent" for their social gospel promotions — church banquet halls, grandiose schemes to make the church big and popular and powerful. But we aren't too optimistic that they will be able to read the lesson from history. The "progressive" brethren in Fort Worth of seventy years ago had history available to them, too; they could have seen what happened in the early centuries when brethren got themselves interested in "getting a name" for the church. But they were as blind to that lesson as we opine some will be today to this more recent example of what happens when a church goes "on the march" in a worldly fashion.

Between 5,000 and 6,000 members — and thrilled beyond expression to have 125 out for a "prayer meeting"!

— F. Y. T.