Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 21, 1960
NUMBER 11, PAGE 2,10a

The Buzzard Instinct

Louis J. Sharp, Little Rock, Arkansas

I heartily concur with the conclusions reached by the author of the following illustrations:

The Buzzard And The Bee

"In a clearing in the woods one day I saw a black-winged bird soaring over-head. Suddenly it descended to the ground where lay the carcass of a dog. That bird was a buzzard. From afar it had seen its dinner. Seeking carrion, it had found it. Some people are like that. They are on the watch to find something unbecoming in the lives of others. Then they find it, they descend to feed upon it, and then contaminate others by spreading it." (Cleon Lyles, Minister's Monthly, Vol 3; Number 11; page 52.)

It is difficult for me to see how a man can write such a good description of himself without recognizing it. For a long time, we who have been living in the same city with Cleon Lyles, and who have worked closely with him in the past, have suspected that there is somewhat of the "buzzard instinct" in him. Every time a congregation has some internal trouble you can see the "buzzard" hovering overhead, ready and anxious to swoop down and have his feast. But as Cleon suggests in his parable, the buzzard is not content simply to feed upon it, but he "then contaminates others by spreading it."

For some reason, brother Lyles loves to castigate his brethren who may disagree with him, but is not bold enough to come out in the open for a fair fight. He reminds me of the Japanese snipers we had to face in World War II. They concealed themselves and took "pot-shots" at the soldiers who were engaged in open battle. Brother Lyles piously suggests that others should not have the "buzzard instinct" while his paper has been filled with that very thing for a long time. I suppose that I am one of the few people who has read all of brother Lyles bulletins. I have a complete set of the REMINDER from volume one through volume fourteen. Bob Craig and I, along with Cleon had the first volume bound. If memory serves me correctly, I think there were only four copies of the first volume bound, so I hope since I have a complete set of the REMINDER, brother Lyles will not cut me off his mailing list. But that has happened to others in the past. I guess BIG MEN just naturally act that way! When a LITTLE MAN gets in a BIG MAN'S way, he simply cuts him off his mailing list so that the LITTLE MAN can't have the benefit of the BIG MAN'S teaching.

In the May 19, 1960 issue of the REMINDER, there appeared an article entitled "Divided Hearts." Cleon was letting the "buzzard instinct" show again. He was meddling in the affairs of a sister congregation of which he knew NOTHING. Let us read what he had to say:

"Someone was talking with me recently about a congregation where division had occurred and many, many hearts were broken. This same group of people had been a part of a division less than three years before. The preacher they defended, and who assured them he was not guilty of believing things of which he was accused, finally pulled off his mask and revealed what he had been all along. He tried to hide his true colors until he could have a group to control. This person talked about how much harm had been done to the cause of Christ by those who advocate some hobby, and loves it more than he does the gospel of Christ."

I am the man Cleon was writing about and the congregation where I preach is the one under discussion. I want you to note how Cleon passes judgment upon a fellow preacher without so much as asking that preacher one question about what actually happened! He sets himself up as a judge over another's servant. (Rom. 14:4.) This, he has done before. How often, Cleon, have you written and preached on the subject of judgment and criticism? How do you know, Cleon, whether your informers told the truth! How can you propose to know MY HEART? How can you subscribe to me actions that you know nothing of? It's just the "buzzard instinct" cropping out — isn't it?

Yes, we had a division in the congregation at 1506 Arch Street. It came about because men failed to keep their word: men who were supposed to be interested in the flock which was among them. Cleon stated that this preacher, i. e. me, Louis Sharp, "assured these people that he did not believe the things of which he was accused." This simply is not so! I told these men that my personal convictions were against the things that are disturbing the churches today, but that I was not going to cause any trouble over them. In this I kept my word and refused to preach on the issues! (This is where I erred. I have seen my mistake in this and have corrected it. I want the brotherhood to know that henceforth I shall stand forth boldly and proclaim the truth as I find it without fear or favor. I have failed in the past to speak on the things that are troubling the church and repent of this sin of omission. These men also said that they would not favor any work that would cause strife within the congregation. We believed them when they made the statement, but found out that they did not say it in good faith. They failed to keep their word. They were going ahead to push their plans to put an institutional orphan home in the budget over the protest of good men who OFFERED TO GIVE, INDIVIDUALLY, MORE THAN FOUR TIMES THE AMOUNT THAT WAS TO BE GIVEN FROM THE TREASURY OF THE CHURCH. They, the elders, rejected this offer. Does this sound like they were interested in taking care of the poor little orphan children?

Brother Lyles effects to judge my heart by suggesting I was operating behind a mask — in other words that I was acting hypocritically, and just waiting for the proper time to pull off my mask and go to work. Cleon, you will have to answer for that in the judgment unless you repent of it! I ACTED IN ALL GOOD FAITH — I WAS TRYING TO UNITE GOD'S PEOPLE WHO HAD DIFFERING VIEWS ON TODAY'S ISSUES. I made a determined and honest effort in this! I am sorry to say facts are that these men knew where I stood, but when that I failed. The brethren who push these human arrangements simply do not want to work with those who oppose them. This I have learned the hard way. The facts are that these men knew where I stood, but when they pushed their plans to a dividing of the church, they acted as though they didn't know brother Sharp opposed these human arrangements. Two of the elders and I had a discussion over a year ago on these very things and I made it clear to them how I stood. They said at that time that they thought it would be all right to put Harding College in the budget if they desired, because Harding was training young men to be preachers. I emphatically told them that this was unscriptural and that I could never go along with any such movement. THEY KNEW EXACTLY WHERE I STOOD. BUT I compromised with them too long. I was still trying to unite our people and they know that this is so!

Cleon, you are last man I would suspect to accuse another of trying to get control of a group or congregation! God knows my heart — and that is all that is really important. But good people are hurt by such unfounded slander. Those who know what has happened through the years at 6th and Izard, know now you have gained control. You are the one who caused brother Roy Cogdill's meeting to be cancelled in 1953 at 6th & Izard after you had written the following in your bulletin of July 31, 1952.

"Brother Cogdill did some of his best preaching during this meeting. Every sermon was one we would be delighted for our friends to hear. His preaching was plain, forceful, and true, and each sermon was filled with an earnestness and kindness that carried every point directly to the hearts of the listeners. No one could ask for better gospel preaching than we had in this meeting, and no one could ask a preacher to be more sincere and use more tact in his preaching. I have heard preachers stop every few minutes and say 'I don't want to hurt your feelings. I did not come to insult you. 'and otherwise make apology for what they were preaching. (This was a dig at E. R. Harper at that time. WS.) Such is always an insult to an intelligent audience. In this meeting there was nothing for which to apologize. The gospel was preached. The preacher was concerned about his audience and sincere in his preaching. The people liked it and kept coming back for more."'

Yes, the people did like it at 6th & Izard then! But Roy Cogdill could not preach at 6th & Izzard now. WHY, Cleon? It is past history what has happened since then.

Brother Lyles, you know and I know how we once worked so closely together. You know that you have gone soft on the issues you once boldly denounced. You know that you have "written up" good men in your bulletin time and again in a cowardly fashion — not allowing them opportunity to answer for themselves. You and I both know we must stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give account for our actions here. I hope you will repent of your bitterness and meanness, and stop allowing the "buzzard instinct" to gain the upper hand. Cleon — THE TRUTH shall set both you and me free — the TRUTH is all I want! Let us get back to the old paths and walk in them before it is too late!

I want the brethren everywhere to know that the church at 1506 Arch street in Little Rock is standing solidly upon that which is written. When in this city, we invite you to worship with us!