Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 2, 1960
NUMBER 5, PAGE 7a-13

The Church And Her Backbone

Leroy Brownlow

Last week, we ran the article "Let's Not Take the Backbone Out of the Church", by Brother Leroy Brownlow. It has been widely publicized, having appeared in the Firm Foundation and many church bulletins of late; earlier published in a book of sermons by Brother Brownlow. Keeping in mind that "backbone" defined means: "the spine; firmness; moral courage", and viewing present trends, let us consider the question "where did the backbone go?"

The Backbone Of The Church Went Out With:

1 - Compromise with modernism. Few of our liberal-thinking brethren will admit to this, but a look at recent church history will bear out its truth. Ten years ago, good young preachers that I knew at Abilene Christian College were persuaded they must have masters and doctors degrees. They nearly all went to schools where modernist professors were their instructors. One I know who was almost radically conservative when he went, came back a spiritual invertebrate. He wasn't sure that instrumental music was sinful in worship, how to determine scriptural authority — in fact, he wasn't sure about anything. More recently, an experienced preacher went to Pepperdine and came away wondering if we really MUST go by the Bible. The men are both preaching in large churches that are considered sound by the majority of brethren. Both men have been used in college lectureships. One question: How much conviction will these preachers instill in others?

That's Where Our Backbone Is Going, Brethren

2 — Fear of reprisal. A few years ago, the Gospel Advocate launched a bold effort to compile a church "black-list". This quarantine included all preachers who stood for uncorruptness in doctrine" and refused to institutionalize the church with such unscriptural arrangements as church sponsored benevolent societies (so-called "orphanages"), evangelism centralized under one eldership, church support to colleges, etc. These quarantine tactics brought such fear of censure and reprisal upon those whose backbone was already weak, that today there is ABSOLUTELY NONE among the liberals who will voice a syllable of opposition against the "powers that be."

For example, this writer has yet to see a single article from the pen of any in the liberal camp exposing the rank modernism of We Be BRETHREN a book that renders the Bible pattern useless, and thereby destroys our distinctive plea of "let us speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent." It is impossible for me to believe that EVERYONE among the liberal ranks can espouse the doctrines Brother Thomas advocates. WHERE IS THEIR BACKBONE? It went out with the fear of quarantine, black-balling, and reprisal that is a reality among BRETHREN. Some have found it expedient to "keep silence in the churches." They are nothing more than moral cowards. In Rev. 21:8 THE FEARFUL are to be cast in the same lake of fire as the liars and idolaters, "whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things." Phil 3.19 WHEN THE PULPIT SHAKES IN FEAR OF THE PRESS, THE VOICE OF GOD IS SILENCED...

3 — Love of popularity. Brother Brownlow made the statement that "love of popularity is strong, so much so that when some member of the church becomes a national figure, there are many who feel that the church and Jesus Christ have been complimented." This feeling evidenced itself in Pat Boone rallies in many Texas and California churches in the recent past. He was used by material-minded, "backboneless" elders as a "drawing-card" while the DRAWING POWER OF THE GOSPEL AND OF THE CHRIST WAS RELEGATED TO SECOND BILLING! Would these elders and churches repudiate their idol should they learn he had feet of day? Listen to Pat's own statement, from an article entitled, "Easter at Our House", printed in the Parade Magazine, April 17, 1960:

"The children know Easter means they are commemorating the rebirth of Jesus. Of course, we tell them the story in simple terms, letting them know that this is a day when church has an extra-special meaning..."

Our guess is that the above-mentioned churches will be as silent about Pat's embrace of Easter as the "rebirth of Jesus" as they were when he danced his way across the movie screens of the land, and laid open the church of the Lord to shame from without, and opened the door wider to worldliness from within. Yea, verily, the love of popularity has taken away the backbone from the church, and the church in the main is reduced to a spineless, denominational hybrid.

It is past time that we remember the words of the Head of the church, who said: "Whosoever therefore, shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father . . ." Mark 8:38.

Brethren, it is not too late to remember that without a backbone, there is nothing for the Head to hang on to.

Lets Not Take The Backbone Out Of The Church!!!!

The word backbone is defined: "the spine; firmness; moral courage." There are certain straws in the wind today which should cause brethren everywhere to become alarmed. We are not alarmists; but we are realists. These trends do not characterize the whole church universal but are true of many brethren in many places.

Sin is winked at. Worldliness goes unrebuked. Luke-warmness is prevalent. Pride is prominent because of our growth. Love of popularity is strong, so much so that when some member of the church becomes national figure, there are many who feel that the church and Jesus Christ have been complimented. Sunday morning Christians have become the fad of the day. Gospel meetings are only weak gestures.

There is a lot of church work, but little soul-winning. There is much activity but little spirituality. For instance, a woman said: "I am so busy doing church work that I don't have time to save the lost."

Efforts are being made to change our style of preaching, remodel the gospel, and modernize the church. We are told that firmness isn't the spirit of Christ. It is said that we have outgrown the idea of standing against something. We need to realize that we cannot stand for something without sanding against something. It just works that way.

The motto of yesteryear: "Speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent", is becoming a forgotten slogan. A new generation is growing up that knows little about this great principle of the Restoration Movement.

We ask ourselves the question: What has brought on these dangerous tendencies?

1 — Maybe it is success. It is easy to outgrow a plea. Others have done it.

2 — It could be less opposition. We once had to fight hard, and hardships strengthened us. Now it is much easier.

3 — Maybe these tendencies are the result of little indoctrination. Consequently, the church is being filled with people who know not the Restoration Movement.

4 — A change in our attitude could be the influence of our religious neighbors. Their compromising attitudes toward doctrine and morality may have rubbed off on us.

5 — Or, it could be that these changes are the result of swinging to extremes. For instance, once we were hard and undiplomatic. Now we are becoming soft and apologetic. Once we had mostly doctrinal preaching. Now in some pulpits doctrine isn't mentioned so often. Once we had much negative preaching. Now in some places we have largely positive preaching. Once the services were disorderly. Now some congregations are becoming cold and icy with ritualism. Once our preachers did only a little personal work. Now their personal work is so heavy that they have little time for study and prayer. The trend today is to make preachers little more than glorified redcaps and jumping bellhops. Some once had the idea that smallness was a sign of scripturalness. Now many have the idea that bigness is the sign of success. Actually the thing that determines the soundness of a congregation is its teaching rather than its size, and the determining factor in success is dependence upon God and His way of doing things. Otherwise, seeming success is failure. Extremes are dangerous. Let us avoid them.

Brethren, let's not lose sight of the principles that brought us to where we now are. Let's not take the backbone out of the body of Christ.