News And Views
Change To Be Made In This Column
In coming issues this column will give more attention to an expression of "views"....those of my own as well as those of others, and less attention to mere "news." Clyde O. Moore, of Lufkin, Texas, will handle a column of news items for this paper and it shall make the need for such here less important. Hence, all news items should be sent directly to the GG, and will be handled by Moore. It is likely that the name of this column will be changed to more or less harmonize with its contents; but just what the name will be is not yet certain.
Elders — Majority — Minority Rule
(Editor's Note: The following article was written by Harold Spurlock, of Jacksonville, Texas. This article, and another one on the same subject (which will also appear herein), were published in the bulletin which Spurlock edits. The article deals with a very important subject; and one that needs some careful study. I realize that it is one that is "loaded with dynamite" for the man who dares to express views contrary to the generally accepted ideas and practices; especially if there is any question raised about the so-called "authority of elders." Spurlock speaks plainly on the subject and cuts directly across many commonly-held views. A preacher recently told me about a church where the elders got the money, kept and spent the money as they pleased without consultation with the members; and they refused to publish any kind of financial report. Their idea was that they are the elders and "we are in charge of the money; we can spend it as we deem wise and it is not anybody's business how we do it." Many are the churches where the elders make all the decisions and just tell the members what they want them to know about things. This has often been hailed as a wonderful thing.... "the elders here really look after matters; they make all the decisions and tend to all the problems." In many churches the members have no idea what is going on and none of them have any voice in their affairs. Is this the way it should be? What about the view (and frequent practice) that elders have the complete and final authority in matters of judgment? What about the charge that is often made that someone is in "rebellion to the elders?" What does it mean to be "In rebellion to the elders?" Some of these expressions are in current usage and they are in need of explanation and justification. The point involved in them must not be assumed, but proved by the Scriptures.... Spurlock is very forthright in offering some suggestions along these lines; and they cannot fairly be dealt with by treating them with contempt or as the ravings of an ignorant and rabble-rousing preacher. It is high time that some objective study be given to this vital matter. Godly men who are serving as elders will not resent such a study, but will rather welcome it; for perhaps none realize better than they how badly such is needed. Read and study the article carefully. .. CAH)
That every church of the Christ should have qualified overseers is admitted by everyone possessing any degree of spiritual understanding. The word of God is more than plain in revealing the mind of God on this vital matter. In nearly every town, city, village and community throughout the length and breadth of the land the cry is heard by brethren, "Oh, if we only had some elders!" Chances are, that if an investigation were made into the situation where the cry was heard, you would find, nine times out of ten, that the dire need for elders grew not out of the God — ordained need for elders, that of spiritual leaders, flock — tenders, and counselors in the Word; but the cry arose because of the brethren at that place were feuding, fussing, and fighting over matters of judgment and personal opinions, and everyone sees elders as referees and judges, petty decision makers, and business managers of the church affairs. Very few, if any, now-a-days think of the elders as being "flock" watchers, "soul" keepers, and spiritual teachers and counselors. These who cry out for elders do not want these men for this kind of work; they only want them so they can "take over" and run the church affairs, thus keeping down bickering, fussing, and all the minor disputes arising over work matters, money matters, and those thousand and one other things which some brethren are ready to fight over...
Now, these brethren who cry out for elders would let you know in no uncertain terms that majority rule in the affairs of the church is unscriptural; that there is no authority for majority action. But this same group of brethren will turn right around and place the entire operation and management of the affairs of the church in the hands of a small minority, two or three in most cases, and say: "Here, you men are our elders, you run things — you make all our decisions for us — you spend all the Lord's money as you see fit — you decide whom we shall support as a preacher — you decide when to have a special gospel effort — you decide how long it will run — you decide what color to paint the auditorium — you decide who should lead singing and whether or not we have two songs before the first prayer." And in nearly every one of these cases where such exists, those who appoint the men to be overseers, as well as those who accept, think that when they are working at the job of decision making, they are doing the God-ordained work of elders, and that such minority rule is scriptural.
Brethren, where is the scripture that authorizes qualified overseers to act in such a capacity in the first place, and why is such minority rule scriptural on matters of judgment and personal opinion? How often will a matter of importance to the general welfare of the congregation be shelved, (even though the majority or nearly the total membership felt such matter should be engaged in) by two or three men. Now if the matter is one of faith and practice, the Word of God rules and the elders are obligated to see that God's word is taught and respected by their flock, in which case it is not a matter of two or three men against the membership, but the membership against God's will. But in matters of opinion and personal judgment, how can two or three men over-ride the sincere feelings of the congregation? Is not this how they lord it over the flock? Is it not at least one of the ways?
Yes, the churches everywhere need qualified elders, but the churches also need men who will function in their God — ordained realm of work among the number of the flock, not being policy makers, not petty decision judges, nor clerks, bookkeepers, straw — bosses, church affairs managers, etc.; but men truly dedicated to guarding the flock, teaching and counseling the members in spiritual fields, seeing after their needs like a father does his family or the shepherd, his flock; men who let the congregation run ITS affairs and make its own decisions in matters of judgment and opinion while they, the elders, guide the membership into paths of wise, just and righteous conduct in the work God has assigned it to do.
I boldly affirm this to be God's plan for the autonomous function of the congregation. I emphatically deny that elders are over the work of the church! I affirm that the church is over its own work and operation, and that elders lead, guide, tend, guard, and oversee the spiritual welfare and conduct of the church as it works and does the will of God in all things.
(Editor's Note: The following article was written by J. W. Evans, and appeared in the bulletin of the Thomas Blvd. church in Port Arthur, Texas. Evans is the preacher there. The article is a thing of eloquence, but it also sets forth one of the greatest needs. — "Stirred Spirits." CAH)
"Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry." (Acts 17:16)
Paul presents a unique and lonely figure as he stood dwarfed among the towering shrines of Athenian worshippers. But his dynamic spirit within would not be intimidated by even such a host of giants in the land. Being stirred with mixed emotions — compassion for the SOULS in sin and righteous indignation against the SIN in the souls — he was moved to engage in forensic battle both the Jews and philosophers of the day.
Paul's spirit was also as quickly and constantly stirred when he saw the "city of God," the church, wholly given to sin. It was with godly jealousy he had espoused the Corinthians to Christ and for their chastity he maintained a jealous vigil. (2 Cor. 11:2) To them he wrote "out of much affliction and anguish of heart.... with many tears," and he could have "no rest in my spirit" until he could determine "whether ye be obedient in all things." Paul could not be "cool, calm, and collected" with any sin — scene in sight; he never knew what it was to "take it easy."
We need to follow Paul "as he followed Christ" in this respect. Our spirits should be stirred within us not only as we see the city of the world wholly given to idolatry, but also and MORE SO as we see the "City of God" given to, taken in, and delivered up to the octopus of sin. But alas, even in this late time of the current apostasy there are souls unstirred as the tentacles of liberalism, sectarianism, and modernism tighten in death — grip on the body of Christ. Some have no godly jealousy of those who have been espoused as a chaste virgin to Christ; they are not at all ashamed nor can they blush at the abomination of her unchaste and worldly conduct. In the woeful strains of "the weeping prophet" — "No man layeth it to heart" when "the house of God is forsaken" by many at her sacred services. No Rachel is heard weeping for her children when she is found barren or forsaken. The services on Sunday and Wednesday nights are seemingly counted by some as but a preacher get — up and special Bible classes as an extracurricular affair. And to further add grief to shame and insult to injury some have become too dry to cry, too calloused to feel, and too bold to blush over the sad, sinful spectacle! A preacher who would get excited by it all is but "a voice crying in the wilderness" whose message bounces awhile among the unresponding rocks and finally dies in the barren bushes. The only impact of his "ravings" was a slight shock to the modesty of a people stiffened with dignity and frozen with pride; a people too deeply entrenched in the traditional ruts of going — to — church, meet — and--eat, sit — and — listen, and — go — home — and — forget — it religion to be moved. These are "the untouchables" of the church!
Now if the shoe is beginning to pinch and the heart beginning to burn within, then thank God you are not one of "the untouchables!" "To you is the word of this salvation sent." Let us cry with Jeremiah (9:1), "Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!" Brethren, may our souls be stirred and startled by the trumpet of "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion...." (Amos 6:1) Unstirred spirits become stagnant souls. The "rest that remaineth for the people of God" is on the other shore. Let us so labor as to enter into that rest.
Filter — Tip Preaching
Too many people want and seek "filter — tip" preaching; that is, they want someone who looks like a preacher, who sounds like a preacher, and goes through all the motions of preaching, but they want all the punch filtered out! Conway Skinner.
Dr. Peale Talks Sense
"Can Protestantism Be Saved?" is the title of a thought — provoking article by Norman Vincent Peale in the September Reader's Digest. Peal is the pastor of a New York church and is widely known for his writings on religious themes. His views are usually typical of modern Protestant "clergymen," but he can, and often does, rise to heights of excellence. Below are some excerpts from the article which set forth some of the shortcomings of Protestantism today.
Moral Decay. "Who can doubt that a moral blight is spreading across the face of America? Look at the filth displayed on our newsstands, the sadism on television, the pornography in our books, the preoccupation with perversion in our theater. Look at the prevalence of classroom cheating, of payola, of kickbacks, of expense — account padding. Look at the steady rise in juvenile delinquency and every form of vice and crime. Is the Protestant church attacking these things with all the force and fire at its command?" To which I add, is the Lord's church doing so?
BIGNESS. "To find the cause (for the decline of church influence), we had better take a look Inside the church itself. For one thing, we have become bemused by the idea of bigness. Take the trend toward the amalgamation of denominations, the whole ecumenical movement.... on which much time and effort and energy are being expended." And are not the churches of Christ afflicted with the same disease? Look at the efforts to "amalgamate" local churches into big brotherhood projects. Are we not beset by our own "ecumenical movement" promoted by self — seeking preachers, churches, religious editors, and college presidents? Mr. Peale says, "Mergers also lead to a concentration of authority into fewer and fewer hands.... a state of affairs which can eventually impinge on individual liberty." Our brotherhood projects do just that. When local churches pool their resources and work under a centralized eldership to enable it to carry on a world — wide program, the first step toward centralized power has already been taken. Nothing remotely suggestive of one eldership over a brotherhood project is found in the Scriptures.
Church Discipline. "It tired to be the accepted function of the church to know when members were 'walking disorderly,' and to do something about it." Isn't church discipline pretty much a "used to be" affair among churches of Christ?
Social Gospel. "The attention of the church swung away from the individual to focus on an abstraction known as social welfare. This too was a mistake. The truth is, you can't save souls by reforming society. You have to reform society by saving souls."
Negative Preaching. "Ministers are afraid to rock the boat. And this is ironic, because deep in their hearts the people want the boat rocked sometimes. They want to be made to toe the spiritual line; they want to be better people than they know they are." Gospel preachers who are afraid to "rock the boat" for fear of losing their jobs, or their popularity, would be better off plowing corn. The church would be better off too. Yet, there are many churches of Christ that will not tolerate "anti" preaching.
These and other problems of Protestantism are also problems in a lesser degree, probably, among churches of Christ. Mr. Peale does talk sense!
— Earl Kimbrough, Dothan, Alabama