Brother Allen's Article
On the front page this week we print an article from the venerable James A Allen. Read it carefully. This is not a new theme with brother Allen. He has written in the same vein for many, many years. But his articles on this subject take on increasing significance and timeliness under the inexorable onslaught of "cold realities." We mean by that that the hard facts of life as we now face them reveal many hundreds (no, not hundreds, but thousands!) of towns and communities across the land in which faithful congregations are being started, or will be started, and where no preacher is available, or will be available to help for years and years to come. Dedicated Christians in these places must divest themselves of all idea of being dependent on a preacher, or preachers, to build and develop faithful congregations; the work must be done by devoted Christians, dedicated men and women who have made a total commitment of their lives to the Lord.
This is not only stark necessity for the present time, it happens also to be God's plan for all time. Denominational churches are built around preachers; but faithful New Testament churches are built on truth. This does not mean at all that there is no preaching to be done in faithful and well-established congregations; but it does mean that every band of Christians on earth, large or small, should feel itself quite able to continue indefinitely and carry out God's will completely in its congregational life without the aid or presence of an evangelist. That an evangelist may abide for a long time in one locality, working in one community, is quite obvious from the example of Paul In both Ephesus and Corinth. But that a congregation cannot exist or effectively function in the absence of such an evangelist is sectarian tradition, not New Testament truth.
The harsh realities of the present sad state of affairs among that group of people comprising "the restoration movement" demand that for many, many years hundreds (and perhaps eventually, thousands) of small congregations must exist for long periods of time with only an occasional visit from a gospel preacher. Faithful bands of disciples outnumber faithful preachers by a very wide margin. This is not bad; it is good. For it means that thousands and thousands of Christians over the land, dedicated men and women, have had the courage, the initiative, and the God-given strength to "stand up and be counted" for truth and righteousness! They are not "following a preacher," but on the contrary, are quite often going against the strong and bitter opposition of some local preacher who is zealous to be on the band-wagon with institutionalism and all it implies.
We salute these faithful brethren! Surely their zeal for God and righteousness will not go for naught. They have made that total commitment of their lives, that unswerving and unyielding dedication to truth, which causes them to take a stand for truth and righteousness, regardless of how unpopular their stand or how bitter the opposition they encounter. It was this spirit which brought back the church from the brink of extinction when the "digressives" of sixty years ago took nine-tenths of the disciples and practically ALL of the full-time preachers into their apostasy. At the turn of the century there were in all the world, probably not more than a dozen faithful preachers who were giving all their time to the ministry of the word. But from the utter dedication of these men, and a few score others who were either partially or wholly supporting themselves in their preaching, the powerful gospel of Christ began to make itself felt around the world. It was not so much a "preachers' battle" as it was a fundamental, bed-rock commitment by faithful Christians in every walk of life.
While the present unhappy state of things in "the Restoration Movement" surely must bring a note of sadness and heartache in every gathering of disciples, it is not without its compensations! For those who would adhere firmly to the "old paths" there must be a deep and abiding satisfaction in realizing that their fellow-workers are dedicated men, not sycophants and timeservers (they go with the popular side always!). However disheartening or distressing it may be at times to make the sacrifices necessary to "stand up and be counted," those who do make that stand can be very conscious of the feeling that they stand among dedicated men and women, not among sycophants and timeservers; they are part of a noble company, going right back to the beginning of the race — men who through all the years have chosen rather to "share ill treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt."
The eventual triumph of this attitude goes without saying. For in the immortal words of Washington Gladden we know that
"In the darkest night of the year When the stars have all gone out,
That courage is better than fear, That faith is truer than doubt;
And fierce though the fiends may fight And long though the angels hide,
We know that Truth and Right Have the universe on their side:
And that somewhere, beyond the stars, Is a Love that is better than fate;
When the night unlocks her bars We shall see Him — and we will wait."
— F. Y. T.