Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 22, 1966
NUMBER 20, PAGE 5c-7a

Campaign "A-La Big Splash

Jerry F. Bassett

Recently the liberal brethren of the Eugene / Springfield area staged what they were pleased to call an area wide campaign for Christ with Jimmy Allen of Harding College doing the preaching. As would be expected this campaign was adorned with all the gaudy trappings that usually embellish any humanly devised religious affair and was ballyhooed up and down the Willamette Valley as "the experience of your life," (That same week one of the Holiness churches in Eugene offered the public free pictures taken with Packy the Elephant which to most could no doubt have been billed with the same punch line.)

Personal observation of this campaign, plus having read a good deal of what brethren who are promoting them around the country are having to say about them prompts me to make a few comments. There is much that I would like to spell out in detail that space here will not permit. However, most of what needs to be said can be expressed in one line; shades of Billy Graham!

It was Billy Graham in advertising. In none of the advertising was the name of the church ever mentioned. Not until one had been lured inside the meeting place was he handed a hymn sheet bearing the names of the churches meeting at 10th and Washington and River Road in Eugene, and 5th and L' in Springfield. It brought to mind the statement made from a pulpit by a then senior ministerial student at Abilene Christian College that the way to win souls is to preach Christ and not the church. One of his professors had said so! Said he, "This is the key to the great successes of Billy Graham, he preaches Christ instead of the church." Looks like Jimmy Allen and the liberal brethren in this area agree. They would do well to study the work of Philip who in preaching Christ preached both his name and his kingdom. Acts 8:5-12.

It was also Billy Graham in theatrics. To start the evening's show a song leader who apparently travels with Allen appeared on the stage and led the audience in several one-line songs singing them two or three times each to get everyone "warmed up." After more singing and a prayer and some announcements, eventually came the main attraction, Jimmy Allen, Professor of Bible from Harding College. At this point several of us opened our Bibles to follow the sermon when out went the lights except for those focused on Allen. Of course the emotional effect on those who came to see the show was no doubt as the advertising said, dynamic and forceful. But to those who came to study the Bible trying to use one in the dark took more dynamism and force than anyone can muster. Could it be that these liberal brethren are more interested in the emotional impact of theatrical lighting effects than in encouraging the hearers to search the scriptures to see if the things said are so?

And it was Billy Graham in its approach to moving the hearer to action. Jimmy Allen has been quoted in the Christian Chronicle (November 26, 1965) as saying, "It is far easier to move people to action in a multitude than in a small group." Of course no one objects to trying to move large numbers through gospel preaching, but since when is the power of the gospel affected by the size of the group to which it is preached? It isn't, but there are some things that men can do in a large, well organized, and smoothly executed gathering that they cannot get away with in a small one. In the same article, Allen said, "Some people are afraid you might 'shake off some of the green' but I'd rather shake off a few green ones than not shake any at all." The only thing that I know that makes a man "ripe" enough to be harvested by the Lord is penitent belief in the gospel. Is Allen saying he would rather immerse some who are not penitent believers than to immerse none at all? If not, what does he mean? I do know that when the invitation song was sung in this meeting a whole corps of ushers worked the aisles to assist people to the front. In fact one of them was seen "assisting" a small boy who was emphatically shaking his head and refusing to budge. Perhaps it never dawned on the usher that the wee lad was not yet ready to leave his mamma; not even to come to the Lord!

These things, and others, are a sad commentary on just how far some have drifted from the divine principle of walking by faith. However, I would like to confine the remainder of my remarks to a matter that is basic to much of what troubles brethren now; the question of church organization.

The local churches described in the New Testament were absolutely independent of each other in organization and oversight. This is made sure by the fact that the elders who oversee the local church are commanded to heed the flock over which they are made overseers (Acts 20:28) and are to feed the flock of God which is among them, taking the oversight of it (I Peter 5:1-2.) There is no scriptural way on earth that elders can comply with these divine instructions and at the same time be elders over anything except the local church in which they are appointed!

However, the Eugene/Springfield campaign was an area wide affair in which at least the three churches mentioned above were combined in a single program. Since the information has been kept very quiet I would like to ask, who had the oversight of this work? If the elders of one of these churches had the oversight then clearly they were overseeing the work of more than one church, and therefore more than the New Testament allows. Or, if the elders of all three churches involved coordinated the affair jointly then they were not acting as elders at all because the New Testament authorized nothing about joint elderships and joint, intercongregational programs. Or, if as in some cases, the direction of this campaign was in the hands of an outside professional planning group then the elders simply surrendered their respective flocks, and their responsibility, to someone else's charge.

Next year all of the churches in California that will endorse such at set-up are going to stage a state-wide campaign, all under the coordination of the Englewood church in Los Angeles. Now someone will say, "But that is a much bigger thing than the Eugene-Springfield campaign." Certainly it is, but, brethren, if the principle that allows churches to combine city-wide is right, then what is wrong with the same principle in operating on a state-wide basis? Or nation-wide? Or world-wide? And then I ask, what is wrong with the Roman Catholic hierarchical idea of subjecting all of the churches the world over to one central control on earth. If terming such a control "the papacy" would be offensive to liberal brethren they could call it a universal sponsoring church and still operate under the same principle! But a principle for which there is no Bible authority!

Certainly the desire to reach souls with the gospel is commendable, but zeal untempered and uncontrolled by the word of God can only bring spiritual ruin. As Jimmy Allen very ably pointed out, the word of God is like a sifting screen that sifts the sand. He said that when men come to Mark 16:16 and God's command on baptism some pass through and some are sifted out. How true, but let us remember that this applies just as aptly to our relationship to anything else the word of God has to say. And this includes I Peter 5:1-2 and God's specification of the jurisdiction of elders and the independence of the local church implied therein. Liberal brethren are going to have to learn that it is hypocritically wrong to call upon men to submit to the authority of Christ in baptism while they themselves ignore his authority on church organization. As one good brother put it: You can't do wrong and get by!"

-P. O. Box 111 Cottage Grove, Oregon