"That Racket In Tennessee"
In this issue of the Guardian is a well-written article by Brother George Henney under the above caption. It is a reply to an article of mine in the April 25 issue. Be sure to read Brother Henney's article before reading this. He writes with a fine spirit and judging by the article I would take Brother Henney, whom I have never met personally, to be an honest and able student of God's Word. There are a few points in his article to which I reply.
In the paragraph under this heading, Brother Henney misses the point I was trying to make. He seeks to defend the brethren in question from this label by trying to make it appear that they are no more "hobbyists" than David Lipscomb, Yater Tant, and the Guardian. No one contends that one is a "hobbyist" simply because he opposes something or deals with one subject more than others. Neither is one necessarily a "hobbyist" simply because he advocates something. If so, every man living is a "hobbyist" and every paper published is a "hobbyist paper." In the excellent paper The Voice of Freedom, which is edited by Brother G. C. Brewer, the subjects of Catholicism and Communism are dealt with almost altogether. Does this make the paper a "hobbyist paper"? Surely not. This is the reason for its being published — to deal with such matters. Neither is the Guardian a "hobbyist paper" because it deals with issues before the church, and speaks out so much against what we believe to be dangers confronting the church. This is the reason for its being published in the main. In the Guardian we are willing to allow an open discussion of all matters so far as is reasonable. The Guardian stands as a medium through which brethren may discuss and study any matter relating to the church. The Guardian writes no creed for the church, cannot bind any decisions on the church, and does not seek to draw any lines of fellowship between brethren. We labor under the idea that brethren are honest and sincere, and that if they can study and examine matters freely as brethren, the truth will win out.
I do not doubt the fact that the brethren under question "talk of" other things than their imaginary "One-Man Ministry." No doubt at other times they preach on other themes, but on their radio programs in Middle Tennessee they are riding this theme for all that it is worth. They are also doing the same at every other opportunity. With them it is "an engrossing topic . . . . to which one constantly reverts." (Webster's definition of a "hobby.") It is their pet idea upon which they are constantly harping and which they greatly exaggerate and emphasize. They have magnified it all out of proportion. Along with this is the attitude and spirit that characterizes them in their opposition to this supposed-to-be "One Man Ministry." These brethren sow discord by making many reckless and false charges. They designate all preachers who are working with a congregation having elders as "hirelings." They charge that these preachers are preaching for money; that they are merely professionals. They charge that with such preachers it is "so much preach for so much pay." They give the impression that all such preachers are insincere, dishonest, lazy, timeservers, and engaged in an unscriptural work. They have maligned and insulted many faithful preachers. They contend that the elders are mere "figureheads" for the "local pastor" and that the elders have hired an "hireling" to do their work for them. Many other similar charges they make. Yet someone would defend them from the designation of "hobbyist"! These men are forcing these matters to become tests of fellowship. They are, by their attitude and reckless way of opposing what they consider error, disrupting churches.
Brother Henney says that I have made a "ridiculous misrepresentation" of these brethren as to what they teach about "mutual edification!' He says that he does not think that I did such intentionally. I appreciate this and hasten to assure him that if I did misrepresent them it was not deliberately done.
These men do not seem to agree among themselves as to what is meant by and included in "mutual edification." If they mean simply that every member of the church ought to be developed and trained to teach and serve in every way possible, then I would agree. I know of no one who would disagree with this. Certainly the members of the church must use ALL of their talents. "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking the assembling together . . . . but exhorting one another." (Heb. 10:24-25) Surely this should be done. Every member should contribute all he can to the building up of the body. "Every joint is to supply" that which it is able. Who denies this? The question is: Does this mean that every member must teach — edify in keeping with his ability at the Lord's day service? Does this forbid an evangelist under the oversight of the elders doing most of the teaching at the regular services? Is "mutual edification" only applicable to the time the church assembles to worship on Lord's day? May women, many of whom have great ability, teach — edify publicly at this service? If not, why not? If every member with the ability to edify is to share in this edification in the Lord's day assembly, then the women would be as obligated to do their part, and if they have more ability than the men they would do most of it. Some of these brethren hold that women may and should at the authorization of the elders publicly teach — edify the assembly. If the edification is to be "mutual," then it means that every member sustains the same relationship to it. The truth is that the work of edification is not to be limited to any one day or any one service. It can and should go on every day with EVERY member doing what he can to contribute to the "edifying of the body," in keeping with ability, opportunity, and the Lord's restrictions. (1 Tim. 2:12)
Fellowship Brother Henney says: "Anyone who makes any teaching a test of fellowship (among children of God) is sinning." Surely he does not mean what that statement implies. He goes on to say: ". . .. the general belief among Christians is that there are issues which are tests of fellowship. There is absolutely no scriptural warrant for such a theory! Fellowship is withdrawn from a stubborn adherent of error .... the only test of fellowship among Christians is one's attitude toward the truth'.'
The implications and results of such as is here advocated by Brother Henney I have not space nor time to examine fully. This idea smacks very much of a modernistic conception of matters. If the "only test of fellowship among Christians is one's attitude toward the truth," then just how is such to be determined? Just how do we go about testing one's attitude toward the truth to know if he should be fellowshipped or not? Just when does one reach the point that he becomes a "stubborn adherent" of error? If it is not the truth that determines fellowship, but only one's attitude toward it, then we can hold fellowship with any and all error until the attitude of the ones who believe and teach such error has been tested! Brother Henney could not refuse fellowship to a digressive or a premillennialist until he had tested his attitude. If the members of the Christian Church (or any other for that matter) should decide to come over and worship and work with the church where Brother Henney is, he would be obligated to accept them until he had examined the attitude toward the truth of every one of them. Perhaps I have missed Brother Henney's point in all of this, but I frankly admit that it is a surprise that anyone would advocate what he does here.
Brother Henney says: "In my experience it is those who practice the one-man ministry who make these issues tests of fellowship ... Brother Henney, and others like him, uses the expression "one-man ministry" as though there was such a thing practiced among churches of Christ, and as if someone was trying to defend such. They assume the very thing they need to prove — that there is a "one-man ministry" in the churches. Brother Henney can not prove that such a practice is in vogue among us to save his life. There is no such thing. There is no such thing as "the Pastor system" among us. It is all in their imagination and based on inadequate information about facts and scripture, a misunderstanding of words, and a refusal to recognize the thing that is actually practiced. They hold up the abuses and misuses of the work of an evangelist and the elders, and magnify that into what they call a "one-man ministry system." No one is willing to deny that there are abuses and even dangerous trends. These need to be exposed and corrected. But we should not take these and make the proverbial "mountain out of a molehill."
The work of ministry is not to be confined to teaching and preaching. Every Christian is a minister and should be working as such. He may be doing part of this as a teacher in one of the classes; as a deacon; serving as usher or a janitor; or ministering in many other ways. Women are to be ministers. They teach classes; fix the Lord's table; look after the sick, and minister in many ways (Rom. 16:1-3,6; Acts 9:36; Phil. 4:3). All Christians should be taught and trained to become "able ministers." One man in the congregation may do more teaching than all the others, as far as the public capacity is concerned especially, but this does not mean that the church has a "one-man ministry." One man may do all the song leading and minister according to his ability in this way, but no one thinks of him as a "one-man song ministry." Timothy was told to ".... do the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry" (2 Tim. 4:5). Timothy's "ministry" was to do the work of an evangelist. All are not evangelists and cannot "minister" in this way, but all are to be ministers.
Brother Henney says that "not once in his article does he appeal to the scriptures as justification of the one man system among the churches . . . ." I did not write the article with the idea of appealing to the scriptures for anything especially. It was my purpose to try and clarify matters and plead for a better attitude and relationship in our discussion of these matters. I certainly was not writing in defense of a "one-man ministry." I do not believe that there is such a thing and would not defend it if such does exist. Brother Henney and others are careless in charging the "one-man system" upon others. Let it be definitely understood that the Guardian is not a paper that "contends for the one-man system." We do not believe in any such system and will oppose such (when properly defined) to the last. We are not going to erect a "straw man," call it "the pastor system" or the "one-man ministry," and proceed to make "a lot of racket" about it. We have enough real dangers confronting the church to engage our attention without wasting time and energy fighting a thing that does not actually exist. Brother Henney and the others with him are capitalizing on some abuses and extremes in their fight against what they call the "one-man ministry." If they could be made to realize this it would be a real blessing to them and to the church. Their failure to recognize this and their incessant charge that these abuses and extremes amount to "the pastor system" is what makes of them "hobbyists." May God open their eyes to this fact. If this were done we would all see that actually we are not far apart on these matters — if at all. "Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them in the sight of the Lord, that they strive not about words, to no profit, to the subverting of them that hear" (2 Tim. 2:14).