Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 24, 1956

Brethren, "We" Are Growing!

John T. Overbey Albuquerque, New Mexico

The above caption is suggested by a statement that was made to me by a fellow preacher; one who has been preaching many more years than I have. He is one who can remember when "we" worshipped on the Lord's day in a small frame building on the wrong side of the tracks. He has seen "us" grow out of that bad situation into fine buildings located on the right side of the tracks. Furthermore, he lived in the day when "our preachers, many of them, did not have more than a fourth-grade education. Now "our" preachers are no longer of that variety, but many of them not only have a high school education, but a college education as well — some of them even have a PhD. degree. Now, that is all very fine and good. I, for one, am glad that "we" have grown in that respect.

But now, I am wondering who "us," "we," and "our" are. From where I sit, it looks to me like, in our efforts to restore and propagate New Testament Christianity, we are liable to come up with another denomination. But then someone says, "When we use those terms we are talking about Chris-Halos, members of the Church of Christ; and everybody knows that the Church of Christ is not a denomination."

Not too long ago I was talking to one of the leading citizens of the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had been invited to have lunch at the Chamber of Commerce. I sat next to this gentleman and we struck up a conversation which eventually led to a discussion of my occupation. Said the gentleman: "I see the Church of 'Christ is gradually taking its place among the leading denominations of our city. You have almost as many members and churches as my denomination (he was a Presbyterian, as I recall). You also have a national broadcast (meaning the Herald of Truth) — I listen to it quite often — it's a fine program — fine preaching — fine singing — bound to do a lot of good, etc., etc., etc." Now "that gentleman grabbed the ball and ran for a touchdown before I could even get my men lined up on the field! What did I say? What could I say? I just finished my meal, excused myself, got my coat, and went home.

As Brother F. D. Srygley would say: "'We' are careful to count how many churches, preachers, communicants, meetinghouses, missionaries, missions, mission property, colleges, books, papers, etc., etc., 'we' have, and set all this off in separate yearbooks and array it in the United States census in a column of 'our own' over against Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and other things." To Brother Srygley's list could be added, "our" national radio program, "our" brotherhood missionary projects, and "our" orphan homes. "We" have accumulated so many things that is well nigh impossible to differentiate "us" from any other denomination, as demonstrated by the gentleman from the Chamber of Commerce.

Now, I want to make some observations: My New Testament speaks of the Church in two senses, i.e., the local sense, meaning all of God's people in a given locality; the universal sense, meaning all of God's people throughout the world. A denomination is a body of people larger than the church in the local sense, and smaller than the church in the universal sense, and therefore is not the church in any sense. Now question: Can I be a member of the New Testament church and not be a member of a denomination? Can I be a Christian and not be a member of a denomination? I think I can; and that is exactly where I stand.

But again, my New Testament teaches me that in order to be a Christian one must hear, believe, and obey the gospel; and that the Lord adds such to his Church. Now, I consider all those who have done that as my brethren; and I am going to continue to fellowship them as long as they abide in the doctrine of Christ, which simply means as long as they abide by the teaching of Christ.

Now, does one's being a Christian demand that he string along with the unscriptural arrangement by which "our" national radio program is carried on? Does he have to accept the unscriptural "brotherhood" projects that are being "sponsored" by "us"? Does he have to subscribe to the "brotherhood" orphan home idea? If so, then "we" have a creed that is different from the New Testament, and "we" have another denomination in spite of all "our" disavowals. To be sure, "we" have grown; but it looks like "we" have about "outgrown" the New Testament! Brethren F. B. Srygley and J. D. Tant used to think that such distinctions was an evidence of "our" drifting away.