Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 26, 1949

Dangers Are Abroad In The Land

W. Wallace Layton, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee

A few years ago a sentiment was created in the brotherhood against militant journalism. Propagandists flooded the country with bitter, caustic criticisms of criticizing! Many weak brethren were sucked in by this maneuver. There grew up the idea that it was wrong to criticize anybody or anything.

As a result of this campaign many brethren quit reading the Gospel Advocate and Firm Foundation. And the Bible Banner, of course, was looked upon as the very epitome of everything a gospel paper ought not to be. Faithful and earnest brethren all over the nation rose up against this dangerous and compromising sentiment, and, in part, awakened the church to the threat that "soft sentimentalism" in the papers would pose to the cause of New Testament Christianity. I say "in part" because there is yet much to be done. There are still papers printed by members of the church of Christ which have forsaken the policy of printing forthright articles of a militant and aggressive character, and are actually boasting of the fact that they are "free of all such." They are even printing testimonials from their readers (like the old patent medicine testimonials) exalting in such journalism.

Because of the influence of this "soft" doctrinal stand, we see dangerous tendencies developing in several directions. They call for careful and sober analysis.

"Christian Education"

We are hearing a lot about "Christian education". The term is used almost exclusively to refer to the work done in the colleges. The implication is that the church is not doing anything in "Christian education"; and that the college is the only place where such can be had. But let it be emphasized repeatedly: the men who are most positive in their opposition to the colleges "bedding down in the budget" of the churches are men who believe most firmly in "Christian education"! We do believe that it is good and right for men to conduct schools if they want to. We feel much good can be done by these schools. But we resent being branded as "enemies of Christian education" simply because we criticize the colleges' attempts to drag the church into their work and bring about an unscriptural tie-up between college and church. All these things have been presented over and over again, even to the point of being tedious. But I might add that we stand ready to oppose the matter again and always just as firmly as ever in the past.

"Mission" Work

The church today is "mission minded" as never before perhaps since the days of the apostles. It is surely right that the brotherhood be aroused to our duty along this line. But, here again, we find a grave danger. For it now appears that if one desires to do "mission" work outside the United States his work must be channeled through one of about a half-dozen or more "sponsoring" congregations. Now there is nothing wrong in other churches sending aid or support to such a work. But the danger lies in the possibility (indeed, the probability) that the "sponsoring" church shall come to assume authority beyond the New Testament limits. I believe with all my heart in supporting the gospel in all the earth; but I see no reason why people should go "bugs" over the matter in such a way as to lead to a diocesan exercise of authority by one congregation (or group of elders over the work of a hundred other congregations.

"Fronts" For Foreign Work

Even more serious than this, however, is the feeling that we must have a "front" of some kind before we can preach the gospel overseas. In Japan it may be a school in Italy an orphan's home; in Germany a boys-town or "youth center"; in Africa a demonstration farm. This I must say is just not the way the apostles did it. Their supreme effort was in the establishing of simple congregations of Christians. The only "front" they needed and used was the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is certainly nothing wrong in schools, orphan homes, as any other rightful work Christians want to undertake The wrong thing is in thinking these things are the "bait" by which we are to catch men for Christ.

I do not believe that conditions in Italy and Germany today are a whit different from some of the places visited by Paul and Silas. Claudius had banished the Jews from Rome. They were found on every hand, homeless, and without livelihood. Yet the apostles, themselves knowing "how to be in want", went right on emphasizing the church and the eternal home of the soul. It is true that in Jerusalem the saints in need were helped. But notice that the money was sent to relieve "the saints", not to try to attract people to an acceptance of the gospel.

This is written in no spirit of antagonism against any good work our brethren are doing. I am simply questioning the wisdom and the stability and the soundness of trying to accomplish anything that has to be done on the "spectacular" basis. The approach is wrong. The primary appeal is food and clothing; nearly any hungry and destitute man will "respond" to such lurid baptisms will probably be counted by the thousand.

As a case in point, consider Salt Lake City. The work received probably more attention and assistance than any other "mission" ever attempted in the United States. Hundreds of workers were rushed into the area to take the town by storm. A nice attractive building we erected. Thousands of dollars were poured into a work there. Yet when the excitement and the "glamor began to subside, the church there found herself utterly dependent on the outside for help. When you do a work of this sort, you leave a church of no initiative; you make them feel forever dependent on those who sponsored them. It simply isn't God's way of doing the job.

Let churches sponsor preachers. It ought to be done. Let these men go into every city in all the world, preaching the gospel of Christ, establishing churches after the New Testament pattern. Then let those churches take on whatever welfare work they are capable of doing other churches assisting if some emergency arises or some catastrophe befalls. That is the New Testament pattern. It will work.


"It is a poor sermon," said George Whitefield, "that gives no offense, that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher". Louis XI said of one of his preachers, Massillon, "I don't know how it is when I hear my other chaplains I admire them, be when I hear Massillon preach, I always go away displeased with myself."