Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 2, 1958
NUMBER 22, PAGE 2-3b

"I'm Glad To Admit I Was Wrong"

Dillard Thurman

(Editor's note: Last June, Brother Thurman wrote an editorial in his paper, The Vindicator, lamenting the tendency of so many preachers and churches today to rely on "artificial lures" (youth camps, recreational programs, nationally known golfers, athletes, and entertainers) to gain a hearing for the gospel. He felt that these tendencies were about to sweep the church, and was quite unprepared for the tremendous reaction he received to his editorial — countless numbers of brethren apparently shared his alarm at these worldly and carnal measures which some preachers, churches, and papers were so vigorously promoting. This article followed the first by two weeks.)

It is not always so easy to admit an error; this time it is a pleasure! For some time I have felt that the church was filled with indolence and lethargy in viewing some dangerous trends constantly developing within our ranks. I felt I was "sticking my neck out" when I wrote an article on "artificial bait" a few days ago. The response was even heavier than I had anticipated; and with only one exception, every response carried a commendation! I must have felt a little like Elijah when the Lord showed him there were 7,000 who had not "bowed the knee to Baal".

From one side of this nation to the other I have had words of praise and appreciation for that article, along with some very astute observations about other "soft spots" in our spiritual bulwarks. Of course, I will not assert that these letters form an accurate "poll" of the thinking of all my brethren; but I do believe more and more people are awakening to some sinister threats that confront the church of God today. Their alert and vigilant concern may turn out to the salvation of the restoration movement, who knows ? I was somewhat surprised at the number who view with alarm our emphasis of "youth programs." The fact that these letters came from aged members in the Lord is all the more reason why we young- er members of His family should soberly consider what they say!

I am not willing that any should try to catalogue me as a "reactionary" or "an anti." To this end I want to try to state again clearly my present position in a few matters. If some arise with the castigation, "Yes, I agree with what he said, but I sure oppose what he meant," I will have to ignore his ignorance and let the matter drop. But I usually have the uncanny ability to say just what I mean better than another can say it for me. I still refuse to allow this paper to become a chapman for petty bickering and personalities. It is not, and never will be, a "brotherhood paper"! It is my own publication, bought and paid for with uncounted hours of grimy sweat and toil. I have never asked nor received any gifts to buy equipment, and any one who feels that he wants to have a "hassle" with me over my convictions can do so through some other instrument. I have never sought to vindicate my own position on any matter. Rather, I freely admit that I can be in error, and only humbly ask that readers pick up their own Bible and search for the original order of things. These observations are only to the end that you will begin doing your own thinking. Don't allow me or any man to formulate your "creed" to live by!

First, I think it is a fine thing that Christian boys and girls can get together to have a fine time. I can find nothing wrong with their having a party or picnic that they might enjoy one another's company, providing it is properly chaperoned (supervised), and they are properly clothed and mannered. Young people need something to do in the way of entertainment, and I am all for it, in its place. However, I am against this idea that the church must provide entertainment and be "host" for their social activities. This is not what the church is, and more than our young folk need to learn this fact! The church can't outline a "youth program" like they would an evangelistic work in some mission field. The travesty is that some congregations are giving more thought to this sort of thing. Christ didn't shed His blood that a bunch of half-converted parents and teen-agers could arrange a care-free religious festival. Christian young people can arrange their own parties and picnics, or it can be done by their parents. But for Christ's sake leave the church out of this maudlin mess that it may place a far greater emphasis on that which is spiritual. The home can raise children — let the church remain the pillar and ground of God's truth!

I believe it is perfectly all right for a group of Christians, young or old, to have a picnic, and then play games. It may help to promote better understanding and love to have a game of "soft ball" and let all these Christians play together! But I am dead set against the church "organizing a soft ball team" and yelping about what a "forward-looking program we have." Yet I receive bulletins in which there are pleas made for all "to support our ball team." I don't believe the practice has become common, but it is not unknown. None can deny that it is a trend that is developing; and we have some "personality plus" preachers who are field managers in this scheme to make the church a spiritual "major league." There are times when an "associate minister" is very little more than "athletic director" and "social advisor." A game of baseball has its place, but it is not the work of the church!

I believe the church needs more fellowship. We just can't have too much of it. It is fine for members of the body of Christ to sit down and eat together. But we need to first understand what FELLOWSHIP really is. It is not eating and drinking, but sharing. Today a segment of the church can't speak of having fellowship without the smell of coffee! Invariably the word "fellowship" means banquet to them. The idea of having fellowship in labor is foreign to their thinking. I am not against the use of the word "fellowship" in connection with an occasion of food and fun, but I deplore the limitation of its meaning to this sort of thing.

I was converted, and met for years thereafter, in the same school building where I attended five days a week. I often used the same desk in worship on Sunday that I had used in Geometry on Friday. Thus I never developed the idea that the church building is a sacred thing, so sanctified that it could not be used for any activity other than worship. Therefore, I can see nothing wrong with people eating in the church building (a building owned by the church members). I have long preached that there has never yet been built a church building for the Lord. We build it for the convenience of worshippers. It is owned by members of the church and is dedicated to God only so far as we may sanctify it to that purpose. However, because of a trend toward "church entertainment" in the church today, I oppose spending any money given to a church building to place therein a kitchen or a "banquet room." Further, because of the abuse I see in this matter, I believe more harm than good is now resulting from the practice of eating in church buildings. Though it is no different than spreading a Sunday meal under the arbor where a big meeting is being held, the influence may be very different.

I also think it is fine that we have "Christian colleges" where young men who desire to preach may further their education is surroundings designed to be of spiritual benefit to them. I also appreciate the fact that many leaders in congregations throughout the land have had training in these "Bible colleges." Too, they serve a good purpose in bringing together Christian boys and girls where marriages result and fine homes are thus established. HOWEVER, I am against this idea that is developing that we must have these colleges if we are to have qualified elders and preachers! That leaves the impression that the church is incapable of doing the work God assigned it, or that a human institution can do it better. The colleges are fine and can do a splendid work UNTIL they develop (directly or indirectly) the feeling that they are essential to the work of the body of Christ. When any congregation sets forth the ruling that any applicant to be considered for a job of preaching must be a "Christian college graduate," the ignorance and obtuseness becomes very nauseating. The acceptable gospel preacher must have only one degree — the B. A. degree mentioned by the Lord when he said that one must be "Born Again". We need to get a clearer view of the requirements of a gospel preacher as delineated in God's Book.

I think publishing a gospel paper such as this can result in much good (I know this is true from reports I get). But I am against any paper seeking to become an "official organ" of the church to coerce folk into some design of living. Therefore, please investigate all these matters carefully for yourself. After having studied your Bible, arrive at the conclusion you see that it teaches — then let no man turn you from it. Each of us is individually responsible before God. You must "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." If I can cause you to study, I am glad.