Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 26, 1958

Spiritual Ends Versus Carnal Measures

A. Hugh Clark

(Editor's note: We've seen this article by Brother Clark in four or five publications, so do not know where it first appeared. But it is highly significant, and strikes at the very heart of our modern problem. Read it carefully — and hand it to a friend to read.)

A statement of the apostle that "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation" is susceptible of a much more extensive application than many among members of the churches have ever suspected.

It is true that it very successfully refutes the doctrine of "Effectual Calling" or the direct operation of the Holy Spirit in conversion, and enthrones divine revelation as the only scriptural means for the accomplishment of this end, but it just as certainly and effectively refutes the foolish notions of unthinking brethren with regard to the employment of a lot of other carnal measures copied from the denominations and from the civic and fraternal organizations of the world in their efforts to achieve other spiritual ends.

Moreover, it is usually true, that the ends for the accomplishment of which the claptrap methods here intended are employed are justified by their inventors and perpetrators because, it is alleged, they will result in the growth of the church numerically." But this is just another way of saying, if their words have any meaning at all, that sinners will be converted and souls will be saved.

So, because somebody gets in a flurry prompted by the desire to "make a fair show in the flesh" (Gal. 6:12) the "gods of the belly" (Phil. 3:19) are substituted for the spiritual measures appointed of God in the gospel, and the crowd that is gathered though sometimes numerically impressive, knows no difference between Christ and Mohammed, the New Testament and the Book of Mormon!

But to satisfy the clamor we continue to build more kitchens in our meeting houses, more fellowship halls, more gymnasiums and youth centers, sponsor more and more baseball clubs and basketball teams, and, carrying on competitively with such arrangements in the denominations, I suppose it is thought that the supremacy of the church is thus to be established, if the team is a winner.

Then, there are all the purely social measures among the adult membership of the church designed to attract the attention of the community and impress them with the idea that the Church of Christ is...a "live-wire-organization." The preacher himself, may be strictly a top-water so far as truth and pulpit ability are concerned, but he must be a first-class promoter and have a hat full of schemes which he learned in a "school" which he attended at "Central" or "Broadway" and which have been tested and tried by an "expert" and so cannot fail to "produce." A situation such as this is fast catching hold in churches of Christ all over the country. And many good churches where such practices are not yet accepted are Baytown, Texas, continually disturbed and recurringly have their equilibrium upset by the agitation of certain ones who stay "all shook up" because they know some church which is simply growing by "leaps and bounds" because some hot-rod preacher is leading the church in a "real program" of this sort.

Make no mistake, brethren, this kind of loose thinking and worldly mindedness and the disposition on the part of those who know better to placate such an element in the church, has been the launching device for every innovation that has ever plagued the church from its beginning until now, the formidable rock in the midst of the otherwise peaceful waters through which we sail upon which many a good church has been wrecked and has gone down in digression and apostasy.

This crowd in the church does not need to be placated but annihilated, and their progeny should be so thoroughly fumigated with gospel preventive that they will be sterile for all the future.

The lack of adequate and sound teaching in the church is the principal cause of all the difficulties and deficiencies It has ever suffered. And the same great lack is the very fertile soil in which are fastened the roots of all the troubles which are distressing and hindering the church in our day.

Divine truth hidden in the mind of God, then fully revealed in the fullness of time, brought the church into existence in the first place. And by the appointment of its Divine Architect, by the same means, the church is to be sustained and matured as the medium through which the accomplishment of his beneficent purposes and ends 'are to be achieved. And just to the extent this divinely appointed means is either neglected or minimized by contrast with anything else will the church fail to accomplish these ends.

There has been a growing tendency among the churches in the last two or three decades, to lose sight of the fundamental importance of teaching and to emphasize more and more the social characteristics of "friendliness," "hospitality," "good fellowship," etc. And such has been made a pretty general appeal for the attention and accession of the public.

Stemming from this point of view have come a whole flock of troubles within the church, chief of which perhaps, has been the clamor of the churches for that type of individual in their pulpits who would best fit into their scheme of things; who would have made a better Good Will Ambassador, President of a Chamber of Commerce, or greater in some Social Club or Night Spot, except perhaps for the fact that he didn't have enough above the collar hone to qualify in such a competitive field, and so he made a preacher! And now he is described by certain women in the church by such phrases as, "Our preachuh is jus' the sweetes' man," "He's jus' the most social-minded person you evah saw ... Wry body jus' loves him to death." "You know he's jus' always on-the-go; why I bet not even the meta reada makes more calls than he does! And in the pulpit, he jus' nevah hurts anybody's feelings." And the reason the preacher himself specializes in these things is because he knows that brethren who hired him expect it of him, and that if he is to hold his job, he would better comply. And so, like the gadget seller from the department store, he leaves his books and his Bible behind and takes to the town, street by street, knocking on the doors as he comes to them, seeking recruits for the yearbook, having forgotten that Paul said, "Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ." (Gal. 1;10).

People who "join the church" under the operation of this sort of fellow do not become Christians, they only `join the church', and so far as their salvation is concerned, they might as well have joined the Kiwanis Club. The Lord, himself, said TEACHING precedes discipleship and is the means by which such an end is accomplished. Leave off the teaching and substitute admiration for the preacher, the congeniality of the congregation, the inoffensiveness of the pulpit, etc. and you do not make the disciples of Christ but just plain, ordinary sectarians, with no convictions, and who continue to live about as they have in the past.

The only hope of the world in general and the churches in particular is faithful gospel preaching and teaching. Elders and churches, therefore, ought to desire and require of their preachers that their chief qualification be the ability to preach and teach the gospel effectively. And then, realizing that such requires much application and that application requires time, try not to load them down with such trifling, time-stealing, and fruitless tasks as gadding for gadding's sake.

Paul said to Timothy, "Till I come, give heed to reading, to exhortation, to teaching" (I Tim. 4:13).