Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 1, 1960
NUMBER 17, PAGE 2,14a

Preaching And Practice


This point has been made many times before, but it needs to be repeated so often, and emphasized so strongly, that its significance will finally come to be understood by all: Generally speaking BOTH SIDES of the "orphan home" controversy have changed. One group has changed its practice; the other group has changed its preaching.

Before the "orphan home question" became a subject of controversy and intense study brethren generally preached the "all sufficiency" of the church — and, in theory at least, practiced the taking of church contributions to support benevolent organizations. Only here and there was a lone voice raised against the sending of such contributions. Few brethren even gave enough study to the subject to realize that the two items were wholly incompatible — that there was an irreconcilable antagonism between their preaching and their practice. If their preaching was right, their practice was wrong; and if their practice was right, then their preaching was wrong. The two were incompatible, contradictory the one of the other, and beyond the possibility of reconciliation.

Then some fifteen years ago Abilene Christian College began an intensive financial campaign, and openly solicited church contributions. This led to a short, but bitter, fight over the "college-in-the-budget" question, and resulted in a hasty retreat (for policy's sake only) on the part of the college-in-the-budget advocates. Regrouping their forces they began to pitch the battle on a new front, and injected the "orphan home" contributions as being in the same category as contributions to colleges.

This turn of events led to a long and searching study of the "orphan home" question — which study has resulted in a CHANGE on the part of practically the entire brotherhood. For it became abundantly clear that there was indeed a contradiction as between general practice and general preaching on the subject.

Most brethren had been preaching the truth; but many had made a wrong application, and had failed to see that what they were practicing (relative to orphan homes) was a tacit denial of what they were preaching. So a considerable number changed their practice to conform with their preaching, being persuaded that the preaching was in harmony with the New Testament. Others (particularly those connected with the Gospel Advocate) changed their preaching to make it compatible with their practice. And each side has subsequently charged the other side with inconsistency — each group saying that the other has "changed". But there the similarity stops. For the one group, generally speaking, freely, openly, and unashamedly admits its change; while the other group vehemently denies that it has changed.

But that the Gospel Advocate has CHANGED its preaching and teaching is too well known to admit even of question. Over and over again this has been demonstrated in various media by the publishing of articles from back issues of the Advocate — articles which that journal would never, never, NEVER publish now without pages and pages of explanations, definitions, defenses and excuses. These articles represent the former teaching of the Gospel Advocate brethren; they do NOT represent the present convictions of that group.

As a case in point, and that you may see what we are talking about, we publish herewith a short article from the pen of F. B. Srygley, which appeared in the Gospel Advocate, May 14, 1931:

The Early Church And Its Methods

By a careful study of the Bible any one should be able to see that the Holy Spirit, through the apostles, banded the believers together in small groups and that these groups were called "churches of Christ." When Paul said, "The churches of Christ salute you," he meant the localized body of Christ, or the body of Christ in different localities.

These churches were independent of each other and of all other congregations. They were not bound together by any organization under the control of the eldership of any one of these churches, neither were they banded together under one board created by the State or national law. The single task of these local churches was to preach the gospel and save souls. They had no organization larger than their local churches. There was no discussion among them about how to build and control institutions such as orphanages, or homes for the aged, or hospitals for the sick. There is no more authority in the New Testament for the control of such things than there is for the control of a farm or a health resort.

Some time after the apostles died (it even began to work in their day) men became dissatisfied with this simple organization and began to desire to do some great work. These simple organizations soon began to band themselves together through their elderships. No doubt they felt that they could do a greater work by a closer cooperation, and this led to a more extended organization which eventually led to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. The Catholic Church then undertook to organize in a way to control schools, hospitals, etc. We now have brethren who should know better trying to find authority for owning and operating such things under the overworked rule of expediency. Brethren have the right to own and operate newspapers, schools, homes for the aged, and farms; and they have not only the right to teach the Bible in and through anything they have a right to own, but it is their duty to do so. Preaching the gospel, by which souls are saved, is the duty of all churches and individual Christians as far as they are able to do so; but this is far from saying that they have the right to build anything in the way of a religious institution which is not authorized by the New Testament. There is nothing in the New Testament larger than the local church or smaller than the body of Christ. Such institutions as here mentioned, if owned and operated at all, should be not by churches. Whenever churches leave their one task of preaching the gospel and saving souls to build up other institutions, they are likely to get into controversy over how to own and operate such institutions as they may build.

That was the teaching of the Gospel Advocate — 1931 style. That kind of teaching is never found in that journal today; but, on the contrary, almost unlimited space is given to articles, advertisements, and promotional propaganda for church supported institutions of the kind Srygley warned against.

These simple statements of fact will be easily seen by the historian a hundred years hence. If they could be seen and understood now, it would go a long, long way toward clarifying matters and toward eliminating the bitterness, prejudice, and acrimony which have characterized so much of the discussion. Let brethren honestly face the facts, and once understanding their relative positions, let them go to the Scriptures to see whether or not such preaching as Srygley (and the ancient Gospel Advocate) did is in harmony with the Truth.

— F. Y. T.