Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 23, 1961
NUMBER 29, PAGE 3,10b

Stunting The Church

J. W. Roberts

(Editor's note: This article of fifteen years ago is particularly appropriate now, inasmuch as the liberal element among the Churches of Christ is rapidly approaching the ridiculous frivolity which brother Roberts so justly censured in the Christian Churches. The digressive brethren forsook the gospel for "stunts" to draw their crowds and finance their work; our own brethren are forsaking the drawing power of the gospel and depending more and more on cookies, coffee, and celebrities. Compare the article by Connie W. Adams, this issue.)

The Christian Standard prides itself on its conservatism. It aspires to the position of leadership among the conservative elements in the Christian Church. The editor and his writers really "go after" the "open-membership," "missionary-society" boys. Dr. Ames, of the Disciples Divinity House, of Chicago, and his ultra-modernism, give the Standard some of its best opportunities to demonstrate its "soundness."

In view of these facts, some of my friends in the Disciples group have protested what they call the "wide spread opinion" among the churches of Christ that the Christian Church no longer believes or preaches the gospel of Christ; that they have become, in fact, another denomination. These friends point with pride to the stand of the Standard.

An interesting side light, apropos to this situation is found in a current "crusade" conducted by the Standard. This campaign is called the "Open Bible Crusade," and the details for the churches to follow in putting it on have been given in the late numbers of that paper. According to the latest information, the campaign is being enthusiastically carried on by a large number of Christian Churches.

The originators of this plan are Burris Butler, present editor of the Standard, and A. B. McReynolds, of Talihina, Okla. Brother McReynolds, according to an editorial, is the "author of a number of special campaigns in addition to the 'Open Bible Crusade.' Among these are the 'Ten-Week Loyalty Campaign,' the 'Christ-Centered Crusade,' and the 'Fourteen-Week Personal Workers' Campaign'."

In addition to giving a detailed instruction for nearly every phase of every service during these services, the editors have a special "stunt" for each of the ten-night services of the campaign Each of these "stunts" is designed to "get out the crowds." And when it comes to such, they have more tricks up their sleeves than Blackstone, the Magician. Take a look at the following: "Bring Your - Neighbor- Night," "Fill-a-Pew Night," "Men's Night," and "Choir Night." To take a sample from these, notice the following:

Sunday Night, March 3 — Birthday Night

Announce that the first Sunday night of March will be Birthday Night. Then each Sunday give publicity to Birthday Night.

Place a small barrel or keg (a nail keg is fine) upon the pulpit platform preceding Birthday Night. This keg can be covered with bright-colored crepe paper.

Choose a worthy project to which you will send your Birthday-Night offering; then ask each one to bring as many pennies that night as he is years old.

Of course the minister announces that he is going to furnish pennies for himself and all his family, and that it will cost him plenty. This gets a good laugh, especially if he has several children.

A Birthday Cake

Since this is to be a Birthday-Night service, you announce that there will also be a birthday cake, the largest ever seen in your city. This cake can be provided at very little expense, and it will add five hundred per cent interest to your service.

Two Plans For Providing The Cake

Plan One. See your baker. Tell him that the ladies of the church will furnish the eggs, milk, butter, flour, etc., if he will make the cake. Most bakeries are glad to do this for the publicity it gives them.

Plan Two. Each lady of the church bakes a cake (rectangular shape), and even with the sugar shortage they know how to manage it by using molasses.

Make a platform two or three feet square. Then, using the cakes as bricks, build a pyramid. The mortar to bind cakes together and cover the outside will, of course, be some kind of frosting or icing. Using this plan, any congregation can have "the biggest cake ever seen in________________.

The cake is prepared and placed on the pulpit platform preceding the opening of the service.

During the announcements, if the congregation is not too large, the people march by the cake and the barrel and drop their pennies into the barrel. In the larger congregations the ushers take up the offering and then pour it into the barrel....

In the larger churches the cake is served at the close of the service in the dining room with coffee and hot chocolate. In the smaller churches a committee slices the cake during the service, and as the people leave the building, each one is handed a generous slice in a paper napkin.

Remember to announce "Birthday Night" that those failing to find enough pennies can drop in silver or paper money, just so long as they drop in at least a penny for each year of their age.

Now, I find it hard to get very enthusiastic about the "conservatism" of brethren who can cook up such as the above, or over churches that receive enthusiastically such theatrical, circus-like nonsense. And this is about on a par with what we have seen and heard so much in the churches that boast of being the "main stream" of the Restoration Movement.

Since emphasis is being placed on the "open Bible," it might be to the point to ask where in the open Bible does one look for such as this? Grave doubts must enter people's minds over the kind of preaching that has to resort to such "stunts" to "get out the crowds." Of course, if people are already accustomed to such antics through efforts to raise money and to keep alive the fagging enthusiasm of a church, they will not appear strange. But, then, under such circumstances, one wonders how they accomplish their purpose. The answer must be that they cannot unless they become super-stunts. Then people go to church as they would to a side show. But where people are accustomed to give of their means as they have been prospered, to finance the Lord's work, and to attending church because of interest in the message, they certainly appear strange.

I do know that many are truly gratified that there is an element in the ranks of the Christian Church that continues to give emphasis to the plea to restore the New Testament church and that still delights in the proclamation of the ancient gospel. That group, as one preacher said to me, may be larger than we suppose. We would be glad to be convinced of that fact. But it is worthy of consideration that even these churches are a long way from the practice of the churches of the New Testament and from the fellowship of the churches of Christ. The Standard is still an apologist for the instrument and a host of other things not mentioned in an "open Bible." Such a thing as this "crusade" is a case in point.

We would like to hope that there is yet a chance that the leaders among the conservative group of the Christian Church might come to realize that the solution to their problem is a return to the ground they occupied before the innovations were introduced and into fellowship with those who stand for the complete restoration of the church that Jesus built. However, we confess that we have yet to see evidence that would encourage such a hope.