Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 5, 1964
NUMBER 43, PAGE 4,12b-13a

The Conventions --- And Christ


Every passing week brings new evidence of the accelerating tempo of the headlong rush into apostasy which has engulfed so many of our brethren in late years. If some well informed Christian, rooted and grounded in the faith, and a close and careful reader of such well-known journals as the Firm Foundation and Gospel Advocate had left our nation in the early 1950's, and had spent the intervening years without contact or communications with the homeland — if such a person were to return to our country today and attend some of the "Church of Christ Conventions," and read such promotion sheets as these two journals have now become, he would be speechless with astonishment!

How has it been possible for so many to go so far afield in so short a span of years? The stream-lined promotions he would find among the churches today are well organized, efficient, highly dramatic, calculated to appeal to vanity and "pride of membership" — and are fantastically bereft of either scripture, spirituality, or sobriety. Each promotion seems to strive for bigger crowds, greater sensationalism, and more boundless ambition than its predecessor. Latest of these "super-super" extravaganzas to come to our attention is the one advertised for Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the next month. Oklahoma newspapers have given it great publicity as a "Church of Christ Convention," which according to "Convention Director, Delmar Owens, is expected to draw more than 50,000 people." This will be the first meeting of its kind to be held in the Tulsa Assembly Center, and will run for six days (rental on the Center approximately $440.00 per day). This will make poor Pat Boone look like a piker; for even in Dallas, three or four times as big as Tulsa, and with proportionately more "Church of Christ members.," ,Boone could draw only a piddling fifteen to twenty thousand squealing and squirming teen-agers to his great "Church of Christ Youth Rally." And even the great Abilene Christian College Lectureships have never come within shouting distance of a scant one-third the number "Convention Director Owens" predicts for his gathering. Of course, all this advance hoopla should probably be taken with a grain of salt. Rarely ever do these big promotions come up to the rosy predictions of their promoters (and almost invariably are later written up as having "far exceeded" the dreams of their producers!); but that is all part of the game, and connoisseurs of such affairs are not taken in by the publicity blurbs.

One might suppose, on hearing of such a gathering, that it was to be a gospel meeting. But in all the long write-ups we have seen of the affair the only time the word "gospel" appeared was in a story telling that a "special singing school in connection with the Convention" would be conducted by L. O. Sanderson, "a former minister at the 10th and Rockford Church of Christ," and who "is presently music editor for the Gospel Advocate." If there is to be any other "gospel" connected with, or related to "the Convention," the stories we have seen did not refer to it.

The Contrast

We are often asked by sincere Christians what can be done to stay the tide of digression, or even to roll it back a bit. We think there is one answer, and only one, to that — preach the gospel! It is not likely that any great number of the "conventioneers" will be reclaimed from their course; but it is certainly true that there are many thousands of honest people who can he won to the Lord by a faithful presentation (both in life and in teaching) of the gospel of Christ. If people are confusing the "Church of Christ" they read about in the sensational convention stories with the true and faithful disciples of the Lord, the best way possible to clear their minds of the confusion is to LET THEM SEE THE DIFFERENCE!

Let them find among the faithful ones that spirit of humility and gentleness which characterized the early church; let them see the evangelistic fervor, the deep, deep concern for the souls of lost men, the person-to-person helpfulness of men and women in whose hearts the Son of God has found lodging! No "Convention" on earth, though it attract ten times the number "Convention Director Owens" predicts, can bring help and healing and health to a sin-sick soul as effectively as one Christian who cares can bring it with the simple message of Jesus and his love! The "convention" may create a "band-wagon" psychology, and perhaps attract many scores or hundreds to get on the band-wagon and go along with the crowd, "joining" some "Church of Christ."

But when the shouting dies down, these people are still in desperate need of — Christ! And that is where devout Christians can go to work, People who are truly "hungering and thirsting after righteousness" will not be long sensing the difference between a "convention psychology" and a person-to-person interest in and concern for the lost. They will need to be brought to a realization of their own desperate plight — lost, condemned, doomed! If a man does not realize he is "lost" he can never have much need for a "Savior!" The very atmosphere of the "convention" is opposite to the sinner's need. He needs to understand the meaning of "failure" and "loss" and "sin"; the convention fills him with enthusiasm for "big things," the feeling of success, popularity, worldly acceptance. As one poor deluded brother (who is now gone from us — peace to his ashes) boastingly said of the Herald of Truth a few years ago, "Now, at long last the governments of the earth will have to sit up and take notice that the Churches of Christ are a force to be reckoned with!"

The remedy for sin is Christ, not a convention; God's power to save is preaching, not in promotions; the Christian's reward is in pleasing God, not in the popularity of men.