Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 23, 1964
NUMBER 11, PAGE 5,7b

Seven Years Ago

David Lawrence

The nature of this article will demand, for the sake of effectiveness, that specific congregations be cited. It is not done with any purpose to slander, but rather to teach the truth.

In July, 1957, I was preaching for the Christian Church in the town of Sparta, Missouri. Prior to beginning my work with that congregation I was a member of the South Street Christian Church in Springfield, Missouri. This latter congregation is identified with the Disciples of Christ segment of the Christian Church. One July 14, 1957, I preached my last lesson for the Sparta Christian Church. On July 21, 1957, I became a member of the church of Christ meeting at 1517 E. Cherokee in Springfield, Missouri, known as the Southside church.

My friends and relatives in the Christian Church were shocked at what I did. Some believed that I left because of personalities, that I disliked people in the Christian Church, felt I was not treated right, etc. This was not true at all. As a matter of fact, members of the Christian Church were always friendly and helpful to me. Some of my dearest friends were among its members. At the time that I left, my mother and father were still members of the South Street Church. Many in my mother's family are today members of that congregation. (However, by November of 1957 all of my immediate family had severed every relation with the Christian Church and were faithful members of the Southside Church of Christ.)

Why then did I leave? In response to that question, which was asked frequently in 1957, I wrote a list of 50 objections to practices of the Christian Church (not people). But all of the objections may be summarized in this statement: the Christian Church was engaged in practices for which there was no Bible authority! That was THE reason that I left — basically the only one!

I became a member of the Southside Church of Christ because that congregation was able to defend its every practice from the New Testament. On July 21, 1957, all of the members congratulated me on having done the right thing. Soon after, people contacted me from other congregations in town: East Grand Johnson and Dale, North National, South National, Walnut Hill, and perhaps others, to commend my action. I was asked to preach regularly for East Grand. I declined because I was still in college, and also because I felt that I needed to know more of the Bible before resuming preaching regularly. I preached one Sunday at Johnson and Dale, and several times at Walnut Hill Brethren called on me for prayer in the different congregations. The preacher at North National publicly made mention of my deed.

Some things apparently have changed since 1957. Today all of the congregations in Springfield save the Southside church either actively engage in or endorse practices for which there is no Bible authority. After the vain attempt to justify the practices, we hear "we don't have to have authority for everything." That was the reason I left the Christian Church! I disapproved of church-sponsored camps, Kindergartens, "fellowship dinners," youth rallies, parties, etc. I was told in 1957 that I was right. Am I wrong today? Today I am branded an "anti" and similarly Southside, and all such congregations that oppose unauthorized practices. Yet I have not changed. Southside congregation has not changed. The Christian Church has not changed, that I know of.

As a matter of observance, although I do not know what has happened in the Christian Church during the last seven years, in comparing the promotional-minded churches of Christ with the Christian Church of 1957, it appears to me that the churches of Christ have outdone the Christian Church in the quest to make the church popular in the world by means of entertainment, elaborate buildings, big projects, institutions, etc. In short, it would seem to me that the Christian Church put a greater emphasis on spiritual values seven years ago than liberal churches of Christ do now.

Since the Christian Church was unable to provide Bible authority for its practices, I felt it could not be the true church. Since the Southside church was able to offer such proof, I felt then and do now that it is a faithful congregation of the Lord's people. I feel the same about the Melton Avenue church in Trumann, and about all churches that can prove from God's word that they are indeed a church of Christ.

When the divisive "issues" arose, I was dismayed that brethren would go beyond the doctrine of Christ but I never doubted for a moment where the truth lay. For although some of the practices differed, the same principle was at work: matters for which there is no Bible authority. For if these things could be right, then surely the Christian Church was also right, and I was wrong for having left.

A few years ago some of the brethren who had commended my departure from the Christian Church in 1957 left the Southside church to join with liberal churches in Springfield. About the same time several in the church at Charleston, Arkansas, where I was preaching, left. Here in Trumann the liberal element gained control of the church and its building, and it became necessary for those who opposed liberalism, a minority, to leave in order that they might be better able to accomplish the Lord's will, and engage only in those practices for which there is a "thus saith the Lord."

To those people, those who have embraced unauthorized matters, those who strongly oppose congregations such as Southside and Melton Avenue which believe in the necessity for Bible authority, to people whom I dearly love, I pose these as yet unanswered questions:

1. What makes it right for churches of Christ to do that which is wrong for Christian Churches?

2. If it was right for me to leave the Christian Church in 1957 and identify with a congregation such as Southside (or Melton Ave), why would it be wrong today?

3. What is the difference between the Christian Church and liberal churches of Christ, basically?

4. Would you tell a member of the Christian Church to leave it and become a member of a liberal church of Christ? If so, why?

5. If I should change my convictions and believe that it is right to "do many things without Bible authority," why should I not go back to the Christian Church where I yet have family and friends?

6. If the Christian Church is wrong and liberal churches of Christ right, why do both groups give the same arguments to justify their practices?

7. Why is it not right, safer, better in every way, to adhere strictly to the Bible pattern, and have definite authority for every belief and practice?

If you are a member of a church believing that it is not necessary to have Bible authority for all religious practices, perhaps you can supply me with the answers to these honestly-asked questions.

Beloved, think ... before it is everlastingly too late!

— Trumann, Arkansas