Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 2, 1950
NUMBER 26, PAGE 8-10b

An Impregnable Defense


Many thoughtful brethren over the nation are increasingly apprehensive these days lest the current "missionary fever" get out of control and lead to a repetition of the tragedy of two generations ago when the Societies split the church. Frankly, the Guardian shares that anxiety. When we see (1) the regional "mass meetings" developing today exactly as did the "State Meetings" of the 1880's, (2) the impatience with and vituperation of all those who urge caution, exactly as in the past, (3) the planned and studied effort to centralize money from all over the brotherhood in the hands of a very few men, identical in intent with the past, (4) the specious argument of "expediency" used today, apparently lifted bodily from the writings of Isaac Errett, W. K. Pendleton, J. W. McGarvey and other Society advocates—when we see all these "trends" in the wrong direction, it is enough to give pause and uneasiness to any thoughtful man.

The Defense

We believe the hour is late; but not too late. For there is one defense against this rising apostasy that is sure and impregnable. There is one bulwark that can never be breached. If faithful elders and preachers will look well to this defense, we need have little fear as to the outcome, If we have learned the lessons of history, if we are not utterly blind to the meaning of that digression of the last century, then there can be no excuse for a repetition of it. We know why it came, and how it came. And unless we are completely blind, we are certainly in far better shape now than was the church then to turn back a threatened invasion of error.

The first item in our defense need is a renewal emphasis on teaching the brethren. There has been so much attention given to baptizing the unsaved, building of new houses, starting new congregations, etc., that one fears there may have been a sad and tragic neglect in the matter of teaching the church. A multitude of earnest and sincere people being baptized out of denominational error each year lays a tremendous responsibility on the elders and mature Christians in every congregation to give careful, systematic, and constant teaching to these babes in Christ. These people are zealous and enthusiastic—but untaught. They must be "rooted and grounded" in the faith.

And along with that teaching must go a constant and determined emphasis on evangelism. It was because the churches were not reaching out to the extent of their abilities that the Society advocates were able to whip up such fervor and enthusiasm for their centralized programs in that previous apostasy. The tremendous difficulty these innovations experienced in getting their organization going in Tennessee gives powerful testimony to the truth of this judgment. Because of the influence of David Lipscomb and his Gospel Advocate, the Society brethren well nigh despaired of ever getting much of a foot-hold in Nashville.

Lipscomb clearly recognized that he robbed the innovators of their strongest argument when he could point to working, evangelistic, "missionary" churches effectively spreading the gospel in their own communities and supporting the gospel—both in Tennessee and abroad. And the Society advocates found it almost impossible to invade a church that was already hard at work in an aggressive evangelistic program of its own.

In his monumental work "Search For the Ancient Order" brother Earl West says:

By 1895 David Lipscomb could announce that there were ten white congregations in the city. There were more members of the church in Nashville, in proportion to its size, than in any city in the world. Yet, all of this was done without the aid of a single society separate and part from the church. The work was accomplished by the zeal of individual members, and stood as the strongest proof that the establishment of Missionary Societies is not the sign of missionary zeal, but rather the sign of a lack of it. Men never feel the need of human organizations to do the work of the church until the church loses its zeal. (Vol. II, page 353)

Need Of Today

As working, sacrificing, evangelistic congregations were the strongest defense against "societyism" in the last century, it is certainly true that the same type of congregations is the defense now that will stop the spread of the present dangerous trend toward centralization—"centralized control and oversight."

An effort is under way now to get Christians all over the nation to by-pass their local elderships, circumvent them in their contributions for mission work, and send directly to the Broadway church in Lubbock for the German work. Well, every dollar that comes in this fashion is an insult to the elders of the congregation in which the contributor is a member. For it is an undeniable declaration that that contributor believes the elders of his home church have no program of work before the church that calls for his contribution! He holds his local elders in contempt to the extent that he regards them either as incapable of, or unwilling to, present a program of work to the church that will call for all the resources the church can marshal.

Since last January (when brother Cled's first article electrified the brethren into paying attention to some of these problems) the Guardian has received many hundreds of letters from preachers, elders, and interested Christians all over the nation. Many of these brethren are alarmed and apprehensive over present trends; some are not. But to all of them we would say, we have the elements right within our reach for an impregnable defense against this threatening apostasy. Let us bestir ourselves; when the churches are stretching themselves to the limit in preaching the gospel in the right way, both at home and abroad, they will have little time for, and little interest in joining in with the centralized, publicized programs and projects of others. When a church is doing what it ought to do, its members will want to work through their own congregation, and under the oversight of their own elders. It is a telling commentary on the general weakness of the churches in this respect that such great strides have already been made toward centralization of foreign mission activities. But it is not too late for the "trend" to be reversed. By the help of God, and by the consecrated determination of elders, preachers, and faithful Christians all over the nation, it shall be reversed!

— F. Y. T.