Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 17, 1968
NUMBER 24, PAGE 5c-6

Why We Are Failing

(Third Article In A Series)

Lowell D. Williams

In previous articles we have reviewed the practice of the New Testament churches in the work of edification. It was noted that they engaged in a daily study of the apostles' doctrine with the help of a qualified teacher. Paul stated, "And the things which thou has heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." (II Tim. 2:2) Notice that this faithful man was to teach his message to faithful students who were capable of teaching others. This teaching was done within the framework of the local congregation. This procedure succeeded in the first century. Let us now turn our attention to our present practice to see why we are failing.

It is interesting to study our practice from the beginning of the restoration movement. The leaders of that movement knew the importance of a Bible education and thought they had found the answer in the "college system." Almost every preacher worthy of the name started a school during the middle of the last century. The vast majority of these schools lasted only a few months or years and then died, as must all earthly endeavors. Some of the more influential and powerful schools did survive only to become victims of the deadly diseases of false doctrine.

Such error destroys the school by slowly eating away at the organism, as a cancer in the body. Alexander Campbell started Bethany College, which now belongs to the First Christian Church. McGarvey and Lard were involved in a school that finally culminated into the University of Kentucky. Today this school is a breeding ground of atheistic evolution. David Lipscomb started his school, and today it exists as one of the major centers for our present-day apostasy. Out of the hundreds of colleges that have been established only one in Florida has remained true to the principles of Jesus Christ.

It is scriptural and right for individuals to own schools and to teach the Bible in them. There is a need for such schools, but in all honesty, we must confess that they are not God's answer to our problem of ignorance in the Lord's church. A hundred and fifty years of failure should teach us this fact. But we have not learned! Today, instead of teaching every disciple in the framework of the local church, which is the pillar and ground of the truth, we have a carefully laid plan to undermine the idea. Each area of America has a man appointed to lure all young people to go to a certain Christian College to obtain a "Christian Education." Groups are formed within the congregations to pass on names and information of high school graduates and to influence them to attend a certain college. The intellectual atmosphere which these young people breath make them feel that they do not have a "Christian Education" unless they attend a "Christian College." I know, for I breathed the air and I was fully convinced. We need to return to the New Testament plan once again, and place the teaching of God's word on the shoulders of His church. Let us use these secular colleges to round out our children's education, but we should not depend on them to do what God gave the church to do. One of our major reasons for failing today has been our "almost total dependence" on the colleges to provide adequate Bible education for all who desire to preach and teach the gospel. Every congregation should examine its teaching program today, and see if it is adequate to prepare a young man to preach the gospel in a reasonable length of time. If not, we should start working toward that goal right now.

Another weakness we have is our dependence on past generations to set our traditions for us. In grandpa's generation (when transportation was much more difficult) churches began meeting one night in the middle of the week to help edify the saints. During the shift-work of World War II the Lord's day evening service became an established practice in an effort to give all saints an opportunity to eat the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week. These efforts were commendable and they did solve a problem facing those brethren.

During this same period the gospel meeting was a very effective method of reaching the world with the message of Christ. These procedures appeared to solve their particular problem. They were effective for that time. Our generation, however, has a different situation entirely. We have good transportation, T.V., radio, morning and evening papers, telephones, close neighbors, and unlimited social events that often destroy the close family relationship. Without considering when and why these practices come into existence, we all too often hold to tradition and expect a Wednesday night prayer meeting (with very little prayer) and two gospel meetings a year to solve our problems.

A few words of comparison between the past generations and our present one will indicate why those procedures will no longer answer our need. Fifty years ago, most families lived some distance apart. There were no news media and little social activity. A gospel preacher's appearance in a community was a welcome treat. He could relate the news that had just happened in the next county, as well as brighten their lives with a few humorous stories. He was a highly respected man, hence a welcomed visitor. At the smallest announcement, a group would gather to hear him preach because their ears tingled to hear. The gospel preacher was the man for the job, and the gospel meeting was the best and quickest method.

Today, however, the average man awakens to the radio alarm which immediately informs him of the news around the world. He then reads the morning paper which covers the world and local events. The car pool soon picks him up and the radio plays while six men talk. During the eight hours at work he is exposed to every kind of person with all kinds of stories. He returns home in the car pool, talking and listening, just in time to hear the Huntley-Brinkley report, while he reads the evening paper. He is sick of hearing news events, visiting with people, hearing and telling jokes, etc., etc. He has no desire to go hear a preacher.

The idea of sacrificing a peaceful evening at home is more repulsive when he considers the low character of preachers in this generation. Fifty years ago a denominational preacher as well as a gospel preacher was a man of integrity, and all preachers were well respected in the community. Today, the majority of the "men of the cloth" have bad credit in addition to denying Bible statements, hence, they have lost the respect they once enjoyed. Gospel preachers are judged by the standards of these denominational "clergymen", and, as a result, do not command the respect that they truly deserve from the community. This is one of the problems we must face. How do you get a man who is tired of hearing, to listen to a man he doesn't respect? More important to our study is how do you get a weak and ignorant Christian to give his precious time listening to a Wednesday night teacher who neither prepares adequately nor delivers his lesson effectively? The babe in Christ, who is both weak and ignorant, soon loses interest in such classes. Some continue to attend in order to be faithful while others soon stop because they lost interest. The result is that the mid-week class enjoys about 30% of the attendance at the Sunday morning worship. We truly have a problem!!!

Next week: "A Suggestion From The Sons Of This World."