Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 16, 1956
NUMBER 15, PAGE 2-3a

Big Things In A Big Way?

Hoyt H. Houchen, San Antonio, Texas

The common concept among advocates and supporters of big brotherhood projects is that the Lord's work must be done in a big way. Dissatisfied with the New Testament arrangement of congregations operating as separate units, our modern day promoters must have big-scale projects — large brotherhood programs of many congregations doing their work through a single eldership.

Recently there came to my desk a brochure on which was the picture of a promoting preacher over in middle Tennessee. Under his picture was the statement in substance: "He believes that God's work has always been done in a big way." It was this same preacher who advertised with pride that the church where he preaches had the biggest Sunday School of any church of Christ and perhaps of the world. The big Broadway church in Lubbock came out on the short end of the disgusting denominational-type competitive campaign of the two churches. Large numbers, the biggest and the "mostest" is the emphasis of the promoters.

In the June 20, 1956 issue of the Christian Chronicle is an editorial by James Walter Nichols, the young promoter of Herald of Truth. Heading the editorial is a cartoon by Joe Malone which features a man fishing out of a wash tub. The fisherman is identified as "lazy congregations" and the wash tub as "their potential." Under the caption, "Launch Out Into The Deep," the young editor explains the meaning of the cartoon when he asserts: It takes big plans and big action to do a big job. If churches, according to Nichols, are not engaged in "big action" they are just fishing out of a wash tub. And in this same article he writes: "We have tried gospel meetings, we have tried radio programs — in fact, we have just tried." The inexperienced young Brother Nichols brands the past efforts of our brethren as failures. Because churches have and are minding their own business and using their own resources, and because they are not supporting the Herald of Truth, they are portrayed by Brother Nichols and his ace cartoonist as fishing out of a wash tub. While these two men are having a "hearty har har" over their cartoon, we would remind our readers that the digressives at the turn of the century were quite adept at poking fun by the medium of cartoons. Because David Lipscomb took a firm stand against the organization of human societies and instrumental music, he was portrayed in a Mother Hubbard dress as an old woman with a broom, trying to sweep back the tide of the ocean. But like the cartoon of David Lipscomb, the wash tub cartoon of brethren Malone and Nichols is devoid of scripture. Why did they not substitute their humor with a verse of scripture that would authorize their human arrangements? It is very understandable why they chose their humor instead.

Brother Nichols has laziness and honesty confused. If a man is not able to fish out of anything more than a wash tub, he certainly has no right to solicit funds for himself so that he can fish in a pond, a lake, or the ocean. While it is wrong for the individual to do so, of course Brother Nichols believes that it is right for a congregation to do it. A man might have big ideas about driving a Cadillac but if he cannot afford one, he had better stay with what he can afford. If a man drives a model T Ford because that is all that he can afford to drive, that man is not lazy; he is just driving within his means. But suppose a man has a big idea that he wants a Cadillac and even though he cannot afford it and he knows that it is impossible for him to pay for it, that man is not ambitious; he is just downright dishonest. We would like to ask our promoting brethren with big ideas, by what rule is it morally wrong for an individual to obligate himself for more than he knows that he is able to pay but morally right for a congregation to do so?

Congregations in the New Testament did their work without big action such as is being advocated by some. Long before Brother Nichols was born, churches were holding gospel meetings in tents, under brush arbors, gospel preachers were travelling on horseback, on foot, wading streams, enduring many kinds of hardship to reach their appointments and often receiving little remuneration, sometimes none, but they faithfully preached and they defended the truth in debates with all champions of error. As a result of these efforts, churches grew, thousands obeyed the truth, and loyal brethren today are thankful to that great host of brethren who fought for every inch of ground that we now occupy and who did the Lord's work in the Lord's way and not by brotherhood promotional schemes. Faithful brethren who respect the New Testament pattern for the Lord's work do not see any humor in the Chronicle cartoon and editorial. To them such tripe is disrespectful and repulsive.

The Lord's work has not always been done in a big way. Very often God has produced great events by small means, but in their quest for the big things, men have overlooked the things that are small. "For who hath despised the day of small things?" (Zech. 4:10.)

When Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, he did not do so with a mighty marching army of trained soldiers. Moses had nothing in his hand but a rod. There was nothing spectacular about it, but it was the means that God had selected. (Ex. 4:2; 14:16.)

We are mindful that when Gideon was preparing to fight the Midianites, he had an army of 32,000 men but the Lord said that there were too many men. Those that were afraid were asked to depart and there remained 22,000. The army was still too big so finally the number was diminished to 300. God did not use big action and big numbers, but with 300 faithful soldiers, God's method was used and the Midianites were defeated. (Judges 7.)

David used only a sling and a stone to slay Goliath the giant. Saul had first put his own armor upon the shepherd boy but it could not be used. It was not in a big way that David was victorious, but David depended upon Jehovah and he used what he had. (1 Sam. 17.) But we would be reminded that many years after this, while David ruled as king, he wanted to do big things in a big way. He ordered his captain, Joab, to number the people from Dan to Beersheba. Joab objected to the order and reasoned with David, "Jehovah make his people a hundred times as many as they are: but, my lord the king, are they not all my Lord's servants? why doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of guilt unto Israel?" But David insisted on numbering the people and as a result, "God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel." (1 Chron. 21:1-7.) When David used small means but trusted in the Lord, the Lord was with him and he was blessed, but when David decided to do big things in a big way, God was displeased and David was punished. When men depend upon strength of numbers and big actions, they cease to depend upon God.

When the gospel was spread in the first century of the church, its progress was made by faithful congregations of Christians preaching it to all parts of the world but it was without the Missionary Society or any other super arrangement. The needy were cared for by members of the early church, but no benevolent societies were formed.

With the present day accent on big numbers and big brotherhood programs, census reports are being taken and like David's act of old, the Lord's people are being numbered. All of "our" institutions of learning and benevolence are tabulated, and like Israel of the Old Testament, the clamor is for a king "like the other nations." Emphasis is being placed upon the super arrangements, human institutions, and youth encampments. It seems that some never learn from history. "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning . . . ." (Rom. 15:4.)

Eye catching and delightful sounding slogans have always been effective in swaying people to follow. Slogans of appeal have ever been used with great success by manufacturers, producers, soap-box orators, rabble rousers, political candidates, and dictators of world renown. Modern hit tunes are "rocking" and "rolling" our nation of young and old. When emotions are aroused, people will follow.

"Big things in a big way" is the slogan that is being displayed before the brotherhood. Like the pied piper of fable fame, the pied piper promoters of brotherhood elderships and other big scale plans are playing the fanciful tune of "big things in a big way." They are being followed by a large segment of zealous, ambitious, but uninformed and gullible brethren who are shouting with glee to the tune of the flutes, disregarding the warnings of honest and thoughtful brethren who see eminent disaster ahead. But undaunted by the fear of boycott and the labels of "antis," "cranks," and "hobbyists," scores of faithful brethren will continue to contend for doing the Lord's work in the Lord's way.