Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 13, 1957

Then And Now

John T. Lewis, Birmingham, Alabama

In the 1946 "Teacher's Annual Commentary", published and sold by the Gospel Advocate Company, Brother Guy N. Woods writing on the "Autonomy of The Church", on page 338 says:

"Concerning this contribution, see I Cor. 16: 1, 2; II Cor. 8:1, and 9:2. For another such contribution for the poor in Jerusalem, see Acts 11: 27-30. It should be noted that there was no elaborate organization for the discharge of these charitable functions. The contributions were sent directly to the elders by the churches who raised the offering. This is the New Testament method of functioning. We should be highly suspicious of any scheme that requires the setting up of an organization independent of the church in order to accomplish this work.

Helps For Teachers

"The self-sufficiency of the church in organization, work, worship and every function required of it by the Lord should be emphasized. This lesson is much needed today. Religious secular organizations are always trying to encroach on the functions of the New Testament church, interfere with its obligations, and attempt to discharge some of its functions. The church is the only organization authorized to discharge the responsibilities of the Lord's people. When brethren form organizations independently of the church to do the work of the church, however worthy their aims and right their designs, they are engaged in that which is sinful. All ecclesiasticism is wrong. Any movement to force churches of Christ to bow to the behests of any paper, clique, or group in the church is ecclesiasticism. There is a very definite trend in this direction in the brotherhood today. In some of the larger centers, groups of preachers meet and formulate an attitude and then demand that the churches support them in such attitude, and if they will not, the churches are stigmatized and accused of holding to false doctrine. Preachers have no right to exercise any such powers over the free churches of Christ. Only the church itself, through its divinely authorized elders, has the right to formulate its policies. And in so doing is answerable only to the Lord. The teachers should impress these principles upon their classes as strongly as possible."

The above reads like it might have been Lipscomb's or Elam's writings, but it is what Brother Guy N. Woods, and B. C. Goodpasture taught ten years ago, and I suppose they believed it then. However, that same teaching today, according to the Advocate and its staff writers, will make "Sommerites", "hobby riders", and "church busters". Recently the editor of the Gospel Advocate and others made an effort to keep the elders of the church at Shelbyville, Tennessee, from employing Brother Herschel Patton to labor with them, because he believes in, and teaches the all-sufficiency of the church in carrying out the gospel to the world, and doing all the benevolent work that the Lord teaches the church to do, as the Gospel Advocate taught ten years ago. And Brother Patton is "highly suspicious of any scheme that requires the setting up of an organization independent of the church in order to accomplish its work." I quote one more statement from the Advocate's teaching ten years ago: "Any movement to force churches of Christ to bow to the behests of any paper, clique, or group in the church is ecclesiasticism." Herschel Patton lived in Birmingham for several years and worked with the Woodlawn church, the second congregation that I established and built up in this city. I know him to be a Christian gentleman and a faithful gospel preacher. Therefore I consider this attack upon him not only as hitting below the belt, but beneath the dignity of gentlemen to say nothing of religion.

It is possible and right, for a brother to change his position on any subject when he is convinced that he is wrong. Therefore when the Gospel Advocate and its staff writers were convinced that their teaching was making "Sommerites", "Hobby riders", and "church busters" they should have not only changed, but they should have repented, and returned the money to the churches that bought their books, with an explanation for their change. In Brother Woods' articles in "The Childhaven News", he closed by asking: "Ah, me, what next?" That is a perplexing question, Brother Woods, because God only knows what the Advocate will be advocating ten years from now. I hope it may repent and return to its first love — to its teaching of ten years ago, on the "Autonomy of The Church." I am sorry, Brother Woods, that you, and Brother Goodpasture have made that same teaching today the cross upon which you are trying to crucify the influence of every gospel preacher who has not swallowed the capsules of your vagaries on institutionalism.

I close this article by reminding you that not a "Pioneer" of the nineteenth Century "Restoration Movement" ever mentioned an institutional orphan home, and David Lipscomb who lived into the twentieth Century never wrote a line in defense of one. I hope therefore that you brethren will not make consummate asses of yourselves by intimating, insinuating, or otherwise implying that those stalwart heroes of the faith did not believe that the churches should care for their widows and orphans. Naturally, you will keep on making that absurd, ridiculous, and false charge against contemporary preachers who believe and teach that churches should care for their own orphans and indigent members, as they did in New Testament times.