Vol. 1 - No. 8
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Growing Without Knowing
by Gene Lyles
There is a church in America that is located in almost every city of any appreciable size. Most of its buildings are relatively modest and it ranks among the more prominent churches as far as popularity is concerned. Its growth over the past thirty years has been rather outstanding. Yet strange as it may seem, this church is not aware of its phenomenal growth, neither does its records show that such growth has taken place.
The growth of this church is not due to any great "evangelistic thrust" that it has been waging, nor is it due to outstanding influence in the various communities where it exists. It simply started a trend over a century ago that caused it to blossom and bloom in the years that followed. As time passed, its bloom faded, but the plant remained with no notable blooming during the early years of the twentieth century. However, its seed was still much alive, though apparently dormant for a while.
But alas, a new and vigorous plant began to emerge from the seed of the old plant. This time its growth was even more rapid and more elaborate than the first. Not just a few individuals here and there were attracted to it, but in many cases entire congregations fell before this new blooming plant. Just what is this plant that has such an attractive flower? Well, unbelievable as it may seem, its root is disrespect for Divine authority. Its trunk is a forked thing consisting of centralization and institutionalism. Its branches consist of fellowship halls, recreational annexes, church camps, joy buses, retreats, puppet shows, youth ministers and junior churches for the rowdy little children the joy buses bring in. Its attractive bloom is the Devil's own creation, the social gospel.
There is another strange feature about this new flourishing plant. It does not want to be associated with the one that blossomed and bloomed back in the nineteenth century. It doesn't even want to be called by the same name. Even though it has all the identifying marks of the old plant, it chooses to call itself by a name it has no scriptural right to wear. Surely by now the discerning reader is aware of this great mystery, but in case you have not figured it out, we are going to make it known.
The church that has grown so rapidly over the past thirty years is the First Christian Church. No, its buildings are not overflowing, nor does its records show any phenomenal growth. But the seed it brought forth back in the nineteenth century is now flourishing again. The new plant that now flourishes from the old seed identifies itself as the Church of Christ. Not the one you read about in the New Testament, but one that undeservingly calls itself by that name. Those who now compose this new plant were at one time deserving of this name, but they forsook Divine authority and turned to the same old error of the nineteenth century apostasy that brought into existence the First Christian Church.
So, in reality, the First Christian Church can lay claim on the various Churches of Christ that now practice centralization, institutionalism, with their fellowship halls, their recreational annexes, their church camps, their joy bus ministries, their retreats, their puppet shows, their youth ministers and their little folk churches. To those of the First Christian Church we must say that your new offspring doesn't avow its relationship to you, neither will there be many of that number which will frequent your places of worship. But you can be sure that they would feel perfectly at home with you were it not for the instrument of music you use. Perhaps ten more years and even that will cease to be a problem with them. Already we are hearing rumors that some of their preachers are going to start pushing for the instrument.
One last word and we will close this little treatise. Back in the nineteenth century, there were many faithful brethren who had to leave the places of worship they had helped to build and start anew in order to retain respect for Divine authority and continue in the old paths of true New Testament Christianity. The same thing has now been repeated in the twentieth century. So there is yet a remnant in spiritual Israel that have not bowed their knee to Baal, nor will they do so. Their hearts are set on teaching and practicing only that which is clearly authorized in the teaching of Christ. Call them what you will, but they are the ones who remain loyal to the Christ who died for them, and continue to rightfully identify themselves as churches of Christ.