In the years preceding the American Civil War, the
brotherhood of churches of Christ had begun to experience significant
Many were discouraged, feeling the advancement of the cause for which
been laboring was beginning to decline and that the brotherhood stood
because of it. This factor, along with many others, contributed to the
introduction of human innovations and organizations in an attempt to
this and other problems. In defense of bringing the instrument into the
church’s worship, McGarvey records the Broadway church in Lexington,
as claiming that if the instrument were not implemented, “the
of the church was at stake” (45). Justification for the
mission societies and
other organizations carried the same tone. G.W. Elley wrote,
have been advocated as necessary to
the increase of the number to be saved” (qtd. in West 209,
When we work for the cause of leading souls to our
Lord, it is sometimes easy to become discouraged when we
don’t see the results
we expect. It may be a temptation, as it was for those gone before, to
seeking new methods—turning to new innovations for the answer
disappointments. However, the advancement of Christianity does not
our own devices or schemes, nor the schemes of others.
There are some today who seek a remedy in unscriptural
innovations, the same as those mentioned from times past, to promote
The answer cannot be found there. Likewise, though much good is done by
(and this writer by no means degrades such, fully supports their
work, and owes a world of growth to them), dependence upon our faithful
colleges and schools are not the ultimate
answer to remedying disappointing growth. When dependence
is placed upon things other than the Gospel, we err
equally, whether they are scriptural or unscriptural.
In 1856, Benjamin Franklin criticized brethren for
seeking answers in outside innovations. They needed to hear it, and we
well to take heed:
preachers lament that the cause languishes, let them cease
scheming about some organization…, and go into the field and
labor for the
Lord’s sake, and for the Lord’s name, as brethren
did years ago…and as certain
as God is the author of the Bible, we shall
prosper…Preaching is what is
needed, fervent, soul-stirring preaching, exhortations, entreaties and
impressive persuasions with the people to turn to God, and be saved.
Earl West draws from this statement, and the history
surrounding it, a bold and timely conclusion, even for today.
devotion men have to Christ the more they stand in need of human
(212). Paul, the great missionary, said himself that his plan for
consisted of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1
Cor. 2:2), rather than
appealing to the “signs and wisdom” after which
Jews and Greeks respectively
sought (cf. 1 Cor. -25).
His devotion was to Christ
and the message of the Gospel.
When disappointments come, where do we turn? As Franklin said
ago, preaching is needed above all other efforts. The Gospel is, and
be, “…the power of God to salvation, for everyone
who believes…” (Romans 1:16).
If our dependence is placed upon
organization limited by time and generations, have we not left the
ordained of God for the spreading of his Kingdom? When disappointments
why not turn back to the message upon which time and generations have
influence—the Gospel of Christ.
J.W. The Autobiography of J.W. McGarvey.
Spec. issue of The College of the Bible
Quarterly 37.2 (1960). Ed. Roscoe M. Pierson. Lexington:
The College of the Bible, 1960.
The Search for the Ancient Order.
Vol. 1. 1990. Delight: Gospel Light Publishing Co., 2002.