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Vol.  10  No. 3 March 2008  Page 14
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Adam BlaneyPreaching and Devotion

By Adam Blaney

    In the years preceding the American Civil War, the brotherhood of churches of Christ had begun to experience significant unrest. Many were discouraged, feeling the advancement of the cause for which they had been laboring was beginning to decline and that the brotherhood stood weakened because of it. This factor, along with many others, contributed to the introduction of human innovations and organizations in an attempt to remedy this and other problems. In defense of bringing the instrument into the church’s worship, McGarvey records the Broadway church in Lexington, KY, as claiming that if the instrument were not implemented, “the future prosperity of the church was at stake” (45). Justification for the mission societies and other organizations carried the same tone. G.W. Elley wrote, “They [societies] have been advocated as necessary to the increase of the number to be saved” (qtd. in West 209, emp. added).

    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 begin seeking new methods—turning to new innovations for the answer to such disappointments. However, the advancement of Christianity does not depend upon 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 growth. The answer cannot be found there. Likewise, though much good is done by them (and this writer by no means degrades such, fully supports their mission and 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 would do well to take heed:

If 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. (West 212)

    Earl West draws from this statement, and the history surrounding it, a bold and timely conclusion, even for today. “…[T]he less devotion men have to Christ the more they stand in need of human organizations” (212). Paul, the great missionary, said himself that his plan for church growth 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. 1:21-25). His devotion was to Christ and the message of the Gospel.

    When disappointments come, where do we turn? As Franklin said many years ago, preaching is needed above all other efforts. The Gospel is, and will ever be, “…the power of God to salvation, for everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16). If our dependence is placed upon any organization limited by time and generations, have we not left the simple plan ordained of God for the spreading of his Kingdom? When disappointments come, why not turn back to the message upon which time and generations have no influence—the Gospel of Christ.

Works Cited

McGarvey, 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.

West, Earl Irvin. The Search for the Ancient Order. Vol. 1. 1990. Delight: Gospel Light Publishing Co., 2002.

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