The Church-Denominations--And Preaching
I am in exactly the right humor to do some vigorous and honest chopping on some paragraphs I find on the editorial pages of some late issues of the Baptist and Reflector. We have neither the space nor the inclination to reproduce all that the versatile and prolific editor has to say. It is not necessary to do so, nor unfair not to do so. If anybody is interested in seeing all that he has to say, the fair things to do is to subscribe for his paper. In an editorial designed to magnify the importance of "the churches," which according to the slant he has on things religious, are Baptist churches, he has this to say:
So also the churches are to be honored denominationally. - The churches must be put in and kept in the saddle in any denominational work which proposes to glorify Christ. No program which does not do this can rightly claim to honor Christ.
He began the editorial with a text from Paul in which he spoke of "the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ." Out of that text, with the aid of some "so's" and "therefores" he arrives at a paragraph like that! No wonder Jesus had somewhat to say about the blind guiding the blind into a depression with a deep bottom and steep sides. When Paul said; "unto him be glory in the church," he was talking about the body of Christ which included all the followers of Christ and had not the remotest reference to the Baptist denomination, nor to any other denomination. The Bible does not say nor teach that "the churches are to be honored denominationally." The churches ' in the New Testament were not a denomination. They "proposed to glorify Christ" in the work they did, for all that they did they did in the name of Christ but Christ did not authorize them to get "in the saddle" and gallop around all over creation "in any denominational work." Christ is not the head of a denomination. "He is the head of the body, the church." (Col. 1:18) Our contention is that any "program" which "proposes to glorify Christ" should buck high and wide and do a little kicking and biting, if need be, to keep some ambitious buckaroo from clamping a denominational saddle on it. This whole denominational business, whoever is in the saddle, is as basically unscriptural and anti-scriptural as the College of Cardinals. The ties that bound the churches of the New Testament together were not denominational. The "program" of each church an be simply and scripturally stated. "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers." (Acts 2:42) According to my lights, Christ was "in the saddle," or the church was out of order. In telling about some of the things "Southern Baptists are committed to," the Baptist and Reflector quotes at some length from "the Constitution of the Tennessee Baptist Convention" and "the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention." Well, beloved, that's the trouble. Denominations and "denominational work" call for conventions and constitutions and arguments over who "must be put in and kept in the saddle." The New Testament knows nothing about such contrivances and if some religionists insist on riding that way, it really doesnt concern me whether they are "kept in the saddle" or ride bare-back. They are headed the wrong way either way.
The editor of the Baptist and Reflector momentarily forgets sometimes that he is a Baptist and goes to the New Testament instead of some "Constitution" of some "Baptist Convention." In these lucid moments he can say some very sensible and pertinent things. Now this is just about as good as I could have done myself.
Preaching the word means definitely setting forth the great teachings of the Word as they are presented in the Word.
It means reasoning with men "out of the scriptures" after the manner of Paul. It means presenting Bible doctrines and clinching it with a Thus saith the Lord." -Both preachers and teachers are to do this.
Now, if "both preachers and teachers are to do this," then they ought to stop talking about what "Southern Baptists are committed to," and quit trying to keep them whipped into line "in any denominational work" by quoting "Art. II of the Constitution of the Tennessee Baptist Convention," and "Art. II of the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention." It looks to me like it would be better to present some Bible doctrine and clinch it with a "Thus saith the Lord." Or it would be about as well to reason with them out of the scripture after the manner of Paul. It is my impression that Paul and the Lord are about as well informed about how things ought to be run, "in the saddle" or out, as the Tennessee Baptist Convention or the Southern Baptist Convention, or both. It is more than a little suspicious if neither Paul nor the Lord said anything about it and you have to resort to the constitution of some Baptist convention to find what you are looking for. That is why I think we ought to stick to Paul and the Lord and do our "reasoning with men out of the scriptures'." When the editor is talking about what "Southern Baptists are committed to," he gets too little of his "material" from "what God says in His Word" and too much of it "from what some many says in His word." I do not now recall reading anything from Paul or the Lord about the churches riding horseback "in any denominational work which proposes to glorify Christ." Maybe the Baptist and Reflector can tell us where such a "program" is "presented in the Word."
Editor Taylor uses Paul's famous charge to Timothy to "preach the word" to remind us of some things that "this does not mean." I can pass it on to the readers of the Bible Banner with some degree of pleasure.
This does not mean telling a lot of funny jokes and, cutting monkey-shines' and calling that preaching the word.' To be sure, a reasonable amount of humor in the pulpit is permissible and valuable... Telling a lot of deathbed and graveyard stories and other harrowing incidents and arousing the natural emotions of people to an extreme pitch is not what our scripture means by preaching the Word. .
Baptist preachers throughout the South have been "Cutting monkey-shines" and "telling a lot of deathbed and graveyard stories" so long, it is not likely that they could quit it all of a sudden, even if the Baptist and Reflector told them to, and they wanted to. It has become such a confirmed habit that it can almost be said that "Southern Baptists are committed to the proposition." Multitudes under the influence of such preaching have mistaken a "nervous spasm" for the direct operation of the Holy Spirit and been voted on for baptism, when they tried to describe how they felt. They are not as bad as they used to be along this line, but they are still bad enough. Any improvement is to be encouraged. Editor Taylor is hitting the right nail on the right end, when he suggests fewer graveyard yarns and more "clear-cut scripture teaching." We have been telling Baptists this for lo, these many years, and some of them have not been inclined to pay much attention to us. I will not be considered too forward I hope if I suggest some "clear-cut scripture teaching" that could with some profit be sandwiched in between "a lot of deathbed and graveyard stories" that are often heard in Baptist pulpits. Here are a couple of direct quotations. "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned." (Mark 16:15, 16). "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:37-38). If these "clear-cut scriptures" had been "set forth" in Baptist pulpits through the years as often as "deathbed and graveyard stories and other harrowing incidents" have been told to "arouse the natural emotions of people to an extreme pitch" "and work their hearers into a nervous spasm almost, if not entirely," there would have been more Christians and fewer Baptists: But there is no need to cry over spilt milk. We are willing for the reform to start where it is most needed even at this late date.