The Wayne Poucher Meeting
The churches of Christ, 216 E. Taylor and 1526 N. Jefferson, in Hobbs, New Mexico, sponsored a meeting July 12-17, 1964, in which Mr. Wayne Poucher of Washington, D. C. did the preaching. Mr. Poucher preached in the building of one of the churches on the morning of the 12th and in the other that evening. The rest of the meeting was conducted in the High School auditorium.
It was my intention to attend several of these services but other things prevented my doing so. However, I did manage to attend the last service. I understand, from what several brethren told me, that Mr. Poucher gave some excellent presentations of some Bible subjects prior to the last evening. To most people, no doubt this means that it was an excellent meeting with the exception of one sermon, which was not very good. Perhaps some thought this sermon also was very good.
Certainly, 'I am not inclined to take issue with anyone on that which is in harmony with the word of God. But neither am I inclined to endorse a man, his preaching, nor a meeting because some of the preaching was in harmony with the scriptures. Remember, the devil quoted scripture. The preaching of Bible truth in the preceding services, cannot, by any amount of logic or reason, be reconciled with the preaching which was done in that last service. Can brethren not see that they are being "taken in" by such meetings? And if brethren can see it, are they willing to be so "taken in" in order to exploit the prominence of the preacher in the meeting? In the case of this meeting, the advertising gave a great deal more attention to the national prominence of Mr. Poucher as a radio commentator than to the preaching of the gospel of Christ.
I have nothing against prominence itself. Jesus Christ was and is prominent. The apostles of Christ were and are prominent. Hitler was prominent and so is Khrushchev. There are many world and national figures, both good and bad, who are and have been prominent. But neither Christ nor his apostles used any prominence in an unrelated field to advance the cause of the Lord. In the case of the meeting under consideration, we might well raise the question as to who is using whom. This is a good question in view of the preaching which was done in the last service of the meeting. Are brethren ready to allow the Bible to be 'thrown out the window", the last service of a meeting in order to be able to use a "big name" preacher in the, meeting? Are brethren too blind to see that a preacher, who would advocate such obvious error as was preached in the last service of the meeting, would have to preach some truth, and that very effectively, in order to have them provide an audience for him?
I shall now give my attention to the sermon preached in that last service of the meeting and have heard and read of some of the preaching that has been and is being done of "the man and not the plan." This was the first time I had had the opportunity to actually hear it preached. I had wondered how it was handled, but now I know.
To say that everything which was said in the discourse was untrue, would be a misstatement, if each part were taken singly. I will consider some points which were leading up to the key statement of the discourse. Let us bear in mind, as we consider the contents of the sermon under consideration, that the theme or title of the sermon was "Christian Unity."
In the beginning of his discourse, Mr. Poucher read a poem about the creation. He stated that this poem was unsurpassed as literature. I will be charitable enough to suppose he did not count the Bible as literature. He then recognized arts and sciences in relation to creation. Following this, he brought up the point of knowledge in religion. He said there had been no advancement in this field for the past two hundred years. I wondered what he based this reasoning upon until he told us in the last part of the sermon when he referred to Martin Luther and John Wesley as "great men of God." I do not deny that these were great men, and that people in general are misinformed about what they stood for. But I emphatically deny that they were men of God (Christians). According to history, neither of them ever did what the Bible requires one to do in order to become a Christian.
He said that no one today had a complete knowledge of the Bible. He said that he himself did not have a complete knowledge of it. Certainly, no one is going to claim today, or any other day, that he knows all there is to know about the Bible. But to know all there is to know about the Bible and to have full concept of its truth and its teaching relative to salvation and the conditions thereof, are two different things entirely! This sort of teaching is done with the idea of justifying religious faith and practice on the grounds that we just do not know, enough about the Bible to find it I frankly admit that I do not know all there is to know 'about the Bible. But I know enough about it to know whether a thing is authorized or not. And I know enough about it to know that if the Bible does not authorize a practice there is not a way in the world to justify it. Ignorance is certainly not justification for it.
Mr. Poucher related some events which took place in Alabama while he was in a meeting near the city where Childhaven is located. During the meeting they received word that Childhaven had been destroyed by fire. He asked permission of one of the elders where the meeting was being conducted to take up a collection to send to Childhaven. He spoke here about the teaching of brethren concerning not taking up collection in each service of a meeting." He said that such teaching was only tradition. He advocated taking up collection in every service. But, in taking up the Collection at the meeting he was telling about, he said that among the men selected to take the collection, one was a Baptist, one was a Methodist and one a Presbyterian. He then said that, for ten minutes, THESE PEOPLE WERE UNITED IN DOING THE WORK OF THE LORD. It is evident that this point was the reason he had for relating the account. If it could be made to last from now on, and not for just ten minutes, Christian unity would be attained. Covenant relationship with God; whether such a collection in and by the church for Childhaven was in harmony with the scriptures or not and such things as that, were, according to him, of little consequence.
The brethren sponsoring the meeting in Hobbs would go along with Mr. Poucher on the part about the church support of Childhaven. But are they willing to go along with him on the matter of covenant relationship? Actually, there is as much Bible authority for one as for the other.
Mr. Poucher said we should forget such petty things as names, etc. He referred several times to the term, "church-of-Christians." I readily admit that far too many people have 'sectarianized" the term, "church of Christ." But to make light of a scriptural designation of churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16), is a serious matter. The only name he advocated in his sermon was the name, "Christian." This, of course, is a scriptural designation for an individual follower of Christ (Acts 11:26), but it is not a scriptural designation for churches. A Christian is a member of the church. But what does the Bible call the church? Congregations were called "churches of Christ" (Rom. 16:16). A person who is not a member of the church, is not a Christian, their claim to the contrary notwithstanding.
All of the foregoing was leading up to the main statement relative to the theme or subject of his sermon, "Christian Unity." He said He did not believe we could all see the Bible alike, so the Bible is not the basis. This statement impeaches every fundamental truth in the Bible upon the subject of unity. Mr. Poucher admitted that we learn about Christ in the Bible and he read from John 17, where Christ prayed for those who would believe on him through the apostles' word. He said this was what Christ said. He then read from I Cor. 1, and said that this was what Paul said, not Christ. This reminds me of a statement of a Baptist preacher once when he was hard pressed to answer an argument based upon Paul's writing. This preacher stated that he was only interested in what was printed in red in his Bible!
There is not a stronger passage in the Bible, on the subject of unity, than the passage he read from John 17. This passage gives so plainly the basis of unity for which Christ prayed that it is nothing short of sheer audacity for anyone to suggest that IT IS NOT THE BASIS. "Their word," the word of the apostles in the New Testament, is the basis of faith in Christ and unity upon everything about Christ. Mr. Poucher taught that "Christ is the basis of unity and not the Bible." Thus he seeks to separate Christ from the Bible. Actually, Christ as revealed in and through the Bible is the true basis of unity. We fail to see the basis of his reasoning on this paint inasmuch as religious people were no more united on Christ while he was upon the earth in the flesh than they are now on the Bible. If the word of the apostles in the New Testament is not the basis of unity, but Christ is the basis, would it not naturally follow that it would have to be in a way independent of what the apostles say in the New Testament? What we believe about Christ must be based upon what the apostles said in the New Testament must be based upon something else. Will Mr. POUCHER tell us what it is?
What does faith in Christ include? Does it include only the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Or does it include the teaching of Christ relative to faith and practice? If it includes one of these and excludes the other, Mr. Poucher should tell us which one to believe and which one not to believe. How can we separate Christian unity from faith in either the divinity or the teaching of Christ? This is what Mr. Poucher did not make clear to us. That is, how Christ could be the basis of Christian unity and the words of the apostles in the New Testament could not be the basis. Does he have just the person of Christ in mind and not the teaching of Christ? How can one separate Christ from his teaching? What advantage would there be in being united in the person of Christ (his divinity), and not in the teaching of Christ?
"Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son." (II John 9). A person who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, "hath not God." To abide in the teaching of Christ is to be governed by that teaching. But how can we be governed by that teaching without knowing the teaching? And how can we know the teaching except through the word of the apostles? If through the apostles is the only way we can know the teaching of Christ, upon what other basis can we be united in and on that teaching?
What the apostles taught in the New Testament contained all that Christ was and taught. Let us notice the use of the word, "all" in some New Testament passages, relative to the work of the apostles in revealing Christ and his teaching.
John 14:25, 26: "These things have I spoken unto you while yet abiding with you. But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you." Jesus told the apostles that he had taught them while he was with them in the flesh. But he told them he would be leaving them to go to the Father. He told them that after he left, the Father would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to teach them ALL THINGS. These ALL THINGS would concern Jesus and his teaching. Jesus spoke these things concerning what he taught them. But there were many things which they needed to be taught which must wait until the Holy Spirit came.
John 16:12, 13: "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things so-ever he shall hear, these things shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come." Let us notice what the Lord told the apostles in this passage. He had many more things to say to them but because they were unable to bear them at that time, these many things would have to await the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit came, he, the Holy Spirit, would guide them into ALL THE TRUTH. ALL THE TRUTH would include everything about Christ and his teaching, including some things which were "yet to come." This takes the scope out as far as the end of the writing of the apostles.
The Holy Spirit came upon the apostles on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:1-4), and remained with them as long as they lived upon the earth. The ALL THE TRUTH into which they were guided by the Holy Spirit included ALL THINGS that pertain unto life and godliness. "Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue." II Pet. 1:2, 3. This divine power was the Holy Spirit whom the Lord promised the apostles in the passages we have already considered, and in Acts 1:8, where he said, "But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
The ALL THINGS and ALL THE TRUTH included ALL THINGS TO THE CHURCH, of Eph. 1:22, 23. "and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." The context shows that it was God who put all things under the feet of Christ. Everything in the New Testament about the church, as to what it is, what is to be practiced by it, and ALL that pertains to life and godliness in it, is in the words of the apostles in the New Testament. The head over a thing is to govern and control it. For Christ to be head over all things to the church, is for all things of and about the church to be governed and controlled by Christ. But this governing and controlling is done by Christ through the word of the apostles written in the New Testament. Furthermore, we are not allowed to think or believe beyond that which is contained in the Bible. "Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written; that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other." I Cor. 9:6. Verse 7 of this context shows that this has to do with Christian unity.
The teaching done by Mr. Poucher, in the sermon we have had under consideration, is not something new. These things have been taught, by various religious denominations for years. They seek to prove their teaching by the Bible, and so does Mr. Poucher. But as far as BIBLE AUTHORITY for what is taught and practiced is concerned, they both "throw the Bible out the window."
Will brethren swallow this whole bitter pill? We know they are hard pressed to give Bible authority for many things which are being taught and practiced by many churches of Christ today. Some have even admitted that "we do many things for which we have no scriptural authority." This is the dilemma in which many brethren find themselves today. They must either go along with the teaching of men like Mr. Poucher, or get back on scriptural ground with a "thus saith the Lord" in everything they teach and practice. There is no place to light in between. Some have tried to light in the "middle of the road." But sometimes "the middle of the road" can be a dangerous place to be in. These brethren are finding that there is no security there. My plea to brethren is to stand on scriptural ground. And my earnest prayer is that they may have the courage and strength to do so.
— Hobbs, New Mexico