Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 1, 1958

"Sitting In A Hen House"

Wallace W. Thompson, El Cajon, California

No claim for a scriptural designation is made for the heading. Jesus made reference to the hen in Matt. 23:27: . . . how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" It looks like to me the Jews had "flown the coop." It may be the same thing has happened many times in the history of God's people; it seems to me that history has given biting accounts that such has happened again and again. But the heading is taken from the Boles Home News, reporting a statement made by Brother George Bailey. His statement is: "Sitting in a church house will no more make you a Christian than sitting in a hen house will make you a hen." According to the Boles Home News this statement was made "to a group of workers in children's homes." (Boles Home News, Vol. 14, Number 21, No. 10, 1957.)

I feel sure the brotherhood at large will be greatly relieved to learn that "sitting in a hen house" will not make a fellow a hen; since some of us have probably sat down in a hen house. The "group of workers in children's homes" were no doubt tickled to learn that such is true, for, no doubt some of them have sat down in hen houses. No doubt they were thrilled to learn that "sitting in a church house" will not make one a Christian, for lots of sectarians sit down in church houses, so preachers are given fresh soap for their sermons. Probably no one will be offended if we refer to it as the "Sput-chick of Abilene."

I have always been under the impression that much of the work of the hen was done as she was "sitting" either in a hen house, under the house, under a bush or wherever she nests. And, it has been my impression that a lot of chickens, even hens, came into existence as a result of "sitting." Too, much of the produce of the chicken industry comes into being, some of which all of us have tested in some fashion, as a result of the "sitting hen." It seems that God has endowed the hen with power and ability to do her work and she goes about her business "sitting" and "scratching" as God has decreed that she should. It seems to me that the Bible teaches we are to "wait upon the Lord" (Isa. 40:31), and the righteous shall "hold on his way." (Job 17:9.) In the New Testament we are urged to be "stedfast, unmovable." (1 Cor. 15:58.)

But I suppose everyone will agree that "working in a hen house will not make one a hen," for a lot of people have worked in hen houses. Neither will "working in a church house make one a Christian." It is very creditable to work, either in a hen house or in a church house, if we are working according to the teaching of the Bible. Work that keeps out God is not profitable, and charity that leaves out God is not profitable, according to 1 Corinthians, 13th chapter. But, of course, I guess all the brethren have found out there is a vast difference in the "church" and the "church house."

I don't suppose anyone would argue that "working in an orphan home makes one a Christian." If that were true, anyone who worked in any kind of orphan home would be a Christian. Probably no one would affirm that "teaching in a college would make one a Christian." Or, would anyone argue that "preaching in a church housewould make one a Christian?" There is only one way to be a Christian, and you did or you didn't become one; there is only one way to remain one according to the Bible outline. It seems to me that when one believes, repents, confesses, and is baptized he becomes a Christian. So far as I know that is the only way Christ and the apostles demanded one could attain such a lofty position; then, working and "sitting" at the feet of Jesus, watching and praying in his holy name according to his teaching causes one to remain a Christian. And, brethren, we may be surprised in the judgment day who the real Christians are.

What disturbs me more than anything I can think of in the present trend of the church is the idea of "division" being preached by some of the very "successful" preachers, prominent by the indorsement of some paper or organization which man has established. We are being told that "division is coming and the sooner the better." It is possible we need to read the Lord's prayer in John 17? If I had to take a choice between "sitting in the church house' or' or "preaching division" I think I had rather be caught at the judgment sitting! It seems to me that some of the brethren are tired working in the church to the glory of God and they have decided they can best serve the Lord through human organizations. But, if crowing made a fellow a "rooster" it is quite possible we might have more roosters in the church house than there are hens in the hen house. The church is being plagued by a corps of "specialists" and the church is being divided because only a few have the systematic "know how" to do personal work, to work socially, and to be a young people's coordinator. Instead of every member being tutored to teach his neighbor every week, we are trying to produce a group of "specialists" with a scientific background to do the job the Lord imposed upon every member. But, this idea has taken hold in about every church that I know anything about, and I hear the refrain where I preach. The burden was placed on every member as they went "everywhere preaching the word" in New Testament times. The idea of holding the preacher, the elders, or a certain segment of the congregation responsible for the lack of any work being done along this vein is certainly contrary to the teaching of Christ. In the little paper, Vision, edited by brother J. D. Thomas, out of Abilene, there is a statement fitted especially along this line of thinking; it is: "If you think more visiting should be done, do it!" The same principle applies in other fields of work. My plea with the elders and preachers is for us to get back to the teaching of Christ in all matters of church activity, and to quit making appeals to certain classes in the church. Let us be satisfied with the way the Lord set up the church, and with the way he made each individual responsible unto him and not to some group within. It is true we have responsibilities to each other according to the Lord's will, but not according to wishes of the brethren.

So, to sum it up, we are worried about the creatures who prey on the nest of the hen, the snakes and all others who would rob the nest of the fruit or the work of the hen, whether it he an egg thief or a chicken thief. I have known of hens getting their feathers ruffled and giving the enemy a good "flogging." With us, like it is with the hen in the hen house, or without the hen house, there are times to "be quiet" and there are times to get riled. When some intruder infringes on the peace of the church and endeavors to disturb the work the Lord has planned, and threatens to rob the Lord of his precious fruit, it is time to fight. Of course we may look like the "ugly duckling" to some of the brethren, but the Lord said for us to "fight the good fight of faith." If we investigate thoroughly we might stir up a thief or two in the church who would spoil the flock of God. It has always been my understanding that the fellow who helped the thief was about as guilty as the thief himself. The Bible describes these false teachers in plain language, which even the pyschologist can understand: "wolves," "vipers," "dogs" and "evil workers." Twenty centuries do not change the identity of these culprits. Church splitting is nothing new to the devil. He has been at it a long time. Turning brethren against brethren is his greatest delight. The greatest advantage he has ever secured has been getting brethren in the notion not to oppose popular innovations being brought into the Lord's body. But isn't all this frustrating to a gospel preacher? No. For it has been going on century after century. Brethren will continue to be duped into splitting the church by dragging in "aids." But true preachers have learned that heaven is not in a material building, nor in a material organization and that only the faithful to the word of God will be crowned at the end. Very contrary to public opinion, the Lord put "all the eggs in one basket" — in the church.