Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 2, 1961
NUMBER 26, PAGE 4,13b

A Sifting


Even tragedy has its compensations. The thunderstorm makes possible the rainbow; the snows of winter provide the moisture which clothes the world in grass and flowers when the suns of April warm the frozen earth again. And even in the dark agony of an ever widening division among the Lord's people, there are certain compensations which accompany the sorrow; there are healings for our tears.

One of the most obvious of these dividends of division is the higher spiritual quality of those faithful gospel preachers who will not "bow the knee to Baal." All over the nation there are godly men whose lives are dedicated to the proclamation of the gospel — and who are finding ways to support themselves and their families while they give themselves to that task. Many of these men in time past have been well supported, both in the mission fields and in local congregations, so that they were able to devote all their time to the work of the gospel. And now the pressures have been applied to make them "line up" with the institutional promoters, or else have their salary cut off. A certain number have "lined up," and their "confessions" have appeared from time to time in various organs of the institutional brethren. But a great host have had the courage of their convictions, and have willingly accepted whatever sacrifices or hardships their stand for truth entailed.

Can anybody doubt that this has been all to the good? For it goes without saying that the "professional" clergy, the time-serving, self-seeking, materialistic element will be weeded out by this process, and only the truly dedicated and consecrated men of courage and conviction will remain. So that, as the pressures continue, and there will come a time when the worldly-minded, sensual, and half: converted preachers will be filling pulpits in the liberal Churches, beating the drums for "our institutions' while those who love the Lord with a pure and holy affection will be humbly serving him often in sacrifice and hardship and bringing sin-weary souls to the saving blood of Jesus Christ. Brethren who are concerned for the purity, of the church may well feel a deep gratitude toward brethren Guy Woods, E. R. Harper, B. C. Goodpasture, and others who have been so vigorous in applying the "financial pressure" argument to compel preachers to "line up" behind their institutions. Under the providential hand of God, such measures will have purified the church, getting the self-seeking time-servers into one group, and leaving men of true consecration to go about the task of re-building the broken churches.

But we feel a warning is much in order. When one has been dealt a vicious and unfair blow by those whom he regarded as friends and brethren, the temptation is strong for one to become bitter and resentful. Let every man who has had his support cut off beware of this danger! The task before us is too great for bitterness or littleness. Instead of feeling resentment toward the brethren who have wronged you, let your heart go out in sympathy and pity — and re-double your devotion to Christ! We have too much to do to waste time either in self-pity or in recriminations. Be assured that God's "hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear." But if bitterness or resentment find lodgment in your hearts, then "your iniquities (will) have separated between you and your God, and your sins (will) have hid his face from you." The wrong you have suffered, which should have brought you closer to God, may in fact drive you farther from him. It will do so if you retreat into bitterness and picayune carpings.

We have no way of knowing how many gospel preachers will measure up to the test. Some brethren say they have counted no less than 2,000 who have already taken a positive and public stand against the materialistic institutional trend. Whether that number is too large, too small, or rally accurate we do not know. And do not think it to be particularly important. The worldly-minded are prone to judge things by "numbers." and think they have done something noteworthy if they can advertise "the fastest growing religious body in America," or "the biggest Sunday School in the Church of Christ." They are constantly in search for new "gimmicks" to enlarge their numbers. Let all such novel notions become and remain the province of the propagandists among the liberal churches. And let those who love the Lord spend their time in seeking to bring men and women to the Lord — not to a "rally," whether youth, college, orphan home, or frustrated dowagers seeking how best to "take care of middle-aged husbands." (Somebody sends a clipping from a Florida newspaper; One of the churches there is pleading with people to come and listen to the preacher "who baptized Pat Boone's mother!").

As the weak and selfish and undedicated preachers gradually drift into the institutional camp, let those who remain faithful to the truth renew their strength in the Lord; let them work as they have never worked before, both publicly and privately, building congregations of faithful believers, teaching them from the very first the "all-sufficiency" of God's church to do the work God wants it to do. It is thrilling beyond...words to express to know of scores of godly men, both young and middle-aged, who are resolutely preparing themselves to make their own living, supporting themselves and their families by their own labors, so they can dedicate their lives to the preaching of Christ in communities where there is no church to support them! These are not "professional clergymen" but are workers in the tradition of Paul. Preaching the gospel with them is not a means to a livelihood, but is life itself! The future of God's church depends upon the labors of such men. They are followers of the good shepherd, and are perfectly willing to lay down their lives, as he laid down his, for the good of the flock. The hirelings will have gone where the pay is better and the dangers less menacing. Let every faithful child of God take courage from this knowledge. And while we watch the blubbery, oleaginous growth of a new denomination of promotionalists, let us be aware also of the solid and steady progress of a purified and strengthened church of God's own people.