Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 17, 1982
NUMBER 3, PAGE 5,14b

The "Bug For Bigness" Is A Blight To The Body

Kenneth A. Sterling

The "bug for bigness" which has bitten the brethren is a blight to the body! What do we mean? Simply this; that the current craze for doing everything in a stupendous, super-colossal, bigger-than-ever fashion, is a blight upon the body of Christ! It seems that with many brethren everything must be done in a big way! In many places gospel meetings are no longer simply that — they are huge "campaigns" with some noted personality who is a member of the church, serving as the featured

"guest," (but in reality being "used" or "exploited" for the purpose of drawing crowds). It is a "Million for the Billion," a "Million for Manhattan," "Canada for Christ," and on and on — with no foreseeable abatement — go the slogans and catchy "alliterations" designed to captivate the crowds and draw attention and support to the project of the moment.

The last lectureship at Pepperdine College was "climaxed" by meeting in the 16,000 seat Los Angeles Sports Arena and featuring, of course, Brother Big-Name Evangelist (I don't mean that unkindly) as speaker with a host of other "lesser lights" starring on the program. A special issue of the California Christian (March 22, 1962) was published, devoted entirely to promoting this program. It contained many "testimonials" as to the value of such a gathering — for example, bro. Weldon Bennett of La Habra, California, said:

"How the soul of John the Revelator must have been stirred as he viewed the 144,000 redeemed with an innumerable multitude standing before the throne of the lamb (Rev. 7). And how our spirits can also rejoice when we, 16,000 strong, gather as God's people in the Los Angeles Sports Arena on March 22 to sing, pray and study together.

Cannot this be a foretaste of heaven itself? Brethren, let us all plan to attend this meeting. Let us show the people of Southern California that there is in the Lord's church a true bond of brotherly love."

Also printed in a section entitled "Centennial Comment" is the comment of bro. Foy L. Smith of Riverside, California:

"Nothing has more drawing power than a large crowd of people. You can have part in a great meeting Thursday night, March 22, at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. By being one of 16,000 you can help spread the good news in a most powerful and dramatic way. If we win the people of the world to our various causes, the most important of which is the cause of Christ, we must first attract them. The church of our Lord and Christian Education can both be exalted and complimented by the assembly of this great throng of disciples. I plan to go and I urge you to go tool"

Brother J. W. Durbin of Costa Mesa, California, said:

"Christians in Costa Mesa are looking with great enthusiasm toward the unprecedented gathering of brethren in the Sports Arena March 22. In addition to being a part of this history making event, some have expressed a desire to 'feel' the power of God in such a situation where fifteen thousand people are of one accord.

Of course we don't expect the same blessings that those who were of one accord on Pentecost received, but surely God will be with us and bless all of us who attend. We will have at least one bus load besides those who take their own cars."

I do not cite these comments to "poke-fun" at these brethren or to ridicule them in any way, but rather as a sampling of the thinking of many brethren concerning these things. This special issue of the California Christian also told of churches sponsoring special "kickoff" dinners, drives, etc., in addition to listing a number of churches which were planning on chartering busses (individual donations) to take members to the lectureship. It told of the experiences of the previous year's

(1961) gathering in the Shrine Auditorium In Los Angeles. Brother James H. Sewell wrote the following:

"Last year, the final session of Pepperdine College's Spring Lectureship brought more than 7,000 people to the Shrine Auditorium. Some had to be turned away, but to those of us who were able to participate, the meeting was a spiritual feast that thrilled us to the very depths of our beings.

No one who attended will ever forget the heart-bursting joy that welled within as we joined with over 6,700 other singers in magnificent praise to God. The speakers, the joint appearance of the choruses of two great Christian Colleges and the matchless fellowship of the hour, inscribed an indelible impression upon the minds and hearts of thousands of Christians, and left them hungering for more.

In response to this great spiritual hunger, the college has prepared an even more historic occasion for the closing program of this year's lectureship..." "....A 1,000 voice chorus is being planned composed of singers from many southern California churches."

"...Truly it will be a "never to be forgotten" highlight of our lives, and no Christian should miss it, who can possibly be there!"

Another article from the same issue: (written by Robert A. Hawkins)

"Bright Highlight" Say La Mesa Church Members

"We of La Mesa consider one of the brightest highlights of each year (emphasis mine KAS) to be the Pepperdine Lectures. What a genuine source of information and inspiration it is, and how wonderful a theme to be discussed this year.

In the San Diego area a "Kick-off Dinner and Promotion will be held in behalf of the Lectureship on the evening of March 22, 1962, at the new building of the La Mesa Church of Christ. 1,000 people are expected to fill the auditorium for this event.

We thank God for the thrill of being a part of the Pepperdine Lectures this year."

There are many other articles and testimonials similar in nature to these, abut these will suffice to show the thinking of many brethren along these lines.

Really, brethren, is there not something drastically wrong when the most "never to be forgotten experience" and the "brightest highlight of each year" and the most "history making event" is a college lectureship? What about the blood-bought church of our Lord Jesus Christ? I believe it is actually a fact that with many brethren the church of the Lord pales into the background — into the shadow — of our institutions! It must be so to hear them talk.! They will work harder, give more, and demonstrate more enthusiasm for a college or Orphan home or old Folk's Home or other such institutions of men's devising than they will for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! It is so! Read the papers. "Alarmist?" "Fanatic?" "Anti?" Why, brethren, one would have to be blind and dumb not to see what is happening. I am not bitter, but I am disappointed, hurt, and gravely concerned, as is every truth-loving child of God.

Well, but now, not to be "out-done," we notice that our brethren at Alabama Christian College are advertising (Alabama Christian Reporter, Sept., 1962, Vol. 8, No, 4), "LARGEST AUDIENCE OF BRETHREN EVER TO ASSEMBLE IN AMERICA PLANNED FOR MARCH 8 AT ALABAMA STATE COLISEUM." They say (page 1):

"The Alabama State Coliseum, Montgomery, with seating accommodations for some 15,000 persons has been engaged for the last day and night (March 8) of Alabama Christian's Spring Lectures. V. P. Black, who has been appointed chairman of the program for this occasion, in commenting on this proposed momentous day said: 'The Lord willing, we are going to fill that Coliseum. Think of 15,000 Christians blending their voices in praise to our eternal God. Every Christian will want to be present."

(Incidently, this would be the largest gathering, you see, for while the Los Angeles Sports Arena seats 16000, there were only some 11,000 odd present for the "climax of the '62 Lectures.)

Brethren, what is the point of all this anyway? Are these things arranged, as brother Sewell indicated, response to a great spiritual hunger?" Is it really so? Or is it motivated out of a "bug for bigness?" — perhaps a desire to show the denominations and the world that we are to be reckoned with! We are not a little handful meeting on the other side of the tracks; the denominations and the world will have to sit up and take notice of us now! How about it, brethren, let's be truly honest.

The church of our Lord Jesus Christ is the grandest, most glorious, most precious institution on the face "of this earth. Let us pour our unrelenting efforts into promoting this (God's) institution and less effort into promoting our (men's) institutions! Let us quit clamoring and beating and boasting about numbers and our great numerical development — and start concentrating on our spiritual development! From reading the papers and observing the activities in the brotherhood, such is sorely needed today!

— 2272 Kathleen Dr., Napa, California