Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 16, 1968
NUMBER 3, PAGE 3b,5b-6a

"The Emerged 'Church Of Christ' Denomination"

T. F. McNabb

To students of denominational developments, the brochure entitled "Emergence of the 'Church of Christ' Denomination" by Dr. David Edwin Harrell, Jr., professor of history at East Tennessee State University, should be of special interest.

This thought-provoking treatise give a tremendously interesting account of the developments of certain denominational characteristics among some facets of the churches of Christ.

But when one observes the accelerated developments of denominational distinctives in recent years among some who claim to represent the New Testament church, one wonders if instead of saying "the emerging 'Church of Christ' denomination," it would not be more accurate to state "the already emerged 'Church of Christ' denomination."

A review of the Gospel Advocate bound volume for 1966, for example, furnishes an interesting insight into such denominational developments. In this volume one can find almost every denominational distinctive that one could imagine.

For example, on pages 184 and 185, are two full page spread advertisements of one church that any denominational group might well envy. It reads, "Madison (Tennessee) Church Completes Auditorium with Seating Capacity of 3000," all in boxcar size letters spread across the top of the entire two pages. There is a picture of a new multi-million dollar looking church that might cause any of the old line denominations to sit up and take notice. Surely no one should worry about being thought of as a "sect" with such a prestigious looking building and program as is depicted in this advertisement! What appears to be an all day dedication, is a program beginning early in the morning and lasting through 10:00 p.m. The blessings and congratulations of the "Editor and Entire Staff of Writers of the Gospel Advocate" are given to this project. Interesting, also, is that "A Capella Choruses from Seven Christian Colleges Will Present a Program" of music.

This reminds us of the time we noticed a Methodist Church's advertisement in the newspaper, that it was going to have three choirs on a special church dedicatory program. But to have seven from seven different colleges must be quite an unprecedented record! The Methodist Church nor any other fully developed denomination could hardly beat that!

Some of the larger existing denominations who have heard adverse criticisms of their robed choirs, their outward displays in worship, their musical concerts and programs, will wonder about the inconsistency of these criticisms coming from those who profess to believe in simple Christian worship.

Then on page 530 of this volume there is a special editorial linking the Gospel Advocate with the growth of the Madison Church. The editor takes what looks to some as denominational pride in stating, "The Church of Christ at Madison, Tennessee (sic) is recognized as the largest in the brotherhood."

The editor goes on to quote in detail the church's minister's praise of the Gospel Advocate in aiding the growth of this church. We are told, "A. C. Dunkleberger, elder at Madison and distinguished editor of one of the great metropolitian newspapers of the nation, has said that having the Gospel Advocate in every home is almost like having another full time evangelist in the congregation." (Emphasis theirs)

After reading the connection between the growth of this "largest church in the brotherhood," and the Gospel Advocate's contribution to this growth, one is made to wonder how in the world the church ever made any substantial progress in centuries past without such help of, a human organization. If that is not denominational pride, one wonders what one would call such!

This "largest church in the brotherhood" advertising seems to be making the church quite renown. In at least one northern church bulletin we noticed an announcement that the young people of that church were taking a trip, to Madison, Tennessee, to visit "the largest church of Christ in the world." Has this started an influx of visitors on a pilgrimage to a holy Mecca of the Nashville area?

The Lutherans may have their Worms; the Roman Catholics their Vatican and great Cathedrals to attract Pilgrims, and the Methodist may have their Aldersgate, but who can deny that the "Churches of Christ" have no temples to attract pilgrimages from afar?

Then, startling as it may seem to some, on page 192 of this volume there is a "Churches of Christ Group Insurance." We knew the Presbyterians had their Presbyterian Minister's Insurance Company, and the Lutherans had a well established Lutheran Brotherhood Insurance Company, but, we have to admit that to see that a Church of Christ insurance development was active was something we could hardly believe. The full page advertisement requests all inquiries to be mailed to "Churches of Christ Group Insurance Department, Union Bankers Insurance Company, 215 Broadway Bank Building — Nashville." We are also told this is "something new in health insurance," and that it is for "members of Churches of Christ and dependents." We are also informed that "this group plan for churches of Christ members is underwritten by Union Bankers Insurance Company, Dallas, Texas."

Further denominational developments are indicated in another advertisement on page 554, where there is a Church of Christ securities investment organization. It is advertised as "6% interest" to "invest in Growth of Church of Christ — First mortgage, Serial, Sinking Fund Bonds." And one is almost astonished to read that this is for "only Churches of Christ." One wonders if the church of the Lord is in such financial straits that it needs a "Nashville Securities Company" for "only Churches of Christ."

Then, too, some believe that the church is all-sufficient within itself to train its own "Christian workers" and elders; but we see on page 476 where Harding College has an "annual Christian Workers workshop" with a class on "The Work of Full-Time Elders." This certainly looks like the college, a human institution, is doing the work of the church in training its elders and "Christian workers."

Also, one is struck with the upsurge of "Appreciation Dinners," and "Testimonial" banquets. One ponders how the apostle Paul might have felt at one of these "Testimonial" dinners, inasmuch as he counted all things as nothing that he might gain Christ. On page 232 of this volume there is a page and a half picture and write-up of one such "Appreciation Dinner " One could hardly fancy any denominational group giving more honor and prestige to one of their leaders than is expressed in this article.

One observes on page 487 that a biography is proposed to be written about the editor of the paper, by a faculty member of Freed-Hardeman College. The proposal author says of the editor of the Gospel Advocate, "it is the sincere opinion of this writer that he is truly one of the giants of this generation." The Methodist have their Asbury and Wesley's; the Presbyterians have their Calvin and Knox, the Baptist have their Roger Williams, etc., and the "Church of Christ" has its... — well need we say more!

Then the new upsurge of "Campaigns for Christ" organizations would do grace to any Billy Graham or Dwight L. Moody city-wide evangelistic campaigns. Several pages are devoted to one such "Greater New Orleans Campaign for Christ," and another to a great "Dallas, Texas, Campaign for Christ." Mass organizations of churches, telephone calls by the hundreds, huge auditoriums, sometimes glittering evangelists highly publicized, by those who claim to be undenominational, could not but cause the old line denominations to wonder at the inconsistencies of criticism toward them for just such features.

On page 752 there is a full page advertisement of an organization known as "Direct Mail Evangelism" apparently under the Elders of "Brown Trail Church of Christ," soliciting funds from church budgets to promote this organization. The Roman Catholics have their knights of Columbus advertisements for direct mail evangelism in the Roman Catholic faith; but the Churches of Christ have what looks like its counterpart in this Direct Mail Evangelism, emanating from Post Office Box 865, Hurst, Texas, and the Gospel Press of Dallas, Texas.

One could go on to mention other denominational characteristics too numerous to mention in one article, such as "Christian Builders, Inc.," for church construction; "Mission Workshops" at the colleges, "Union Avenue Church on the March," "Herald of Truth Color TV Programs," full page advertisements on at least six pages in this volume of this TV program; "largest church of Christ in the world" Sunday School with 5,508 on a single Sunday; "Lipscomb Summer Lectureships," which looks to some as having marks of an annual denominational convention, etc.

In this volume there are 125 articles and features on "colleges, orphans' Home and schools," listed in the index.

A review of several annual bound volumes of periodicals of the larger denominations, indicates that not one of these have as much to say about their church operated educational and benevolent institutions as does this volume of the Gospel Advocate. And these denominations are religious groups who freely and ostensibly pridefully admit they are established denominations, and have no qualms about supporting all kinds of institutions and organizations to promote their religious work.

It is reported that J. D. Tant, Texas pioneer preacher, used to conclude his message by saying, "Brethren, we are drifting." Someone remarked that if he were living today he would find this phrase obsolete. He would have to say, "Brethren, we have drifted!"

Likewise, in view of the denominational developments and characteristics that have been incorporated into certain segments of those claiming to represent the New Testament church, one could but conclude that the statement, "The emerging `Church of Christ' Denomination" is already quite out of date. Is it any wonder that some have reason to now say, "The 'Church of Christ' Denomination that has already emerged"?

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