Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 11, 1970

A Lovely Spring Day In Houston

Fred Melton

There is nothing like a beautiful and vibrant spring morning on God's green earth to instill within a man optimism and a general sense of well-being. Just such a day was it that many of the leading elders and preachers of the Houston area gathered in the fellowship hall of the Central Church of Christ located in an older but fashionable section, to engage in a "round table discussion" of The Urban Church of the 70's. J. Burton Coffman had been flown in from the Manhattan Church in New York City to moderate. A group of young, dynamic preachers were selected to form the panel. Bro. Coffman ascended the speaker's stand with beautiful, flowing paragraphs of generalizations. A great challenge indeed lies ahead of the church in the 70's.

Pat Harrell, preacher for the Bering Drive Church of Christ, then lamented the mobility and lack of attendance of the modern membership while proposing several steps designed to help deal with this situation, to-wit:

1. Emphasis should be placed on "special services to replace some traditional ones;

2. "Education, especially among the young, e.g. youth camps, etc; and 3. "Fellowship must be emphasized."

Dan Anders, lately of California, suggested that in efforts to reach the ethnic or minority groups, the church might well emulate the Baptists in one of their plans to offer the foreign transit community classes in the English language, while at the same time instilling in them doctrinal principals.

Hulen Jackson, clearly the panelist conservative, spoke on the subject of "Bridging Credibility Gaps." He accurately defined the error of ecumenism as opposed to Bible unity (I Cor. 1:10). Therefore, it was generally understood by the audience that an ecumenical arrangement with the other parties under consideration, e.g. "ultra-liberals (?), conservative Christian Church members, and the. anti-cooperation brethren" would certainly be unacceptable, but that communications should be kept open.

Regarding a presentation by Allen Isbell on "Making Money Go Further," it was stated, "Not only has the pressure for congregations to proliferate and remain small been halted, but mergers of congregations into more dynamic, visible units are becoming more frequent." Among the proposals set forth by this "dynamic, young preacher" for the purpose of utilizing the church buildings and other assets were:

1. The establishment of day schools;

2. Use of the building for the instruction of the elderly concerning the benefits of Medicare;

3. The pooling of resources of local churches for a central printing press;

4. One preacher for several congregations "similar to the old-time circuit riders;"

5. More specialization in preaching;

6. A general reduction of fulltime preachers;

7. Separate congregations meeting in one building - "such as the Mormon Church in Southwest Houston does."

A rustle of chairs could be heard as a fresh pot of coffee was brought into the rear of the hall by a slightly balding man, shirt sleeves rolled to his elbows. "Mr. Moderator," a young preacher rose to his feet on the far side of the hall. He desired to set forth a few questions (or proposals) of his own, during the following period designated as questions directed to the panel. The first question (or proposal) was, "What would be wrong with combining all the elderships into one eldership in order to maintain better coordination between the churches — they would all still be elders?"

Many of the brethren were thoughtfully fingering their notebooks or taking a lingering sip of coffee; no doubt thinking of the many scriptural and historical reasons why this could never even be considered. "I would like to answer that question," answered the more conservative member of the panel. All eyes were upon this man as he explained there was "no logical reason" for such an arrangement as that, in other words, it was simply not feasible. A little later, one elderly voice was heard to explain that a central eldership idea smacked of Catholicism and the elders were to shepherd the flock among themselves, to which that certain panelist concurred. "Then what," asked still another voice, "were those elders all doing together there in Jerusalem in Acts 15?" With inept works of pacification, the moderator dismissed the subject.

Oh, yes, one other significant proposal that was made, but lost in the confusion of the hour, was "because there are too many churches in Harris County already, and in order to impede the proliferation of new and small churches," the established churches should go together and purchase desirable plots of ground throughout the County to give to disgruntled groups to begin new works.

The conclave ended in a jovial mood with ripples of laughter scattering through the crowd as the moderator cracked jokes from the podium. Later, he was heard to exclaim while in cordial embrace with the Central minister, "This sort of sandpaper never hurt anybody."

Outside the sunshine flooded the fresh growth of nature's green, a squirrel scampered across the freshly mowed lawn and up a tree. It was obvious he was glad that winter was over and spring was here. It was good to be alive.

— Route 10, Box 745, Houston, Texas 77040