Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 24, 1972
NUMBER 41, PAGE 10-11a

The Aging Process

Robert C. Welch

The mellowing years seem to have come upon us altogether too early. Brethren have just barely come through a struggle for the purity of the church in work and organization. They have not even had time to lay down the armor and get a deep breath until aging pains are beginning to wrack the body of Christ. Nostalgia for the old friends of yester year seem to be sweeping over several who fought long and hard in the interim to rid the church of the yoke of institutions which those former friends were, and are, trying to bind upon us. We are coming to the point where we can no longer teach the truth and expose error without citing all the books in our libraries.

We are swiftly coming to the place where we cannot challenge a man for debate on an issue, nor work to get him to challenge us. That seems to be uncouth and a bad attitude, especially if it is a brother in error. The denominations have ceased debating us long ago, and the brethren in institutional error have just about quit as of now. My brethren seem to think that we made a mistake in debating them so hard; otherwise, we would still be communicating with them. Perhaps that is right, but that points up the need for what was done. They could not stand the light of truth on their doctrines and schemes. If it had not been exposed to the light of truth, the distinction between truth and error would still not be evident, and our own brethren would not know the difference.

Many articles nowadays are being written with a large documentation of books and papers which bear on the subject. These are presented in the footnotes or at the end of the article. My brethren need to remember that we are writing to the common man, not to the elite scientist or theologian. This may be the precise style for such scientific or theological works. But the common man reads as he reads the newspaper. He wants it all there as he reads, and all the footnotes mean little, if anything, to him. If one or twenty-five men have said something worth noticing on the subject, let the text of our article produce it in location, so that it can be read and weighed by the average reader. We are reminded of the dangerous growth of the church during the past century to the point that many of the churches would not permit such men as Benjamin Franklin to preach to them because he was not elegant enough in language and said too many "ah's" as he spoke.

Hints are coming from a great many sources that my brethren of the past two decades have been too mean in their attitudes and words toward brethren who were in error. They are hinting that this is what alienated these brethren to the point that they no longer want any communication with us. They are hinting that they know how to open the channels of communication again. They need to recognize the danger involved in digging around an old battle field that has been profusely mined. Sometimes nearly as many causalities come from this as from the original battle. Furthermore, "communication" may eventually come to mean "communion" with them. Besides that, if they stand for truth and vigorously oppose the error, the brother in error will not like it any better this time than he did the first. And it will come to be that the man who is doing the work is the one who will be accused of getting dirty, now as before. It happened that way in the Christian Church defection. There is no indication that it will be otherwise in this case.

We may be thinking that as the institutional churches are being riddled with classical modernism and neo-spiritualism we are going to be able to bring them to see their erroneous course and lead them out of it and into our fellowship. We were unable to do it with the people of the Christian Church. They just formed another denomination more fundamental in nature than those from whom they separated. Surely, let us save every man that we can. But the majority of those who are opposed to this new far left movement will merely form a new segment of relationships; that is, if reactions of the past are an indication of the present this is the way it will be.

Many brethren of a quarter of a century ago said that if the colleges went into the church budgets they would not go along with it. Do we have hopes that they will see the whole light on their other involvements? We may get one now and then to see what happens with an open gate, getting him to desire to close it. And we should get as many as possible to see. But the majority have forgot where the gate was that was opened. They are not interested in going back anywhere; they may stand where they are, or they may go ahead with the crowd; but a retracement of steps is too much to expect of the majority.

Teaching against errors of the sects is hard to find among the writings in our papers. Is it possible that no more than this is to be heard in the sermons of today? We seem to have changed the purpose of our meetings, at least, to the strengthening and edifying of the membership. Does the regular preaching all have the same trend? This can reach the stage where the membership will not know what is wrong with sectarianism and what their doctrines and practices are. Half converted people will virtually "transfer" their membership from the sects. Oh yes, they will be baptized, but just as the Baptist require baptism. And, the first thing you know, we will be wanting to establish lines of communication with them, which in the final process becomes communion (fellowship) with them.

Let us not forget the hard work and mighty exertion we have put forth to gain our present status in the Lord's will and work. Let us not grow so mellow and heavy with age that we can neither appreciate nor maintain our position. Let us remember the great cloud of witnesses to the faithful, sacrificing endeavor; and run with patience the race that is set before us.