Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 19, 1953

Letter From Germany -- No. 1

Dick Smith, Karlsruhe, Germany

Vorholzstrasse 36 Karlsruhe, Germany February 23, 1953 Mr. Keith Thompson Jordan Station, Ontario, Canada Dear Keith:

Certainly didn't expect to be writing you again so soon but something very urgent has come up. To save explanation I'll quote a letter received from the Grove Avenue, San Antonio, elders this past week:

"Dear Brother Smith: For some time we have considered asking you to come home. We considered this at the end of your first two years work there, and have considered it several times since. We consider the present to be a good time, and therefore ask you that you advise us by return air mail the earliest date which you can leave there, preferably within the next thirty days. Upon receipt of your reply, we will arrange promptly for the necessary transportation for you and your family."

In response to an inquiring cablegram from me the following information arrived this A.M. also from the elders:

"It is the opinion of the elders that you should return as requested in their letter of February 13, with the understanding that there will be no obligation to send you back to Germany."

Outside of the above there has been no information given me whatsoever why at this time they think I should leave. However, they don't need to tell me. This is their reaction to a letter I wrote them three weeks ago letting them in on some disagreements I had had with Otis Gatewood and telling them I didn't want them to have to hear about anything second-hand. That letter is too long to quote here so I'll sum it up thusly: Gatewood wrote an article which was published in the Christian Chronicle December 31, 1952 in which he appealed for $50,000 (When is he ever going to stop? DS). He supported his plea saying, "Twenty-one congregations have been established and some of these are already supporting evangelists and are doing mission work." What he failed to explain was that seven out of the 21 are simply groups of Americans in the armed forces who meet on Sundays for worship in different places. His article gave the impression that there had been 21 German congregations established and I thought he was misleading. In as kind a way as I could I told him this, pointing out that brethren at home would be misled by such reporting. This irked him quite a bit and a few days later he wrote a letter saying we were misled too by talking and reporting about locally established churches which were according to the New Testament but were actually tainted with premillennialism.

He referred to groups (two of them) meeting in homes which we had become acquainted with and had been teaching. One group numbers about 12 and the other about five. They have all been baptized for the remission of sins and call themselves only Christians. They were all converted by a wandering evangelist who also baptized all of them but now has nothing to do with them anymore. One of them, a farmer, has put forth considerable effort to keep them going and has preached for years always supporting himself as a farmer. He, like thousands of others over here, believes in a 1000 year earthly reign. He had preached for the church here before we found it out. Since then we have been to his home and discussed it with him. It's purely a very minor matter with him and I think we can teach him better. Actually, these groups were worse than Otis thought when first found by our brethren. They weren't breaking bread regularly, women led in prayer, and at home they used instrumental music. However, they are completely independent churches so we started in on them. Both groups are now regularly breaking bread each Sunday, taking a collection (which they also hadn't done before) and are learning fast. The group that I have been teaching is in a nearby town. I go every two weeks and sometimes on Sunday afternoons. Through my teaching, and within one hours time, they were convinced that the women shouldn't lead in prayer in the assembly. They are also convinced on the instrumental music though they have never used it there anyway. I'm still working with them. They constitute a church of the Lord even though they have been in error. They are eager to be taught and we're teaching them. Otis can cry "premillennialism" if he wants to, but its only a defense mechanism on his part. This farmer is the one who believes it and I think we can bring him out of it. In the meantime I intend to do all I can to continue to teach him. Well, I wrote all this to the Grove Avenue elders so they would know what was up if they happened to hear that I had locked horns with Gatewood. This apparently was too much for them for their only reaction seems to be to get me out of here as soon as possible. Oddly enough, I haven't yet written the elders about my opposition to Gatewood seminary and the centralization over here. I was getting them ready for that but now I see that such would be an impossibility.

Keith, it looks as if I have committed the unforgivable sin. I opposed Otis Gatewood himself! They regard him with such awe and respect that it must have horrified them to read my letter. No doubt they would really wonder if they knew I had been opposing for many months. In a personal letter to one of the elders about a year ago I wrote that I was pretty concerned about many doubtful things that Lubbock was doing over here. He did all he could to calm me down and that was that. After getting over here my first taste of "orders from headquarters" was as follows: I was working at Munich. Shortly after arriving there I was informed that no articles were to be sent by me direct to the papers or anywhere else but rather to Lubbock. They, then, would check them over and send them on to the papers. They were able to demand this only because they were sending money to Munich to pay for rent of hall, etc. Well, I saw the only way out at the time was not to write any article at all. All that ever came out in the papers was what Grove Avenue put there from my reports to them. This, of course, all changed when we came to Karlsruhe.

What is most disheartening is that Grove Avenue is apparently not giving any consideration to the fact that we have established a church here with a present membership of 15. We can't just wave goodbye to these people and go get on a boat. They need to be taught and firmly established in the faith. I feel a responsibility here and can't see dropping everything or turning it over to Otis and Company.

We've been here in Germany now for almost three years and most of it has been foundation for what I had hoped to do in the next 10 or 20. Right now I'm getting effective in the language. True, I've been preaching all these three years but with great difficulty. This has been a three year investment of the Lord's money as well as three years of my life. I can't see just dropping it. I could let them pay our way home and then try and secure support from other churches. However, I'm definitely not in favor of tripping back and forth across the Atlantic on the Lord's money for no good reason. If I can stay here and secure support a lot of time and money will be saved.

The German government will not allow me as a foreigner to work on the German economy. I'd have to get a job with some American firm if I chose to start "making tents." However, that would not only cut in on a lot of time but would take me away from Karlsruhe which I hope to avoid. Thus I prefer to preach and teach full-time if possible.

I seek no 'sponsoring" church. I've been convinced of the wrong in that for some time but was at a loss to know what to do about it. It looks as if the Lord has provided a way. Neither do I expect any elders to be able to "oversee" me from 5,000 miles away. Counsel and help I'll always welcome, but I am convinced that their job is to oversee the flock among them. I desire to continue to do "the work of an evangelist" here. This certainly does not involve starting orphan-homes, colleges, or any other institution to do the work of the church. My aim is to preach the Gospel and establish congregations. They are the best and only institutions the Bible tells us about for doing the Lord's work.

You're no doubt wondering what all of this has to do with you. It's very simple; you are personally acquainted with brethren who might be able to help us in our situation. Right now I'm thinking of two — brethren Tant and Cogdill. They don't know me. You do. We've worked together, preached together and prayed together. I'm asking you to pass the word to them and pass the word to others who would be able to help. When I discuss centralization with Otis he always says; "Those people don't believe in mission-work. They're not doing anything." This of course comes from the warped idea that a foreign country is a "mission field" and America is not. It would do a lot to silence him if I could get some of those brethren who are not supposed "to believe in it" to support us here. I think they would if they knew what we were trying to do.

If this hadn't come up now, it would surely have happened soon. In the last few months I have had two-three hour discussions with Otis about his preacher-school. My opposition to that and the general centralized power of Frankfurt would have caused the same results with Grove Avenue as soon as they heard about it. It's just that I can't go along with these huge undertakings especially on such an unscriptural basis. However, my difference of opinion appears to have been the cause of my downfall. Its been another lesson to me on the unscriptural set-up of a "sponsoring church" who can put the skids under you just because you don't follow the party line, or agree with someone they want you to agree with. I've learned since I've been over here. Following my conscience has gotten me into hot water but I certainly don't regret it.

West Germany contains 50 million people. The brethren at home shouldn't think that just because one is inside Germany he has to work with Gatewood. Our work here at Karlsruhe is 75 miles from his work and we intend to keep it that way. Our job here is to preach Christ and that's what we're trying to do. To accomplish this we don't need any huge program with the accompanying trumpets of publicity. Right now we are meeting in rented quarters and we plan to stay here for several years. Thus our needs are simple and our aims equally so.

However, the situation is urgent. Several months ago the St. Elmo church in Chattanooga informed Max Watson that they could no longer support him after March or April. Now Grove Avenue has asked me to get on home within the next thirty days. A year ago they wrote saying they had agreed to extend our support for another year. That year won't be up for about three months. I'm going to try and get them to keep us here that long so I'll at least have time to secure support elsewhere. I don't know whether they'll do it or not. The easiest thing for us to do, of course; would be to accept their travel money and sail home. And then try to work it from there. This appears very unwise to me for two reasons: (1) The expense of crossing the Atlantic with my wife and baby twice. (2) The inadvisability of simply dropping the work here for several months. If they can't secure support, the Watsons may have to leave. That would leave everything on the shoulders of a young German evangelist here whose support has consisted of expense funds sent here previously by Grove Avenue and St. Elmo. We've begun a wonderful work here. I feel that many who have been taught during our past year and a half here will soon be ready to obey. Unless something is done a lot of harm is soon going to be done.

The ideal thing then, would be to find brethren of conviction who'll support us when Grove Avenue leaves off. If that's not the Lord's will, we'll soon find it out. We don't have any bank account so it won't be long till we have to act one way or another. It's my prayer that we'll get brethren to have fellowship with us who aren't soft and wishy-washy when it comes to basic scriptural truths. Brethren who won't throw up their hands and run at the sight of a problem. We've suffered much under the centralization over here. We've seen the long arm of Lubbock reaching where it ought not to. Our entanglement in that matter through a "sponsoring church" is now coming to its end. I hope that the same is not true of our work here in Karlsruhe.

Your brother in Christ, Dick Smith