Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 1, 1955

This Matter Of Fellowship


We call your attention to an article on another page in this issue by brother John F. Reese, an elder in the Highland Church at Abilene, Texas, entitled, "Does Brother Tant Fellowship The Christian Church?" It might be well to read that article before you continue this one.

If brother Reese is at all familiar with the history of the Restoration Movement, he knows that the introduction of the Missionary Society a hundred years ago did not bring immediate disfellowship. The Society was but the symptom of a disease. It was like the rash which may appear on the skin of a child with measles; the rash is not the measles, it is the symptom. This disease which first began to be seen in the Missionary Society progressed gradually through the years, becoming more virulent and deadly as it developed. The next symptom to appear was the introduction of instrumental music into the worship, followed swiftly by other innovations — the "pastor" system, in which one man (a pastor) took "charge" of a congregation, money-raising schemes, women preachers, baby dedications, Thursday night communions, use of "Reverend" and "pastor" in connection with the local preacher, open membership, pressure tactics to make conservative congregations "line up" with the popular movement, etc.

Faithful brethren were bewildered for a while as to what to do when the digression swept like a prairie fire through the churches. But little by little they began to realize that they were dealing with a clear-cut, definite apostasy. And when it was evident that they had an APOSTASY on their hands, and not merely a few brethren who were in error, but who could not be taught the truth, then a break in fellowship became inevitable. It took fifty years or more for this to become evident.

There are many thousands today who are convinced that "Herald of Truth" is in many respects parallel to the Missionary Society. The parallel is so obvious that we are surprised that good men like brother Reese did not see it months ago. We are persuaded that a close, careful study will yet open his eyes to the similarity. That is what we are wanting to do in the discussions with brother Harper. For we do not believe that either brother Harper or brother Reese is yet infected with the fatal disease of "digressionism" — a disease that can be defined only as an utter contempt for and disregard of the authority of God's word.

If they do have the disease, it will not be too long before other symptoms of it will appear — pressure tactics to try to make brethren and churches "line up" in support of their program, relaxing of the doctrinal emphasis in preaching and teaching, an appeal to the popular enthusiasm of the multitudes, and a growing disregard for "thus saith the Lord." Scriptures will begin to be perverted and misapplied in support of various projects, and finally scripture will be abandoned almost entirely. This was the course of the other apostasy. If brother Reese has the same disease, this will be the course it will follow now.

Meanwhile, the efforts of many thousands of us will continue to be directed toward SAVING, and not toward DISFELLOWSHIPPING, our brethren whom we believe to be in error. We personally know of scores of fine gospel preachers who have changed in their beliefs concerning Herald of Truth after mature and careful study. We believe there are a great host of others (including John F. Reese and E. R. Harper) who are destined to follow the same course. Certainly such is our prayer.

As long as a man shows a humble and sincere spirit, and is eager and anxious to learn the will of God, all talk of disfellowship is improper and premature. It was apostolic practice to try first to save those in error, as well as those in sin. We thought all students of the New Testament were aware of this. It is obvious and so fundamental that we are puzzled by brother Reese's failure to take it into account. Many thousands (and growing every day, incidentally) believe Herald of Truth to be wrong. What then? Shall they immediately disfellowship all who believe in and support Herald of Truth? Shall they refuse to recognize as brethren those who preach on Herald of Truth broadcasts, try to get their meetings cancelled everywhere, and do what they can to destroy their influence?

What Kind Of Christianity Would That Be?

And as for the thousands who do believe in Herald of Truth (diminishing every day, incidentally) does brother Reese suggest that they disfellowship their brethren who do not share their conviction? refuse to recognize gospel preachers as brethren in Christ because they oppose? try to get their meetings cancelled? and do all they can to destroy their influence?

What Kind Of Christianity Is That?

It is time for prayerful study, the most earnest, serious, and careful of which we are capable. Then if in twenty or thirty years of study and controversy we are unable to agree on Bible teaching, or one group or the other is determined to ignore Bible teaching (as happened with the digression of the last century), there will be plenty of time to consider what is the scriptural course to follow as regards "fellowship."

F. Y. T.