Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 5, 1955

Twentieth Anniversary


This issue marks the beginning of the seventh year of publication for the weekly Gospel Guardian, also the seventh year of service for this writer as editor of the journal. Actually, the Gospel Guardian began in 1936, was suspended for about two years during he latter part of 1936 to 1938, and resumed publication in the summer of 1938 under the name Bible Banner. With the first week in May, 1949, we reverted to the original name, Gospel Guardian, and put the paper on a weekly publication schedule. We have not missed an issue since then. Thus, 1955 Marks the twentieth year since the paper originated, but not the twentieth year of unbroken publication.

Now, how would a few thousand readers like to help us celebrate our twentieth anniversary (next October) by adding twenty thousand new subscriptions to our list? We already have a few loyal friends who have set themselves the task of seeing that every person in their respective congregation who receives the Gospel Advocate is also put on the list to receive the Gospel Guardian. They write us that they are doing this to insure that both sides of controversial issues be heard. Not a bad idea!

After six years in the editor's chair of this journal, certain reflections and observations may be worth jotting down. It has been a most enlightening experience. Gospel meetings have taken us into every part of the nation save New England and the extreme Northwest. We have been wonderfully impressed by the determination of the average congregation to remain faithful to the' Bible. Generally, it has been our impression that the bigger a church gets, the more likely it is to compromise the truth, and to "soft-pedal" the strict, undeviating adherence to New Testament principles. This is not necessarily (or invariably) the case, for we know four or five congregations which are among the largest in the nation, and which we believe to be among the most loyal. But the tendency is otherwise. And it would well pay all elders in big congregations to exercise utmost diligence to guard against this tendency. The very fact of "bigness" is a temptation to justify what is being done, or suggested, without carefully considering the implications and end results. Numerous surveys made among denominational churches (we are not aware of any among churches of Christ) have conclusively demonstrated that the most effective working unit congregationally speaking is the church of 350 and 450 members. A congregation of this size is able to sustain itself, to support a worker in some foreign field by her own efforts, and to carry on all needful benevolences. Congregations smaller than this can support their own preacher, but cannot independently sustain a worker in a foreign field; congregations larger than this have a diminishing ratio of contributions and growth as they increase in numbers. Whereas the church of 350 members has a normal growth ratio of 5.9 percent each year, the church of 1,000 or more members has a ratio of only about 2.3 percent. We believe these figures in both instances would be considerably higher among churches of Christ.

We have noted a few figures recently of total baptisms in some of the larger and smaller congregations among us. We saw a report from one congregation of 275 members who had 28 baptisms during the year, or approximately 10 percent. Less than a hundred miles away a church of 1,100 members reported 37 baptisms for the year, or only about 3.4 percent. The larger the church, the smaller the percentage of new members by baptism.

On the whole these six years have impressed us with the generally fair spirit of gospel preachers. Some, of course, have revealed themselves as being spiritually immature; some of this number, too, have been in places of considerable influence, and have confused and bewildered some of the brethren. But, the average preacher, out battling against the forces of error and entrenched sectarianism, is too busy in his task to take too seriously the pontifical call for "quarantines" and disfellowshipping of his brethren. He may not agree with what his brethren teach (and often does not); but he has a much more wholesome attitude toward such differences than some of the "quarantine" agitators may suspect.

As to the future, we are neither discouraged nor pessimistic. We do NOT anticipate an open split in the church — in spite of the efforts of a few to promote such. We believe the longer these questions of difference are studied and discussed, the more likely we will be to come to an understanding and agreement on them as to the Bible teaching. The Gospel Guardian has taken the lead in discussing controversial questions in the past; she will continue to do so in the future. We hope to define, clarify, and generally "clear the atmosphere" concerning the problems and questions that arise among us. And that certainly does not imply by any means that we think we have all the answers. We do not. And in the course of discussions it may be necessary for us more than once to revise some previous idea or statement. We hope we shall never be either afraid or ashamed to do so! But with an ideal before us, and with an infallible standard to guide us, we face the future with confidence and hope. You now hold in your hands the first issue of Volume Seven of the weekly Gospel Guardian.

— F. Y. T.