Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 3, 1955
NUMBER 26, PAGE 3,11b

"What A Revolting Development!"

John T. Overbey, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Things are happening among us these days that would have been catastrophic to the majority of brethren a few years ago. But it seems that many who would have been alarmed then are now accepting things — phenomenal things — without even so much as raising an eyebrow. Men who have been considered stalwarts in the church, are one by one forsaking the fundamental and elementary positions they have occupied for years. Members of the church are no longer — in many quarters — being fed the pure word of God, but are receiving rather the puny philosophies of men. As a consequence, members of the Lord's church are becoming less and less interested in the preaching of the sound doctrine. The apostle Paul said "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (II Tim. 4:3, 4.) Although these words of Paul are not immediately applicable to the particular thing I have in mind in this paper, yet there is an attitude revealed in them that permeates the thinking of people in every generation — in some generations, it is more; some, it is less — which determines their receptivity of the plain teaching of God's word. People just simply like to hear what they want to hear — and more often than not, they do not want to hear what they need to hear.

As an example of what I am talking about, I refer you to an incident that happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma not too many weeks ago. Brother Roy E. Cogdill was through Tulsa on July 19th and spoke in the meeting house of the Fifteenth Street church on the subject, "Bulwarks of Zion." The thoughts upon which he based his lesson are found in the forty-eighth Psalm: "Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments. Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following. For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death."

In the course of his lesson, Brother Cogdill pointed out the "bulwarks" — those strong points that form the line of defense for spiritual Zion — the church. He began his discourse by emphasizing the fact that faithful men of God must "mark well her bulwarks" in order that the generations that follow may be assured that they will have something solid upon which to stand. Then he enumerated with emphasis the various strong points in the line of her defense: (1) The name that God has given her; (2) The authority by which she operates; (3) The doctrine she teaches; (4) Her worship; (5) Her mission in the world; (6) Her organization. With this major line of defense firmly set up, he pointed out the fact that she is absolutely impregnable.

The emphasizing of these salient features of the church is neither new nor is it something that is peculiar to Brother Cogdill — every faithful gospel preacher and teacher has known these things and has emphasized them since the days of the apostles. However, some of us have perhaps not made the application of these things as strongly as we should. I have taught ever since I have been trying to preach the gospel that the church must be sound in name, doctrine, organization, and worship; but I shall be free to admit that there have been times when I have failed to emphasize these things to the extent of making the application.

Under the division of his lesson embracing the organization and work of the New Testament church, Brother Cogdill made some points that were well taken. He showed that there is absolutely no organization revealed in the New Testament by and through which the church universal can work to fulfill her mission in the world; that the Missionary Society was the outgrowth of the idea that the church universal must organize in order to fulfill her mission of preaching the gospel to the world. He went on from there to emphasize the fact that in the New Testament, every church had her elders, deacons, and members; and he pointed out that the elders must feed "the flock over which the Holy Spirit had made them overseers" (Acts 20:28); that they were to "feed the flock which is among them, taking the oversight thereof." (I Peter 5:2.)

In pointing out the work of preaching the gospel, whether by radio, press, or orally, he denied that it is scripturally right for a plurality of congregations to combine their funds into the treasury of one congregation, and under its supervision to conduct a program of work to which they all stand equally related. He gave as an example of this the arrangement by which the nationwide Herald of Truth radio program is being conducted. He also denied that it is scripturally right for the church to do her benevolent work through a human institution, such as Boles Home, Tennessee Orphan Home, Childhaven, etc. He pointed out that each local church is responsible to look after her orphans, but that she must do so under the supervision of her own elders; that there is no scriptural authority for any church to build an orphanage and announce to the churches, "you send us your orphans — and your money, and we'll take care of them for you." No individual or church can do its benevolent work by proxy.

Brother Cogdill also pointed out the fact that there is no scriptural authority for congregations to contribute monies out of their treasuries for the building and maintenance of schools such as Abilene Christian College, Central Christian College, David Lipscomb College, or any of the other such schools among us. He urged: "Let the church be the church, and make the schools keep their hands off her treasury!"

From beginning to end, his discourse was very timely. But lo, there were a few in the audience who did not appreciate him or his lesson one little bit! One deacon was heard to say that he would personally be willing to pay the entire expense to get some man to come and speak on what he was pleased to call, "the other side of these things." Thus, at the insistence of this man and a few others, the elders decided that provided someone could be secured who would come and take the affirmative position on the things that Brother Cogdill denied relative to the afore mentioned propositions, then such a discussion would be welcomed. It was clearly pointed out that he must make an effort to show by the scriptures that it is right for a plurality of congregations to combine their funds into the treasury of one congregation, and under its supervision to conduct a program of work to which they all stand equally related; that it is scripturally right for the church to do her benevolent work through such human institutions as mentioned above; that it is scripturally right for churches to contribute monies from their treasuries toward the building and maintenance of such schools as mentioned above. Such a procedure was thought to be fair and equitable; and so, negotiations were begun immediately by one of the elders to secure such a man.

Finally, Brother Cleon Lyles of Little Rock, Arkansas was secured. I give herewith the statements that were made by Brother Lyles to me in my study. Brother Lyles stated, after I had handed to him a copy of the propositions that Brother Cogdill had denied, "The only right thing I can do is present the thing as I see it. To me the college question is not involved, because I don't think anybody believes it's right to contribute to the schools." In regard to the Herald of Truth proposition, he said, "As far as I can see, the thing they are doing — now I don't know anything about the Herald of Truth — I mean by that — anything I would say about the Herald of Truth, as far as knowing anything about its makeup, would be hearsay; and I wouldn't want to say that I am for anything particularly until I know what that thing is. But of course, you'll find out in my lecture that I think such work can be done — such work as the Herald of Truth can be done." These are his words as taken by tape recording.

Well, Brother Lyles spoke on what he called, "Church Cooperation" — an hour and thirty-five minutes of it — but it amounted to a wholesale indictment of every faithful gospel preacher and godly elder who would dare to raise his voice against anything that smacks of departure from the New Testament pattern of things! He put all such in the same class with "one-cuppers," "anti-classers," "anti-located preachers," "anti-educated preachers," and about anti-everything-else-you-can-think-of! Now, does that look to you like the man was prepared to deal forthrightly with the issues? Brother Lyles knew what the issues were — he had a copy of the propositions in his hand when he went into the pulpit. If he was not prepared to deal with the issues, he should have so stated; and if he was, he displayed cowardice by not doing so.

It is regrettable that such duplicity is in evidence among those who claim to be followers of the Lord. But it is going on all over the brotherhood, and it must be exposed, it shall be exposed! In this issue of the Gospel Guardian the first installment of the text of Brother Lyles' lecture appears; subsequent issues will carry the remaining installments, along with this writer's answer to every argument that he makes. Brother Lyles gave this writer permission to make a tape recording of his speech for purposes of study and review, and hence no rule of ethics is being violated. In the next installment I shall explain why I am using this medium for doing so.