Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 10, 1955
NUMBER 27, PAGE 5-6,13c

"Church Cooperation" (Continued)

Cleon Lyles, Little Rock, Arkansas

On the other hand there were those others who rose up who believed it was wrong to have located preachers. You know we haven't had located preachers in the church of Christ very long. I'm sure it doesn't date back more than fifty years, and I doubt if it will date back that time. Of all the churches that are and that have been in Nashville, Tennessee, until recent years, none of them had what you would call a local preacher. I'll venture fifty years ago there weren't a half dozen local preachers in the State of Arkansas. Not a half dozen local preachers in the state of Oklahoma. There were brethren who didn't believe it was right to hire located preachers. By that I mean a preacher could move into a town and live there, and give the majority of his time to one church. Now, brethren are honest in that. They just never had seen it done. And as I said, every time that you make advancement along any line, to a lot of people the first thing there was to do is object to it because I think it is wrong. Now that men are cautious in matters, and ought to be, and certainly no man can deny them the right, but there hasn't been a rule that has been made that hasn't been some arguments about and some bitter feelings sometime, and sometimes it has led to division. But in spite of all of that, churches over the land began to realize that the few churches that did have located preachers were not doing any harm — they were doing a lot of good. These preachers were preaching the same gospel that they would if they didn't live there during the week, and not only that, by being there teaching their classes and otherwise engaging in religious activities that the church would grow, the gospel would be preached, and souls would be saved. And they soon learned that it was one of the best methods of spreading the kingdom of God, and as a result there are not a lot of churches today that would argue against located preachers. Many argued against it, and of those who became bitter, they began to see it was not an apostasy. It's not in the wrong direction. These men are not trying to lead the church astray and so one by one they began to employ men to live there regularly and churches continued to grow.

We have had some groups along about that line — still have a few — in various parts of the United States who do not believe in a preacher having an education. Therefore the question came up about a college preacher. If a man has been to college that he was wrong altogether. I was in Denver, Colo. not long ago delivering some lectures and some other men were lecturing too, and so I was listening to them also. One man told a story about what happened in the community where he lived, one time, when in these communities we were having trouble about whether a preacher could have an education or not, and he said, a man got up to preach and didn't believe in college preachers, or in a preacher having a college education and so he said, "I thank God I ain't got no larning, I thank God that I ain't college bred, and thank God that I ain't been to no college no where no time and I am just an ole' ignorant preacher, and I thank God that I'm ignorant and I pray to God that He will make me ignoranter." Well, of course what they were going through, the church was going through, in various places because of the question, but the brethren soon learned that a college education didn't mean that he couldn't preach the gospel. In fact a good education might help him in preaching the gospel. At least it would help him in presenting it, and as a result brethren threw down or took down their restrictions on the matter and largely it's not a question any more. We may swing in the other direction and want too many degrees, and I hope we don't swing there while I'm preaching, because I don't have too many, but nevertheless one extreme would be as bad an another. Brethren are not concerned about that as long as a man can preach the gospel and live right and do right and present the gospel in an acceptable manner. That's the kind of a man they are looking for and that day largely is gone among the churches of our Lord.

And then there were those who rose up who said that you must have evangelistic control, that is, that the evangelist controls the elders who control the church. And there are a few quarters in the land today where that is still being taught and practiced, and there are some who have not taught and practiced it that I fear are leaning far in that direction. Whether they are or whether they are not is not the question. That day did come and we fought that battle and as a result the church of our Lord moved on. Now, those who know the history of the church as we think back through the years, can remember some of these battles and they've been bitter. Brethren who had been friends became enemies; those who had fought side by side began to fight each other, forgot about the truth, and began to think about personalities, and the result was some bitterness and in a lot of places churches of our Lord were divided.

But we have gone through all of that, largely, and as a result the church has grown. You know in the day that I live I have seen some things that I never believed earlier that I would be able to see. I closed a meeting Wednesday night way out on the Caprock in Texas — Lamesa, Texas. I stayed in a very lovely home out there. A man who has been a member of the church for a good long while, and he made this statement to me while I was there. He said, "It's good to be alive today, good to be a member of the church today. Never has there been a period in the history of the world when men were more fortunate than we are in our day," and I feel that way about it. During the twenty-four years that it's been my honor to preach the gospel, I have watched the churches grow. I have seen places like Tulsa grow from one congregation to a dozen or fifteen strong congregations. I well remember the city of Dallas, Texas, not more than ten years ago or twelve years ago, when there were twenty-six congregations in Dallas. I closed a meeting there recently and they told me there are seventy congregations within the city limits. Ten years ago or twelve years ago when these twenty-six congregations were there was not a congregation that would number more than five or six hundred, but now at the end of those years, there are seventy congregations and they number all the way from a few hundred to upward to 2000 a piece. And as a result there are multiplied thousands of people who have become obedient to the gospel in that one certain city. But what I say about that city I can say about cities throughout the United States, and I need not remind you of that, because you well know what I am talking about is so; that the church has had in my age and your age a phenomenal growth. We have lovely buildings scattered all over the world nearly. We have large congregations operating peacefully, most of them are, and the gospel is being carried to the world in such a manner as it has never been carried in the history of the world. There is enough gospel turned loose on one Lord's day to say nothing about a week by means of the printing press, the pulpit, and the radio to circle the globe a number of times. There is enough gospel preached on one Lord's day to convert the entire world to Christ. And I am quite sure that there are very few places in the world today, and especially in these United States, of ours, where if men would only turn on their radio they could hear the gospel if there isn't a congregation close enough for them to go and hear it there. Now all of us are happy about that. I'm sure there isn't an unhappy person in the audience. We're glad that's happening.

But in your day and my day new battle lines have been formed. New converts have been made to old theories. These theories that were old have been dressed up, and they are being handed down to us today in the same manner that they were in days gone by, only dealing with other questions and other principles. Now, some of them are those things that we will discuss tonight. That churches cannot cooperate in the manner that some are; that is, that churches cannot cooperate in sending the gospel to the world as some are doing throughout the world today. That orphanages cannot be operated as they are being operated — at least as some of them are being operated today. That during all of this period of growth we have been doing it all wrong, and somebody now has got to rise up and save Zion again from apostasy.

As the one-cuppers tried to save Zion, as those who advocated uneducated preachers tried to save Zion, as those who led into Catholicism were trying to save Zion, others are trying to save Zion in our day, because they believe that we are about to apostatize. I want you to understand in the very beginning tonight that I am not questioning the motives of anybody. I do not question the honesty of anybody. That there are men who believe they see on the horizon clouds that are going to engulf the cause of Christ, and see at once the bitterness that one time bathed the earth in blood, I do not deny. That they are as sincere in the things they think they see as I am in thinking I do not see it, I certainly do not deny. So I want you to understand that I do not have in mind to impugn the motives of anybody. But I do believe that men who rise up and cry apostasy today, stand in the same class as those who have cried apostasy in days gone by when the apostasy did not take place. Now any time that apostasy does take place, of course people have done wrong. I don't want to do wrong, and you don't want to do wrong.

Now, in order to get at this subject I am going to use the little book How N. T. Churches Can, And Can Not, Cooperate that was handed out recently in a discussion and has been handed out over the brotherhood as a place for the scriptures and the arguments that I plan to make. I want to read the very scriptures and all the scriptures that are in this book. I want to talk about those scriptures as they apply to the question at hand or do not apply to the question at hand, and then go from there into the orphanage business.

To begin with, the scriptures are complete for all spiritual needs. Now I believe that. 2 Tim 3:16, 17, "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work." 1 Cor. 4:6, "Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written." Rev. 22:18, 19, "I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book."

Now, if you are acquainted with this little book, you noticed, of course, that I skipped 2 Jno. 9, "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son." Now, my reason was: I don't believe that verse applies directly to this, but rather to whether Jesus was the Son of God or not, that perhaps we have misused that verse in applying it to a thing where we need something to apply, of course, that is maybe out of its setting. It has been my belief that 2 Jno 9 applies to the fact that they were saying Jesus was not the Christ. Therefore, whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ or who denies that Jesus is the Christ; but we leave it there, and if you want to use it in connection with these verses and say that it applies here, why that's all right with me. I'll be glad to have it. Deut. 4:2, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Jehovah your God which I command you." Prov. 40:5,6, "Every word of God is tried: he is a shield unto them that take refuge in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." Now, here are six passages of scripture, rather I believe about nine, counting all of them.

And here are three things that we learn: and I want you to hold on to those three because they are the basis for our lesson tonight as they were the basis of the lessons that were represented from this book. There are three things that we learn. First of all, that the scriptures furnish us unto all good works. Second, that you cannot go beyond that which is written. Third, that you cannot make a law where God has not made a law. I cannot legislate where God has not legislated.

All right, the scriptures authorize a pattern for church organization — Acts 14:23 — "And when they had appointed for them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed." Titus 1:5, "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that were wanting, and appoint elders in every city, as I gave thee charge." 1 Pet. 5:1-3, "The elders therefore among you I exhort, who am a fellow-elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: tend the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according to the will of God; nor yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves ensamples to the flock," or examples to the flock.

Now I want you to notice what we learned out of those verses. First of all, that every church had elders. I believe that. The Bible says that. And the second is, that it is the duty of the elders to tend the flock. Third, that it is the duty of the elders to tend the flock that he has been appointed to tend. Not to tend another flock, but to attend the flock that he has been appointed to attend. So, there were elders appointed in the churches. They tended the flock. And they attended the flock over which they were appointed.

(To be continued.)