Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 16, 1956

Is There No Other Way?

F. Y. T.

We call attention to another page in this issue where we publish "Two Statements From Lubbock." One of these statements is from the College Avenue Church in that city, the other from the newly formed Caprock Church. The statements speak for themselves, and since both elderships desired us to publish a statement from their respective congregations, we do so.

There is one rather curious thing about this situation, different from most church splits: Brother O. C. Horne in a personal letter to the editor calls particular attention to the fact that the statement from the College Avenue elders is NOT intended as a withdrawal of fellowship.

He says:

"You can see by the letter that these brethren have only been marked and not withdrawn from, as the Lord commands us to do as per Rorn. 16:17."

That stumped us. We have always heard Romans 16:17 used as a verse not only authorizing but demanding a withdrawal of fellowship from those who are "marked." But wondering if we had missed the point of that passage all these years, we turned to it and read again:

"Now I beseech you brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them."

It seems plain enough. It is parallel to 2 Thess. 3:6,

"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." It is also in line with Titus 3:10, "A factious man after a first and second admonition refuse; knowing that such a one is perverted, and sinneth, being self condemned."

All three of these passages teach the same truth, and they all demand withdrawal of those within the limits of the description given. The very same verse in Romans (indeed, the same sentence!) which requires "marking" certain people requires also that they be "avoided." And that is withdrawal of fellowship. What right has any eldership to cut a verse of Scripture right in two, and declare that they are going to obey the first part of that verse, but are NOT going to obey the second half? Such a statement seems to us to be in defiance of God's express command, and would put a most serious question mark as to the ability and qualification of any man making it to serve as an elder in God's church. If the Caprock brethren are "heretics," teaching things "contrary to the doctrine," then they are to be withdrawn from, not merely "marked." The "marking" and the "avoiding" are joined by the copulative conjunction "and." You can't have one without the other. They go together. It is the same "and" which connects faith and baptism in Mark 16:16; it is the same "and" which connects repentance and baptism in Acts 2:38. All of which suggests that the trouble at College Avenue was probably not over doctrinal questions at all, but was simply one of those unfortunate and all too common situations in which a congregation loses confidence in the integrity and honor of an elder, and the elder refuses to step down from his position, but insists that he is going to remain and "rule" the congregation. Well, it never works. Sooner or later the situation will become intolerable, and the church will have trouble. We've seen it happen in many states and in scores of churches. A few years ago we attended a "preachers' dinner" in Memphis, Tennessee, and were seated near to Brother G. C. Brewer. He got to talking about his book "The Model Church," and remarked that after that book was circulated the most frequent question asked him relative to "the model church," was "How can a congregation remove an elder who is not qualified?" Brother Brewer said he didn't have the answer — at least, didn't have any answer as to how it could be done without causing trouble. After nearly thirty years of preaching the gospel, we confess to sharing his feeling of frustration and inadequacy.

The most usual course is the course followed in Lubbock: a considerable number of the most faithful and consecrated Christians, no longer willing to worship under such conditions, decide to start a new congregation. Almost invariably they want to go peacefully, without fuss or turmoil, and solicit and desire harmonious fellowship with the old congregation. And about three times out of four it can be worked out that way. But every so often the "ruling elder" is incensed at what he regards as "rebellion," and rushes into print, or by circular letter to all neighboring congregations, seeks to stigmatize the new congregation as a "faction." From the two statements submitted and printed in this issue, the Lubbock situation seems to fall pretty much into that pattern.

But is there no other way? Surely devout and godly men ought to be able to start a congregation without being "branded" and stigmatized as factionists! And particularly when everybody with any sense at all knows that such a "brand" cannot possibly be made to stick. The situation in Lubbock will almost certainly follow the same course that other such squabbles take: there will be a determined effort made to prejudice other congregations against the new church, false charges and vicious rumors will be spread — and then the whole mess will finally be resolved, and the churches will have the same full fellowship that all faithful churches have.