Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 16, 1955

Things To Watch In The Years Ahead

Writing under the above caption, Brother Athens Clay Pullias, president of David Lipscomb College, has presented a thought provoking article which is worthy of serious attention. We are inclined to agree almost in toto with his prognosis of what the future holds as it relates to the probable development of "worldly-mindedness" in the church. For all that Pullias sets forth is rooted and grounded in the soil of worldliness. Particularly is this apparent in the huge rallies and promotional schemes to "make a showing" to the world — whether it be by advertising a congregation as "the biggest Church of Christ in the world," or the "biggest Sunday School attendance in any Church of Christ," or a national radio program, or an appeal to vanity in boasting of "our" institutions, programs of work, etc. But here is Pullias' article as it appeared in the Gospel Digest:

There are always two general dangers confronting the church. On the one hand, there are the so-called liberals who would trim their spiritual sails to fit the breezes that blow. On the other hand, there are the radicals and the extremists who make a thousand matters of judgment tests of fellowship. Both of these forces must be courageously resisted while the loyal body of Christ marches forward down the road of truth and right. Here are some of the specific dangers that should be watched in the years ahead:

1. A decreasing emphasis on "thus saith the Lord." It seems to me that Bible reading has gradually decreased in the public worship services in my memory, and preachers quote less from the scriptures and make more and more observations unsupported by God's word.

2. An increasing spirit of materialism and secularism. Perhaps this is the greatest danger of our age. Never was there a time when physical comfort and conveniences meant quite so much in the thinking of people. The concept of sacrifice and hardship as a means to salvation has largely been lost.

3. An increasing ecclesiasticism or institutionalism. Christ is the universal head of the church, and God has ordained that the local congregation shall be overseen by elders. This is God's plan. The New Testament makes no provision for any brotherhood regulators or spiritual umpires to oversee the congregations. Any individual or group attempting to exercise such control is in essence a denominational board, whatever you call it and whatever it calls itself.

4. The substitution of plans, programs, and promotional machinery for the teaching of God's word. Extraordinary effort to increase attendance is good, provided those who attend are really taught the word of God.

5. The development of the party spirit. Unity in the brotherhood will be the product of loyalty to Christ. When loyalty to any man, school, paper, or group is placed above loyalty to Christ, or alongside of it, there will be the party spirit and consequent division.

6. An unequal emphasis on New Testament truth. There should be serious soul-searching on the part of us all as to whether we have declared unto the people "the whole counsel of God" with equal emphasis.

7. An increasing number of half-converted and untaught members of the church. As the church grows stronger in number it could grow weaker in faith unless strong measures are taken to "teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." There is no greater danger to the church than an untaught membership. Such a membership is a fertile field for either the modernist or the radical.

8. A failure to plead for unity in Christ on the word of God. It is very easy to transfer our loyalty from Christ and his word to the brotherhood as a group of people. Let's love the church not as a denomination, but as the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus.

9. A failure to be Christ like in daily life — a failure to put on the Lord. The acid test for any one of us lies in the extent to which we become Christ like in our lives. When members of the church are no purer morally; no more honest; no more upright; and generally no better than the people of the world, we have manifestly failed to put on Christ.

10. A growing spirit of self-righteousness. Jesus saith: "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:20.) The Master put his finger squarely upon the problem of the scribes and Pharisees: "Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law: judgment, mercy, and faith. These ought ye to have done and not to leave the other undone." (Matthew 23:23.) It is very easy for members of the church to become smugly satisfied with something less than the whole counsel of God. Jesus never condemned anything quite so severely as the half righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.

These are some of the dangers that appear to me to confront the church as we approach what will probably be the period of greatest expansion and growth since the days of the apostles. There is no unusual reason for alarm; there is only the usual requirement for thoughtful consideration of the mistakes that could be made and the tendencies in those directions. In spite of these dangers, I am convinced that the future of the New Testament church is brighter than it has been at any time since the days of inspired men.