Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 30, 1955

The Tail

John D. Barnes, Atlanta, Georgia

In Deuteronomy 28:43-44, we read these words: "The sojourner that is in the midst of thee shall mount up above thee higher and higher; and thou shalt come down lower and lower. He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail." While it is true, these words were spoken to ancient Israel, they are wonderfully applicable to us today. These words set forth the condition of Israel after her disobedience to God. They entangled themselves with the nations around them, and it became impossible for them to obey God's marching orders. They became the smallest of nations, and were finally destroyed as such.

In the church of the living God today, similar conditions exist. The marching orders today are: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation..." (Mark16:15.) Just as God's orders to Israel were plain, simple, and understandable, so are His orders to His people today. But as Israel encumbered themselves with the burdens of the world, so we today are enmeshed with "man-made" orders (opinions). For instance, we have a certain amount of money to spend, and know places to spend it, but there are certain opinions that must be complied with, and unless they are done "our" way we cannot do it. Some other brethren say that we cannot do it "our" way, and proceed, with the greatest of noise, and attraction to themselves that can possibly be attained, to prove (?) why it cannot be done "our" way. All of this, of course, without the Bible. In the meantime, the denominations go into said place, spend their money, establish their cause while our brethren are still proving (?) why it cannot be done that way.

It is next to impossible to go into a new field without finding churches of every denominational creed in existence already firmly established. The churches of Christ are laughed at, and spoken lightly of. In some places where I go to preach, I find people who would be Christians if they knew how — but while my brethren and I are deciding the proper way it should be done — they are led into religious error.

These same brethren, who are fighting so loyally (?) to uphold "our" opinion, will stand in the pulpit on Lord's day morning and boastfully quote the words of Peter: "If any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles of God" (I Peter 4:11), and say we are standing where the apostles stood. Then say too, we are standing where the pioneers stood, speaking where the scriptures speak, silent where they are silent.

While the denominations are growing by leaps and bounds, the church of Christ is unknown in many places. In a certain town in eastern Pennsylvania, this writer was accused of bringing some strange religion from the south into our peaceful community, and splitting the Bible wide-open. Who is responsible for conditions like this? Brethren, if, and I repeat if, the gospel of Christ is ever preached to every creation under heaven, the churches of Christ must do it. It is a known fact that the denominational churches will not do it.

Not too long ago, in southern Illinois, I tried to rent, or buy, a tent from a Congregational Christian preacher; tried to rent a building from the Methodist people; tried to get permission to put a brush arbor on the property of a man that was a member of the First Christian Church. All of these efforts, needless to say, resulted in failure. Had we heeded the marching orders of the "Captain of our salvation" these things would not so be. They would be borrowing from us, but as it is we are trying to borrow from them.

One of the greatest obstacles I encounter when I go into a new field of labor comes from my own brethren. I am greeted with words like these: Don't call names; Preach the gospel without bitterness; Don't hurt the feelings of the people. In other words, preach the gospel but leave others alone. Consequently, my brethren are few in number, weak in the faith, and are not able, to say nothing of being willing, to preach the gospel, even in their own city. Their weakly pulings [sic] are not even heard across the street. And yet the preacher is to blame for not building up the church. It's not prominence, or how much am I to get out of it, that we need, but a knowledge of God's word, a courage to preach it, and a love for lost souls.

Paul said in I Timothy 3:14-15, "These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly; but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." Timothy had traveled extensively with Paul, and had certainly learned many things from him; yet Paul thought it necessary to write to him that he might know how men ought to behave themselves in the CHURCH. Therefore it must be important today to teach men how to do and what to do in the CHURCH, and not in some institution or organization of man. You have never read in the New Testament, and you never will, where a ladies aid, missionary society, nation-wide radio program, or an orphan home, is or was the pillar and ground of the truth.

The church in Antioch, Syria is the first church that we have any record of sending out missionaries. In Acts 13:2, we read, "And as they ministered to the Lord, and fasted. the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." They traveled through the Isle of Cyprus, then up through Asia Minor, establishing churches in Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. When Paul and Barnabas returned from this first journey, they gathered the CHURCH together, and rehearsed their work to the CHURCH. The CHURCH was the only institution that received any recognition for this work. There were no radio programs, central collecting agencies, no board of directors nor brotherhood classes. The CHURCH did the work and the CHURCH got the credit. To use, or recognize any other institution or organization on earth to carry out God's eternal purpose, is to oppose God's wisdom.

But how is this support to come? We will let Paul tell us. In I Corinthians 16:1-2, we read, "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come." This was an order from Paul to every member of the church at Corinth and Galatia, "with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place." It was an individual responsibility. No pie suppers, bingo games, taffy pulls, nor form letters circulated among the brotherhood demanding a contribution, and, for failing to contribute, to be branded as some kind of an cite.'

The church today is not doing the work of the church either because the members are too stingy to support the church, or because each member seeks publicity. From the reports of the collection in many congregations, it looks like something is needed to help raise money. The pocket book is the most sensitive nerve in the religious anatomy, or rather the nerve that controls the pocket book, and to talk to some members about giving to support the cause for which Christ died is a shock to said nerve, and if it isn't checked, it will result in creeping paralysis of our religious activities. If we all contributed as we have been prospered, the gospel could soon be "preached in all creation under heaven" as it was in Paul's day, the poor in the church could be cared for, and congregations could have decent houses in which to worship. May God speed the day when we all come to respect his teaching in the matter of giving, as well as all other matters.

Paul did not order the churches in Galatia to send their collection to the 'Central' church in Corinth, to be handled for them, neither did he instruct the church at Corinth to send their collection to the "Wayside" church in Galatia, to be used and handled for them, but it was to be kept there at Corinth, and Galatia, and at the other congregations, when Paul came for it.

I will conclude this piece with these words of Paul, "Wherefore he saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon thee. Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." (Eph. 5:14-17.)

Brethren, when we become satisfied to do the work of the church God's way, we will no longer be the tail, but we shall mount up above higher and higher, and denominationalism will come down lower, and lower, and we shall be the head, and they the tail.