Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 28, 1957

Christians By Mistake

Dudley Ross Spears, Cookeville, Tennessee

Two drunks boarded a crowded street-car and were confronted by a stately looking gentleman in a dark-blue uniform. When the two made an effort to give him their fare, he kindly informed them that he was a captain in the United States Navy and could not take their money. One looked at the other with much amazement and fear and quickly exclaimed, "Pete, hurry and get off this thing, we're on a battleship!"

Many people in fellowship as members of the church of Christ today are like the two drunks. They made a mistake or got into the church by a mistake. They weren't influenced by alcoholic fluids to act, but the influence which caused them to "join" (their usual terminology) the church is as deluding to them as liquor was to Pete and his buddy. It seems that the influence is produced by brethren who, in an effort to have the largest attendance ever, and the biggest membership in the town, substitute the plan of popularity for the plan of redemption. Some members of the church today have been deluded into thinking of the church of Christ as the "biggest, bestest, and mostest right of any denomination in existence." This is the influence pushed on them that caused their decision. It's the same old "band-wagon" technique which says, "Come join us folks, we're really going places in a hurry and in a great-big way." The same influence has caused a hard-working farmer to pay a dollar-ninety-eight for a "genuine" panacea sold by a traveling medicine man which isn't worth more than a quart of creek-water.

Preachers have been pumping the public so full of the hot air of pride in large buildings, dazzling campaigns, and speakers who, "don't have to talk about the Bible all the time and who use the best grammar and pronunciation," that conversion is not to Christ, but to large buildings, dazzling campaigns, and eloquent speakers.

Once in a while, an effort to "excuse" this will be made by some who tell us, "don't be afraid of big things." We are not, provided that the bigness is in the heart of convicted Christians and not under the hat-brim of some glorified promoter. Again, some have even called Paul a "promoter." Paul was the greatest promoter of Christ the world has ever seen or ever will see, but where in his life and travels do we learn that he ever took a "barnstorming" tour in behalf of a "million for Macedonia" campaign? How many times do we hear Paul praising or "dedicating" gigantic edifices of magnificence in which people pretend to worship? I can't recall in any of his writings his inviting people into the "fellowship hall" for "recreation" or any thing of the sort. Many of the promoters of today could have advised Paul that the way to win the Athenians to Christ is to establish a "bread-line" and an "orphan home" and put up a nice building so that they won't think of us as a bunch like the Jehovah's Witnesses. Thus the difference in Paul's promotions and those of today is that Paul promoted Christianity by sacrifice and service and promotions today are promoting "churchianity" by pride and popularity.

"Christians by mistake" think that when "men speak well of you," we've reached the zenith of success in the mission of the church. This is directly opposite to the teachings of Christ. (See Luke 6:26). Articulate and precise pronunciation, thrilling and witty stories that touch the heart of the audience, and a good knowledge of world news has substituted for preaching that convicts sinners, tells them their duty, and straightly charges them with the consequence of disobedience to the will of Almighty God. Rather than shake them from their indifference into a true recognition of value and duty, we should smile as we shake their hand at the end of a mild, heard-warming discourse. The attitude provoking such preaching and "pastoring" breeds indifferentism, casual Christianity, and digression.

Christianity produced by Godly fear, conviction of heart, and an attitude of sacrifice is the only thing that strengthens the church. Real Christianity is the only thing in his life that has any importance to it at all. It is the only life to live worth any effort. Substitutes for it are vain, void and meaningless. A person who is interested in the church because of the nice building (which incidentally contains all the things that the Presbyterians have — except the baptismal font and organ which "our pastor" says is wrong) and because of the prestige of the preacher, is one who has not been converted to Christ. To be converted is to be turned about. Forsaking all that formerly allured me, when converted, I'm now only allured by Christ — His word — His grace. Turning people to the Lord is the most important work in the world. It cannot be done by deluding folk into thinking that Christianity is that which is pleasing to the eye, satisfying to the flesh, and peaceable toward the world.

An aged Methodist preacher was conversing with a member of the church concerning building up the membership in the church and he remarked, "You cannot convert people to hamburgers and cokes and expect them to remain converted when you run out of hamburgers and cokes." He spoke from experience. When people are not converted by their own desire to obtain mercy at the hands of a merciful God, anxious to serve as laborers in the Master's vineyard, and truly dedicated to the cause that will reach Heaven as an ultimate reward, they are not converted. They "joined" the church. They merely became (by mistake) a part of that "biggest, bestest, mostest right denomination in existence today." They got on the right street-car, but due to the camouflage placed on it by over-zealous promoters, they will finally see that they really have traveled nowhere. It was just a mistake in the first place.

What is the remedy? Preaching that is characteristic of the heroes of old, who stepped from the muck of error up to the rock of Ages to "walk by faith." Renouncing all human law and opinion and preaching the faith that produces Christians should be the aim of every child of God. Christians made by the preached gospel of Christ are not mistakes.