The Scourge of Sideline Soldiers

Jerry C. Brewer

When America entered World War Two, the government commissioned Frank Capra to produce a series of films, explaining our involvement in that war. Capra’s monumental series entitled “Why We Fight,” explained the atrocities of German, Italian and Japanese fascism against helpless millions in Europe and Asia. Designed to stir Americans to battle on the front lines, in factories and farms, the films portrayed every American as a soldier in that great conflict and helped produce a national unity unlike any this nation has ever witnessed. Few dared—or desired—to be sideline soldiers.

When the giants of the Restoration Movement sought God’s truth, bestirred themselves, donned the panoply of God, unsheathed the sword of the Spirit and stood as a mighty phalanx against unrighteousness, they produced a unity little known since the apostles walked the earth. Faithful soldiers of the cross who enlisted through obedience to the Gospel were mighty in pulling down the strongholds of Satan. No quarter was given to the soul-damning errors of denominationalism and there were no draftees in Christ’s army.

Having abandoned that mission in our generation, the church has become an army of “peacekeepers” instead of warriors and finds itself in the throes of apostasy. With diplomatic missions shuttling down to Ono on a regular schedule, its army in disarray, deserters striking hands with emissaries of Satan, a compromising spirit pervading it, and a desire to be like the nations about it, the church has all but abandoned the conflict. Strewn across scorched fields of battle are bits of armor and the weapon of truth while a remnant fights on against the enemy of God.

But high above the “mournful mutter of the battlefield,” safely ensconced in observation posts where they collect their weekly hire, are the sideline soldiers. Knowing the truth, they won’t defend it lest they lose that hire on which they depend for earthly comfort in retirement years. Determined to hold the line against financial deprivation instead of sin, they’ve sold their souls for a mess of pottage and, unlike Uriah, they desire comforts of hearth and home while comrades bear the heat of battle. A festering scourge on the body of Christ, sideline soldiers are reminiscent of the old prophet of Bethel who admired the work of the young prophet, but hadn’t the stomach to share his conflict (1 Kings 13). It isn’t enough to know and possess the truth. One must have the spiritual backbone to stand for it.

While many of them wouldn’t think of preaching error, sideline soldiers often criticize those who stand in the breach—a criticism generally couched in their misapplication of Matthew 18:15-17—thereby lending aid and comfort to the enemy. It was that kind of critic of whom Foy E. Wallace, Jr. wrote 84 years ago:

There is no place in defense lines of the truth for time-servers. We need men who know where they stand and who will not lend comfort to the enemy. We need men who will do some of the fighting themselves instead of occupying an observation post to observe who is and who is not fighting in just the manner that he likes… (“The Personalities Left Out,” The Gospel Guardian, Vol. 2, No. 1, Jan., 1936, p.24).

When Joe Beam brought his Holy Spirit heresies to Weatherford, Oklahoma in 1997, he was marked as a false teacher in a letter written to area churches—including the Weatherford membership—by Kendall Abner and myself. When we asked other western Oklahoma preachers at a monthly study session to sign with us, only one out of about a dozen was willing to affix his name to it. Another signed the letter, but telephoned the next morning, asking to have his name removed because some members where he preached “had children in the Weatherford church.” Another preacher offered money to help with postage but asked that his name not be used. These men aren’t heretics. They wouldn’t knowingly preach error, but they are sideline soldiers basking in the comforts of safety while their brethren endure hardships as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Forgetting or refusing to acknowledge why we fight, they, like all sideline soldiers, are a treacherous scourge to Christ’s cause (Matt. 12:30). (Editor’s Note: This article was written in 1998).

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