George E. Darling, Sr.
A few years ago the churches of Christ had the reputation of being the “fastest growing religious body in America!” Today we are told by those who study such matters that this is no longer true. In fact, we are told by these statisticians that we are nearing the point of “zero growth.” Not only from a lack of baptisms but also the tremendous loss of those who are falling away.
Brethren, doesn’t this seem a bit strange? Every time you pick up one of “our” Gospel papers you read of the great workshops, seminars, retreats, training programs, lectureships, forums, enrichment series, etc., etc … each one of them preparing for the attendance of thousands of Soul Winners and Personal Workers … and thousands do attend! They hear lessons that stir their enthusiasm, but as a preacher said, “What happens after the shouting and high enthusiasm is gone? How many souls are being won?
Old brother J.D. Tant used to say, “Brethren, we are drifting.” I wonder what he would say today if he could see all the gimmicks and clap-trap methods that are being used by some of my brethren under the guise of “Evangelism.”
We have brought up a generation of church members that are ignorant of and unconcerned about the distinctive doctrine and practice of the New Testament church. We ridiculed the preachers who preached faith—repentance—confession—baptism, and started telling people to “accept Jesus as their personal Savior.” Today we have many who claim membership in the Lord’s body that cannot tell you what they did in order to be saved! (If you doubt it—hand out paper and pencils and ask them to write down the gospel plan of salvation. See how many blanks you get back.) We became tired of hearing about “the one church.” We started talking about our denominational “friends”—our “Baptist neighbor” and our “Methodist brethren.” Now we have gone so far that at least one has “joined” the Ministerial Association and another is teaching in denominational “Growth Seminars.”
In many places we are having serious trouble with men who once proclaimed the truth but are today proclaiming error. Some of us try to follow the scriptures and “mark them,” but others continue to lend their full endorsement and financial support, and on, and on, and on…
What brought all this about? believe the principle thing is that we failed “feed the flock” on proper food. We fed them on a constant diet of love, enthusiasm, tolerance, fellowship, working, etc., etc., but we allowed them to literally starve spiritually, concerning the New Testament distinction between truth and error, between the Lord’s church and denominationalism.
When distinction between truth and error vanishes from the teaching, it will not be long until that distinction is lost in practice. There can be no doubt that teaching, in some places has already lost its distinctiveness, and in those places, distinctiveness in practice is already dying. Only the dedicated diligence and constant vigilance of faithful Christians can keep the church faithful to the Lord.
EDITOR’S NOTE: What brother Darling wrote as far back as 1979, was the blossom of apostasy, manifested in Bible ignorance. Kerry Sword found even more Biblical ignorance, after returning from The Ukraine after 25 years. The Sword family made a search for a sound church with which to work and worship, opting for one near FHU. It was not long until they regretted their choice:
“Since our return to the US in 2017 after working on the mission field of Ukraine for 25 years, we visited numerous congregations here looking for where we might work and serve the kingdom. The preaching and teaching we heard from the pulpit was sickening and a very watered down message. Many “grandpa stories” and anecdotes made up a good portion of the “lessons”…We landed at the Plainview church of Christ, a small struggling congregation about seven minutes from FHU as we thought we could help there and make a difference. It wasn’t long before I was asked to teach class. Not knowing where the congregation was at in knowledge, I decided to give a test to find out what they knew and did not know, thereby knowing where to begin and how to tailor my future lessons. For being in the “Bible Belt” the results of the survey test were shocking to me. This was the Wednesday night Adult Bible class, (the cream of the crop), (Emph. Ed.) in a “Christian University” community and yet you can see for yourself why the church is in trouble.
62% could not name all of the acts of worship (that they are involved in every Lord’s Day).
45% believe that culture dictates the standard for modest dress and not the Bible.
62% believe that truth is subjective.
45% believe that a person can be saved outside of the Lord’s church.
38% believe that God still works through miracles today.
34% believe that Christians can worship on the Sabbath Day.
28% believe that people are bound by the 10 Commandment laws today.
50% believe it’s acceptable for the church to support a Missionary Society.
72% could not say where the Great Commission is found.
38% believe it’s acceptable to raise money for the Lord’s work by bake sales, raffles, or similar events.
45% cannot say what book and chapter records the establishment of the church.
28% cannot name the plan of salvation.
72% cannot name a Bible verse which prohibits instruments of music in worship.
72% believe it’s acceptable to use singing groups, solos, choirs, or praise teams in worship.
45% believe it’s acceptable to participate in joint spiritual activities with denominations.
45% believe if an unbeliever divorces a Christian spouse, the believer has the right to remarry.
55% believe there’s no universal code of ethics, but culture dictates a nation’s moral practices.
66% believe that all things in a Christian’s life are considered as “worship.”
(Email message from Kerry Sword, Sept. 4, 2020).