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church church history military

THE LAST LINK: FRANK BUCKLES

Neal Pollard

He died on February 27, 2011, having reached the age of 110 years and 26 days old. As author Richard Rubin set the perspective, if you go back 110 years from the day of his birth it was the year the United States ratified the Constitution (Last of the Doughboys, 439)! Video interviews abound for Mr. Buckles. As you watch them, you will be impressed with a dignified, articulate, meek, and thoughtful man. Though that generation is often a forgotten one and that war is often a forgotten one, they and their world really were the bridge from pre-industrial times to the modern world we enjoy today. It was the age of inventors, innovation, and intelligence. Memoirs, letters, and other correspondence from that war reveal highly literate, well-rounded men who could use their hands and their minds. The four million Americans, along with tens of millions of others from around the world who went to war, responded to the call to serve driven by valor, duty, and patriotism.  It is a fact that Veterans Day is observed on November 11, a holiday that began to commemorate the armistice that went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, signaling a cease fire for the Great War.

On August 14, 1917, here in Denver at Fort Logan army camp, Buckles was sworn into the U.S. Army. He was an ambulance driver. He went to France on the U.S.S. Carpethia, a ship sent to rescue the Titanic. Some of the officers and men who participated in that rescue were on the ship with Buckles, and they spoke freely with him about those events. He had a personal conversation with General John J. Pershing (via oral interview with Cadet Spilman Humphrey, VMI Archives Digital Collections).  Here is a man, an eager volunteer who had to repeatedly try to get accepted into the service (he was 15 years old when he began his quest and it took a year before he succeeded) in order to do his part.

We are intrigued, I think, by links to the past. They tell us a lot about who we are today. A fascinating aspect of history is that it is a living, ever-moving, and ever-changing thing. We are making history each day, a collective part of what will be tomorrow.  When I think about the Lord’s church, I cannot help but think in those terms.  I’ve listened to preachers who knew preachers who knew the likes of McGarvey, Lipscomb, Harding, and Lard. Those men would have been exposed to the work and even the lives of men like John Smith, Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone, and others like them, committed to returning to the worship and doctrine of the First-Century church.

When we look at the church itself, congregations now serving the Lord from coast to coast and in nations around the world often owe their establishment to those now long gone but whose sacrifice and service led to the opportunities we now enjoy.  In another sense, by studying and seeking to follow the New Testament, we are linked more purely to the work of apostles, prophets, and disciples who walked with Jesus, knew Him, and were influenced by Him. As we try to follow the pattern of teaching on those pages, we become a living link to sacred history.

Perhaps you still feel pretty spry and young, but in pursuing the ideal of restoring New Testament Christianity, you are linked to the valiant work of those whose dress, appearance, modes of transportation, means of communication, and language are very different from your own but whose desire is just like yours: Doing the Lord’s will the Lord’s way!  In the way that matters the most, we resemble and reflect them.  Let’s keep that link alive!

Categories
Bible church history doctrine

IF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST WILL TRULY BE UNDENOMINATIONAL

Neal Pollard

The Restoration Plea is valid, vital, and victorious!  It urges every believer in Christ to throw off the shackles of humanly-devised traditions and beliefs that undermine and contradict the sole, supreme authority of Christ.  Religious division has been spawned through time because of men’s preference for their own creeds and doctrines.  Reason and rationale becomes, “We’ve always done this” or “We prefer this” rather than “Thus saith the Lord!”  With human nature, we are often prone to see such faulty thinking in others while being blinded to our own potential guilt.  This happens to us individually and it certainly can happen to us collectively.  Painfully aware of my own limitations and shortcomings, may I offer some cautions to us out of a sincere love of Christ and His glorious bride?

If the church of Christ will truly be undenominational,

  • We must build our faith and beliefs from the “text out” rather than assert our beliefs and then find verses to support it.
  • We must avoid blind loyalty to any individual, congregation, school, work, and the like.
  • We must determine not to press our inclinations, preferences, judgments, and opinions to the extent that such divides brethren or becomes matters of fellowship.
  • We must strive to preach and practice “the whole counsel of God,” even in unpopular matters or those we may have neglected (church discipline, evangelism, marriage, divorce, and remarriage, moral purity, first-century-like benevolence, etc.).
  • We must be patient and loving within and towards congregations, be they Thessalonicas or Corinths.
  • We must avoid unconditionally venerating and idolizing men above the Lord.
  • We must repent of our intensely “in-reach” philosophy and rededicate ourselves to intense “outreach” in our communities.
  • We must avoid convenient silence in our pulpits and classrooms regarding New Testament distinctiveness and doctrine.
  • We must increase our faith in the absolute, unqualified Lordship of Jesus.

This list is inevitably incomplete and imperfect.  How could it not be, since it is put forward by one who is certainly both those things?  Yet, it is put forward to emphasize that there is an urgent need for us to continually examine our beliefs and practices making sure our allegiance is to the Christ and not men—however great and noble they seem to us.  Our Lord said, “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48).

Categories
church history

A Wonderful Legacy

Neal Pollard

It is a blessing to be in a family of preachers.  Though the men in my personal heritage have not necessarily been well-known to our entire brotherhood, their faithfulness and steadiness has proven exemplary to me.    Three uncles are or have been gospel preachers for several decades.  A cousin is a Bible professor in one of our Christian colleges.  His father was a preacher in the Atlanta area for many years.  My brother, brother-in-law, and father-in-law all preach.

My father, who has been preaching the gospel for 50 years, has started a program called “Carolina Outreach” to try and help struggling congregations in the Carolinas.  There are scores of congregations in both states doing all they can to keep open their doors.  Of course, like so many works, he is in great need of financial help to aid his ability to do this (the work is overseen by the North Charleston congregation in Charleston, South Carolina).

What is ironic in the most wonderful way is that my dad is standing on the shoulders of another man in our family.  My great-grandfather, Gilbert F. Gibbs, worked with T.H. Burton to establish the “first congregation of present churches of Christ in South Carolina” and “directly or indirectly had part in most now there” (from a tract published about him in Lawrenceburg, TN, in 1970).  A 1918 graduate of David Lipscomb, Grandpa Gibbs went to Union, South Carolina, with brother Burton to establish the work there.  In 1921, they went and held a tent meeting in Greenville and planted the church there.  In both cases, Christians converted in other places moved to South Carolina and found that the church was not in existence in their communities.  Grandpa Gibbs did local work in Tennessee and Indiana and did foreign missions in Canada, Puerto Rico, St. Croix and on the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa.  But perhaps his greatest evangelistic legacy may have been in the Carolinas throughout most of the 1920s.

We don’t think of the Carolinas as a mission field, but it is certainly not part of the Bible belt as we think of it.  The need continues to be great to evangelize and edify the church of this part of the world.  I can think of no one more capable than my dad.  We do not have very many wealthy or famous relatives, but I could not want a better family legacy than I have.  Please pray for “Carolina Outreach” and help if you can!