A Simple Way To Identify The Church Jesus Started 

A Simple Way To Identify The Church Jesus Started 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

There are just too many voices in the world today muddying the waters when it comes to 21st century Christianity. In fact the term, “Christianity,” doesn’t mean much the average person. In fact, the average person will most likely have several friends who carry this title and they know based on their morals— they’re not really different. Sadly it’s a description that doesn’t describe much, other than an individual that believes in God. That’s really it! This word has been tragically stripped of what we understand to be the most rewarding life you could possibly live. There’s simply no higher calling, there is no greater purpose in life, and you just can’t beat the retirement plan. 

Now let’s do something to help the seeking world out. 

Let’s make it our priority to understand the church in such a way that we can simplify her mission and her origin. 

Here are two terms that will help:

  1. The term “restoration” may sound similar to “reformation”, but the two terms could not be more contrary to each other. Restoration is an attempt to return the church to the pattern we find in the New Testament, while reformation is a changing of what currently exists. It’s a modification or addition which creates something new entirely. The Old Testament is filled with the pleas of the prophets for the people to restore their relationships with God. 

    2.  The definition of the word “denomination” is evidence that restoration is not only possible, but needed. Denomination, in the religious world, describes a branch off of an  original. Any branch coming off of the New Testament church, is simply not it. 

Five Facts About The Lord’s Church 

  1. The New Testament church was established by Jesus, not Luther, Henry the 8th, Calvin, Smith, or Wesley
  2. The New Testament church was established in Jerusalem, not Oxford, London, or Amsterdam
  3. In New Testament times people were told to believe in Jesus, repent of their sins,  be baptized by a total immersion of water, and to live faithfully (Acts 2:38, 16:30-31, 2:16, Mark 16:15-16; Romans 6:1-4; Revelation 2:10) 
  4. Christians in the New Testament met on the first day of the week to partake in the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7)
  5. The New Testament church was a united church, while denominationalism is, by its very nature, divided. 

If the church you are a part of can say the same, you can be confident that it is the church that Jesus established. If this is not what the church you are a part of teaches and practices, then perhaps this will be some information that will help you begin a life-changing search to find God’s will for your life. 

 
Coming Together, Coming Apart

Coming Together, Coming Apart

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Last Saturday, John Moore and I traveled a couple of hours over to Lexington, Kentucky, to see several places associated with the “Restoration Movement.” This restoration effort, coming at a time of spiritual awakening where people were rethinking their approach to the Bible as well as questioning religious teaching, led to independent movements of people who concluded it was not only possible but necessary to go back to the Bible for everything they taught and believed. Rejecting religious creeds, disciplines, and manuals, they sought to do Bible things in Bible ways, speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where it was silent. While we should not revere or unduly exalt the people who led this effort, neither should we abandon their work. We should imitate their spirit of letting the Bible, not human tradition, be our sole rule and guide.

Two independent movements, most associated with Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell, began to conclude that they were of the same mind and judgment in desiring to get back to simple, New Testament Christianity. They met in 1832 in downtown Lexington on Hill Street. John and I stood at this very spot, now a parking lot for a major bank.

Untold numbers of people from the northern and mid-Atlantic United States to the southern and, at the time, western United States obeyed the simple New Testament message they and others preached. They established colleges, held lengthy evangelistic meetings to preach the gospel, had religious discussions and debates, began journals and periodicals, wrote books, and shared the gospel with their neighbors, family, and friends. More and more were leaving religious division to simply be New Testament Christians. 

John and I went from that place where great hope and renewal occurred just a few minutes north up to a little community called Midway. It is a quaint little town, with antique shops, trains, and a beautiful little college named for the town. We first went to a church building, built on the site of another building where in 1860 the well-meaning group of saints there, to aid what in their view was atrocious singing, accompanied their singing with a piano-like instrument known as a melodeon. The practice of adding mechanical instruments of music would spread to congregations throughout the state and ultimately out to the Lord’s church all over the country. Something lacking the authority and approval of Christ, but meeting with the tastes and preferences of men, was introduced and disrupted the unity and harmony of God’s people. It would take years to form a wedge wide enough to cause systemic division and disunity, but it happened alarmingly fast. 

Throughout history, the precious attribute of unity (Psa. 133:1) has required great effort to achieve and has proven difficult to maintain (1 Kings 12:1ff). However, God commands it (1 Cor. 1:10; Rom. 12:16; Phil. 1:27). He is pleased when we pursue and preserve it, so how does He view when we viciously sever, undermine, and destroy it? History is a great teacher, if we allow it to be. May we have hearts desiring nothing else than God’s Word as the foundation of our teaching and lives, and pursue that with a spirit of harmony and oneness which permeated the church at its very beginning! 

Still Restoring

Still Restoring

Neal Pollard

The idea of restoring New Testament Christianity is “that God set forth His standard of acceptance in salvation, worship, church organization and daily living” and “to follow the teachings of God, revealed in the New Testament, to direct our lives in the same way as He did first century Christians” (therestorationmovement.com/about.htm). We can open our Bibles and find a pattern for what the New Testament church is to look like, not in customs and culture, but in commands and cause. Yet, a tendency we must guard against is a haughty spirit that portrays the idea that we have already arrived. Consider four areas where we need to keep at the restoration plea and overcome neglect.

  • CHURCH DISCIPLINE. For years, I have seen this referred to as “the forgotten commandment.” At times, people will say of it things like “it doesn’t work,” “it’s harmful,” “it runs people away,” etc. Were we to substitute that argumentation for subjects like women’s role, worship, or baptism, wouldn’t we cry heresy or apostasy? However, in far too many instances, we have simply ignored and failed to practice this plain, New Testament teaching (Mat. 18:15-17; Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 5; 2 Thes. 3; Ti. 3:10-11).
  • EVANGELISM. It is so much easier to focus upon ourselves, to devote all our resources to internal issues.  Is there a spirit of evangelistic zeal running rampant among us? Is this an area to restore, to be like the early church? Perhaps we may be intimidated by the culture of political correctness. It could be the risk of ruining relationships or even rejection that causes us to avoid efforts at soul-winning. It could even be that we need to build our conviction for or commitment to this imperative given by the resurrected Savior Himself (Mat. 28:18-20;Mark 16:15-16;  Luke 24:44-47).
  • CHURCH ORGANIZATION. It is very likely that the number of churches of Christ which have elders are in the minority. At times, the reality of a shortage of qualified men is to blame. At other times, preachers or others prefer not to have elders. But, even where churches are “scripturally organized” (i.e., having elders and deacons), there is room for restoration— Preachers preaching and evangelizing, elders leading and shepherding (pastoring), and deacons actively carrying out  and administrating the ministries and works of the local church.  At times, there is a need to restore the roles of each of these works so that the proper, appointed men are doing the work Scripture outlines for them.
  • BROTHERLY LOVE. This is difficult, in a world increasingly characterized by hate, discord, and general worldliness. In our culture, where it’s easy to become disconnected with others—even our Christian family—we must strive to restore the beacon and central identification mark Jesus urged when He said, “ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Isn’t there room for more concentration upon this command, which will be reflected in how we treat each other locally and in the brotherhood as a whole (1 Pet. 2:17)?

I love to spend as much time as possible talking about what the church is doing right. It is doing so much right. By following the New Testament pattern regarding salvation, worship, the church’s purpose, and the like, we stand out in a religious world that has lost its way. Meanwhile, however, let us stay at the business of restoring the church to the pattern revealed in Scripture, even in areas that are more difficult and demanding though just as necessary.

Making sparks

A LINK TO HISTORY

A LINK TO HISTORY

Neal Pollard

He was named after a World War I general, born in Los Angeles in 1918 just after the American doughboys went “over there.”  There are four men who played Major League Baseball older than Robert Pershing (“Bobby”) Doerr (Mike Sandlock in 99, Eddie Carnett and Alex Monchak are 98, and Carl Miles in 16 days older than Bobby), but his Major League debut was the earliest.  Unlike anybody else among the top 15 oldest living baseball players, Doerr was an everyday player who achieved some notoriety. He’s the oldest living player who is in the Hall of Fame.  But, making his debut in 1937, Doerr is a part of these interesting facts.  He played against Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Mel Ott, Hank Greenburg, Schoolboy Rowe, Lloyd and Paul Waner, and Pie Traynor, as well as many other all-time greats.  Jimmy Foxx and Lefty Grove were teammates. Lefty pitched to Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Tris Speaker. In 1925, his rookie season, Grove sat across the dugout from Jimmy Austin (age 46), Oscar Stanage (age 42) and Chief Bender (age 41). Sitting in his dugout, though, was Jack Quinn (age 42), who was a teammate of Austin’s on the 1909 New York Highlanders, a team that also included Willie Keeler and Jack Chesbro. We could keep going, but we’ll stop there. Doerr, a man still in his right mind, could tell you all about Lefty Grove and heard who knows how many stories Grove told about players who played in the 1800s, connections to the earliest days of baseball.  Doerr is a link to history (info via baseball-reference.com).

How many have pointed out the interesting facts from the Genesis genealogies, where it is possible that Noah’s grandfather, Methusaleh, may have known Adam?  They were most certainly contemporaries, and that covers a span of 1656 years (https://answersingenesis.org/bible-timeline/timeline-for-the-flood/).  Noah and Seth, Adam’s third son, would have been alive together for 34 years before Seth’s death. To appreciate how incredible that is, consider that 1656 years ago was the year 359 A.D., 4 years before Constantine’s grandson, Julian the Apostate, becomes Roman emperor (http://www.fsmitha.com/time/ce04.htm).

It would not take a lot of digging around in our congregations to find individuals who provide us a link to church history.  Consider Bear Valley for a moment. Johnson Kell had Hugo McCord stay in his home one summer several decades ago, the two even going on a long run together.  Converted as a soldier during World War II, Johnson would have been in the church when great preachers like Marshall Keeble, N.B. Hardeman, and others were helping the church grow so much.  Harry Denewiler grew up in the church, and at nearly 90, could have been in the assemblies when great preachers of the 1920s were filling the pulpits of the midwest.  Two of our members, Jean Wilmington and Maurya Fulkerson, were baptized by Rue Porter when they were school-age girls. No doubt others have recollections of the church that reach back to the 1920s and 1930s, like Neva Morgan, Carolyn Barber, the Brennans, and others. Many conversations I had some years ago with Rooksby and Bea Stigers centered around their recollections of those who spoke of the establishment of the church in the Denver area.

As a lover of history, I am thrilled in my soul to think that we are linked to great men and women of God who helped start and build up the Lord’s church.  When I was seven years old, my family and I visited in the home of Zana Michael, a then 100-year-old sister in Christ who was a member where dad was preaching in Barrackville, West Virginia.  She was four years old when the church there was established. Some of the great preachers of the 19th Century traversed the bergs and valleys around Barrackville and sister Michael heard several of them. We got to hear her, regaled by her clear recollections, and linked through her to such wonderful history.

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Zana Michael is the lady in the middle

Isn’t it thrilling to think of ourselves as being surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1), sometimes getting to hear from those who heard from those who take us further back in time toward the beginning of the church?  This afternoon, as Carl and I sit and watch the Rockies and Cardinals lock horns on the baseball diamond, we’ll get another chance to join the historical continuum of a grand old game. Every Lord’s Day, as we engage together in worship to God, we join in the grandest historical continuum of all, linked ultimately to Peter, Paul, John, and the rest. Until we exult in heaven some day, what could exceed that thrill?