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! 

SNAPSHOTS

SNAPSHOTS

Neal Pollard

During our recent move from Colorado to Kentucky, I sifted through several boxes and shelves and found paper and digital photographs all the way from Kathy’s and my childhood to our sons when they were small. It’s incredible to witness the dramatic transformation they reveal. We’re still taking pictures, which will be snapshots we look back on in years to come.

As I try to get to know the Lehman Avenue congregation better, I have been given recent church directories. Did you know that we have directories going back to 1955? That one has no photographs in it. The first one that does have photos is from 1978. There are not many in that directory who still worship here today, though you will see entries with the last names Bruner, Daniel, Dickerson, Dunning, Ennis, Gilbert, Hunt, Nicks, Phelps, Raymer, Tabor, and no doubt others including those who may have a different last name today. Do you think the 1978 picture looks like the 2019 person? There are resemblances, but also changes. 

That 1955 directory does give a snapshot of a different kind. In the forward is written the following: 

“The purpose of this directory is three-fold: To give a brief history of the beginning, development and progress of the Lord’s church in Bowling Green; to perpetuate a list of charter members forming the Lehman Avenue congregation; and to better quaint the members of this local congregation with one another, in order that we may work together in the best way possible.” 

I appreciate that the compilers of this directory went to the trouble to trace the history of the church’s establishment in Bowling Green. Eugenia Hayes’ research is included in this first edition. She says that Stone and the Campbells were here, helping to establish the church. The first congregation established here was in the mid-1840s, with six members meeting each Lord’s Day and eventually meeting in a house build on a property on College Street. When threatened by digression in the late 1800s, the church here was aided by such men as M.C. Kurfees from Louisville, Daniel Sommer from Indianapolis, and James Harding from Nashville. A building was built on Twelfth Street in 1899, and Lehman was established from this congregation in 1955. Roy J. Hearn was the first preacher. 

From these “newborn” and “infant” photographs, we can trace our “development and progress.” More “snapshots” are being made constantly, and not just those which show up in the latest directories or on social media. In encouraging Timothy to embrace his ministry and gifts, Paul urged, “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to the teaching…” (1 Tim. 4:15-16a). “Take pains” means to improve by care or study, practice, cultivate…” (BDAG 627). “Be absorbed” is better translated “be in them” but conveys the idea of being involved in or devoted to (BDAG 284).”Progress” means “to change one’s state for the better by advancing and making progress” (Louw-Nida 154). “Pay close attention” means “to be mindful or especially observant” (BDAG 362). Put it all together. Improve, involve, and observe yourself in order to make progress. 

When we sit for family portraits, we normally put on clothes we think will flatter us, we give attention to grooming, and we attempt to look our best. What Scripture calls for goes beyond just skin deep. God wants us to focus intently on our “inner man” so that, even as our outer man is decaying, we can “look better” to God each and every day (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16). Look at snapshots of your spiritual past. Look at yourself today. Progress? Regress? “No-gress”? Which is it? Take heart! There’s still time to make changes that will look good to God (and you), so that we can look back with gratitude and satisfaction that we took pains with our spiritual appearance! Strike a Christlike pose! 

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