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church church (nature) church growth Lehman Avenue church of Christ Uncategorized

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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Categories
church church (nature) church of Christ fellowship Uncategorized

A Family, A Fraternity, And A Fellowship

Neal Pollard

A little over a week ago, my son Dale called me to tell me one of his elders gave him tickets for the Georgia-Missouri football game. He asked if I could swing coming. Thanks to a generous travel voucher from American Airlines, I was able to go on short notice on their nickel. The best part of this trip was getting to see one of my adult children for a couple of days. We made the most of those moments, and that game between the hedges was not a disappointment. Though Dale had watched games with me on TV, he was not the diehard fan I have been since 1979. We made the drive from Valdosta to Athens. Once on campus, he got his first glimpse into “Dawg Nation.” By the time we left the game, he was hooked. Georgia has another diehard fan. What did the trick? Perhaps the camaraderie between people who otherwise would not come into contact with each other. There was the shared lingo, shared knowledge, shared passion, and even shared clothing color schemes. There were traditions to partake in. People were excited for every play and intensely interested in the outcome. That was infectious! It was an unforgettable experience we plan to duplicate in the future.

As I look back on that great memory, I got to thinking about an infinitely stronger bond I have. Even regarding this game, I think about the part they played. I’m talking about the Lord’s church and the Christians who make it up. There was Doug Jones, the elder who gave us the tickets. There was Wes Hazel, who let Dale borrow his car so he didn’t have to pick me up from the airport or carry me around on the back of his motorcycle. There were Lance and Susan Leavens, who opened their home to allow Dale and me to take a nap before I caught a flight back to Denver yesterday morning and Dale drove back to Valdosta. While I was in Georgia, Kathy was in Texas doing a ladies day, and Carl was experiencing major trouble with his truck, an overwhelming, generous response from literally dozens of Christians helped make it possible for our youngest to resolve that heart-sinking trouble.

All too frequently, I see people who major in pointing out the perceived problems and seeming shortcomings of the saints. To listen to them, we do nothing right and even do those things from sinister motives. As a preacher’s kid who’s lived a life of a full-time preacher for more than a quarter century, I am far from naive. The church, without exception, is comprised of flawed, faulty, and finite folks. I have been extremely disappointed in the actions of church members, from the leadership to the membership. I have tearfully witnessed Christians abandon the church for the world, breaking many hearts in the process. But, the church is special. It is unique, from the doctrinal standpoint, dedicated to speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where it is silent and seeking to replicate New Testament Christianity.

In addition to that, there is the common bond we share. What a fellowship! What a family! What a fraternity! You read it when you open up the New Testament. As importantly, you experience it today when you open your heart and life to all the others who make up this special group. We’re incurably imperfect. We should strive to be more patient and gracious. But, God’s people are the greatest in the world! Thank God for that blessing today and every day.

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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
baseball Bobby Doerr church of Christ history Restoration History Restoration Movement

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?

Categories
authority Bible doctrine words of Christ

SOLA SCRIPTURA?

Neal Pollard

Pythagoras is said to have been the earliest outside of Scripture (Isa. 40:22) to contend that the earth is round. He did not make the earth round with his assertions, but identified what already was.  Sir Isaac Newton certainly did not create gravity, but he is credited for our modern understanding of it.  Likewise, the term “sola scriptura” is not found in scripture (similar to terms like “trinity” and “omniscience”), but it was coined during the “Reformation Movement” as part of Martin Luther’s protests against perceived corruptions of the Catholic Church.  It was a “Latin phrase (literally ‘by Scripture alone’) describing the Protestant theological principle that Scripture is the final norm in all judgments of faith and practice. Church traditions and customs, pronouncements of church officials, civil law or any other purely human source, including human reason, must yield to clear scriptural pronouncements” (Reid, Daniel G., et al.  Dictionary of Christianity in America, 1990: n.p.).  Did the Protestant Reformers, who, incidentally, got unfortunately got so many things wrong, originate that idea?  Because they were wrong on many doctrinal conclusions, does that automatically make the idea of “sola Scriptura” incorrect? It seems to me that at least three questions are in order regarding this subject.

What does “by Scripture alone” mean?

It means that the Bible does not share authority with anyone or anything else.  One author says it meant “’the freedom of Scripture to rule as God’s word in the church, disentangled from papal and ecclesiastical magisterium and tradition.’ It viewed the Word as supreme over tradition and the sacraments” (McArthur, John. Expository Preaching, 1992. Dallas: Word Pub., 47). A creed book, discipline, or annual church conference may vote and decide about what a religious group’s view on a matter should be.  They may even change their view from a previously held, correct view.  Or, a religious group may claim to have received latter day revelation and may produce a book they claim to be co-authoritative with the Bible.  Or, they may say “the church” and “church tradition” is co-authoritative.  The idea of “by Scripture alone” rejects competing or co-authoritative standards.

It does not eliminate the need to “handle aright” or involve hermeneutics (the science of interpretation).  That is a cognitive necessity.  You cannot read even the simplest of instructions or follow the most basic of tasks without employing logic, reason, and deduction.  That is not the same thing as a person, group, or book that claims to rival or co-authorize with Scripture.

What is the alternative?

That question has really already been answered.  The alternative is to suggest that Scripture alone is insufficient or inadequate, that is not the sole authority on matters of truth and right.  Some would even call the idea of following only Scripture as destructive heresy. Yet, the alternative to Scripture alone is Scripture along with something else, whether a man, group, council, church, or governing body.

Why is it so important?

This is the crux of the matter.  Scripture is God-breathed, making one spiritually complete (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  If Scripture is sufficient, what need is there for anything beyond it?  On what basis would we accept anything more or less than or different from the Bible?  How could fallible man be equal to or co-authorize with the perfect law of the Lord?  Let us accept no substitute or rival to the Bible!

The reader is encouraged to consider some excellent thoughts on this subject from here: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/557-what-is-sola-scriptura

 

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Bear Valley church of Christ Daily Bread Neal Pollard Pollard blog

Protecting Restoration

Neal Pollard

Jesus taught that moth, rust and robbers do their irresistible work upon our things (Mat. 6:19-21).  Anyone who has restored automobiles or houses knows the persistent challenge they face in keeping up with decay and loss in those projects.  In weather-torn Colorado, the elements can speed up the deterioration and destruction of items and especially those which are not protecting whether through painting, sealing, or whatever is needed to preserve them.

On a trip to the Lexington, Kentucky, area on this day in 2013, I visited a part of the world rife with restoration sites.  While I was there to speak on the Cane Ridge Lectureship, the Friday of that program is devoted to going to various sites associated with church history connected with the “Restoration Movement.”  Stephen Besson, a physician and a skillful church historian who has led these tours since the death of author Everett Donaldson, led us up to Mays Lick, Kentucky, to the site of the Campbell-McCalla debate and the graveyard of restoration leader Walter Scott.  The first time I was there, we went to the site of the Cane Ridge meeting house as well as the Lexington Cemetery.  That day, we saw the graves of Barton Stone, Raccoon John Smith, J.W. McGarvey, and others.  There is so much church history in that area that tourers can fill their day for many years with different restoration sites.  Once, when driving through Lexington, I found the house of Moses Lard.

The men I mention were intellectual and spiritual giants, men whose plea was not to be denominational or to form their own sect but to get people back to the Bible.  Their efforts paved the way for thousands to leave religious division and manmade doctrine in favor of New Testament Christianity.  That goal is ever-worthy of pursuit!  It is the only viable basis of religious unity, getting back to the Bible for faith and practice.

Dr. Besson pointed out something while we were at Mays Lick.  The church in that area is numerically weak.  Back in the division between churches of Christ and the Christian Church at the beginning of the twentieth century, most of the congregations went with the digression.  Thus, though there are some very strong congregations in the area, there are relatively few.  There are nine counties in Kentucky without a church of Christ.

The church is either sparse or non-existent in many of the cities we read about in the New Testament–Jerusalem, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Corinth, Rome, and others.  That seems unfathomable when we think of their august beginnings, yet it is not that unusual.  In our repeated trips to Israel, Kathy and I marvel at the fact that there is one known congregation, relatively small and in Nazareth. It is difficult to keep passing along to new generations the faith, reverence, and respect for the inspiration of Scripture.  Whether prosperity, education, worldliness, or another factor, people can begin to put their trust in something else while losing faith in God’s Word. When that happens, the restoration ideal is endangered.

Our job is to keep the idea of simple, New Testament Christianity not only in our hearts but instill it into the minds of the next generation.  We must take that plea into our communities and workplaces.  When we do, we will be placing our trust in the only source of power there is–God and His Word!

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Mulkey Meeting House in Tompkinsville, KY, visited by Neal and Kathy in May, 2019 (about an hour from our new home in Bowling Green)