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Reflections of Small-town Preacher

By Roelf L. Ruffner

religion, articles, christianity

It was not without trepidation that I drove to the campus of my alma mater, Abilene Christian University. It had been eighteen years since I had attended their annual lectureship. But I was not attending to receive spiritual enlightenment or scout out some new apostasy. My purpose was to hear some of the Restoration History Series lectures by brother Earl West. Still, my feelings were akin to a Confederate soldier visiting Washington, D.C. in the midst of the War Between the States.

The ACU campus was not the school of the 1970s. Where once there were spaces between buildings, now there are just buildings. This is the result of the ACU philosophy of "build, build, build!" No more ramshackle barracks and quaint old dormitories. I was reminded of the parable of the rich fool: "And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods" (Luke 12:18). I also recalled the Lord saying, "For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:11).

After an interesting and informative lecture by brother West in a filled lecture hall, I followed the crowd to what I assumed would be the daily chapel service in the coliseum. Not surprisingly the song leader directed only "traditional songs." The main speaker gave an adequate lecture on 1 John. Yet, curiously, he did not quote from any other part of the Bible. I wondered why he didn't attempt to tie together this book with the others revealed by the Holy Spirit. It was somewhat like trying to describe Abilene without even mentioning or acknowledging the state of Texas. But, I am just an "old hermeneutics" preacher. After the lecture a brother got up and extolled the virtues of ACU, then kindly requested that we file out quickly so the students could have their chapel service. I understand they do not sing as many "traditional" songs in that service.

I walked around the campus trying to ignite old memories. Above the doorway of the old Bible wing there were still the words of Jesus: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

I remembered my letters to this once great institution pleading with them to repent. It has become apparent over the last generation that Abilene Christian has forgotten verse 31 of John 8: "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed."

In my wanderings I was also surprised to see that many students were dressed immodestly. They would probably say, "It's a warm day!" Yet the words of Paul still stand, "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety" (1 Tim. 2:9). I wonder when modesty was last expounded upon at ACU. Yet in this and other ways the school is no different from any secular university.

For many years ACU housed their displays and booths in a tent on the parking lot of Edwards Dormitory. The tent is gone and everything is scattered round in the new College of the Bible building, the student center, and the old Bennet Gym. I had read how ACU mingled the good and the bad in these areas. Still, I was amazed at their audacity. There nestled among the book sellers was Olan Hicks (of marriage-divorce-remarriage infamy), a disciple of Max King standing nervously by his table (awaiting the Lord's return?), and representatives of College Press (Independent Christian Church), as well as merchants offering traditional Christian music CD's along with contemporary music CD's. The prophetic warning of Paul concerning apostates echoed in my heart: "For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Rom. 16:18). Yet all was not a complete loss because among the displays was a small table set up by the Eastside Church of Christ, one of the handful of faithful congregations left in Abilene, along with the Firm Foundation and others. They reported that their free literature was being snatched up like Bibles in Russia.

I must say that my visit to my alma matter was filled with a mixture of sadness and anger. These brethren are not being forced to take the path of digression by some government entity or denominational hierarchy. They are merrily, if not obstinately, pursuing the course of damnation. Where will it end up in a generation or two, if the Lord tarry?

"Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein" ((Jer. 6:16).

Published September 1995