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A Church That Has Remained the Same

By Adron Doran

religion, articles, christianity

I recently returned one Sunday and preached three times at the Spring Creek Church of Christ in the Dogwood community of the northern section of Graves County, Ky. I preached there the first time on Dec. 14, 1930, and at the Viola schoolhouse on the afternoon of the same Sunday. The members at that time were in the midst of an extreme financial crisis and were able to support monthly preachers only in the amount collected on the Sunday morning when they had preaching. The collection at Spring Creek was 15 dollars and at Viola was five dollars. This amount of 20 dollars helped me greatly in paying my expenses as a junior in college. The weekly contribution at Spring Creek now greatly exceeds that amount each Sunday by hundreds of dollars.

The Spring Creek Church of Christ was organized in 1835 as the second congregation in Graves County established by the early leaders of the Restoration Movement. The building in which the church meets is the fourth one to have been erected. The edifice is attractive, commodious, and functional. The attendance for Lord's Day worship will average about 150. John Hoover, who is loyal to the truth and faithful to the Bible pattern of worship, is the minister. John is recovering from a paralytic stroke but was present for the evening service.

The Spring Creek church has found no biblical reason for modifying the organizational pattern for the church, or for adopting any other plan for interpreting the Scriptures, or for changing time and items of worship. The brethren believe that what their forefathers began over 150 years ago based upon the teachings of the New Testament and was practiced when I preached there 65 years ago, is sufficient for the 1990s.

We have maintained a very close relationship with the Spring Creek congregation over the years. I preached there on the second Sunday in each month during 1931. Mignon and I married in August 1931. I graduated from Murray (Ky.) State Teachers College in 1932 and we went to Boaz High School in the same community, where I taught history and coached basketball and Mignon taught music. Many of those who went to school with us are members of the congregation. Two of my basketball boys were present on the Sunday that I preached there. One of them, Cortez Schmidt, is an elder. We can count the fourth generation of families which we have known who attend worship at Spring Creek. Others in attendance were the brother and the son of Howard Henson with whom I played basketball at Cuba High School when Alonzo Williams was our coach and principal. It was a joy to see the young men leading the singing and serving at the Lord's table.

Though the Spring Creek church has not been troubled by false teaching and corrupt practices, in the early 1850s some of its members, who were more socially minded and professionally oriented, moved to Mayfield, the county seat, and organized a Christian Church. One of the first to preach for the Mayfield Christian Church was John T. Johnson, president of the Kentucky Missionary Society. In time this congregation affiliated with the American Christian Missionary Society and introduced mechanical instruments of music in the worship. What happened in Mayfield during this period also happened in most urban areas of Kentucky where the Restoration Movement had gone. We are now engaged in the process of reestablishing the church of Christ in many of these cities. The church of Christ was established in Mayfield in 1910 during a gospel meeting held in a tent by H. Leo Boles. The early preachers for the Mayfield Church of Christ were Aubrey Wilson and John B. Hardeman.

Since my recent visit with the 150-year-old Spring Creek Church of Christ I am made to wonder all the more why some of our liberal brethren (and sisters too) are engaged in the practice of bashing, ridiculing, deriding and mocking the conservative and biblically inclined congregations which merely "contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). These are congregations which have abandoned human creeds and confessions of faith, have taken the Bible alone as the only rule of faith and practice, and have severed all fellowship ties with denominationalism. These are they which more nearly represent the restoration pleas of the Stone-Campbell movement based upon the injunction to "speak where the Scriptures speak and remain silent where the Scriptures are silent" (1 Pet. 4:11). The Spring Creek church and many, many more over our land are heeding the admonition of the apostle Paul to the young evangelist Timothy: "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Jesus Christ" (2 Tim. 1:13).

Furthermore, the apostle advises Timothy that "the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou unto faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2).

Quite the opposite from the pleading of the apostle Paul and the practice of the Spring Creek church is implied and advocated in an article written by Dr. Kathy J. Pulley and printed in the winter 1994 Disciplian published by the Disciples of Christ Historical Society titled "The Churches of Christ: Accommodation to Modernity and Challenges of Post-Modernity." Dr. Pulley claims to be a member of the church of Christ but begins her article by speaking disparagingly of the "Agnes Church of Christ in Agnes, Arkansas," where she remembers that her "grandparents and numerous other relatives lived."

The Pulley article is based upon a speech which Dr. Pulley made at the Historian Seminar held in Nashville, Tennessee, April 29-30, 1994. In commenting on the address, which Dr. J. E. Choate Jr., tells me he heard, and the related article, Dr. James M. Seale, president of the Society wrote:

Dr. Pulley discusses twentieth century changes in attitudes and practices among Churches of Christ in relation to the cultural and pluralism of contemporary society. Professor Pulley also raises the question of whether the Stone-Campbell version of restoring New Testament Christianity, with its eschatological dimension, though offered initially in response to the denominationalism of the 19th century, might not be transferred to the distinctive need of the 21st century.

It seems to me that we have a Disciples of Christ editor interpreting what the author thinks should be the mission and direction of the church of Christ, with his full blessings.

Dr. Pulley proceeds to style the church of her grandparents thusly:

The Agnes Church has preached the same kinds of sermons and displayed the same kinds of tracts for at least the last forty years. The messages stress that those in the Church of Christ are representatives of the true and only church, that the Bible is the infallible word of God and there is one true plan of salvation.

In contrast with the Agnes church, Pulley writes approvingly of the City Church where she grew up:

I don't recall seeing any tract racks in the City Church for the last 20 years now. There the pulpiteers no longer speak of the hell that awaits all of those who are not members of the true church. Nor do they speak much about any doctrinal matters The themes today are compatible with those in the pulpits of at least a dozen North American Evangelical groups.

As if this were not enough, Pulley concludes her contrast between that which was in the days of her grandparents and that which she thinks is well in her City Church by saying:

However, I would say that these two different types of Churches of Christ point to the dichotomy in the churches today. Some hold firm to their sectarian(?) identity of the early part of the century while others have just as firmly moved into the church or denominational realm.

Professor Pulley readily admits in her article that she is "not a historian of the Restoration Movement" but that her observations "are a blending of my sociological and theological background." This seems to be the trouble with liberal writers within churches of Christ. They speak with greater assurance as sociologists than they do as students of God's Word. When a sociologist endeavors to define the mission of the church and to predict its future role in society, he/she usually comes down on the side of the pseudocritics. That accounts for the fact that Pulley quotes so freely from the writings of such authors as Richard T. Hughes and Thomas Olbricht. It is evident that the Disciples of Christ are more comfortable with the likes of Kathy Pulley as speakers at their seminars, posing as orthodox members of the churches of Christ, than they would be with scholars of the Restoration Movement who would call them back to the old paths and plead for them to walk again therein.

I am confident that the success of the Lord's church in the 21st century will depend upon its remaining with the Spring Creek example and the Agnes Church of Christ rather than going in the direction of the City Church in which Dr. Pulley grew up and probably still holds membership. I think that there are still conservative congregations all over our land which do what the apostle Paul commended the church in Thessalonica for doing:

For ye brethren became followers of the Churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus (I Thess. 2:14).

I pray to God fervently that the churches of Christ today will follow the examples of those congregations described by Dr. Luke in Acts 9:17:

And then had the Churches rest throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost. were multiplied.

Published November 1995