By Roy C. Deaver [1922-2007]
I grew up under the preaching and influence of Foy E. Wallace, Sr. and C. M. Pullias, at the old Second and Whaley Streets congregation, in Longview, Texas. The church was my life. I was baptized into Christ at age 11, but for many years before that I had never missed a service of worship. My regular seat was the very corner, second seat, next to the middle aisle, the west end of the east side section, right behind brother John Akin. I never left this seat, with one special exception. The first time that I took Wilma Ruth with me, about a year and a half before she became my wife, I thought it would be considerate if I sat with her, back about the middle, where she wanted to sit. Before services began, brother Akin missed me, got up, looked around, spotted me, and said: “Roy, come on down here where you belong.” So, WE went down there “where I belonged.”
During those years, very important years in my preparing to preach the gospel, I heard the finest gospel preaching in the world. Because brother Foy E. Wallace, Jr. often came to Longview to visit his father, I often got to hear him preach. Other great gospel preachers often filled the pulpit and worked in gospel meetings. I will always cherish the memories of brother Floyd Decker, a man who left the Christian Church to devote his life to preaching the pure, ancient gospel; a man who led many of the Christian Church preachers of that day to renounce the instrument, to have proper respect for the authority of the Bible, to repent of their sins, and to preach and to live the pure gospel of Christ.
At a lectureship at Abilene Christian College, we had come together for a morning lecture. A young man of outstanding background and abilities was doing the preaching. I was seated next to brother E. R. Harper. This young preacher was very critical of the church. He was determined to help bring about some changes. He made fun of the old gospel preachers—their lives and their works, and he stressed that we had to get away from their kind of preaching. He continued with his sermon (?), and in view of what had been said, brother Harper leaned over to me and whispered: “At least we knew the difference between the Lord’s church and denominationalism; we knew and preached the gospel plan of salvation; and we knew what was wrong with ‘social drinking’.”
In the thirties and the forties and the fifties and the sixties the church grew. It is reported that we were the fastest growing religious group in America. We believed and preached and taught the distinctive gospel. We believed and taught that God has but one soul-saving plan for all men, and that to that plan all responsible persons are amenable. We believed and fervently taught that everything we do, in word or in deed, must be done in the name of the Lord. We emphasized the importance of having Bible authority, we respected Bible authority, and we spent a lot of time studying and stressing “how God authorizes.” We believed and preached that the church must be PURE: pure in DOCTRINE, pure in WORSHIP, and pure in LIVING. We believed and preached and practiced “church discipline” as the Bible demands. We believed and preached and practiced the importance of personal, individual evangelism—and through faithful, consecrated Christians reached thousands with the gospel.
In general, we had the notion that a congregation should be about 200 in number. A congregation of about 200 would send a preacher into a new area to establish another church. He would work in that new area for a few years, build that congregation up to about 200 members, and then that congregation would work to establish another congregation. And the church grew.
Then came “merger mania.” Elders, preachers, and the Christians in general decided, somehow, that there would be greater power in larger congregations. A few congregations were determined to be THE BIGGEST in the world. It was often argued that: “It is just as easy for a preacher to preach to a thousand people as it is to preach to fifty people, or to a hundred people, and that if we would build larger congregations, this would release many gospel preachers to go into new areas with the gospel, even to the ‘mission fields’.” But, it did not work that way! Today, those larger congregations, formed by those mergers, have simply added more and more preachers to their program. And, today—some of those congregations which were formed by the merging of three congregations are absolutely no larger than even ONE of the congregations in the original merger. However, some congregations have become bigger and bigger, and now have a tremendous influence over the brotherhood. But, in so many instances, this influence has not been for the good of the Cause of Christ. Many of these BIG congregations “stand for nothing and fall for everything.” They have given up on fighting the devil, and now simply want to get along with everybody.
The common denominator in the present problems plaguing the church of our Lord is the ever-present problem of LIBERALISM. “Liberalism” is a philosophy—the philosophy of NO STANDARD! Whether we are dealing with religious matters or with political matters, this is the case—the doctrine that there is no real, final, authoritative, objective standard. This is the problem that plagues our world, and this is the problem that plagues the churches of our Lord. The “liberals” among us want to accept everything and everybody—excepting those of us who will not accept everything and everybody. They want to tolerate everything and everybody—excepting those of us who will not tolerate everything and everybody. They want to “love” everything and everybody—excepting those of us who insist upon a “Thus saith the Lord” in what we believe, do, and teach. When men STAND for nothing, they FALL for everything!
There is a large, powerful, well-financed group among us who are determined to bring about a “merger” between Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, or at least to form a coalition of “fellowship.” Their “theme song” is “Unity in Diversity,” and they work hard and constantly to try to change the IMAGE of the church. In fact, they are working to make the church into their OWN IMAGE—an image of their own creation…
I mentioned earlier that I was baptized into Christ when I was eleven years old. Through the many years it has been my aim, my determination, “to uphold the right, to oppose the wrong, to edify the saints, to teach, preach, and live the Word of God.” It has been (and is) my determination to “walk in the Old Paths,” turning neither to the right hand nor to the left hand; to stand squarely upon the mountain top of Bible authority—falling off that majestic mountain neither on the side of liberalism nor on the side of anti-ism…
Brethren, I stand right where I have always stood. I have fought many battles for truth and right, and I will die fighting—as a faithful soldier of Jesus Christ. Thank God for the faithful: faithful gospel preachers, faithful elders, faithful deacons, faithful mommas and daddies, faithful young people, faithful Bible teachers, faithful personal workers. Many have departed from the right way. With regard to the Old Paths, many have cried out: “We will not walk therein!” With regard to these, let me say: I DID NOT LEAVE MY OLD CHURCH—MY OLD CHURCH LEFT ME!