YES, I DO NOT
T. PIERCE BROWN
Most gospel preachers are called upon to give counsel in various matters, even if they do not want to. Although I never had any formal training in the art of counseling, fifty years of doing it has taught me some things, some of which I would like to share with you, especially younger preachers who might profit from some of my experiences.
Recently I had an interesting experience with a husband and wife. She was accusing him of various nefarious habits, among which was this: “You always have to have the last word in any discussion.” His reply was, “Not so, you do.” Her reply was, “See! I told you.” At which point he said to me something like, “Do you see the problem? She has the last word, then accuses me of doing what she does.”
First advice to those who counsel: Do not give vent to your normal feelings and slap both their faces! This article is not primarily to give advice on how to counsel, but to try to make us more aware that some problems we face depend on how we think about things in general, and then how we respond to the way other people speak and act. The way I tried to help that aspect of their problem was to try to get both of them to see how insignificant it was to “have the last word” in any discussion. A demonstration of a loving effort to try to understand the viewpoint of another is far more important than any word, either first or last.
It is so easy to cloud any issue with pejorative or opprobrious words, some of which may be irrelevant or inadvertent. For example, I think of myself as a “conservative.” Most of those who have heard me preach or have read my articles for the last fifty years would probably classify me that way, or even “ultra-conservative.” I confess that if I had to be aligned with any particular group, I would rather be aligned with even the “ultra-conservatives” than with the “modernists” or “liberals.” However, I refuse to align myself with any particular group, for I simply try to stand where I think Christ wants me to stand on any issue. If that is “anti” to some, “conservative” to others, and “liberal” to others, so be it (amen).
Not long ago I was knocking on doors to set up Bible studies. A woman came to the door. As we conversed, she revealed that she did not need to study the Bible, for she belonged to the only soundChurchofChristin town. It was what is commonly known as an “anti” church, although I never heard them openly oppose anything that I did not oppose. I seldom use the term, for it is, in my judgment, not only practically useless, it creates prejudice. The reason I say it is practically useless is because every gospel preacher worth hearing is “anti” something. When she asked me where I attended, I told her. She replied, “That is a liberal congregation, isn’t it?” I replied, “Well, they are not nearly as liberal as they should be. Their contribution probably does not average over $10 per member, and it might be double that.” She replied, “I did not mean that. They do things not authorized by the scriptures. Don’t they have wedding receptions in the church building?” My answer was, “If you will read carefully that verse that authorizes the church building and for the preacher to perform the wedding, you will see that the last part of that verse authorizes the reception.”
I am opposed to songs that are unscriptural or anti-scriptural. One of my “conservative” brethren at Freed Hardeman lectures a few years ago spoke out against the song that says, “Night with ebon pinion brooded o’er the vale.” He apparently did not believe that night had an ebon pinion and was not sure that “all around was silent save the night wind’s wail,” so the song was plainly unscriptural to him, or at best, meaningless. To have fellowship with “liberal” brethren who sing that song might well be, to him, contrary to John 9-11 and therefore sinful.
One of my more respected brethren takes the position that since “liberal” brethren, and “anti” brethren, and Christian Church people (whether brethren or not) are carrying on correspondence work in various places throughout the world, using World Bible School material, if we do the same thing, although the material teaches the truth, we are having fellowship with the “unfruitful works of darkness” and are sinning. I have been carrying on and encouraging correspondence Bible studies for almost half a century. I shall continue to do so, despite the fact that the “one cup” faction, the “non-SundaySchool” faction, the liberals, Christian Church or anyone else also may do it. If this brands me as in fellowship with “unfruitful works of darkness” I am sorry for the brand and pray for the brander.
To me it is very sad that some “conservative” brethren with whom I feel such great affinity apparently would, in principle, have stood by Johannes Gutenberg and said, “Gute, if you proceed with the invention of the printing press, you are going to give aid and comfort to the enemies of Christ, for they will spew out reams of ungodly falsehoods. I must therefore have nothing to do with it, and brand it as a tool of the Devil.” If the Titanic were sinking and they got in the lifeboat with an apostate Christian or member of the Christian church, they would refuse to stay there or row because that would be assisting one in error, and be comparable to inviting into your house and bidding Godspeed to the purveyor of false doctrine (2 John 10). Of course those brethren would deny that their reasoning puts them into such a ridiculous position. This article is not an attempt to justify or condemn any particular position. It is to point out some problems that come when we try to label certain things with some label for which we have a feeling, and then assume that all persons who disagree with our label stand condemned.
I know a “conservative” preacher who regularly gives over 50% of his income for evangelistic work of the church. Does that make him “liberal”? He is opposed to churches building gymnasiums and other things that are primarily designed to satisfy the physical desires of the members. Does that make him “anti”? His opinion is that the time spent in the average “Sunday school” class probably could be better spent another way. Does that make him of the “non-SundaySchool” persuasion? He teaches that the whole congregation may drink the fruit of the vine out of a water bucket, using a gourd as a dipper, but he personally drinks it from one cup. Is he teaching contradictory doctrines about it, or is he an advocate of “one cup?” How many cups do you use when you take the Lord’s Supper? He reads and quotes from the King James Version or the American Standard, but since I have seen him reading from NIV and other versions (or perversions), it may be that he is a “closet liberal.” Maybe he runs with the fox and bays with the hounds. Do you know whether you are going or coming?