Submission to God’s Written Word

June 3, 2016

Dr. Harvey Floyd was my Greek teacher at Lipscomb as well as having him for many important Bible classes like Romans. I recently came across an interview of Floyd from the Gospel Advocate (October 1993). His words are still instructive though said over twenty years ago.

My greatest emphasis in life is to convince everyone of the complete authority of Scripture. If churches of Christ ever abandon submission to God’s written Word, we’ve lost everything.

Restoration only makes sense with an authoritative source. Without the guidance of Scripture, life becomes a sea without a shore.

Today’s religious leaders are far too interested in trendiness. They float from one fad to another without any clear emphasis or substance. Instead of the Bible, they fill their teaching with insight into “many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings” very entertaining, perhaps, but not distinctively Christian.

In the past, you could accept that our brethren were inerrantists — that cannot be assumed today. We are moving into a vague religiosity instead of a passion for restoring New Testament Christianity. This is more dangerous than anything else.1

Rodney Stark gives a memorable illustration of the loss of confidence in the authority of Scripture in his book, The Triumph of Faith. After World War I, the majority of missionaries to Africa came from the United States. At that time, ninety percent of these American missionaries came from Congregationalists (today known as the United Church of Christ), the Presbyterians, the Methodists, and the Episcopalians. By 1935, they were only sending half of all American missionaries. By 1948, it dropped down to 25 percent, and today, the number is only 4 percent. Stark explains:

Why the decline? The liberal denominations stopped sending missionaries because they lost their faith in the validity of Christianity.2

If there is one thing Floyd taught me, it is that there are good, satisfying reasons for believing in God, the Bible, and the resurrection of Jesus. When questions are raised about our faith, you only need to search for answers, and they will be found. Making fun of faith is nothing new (“a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles”), but the wisdom of God is always stronger. It is a vital thing to learn submission to God’s written Word.

1Gregory Alan Tidwell, “An Interview with Dr. Harvey Floyd” Gospel Advocate (Oct. 1993):14. The quotation in Floyd’s interview is from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.

2Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Faith, Kindle location 2260.

Into All the World

April 1, 2011

Although there are places in the world that are very secular which makes evangelism more difficult, places also exist that are very fruitful. Sub-saharan Africa is a great example. In 1989, there were 6,222 local congregations with a membership of 416,874. By 2002, 14,669 congregations existed with a total membership of 1,070,837. By way of comparison, the United States had 12,719 local congregations of churches of Christ with a membership of 1,239,612 in 1980. In 2006, we had 12,963 congregations and a membership of 1,265,844.

Other brights spots in the world include Eastern Europe and areas formerly under the control of the Soviet Union. Members of the church have been able to provide printed materials to public schools, and congregations have been planted. Latin America is also experiencing growth. We have had over 100 vocational missionaries teaching English in China. The Philippines has 24 missionaries and 900 congregations. There are places that are more fruitful, and there are places that are more challenging. God is always doing great things by people of faith regardless of whether they are in fruitful areas or challenging areas.1

Whether a place is very fruitful or whether it is tougher going, the faithful must go. Jesus did not say, “Go into all the places that are very receptive.” He said, “Go into the world.” Certainly, churches must recognize open doors and take advantage of them. But any long range strategy must recognize that all places need missionaries and evangelism.

J.M. McCaleb was a missionary to Japan for about fifty years. He went to Japan in 1892. People wondered about going to Japan when “the fields are white unto harvest” in the United States. The nineteenth century was a period of great church growth. McCaleb had an illustration that spoke to the pioneer environment.

The wise farmer doesn’t just reap from the fields he has prepared. He may go to another part of his property and prepare a field. He may have to fell trees and pull up roots. He may have many stones to clear. It may take time before this area of the farm is ready to be a truly productive field. But the time will come when others may reap abundant harvests where a few have prepared the way.2

This was J.M. McCaleb’s way of reminding us to go into all the world. God is doing great things through people of faith. It may be in areas of great fruitfulness; it may be in difficult areas. But there’s the rub. Let us not be discouraged. God will be with us when we act in faith. We need faith to share the good news with a world that so desperately needs it.

1Dr. Monty Cox, “Around the World in Sixty Minutes,” Harding University Lectureship, 2008.

2J.M.McCaleb, OnceTraveled Roads, pages 361-62.

Pray to the Lord of the Harvest

March 25, 2011

The headline captured my attention: Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says. A paper read at the American Physical Society had used a mathematical model to explain the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives for remaining religious. The model looked at data over the past century, and it predicted the extinction of religion in Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Switzerland. A similar model had been proposed to deal with the decline of lesser-spoken world languages.

I particularly noted New Zealand and Australia because of our work with the South Pacific Bible College in Tauranga, New Zealand, but this is a serious matter for all of these countries. New Zealand and Australia are very secular societies. Church attendance for all religious groups is about 10% of the population. The study only confirms what we already in some sense know. These countries have great needs for evangelism and may be slow and difficult areas in which to work. Lest we congratulate ourselves on being more religious than they are, the trend in the United States is going down as well, although the U.S. is at 44%.

A mathematical model is a way of looking at data and making projections; it is not prophecy. It is not written in stone and unalterable. But it should still be taken to heart. If good people do nothing, the picture for these countries is dire. However, mathematical trends can be reversed.

What should we do? I’m struck by Jesus’ words as he sent out the seventy:

“And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. ” (Luke 10:2, ESV)

Jesus commands us to pray to God to send out laborers, and note that it is not just a command to pray, but a command to pray earnestly.

I’m convinced that those kinds of prayers are being offered, but the news story reminds me of how important those prayers are. For those who pray, often find that they are also the ones who send, support, and go. The prayer changes them as well as seeking God’s providence. In the midst of dire projections, pray to the Lord of the harvest.