Recently, my firm transferred me to Bugtussel, Alabama. So, as a good Christian should do, I hunted up the nearest sound church. When I inquired of one of the locals, he replied, "There is a Church of Christ down by the river, but I declare, I don't know what sounds they do put out, having never been there." Graciously I accepted his instructions, wishing I had not mentioned "sound church," I moved in the direction of the river, where the man said the church existed.
Without difficulty and to my delight, I soon found the church, clearly identified by the sign nailed to a big oak tree. It always causes a lump in my throat to see our name in print: "Oak Tree by the River Church of Christ." It has been a long hard fight to show the brethren that the only place to assemble today is under an oak by the riverside, and many cannot see it vet. The scriptures clearly state that Paul met with Lydia and some women "by a river side" (Acts 15:14). Anyone should be able to see that BY NECESSARY INFERENCE there had to be an oak tree close by. Why can't people be content to just go by what the Bible says and not read into a passage their own preconceived ideas: The liberals are taking over!
I arrived in plenty of time before Bible Study to meet some of the folks. Em Phatick insisted that I meet R. Preacher Bob, who labors among them. Brother Em said that R. Preacher Bob was responsible for painting the sign that bears our name and practically grew that oak tree all by himself. He is a hard worker!
Personally, I can now vouch for Brother Bob's soundness. After answering some questions about the recent issues involving where God wants us to meet, he whipped out his billfold and showed me a laminated from "Right School University," where he had sat at the feet of the "Soundest of the Soundest." Not only that, but he had been recommended for his position at Oak Tree by the River Church of Christ by four of the biggest name preachers in the brotherhood (who also are graduates and strong supporters of RSU). If that's not enough to make you "sound," I don't know what is!
About this time someone shouted, "It's time to begin," so we all gathered under the tree to have our Bible Study, which, I am happy to report was a strong demonstration on the part of the brethren to defend the truth.
R. PREACHER BOB: This morning we are studying from Hebrews 10:25, which tells us not to forsake our assembling together. What can we conclude from this statement?
"DAWG" MATTICK: It is perfectly clear from this passage that God wants us to assemble and that calls for a place. Since Paul assembled with Lydia "by the river side," we have our authority to meet by our river. Anybody in their right mind should know that an oak tree can grow by a river, and therefore, logic demands, and expediency dictates, that we must meet under an oak tree, by a river, just as we are doing.
E.Z. PROBER: I have heard it preached like that for years, but I still have a little trouble seeing it like you do. What would be wrong with meeting in a building, say, even in our homes, instead of out here under this oak tree? The Christians met in homes in the first century, didn't they?
TRAD DISHON: Now brother Prober, you know we have always met under oak trees. In fact, I don't believe in this modern age you could meet anywhere else but under an oak tree. I hate to say it but you are beginning to sound like those heretics that are advocating meeting anywhere. Don't you know that kind of teaching will destroy the local church. God intended people to congregate in one spot, like under an oak tree, so that the elders can find them. After all, they have to know where the flock is to oversee it. If we didn't have an oak tree to meet under, what would the elders oversee? Brother Prober, if you push your thought to its logical conclusion, people will be meeting just anywhere they please instead of following the pattern of meeting under an oak tree by a river!
E. Z. PROBER: Well, it seems to me that in the New Testament people did meet anywhere instead of just under an oak tree, by a river. I am just suggesting that we explore a better way to do things, since our divisions over the years seem always to involve our owning an oak tree.
MARY MINDSET: Why do you want to challenge something we have been doing for a long time? This is ridiculous! There are plenty of other good Bible topics to discuss besides this one. We were getting along perfectly well, in peace and harmony, until some began to question why we meet under an oak tree, by a river. They are "troublers of Israel," that's what they are.
E.Z. PROBER: All I was trying to do was to get us to see that there might be another possibility that would be right in the sight of God. It might help us convert more people to Christ.
R. PREACHER BOB: What you are questioning, Brother Prober, has serious consequences for our new converts. We have people that have been Christians for only ten years, whose faith could be shaken when you raise questions about our practice of meeting under the oak tree, by the river. I doubt the wisdom of bringing up such ideas even if they are true.
"DAWG" MATTICK: It's plain to me that brother Prober doesn't believe in oak trees. I don't see anything wrong with them myself, I've supported them through the years and even now have a lot of money invested in this one. I agree with Trad. This kind of questioning done by brother Prober and people like his kind can be dangerous. It'll destroy what we have worked so hard to build up, "The Oak Tree by the River Church of Christ." I'd like to see R. Preacher Bob write this up in our church bulletin and expose this false doctrine for what it is. This issue could split the church if everyone doesn't believe in oak trees the way we do. Why, this issue may even get bigger than "The Great Fertilizer Controversy of the Fifties"!
E. Z. PROBER: "The Great Fertilizer Controversy of the Fifties"? That was before my time! What was it all about?
R. PREACHER BOB: Some of the brethren began to challenge the use of the Lord's money for the fertilizer that was needed to grow the oak trees, so we would have a beautiful place under which to meet. It split the churches wide open. That is why we now have Fertilizer -- Oak Tree by the River Churches of Christ, and Anti-Fertilizer -- Oak Tree by the River Church of Christ.
I.M. SEAKIN: I would like to change the subject a little to explore another thought with the class. In talking with people of Bugtussel, I find that all of them consider us to be another denomination. I'm afraid that one of the reasons for this misconception is our sign "Oak Tree by the River Church of Christ." Why do we use it if it conveys the wrong idea to the community?
TILLIE TOPWATER: Brother Seakin, I am surprised at you. The most important reason for having the sign on our tree far outweighs the misconceptions people might have about the church. VISITING BRETHREN MUST BE ABLE TO FIND THE RIGHT TREE! The sign is the greatest help to them finding it. We must keep the sign even if the people in the community are led to think we are another denomination. We can't help what they think. The good far outweighs the bad!
I.M. SEAKIN: In the first century, there is no indication that the disciples put up a sign, or even used one designation exclusively for the church; and yet, the saints didn't seem to have any difficulty finding their fellow saints in another place. Besides, it got to where it would have been very dangerous to let the authorities know where the disciples were meeting. I really don't see a need for a sign today, if it is conveying the wrong idea to non-Christians.
OLLIE GARCHEY: If we took down our present sign, what would you put up in its place?
I. M. SEAKIN: Why would you have to put up any kind of sign?
OLLIE GARCHEY: So that the people in the community would understand that we are a religious group and not just some union having a meeting.
I.M. SEAKIN: Then put up a sign that simply says "Christians Meet Here."
OLLIE GARCHEY: I don't like that. Then the people of the community wouldn't know that we own the tree!
TRAD DISHON: Brother Seakin, you are out of order raising questions about things that we have always done. Don't you realize that smarter men than you and me have figured this all out for us ages ago? If they had seen fit NOT to have a sign on our tree, that is the way it would have come down to us, but you see, they DID see a need for the sign and that is why we have it today. It is not a matter of the sign being authorized in the Bible, it is a matter of judgment and opinion.
"DAWG" MATTICK: Even though it is a matter of judgment, brother Trad, this is the way it MUST be. Anyone who thinks otherwise and has the audacity of speaking out on it should be labeled a false teacher, written up in our leading brotherhood papers, and reported to "Right School University," in order that this topic might be put on next year's Lectureship.
R. PREACHER BOB: Well class, our time is gone. I think we have dealt with Hebrews 10:25 pretty thoroughly this morning, and we all can see authorization for meeting under the oak tree by the river, and having our beloved sign to steer all the people our way. I appreciated the fair and open discussion we had, as well as the disposition manifested by so many to keep the doctrine pure of human contamination. Class dismissed!
Being so elated to find people who think and believe the way I do, I hastened to place membership with the "Oak Tree by the River Church of Christ" (The Pro-Fertilizer Group).