The drawing shown here appeared with an article under the above heading. (The article appears elsewhere in this issue and should be read before this review.) It was on the front page of The Sower for April 1982. It was written by Joe Malone. It was not written for The Sower, but was selected by the editor, Eugene Britnell, preacher for the Arch Street Church in Little Rock, AR, because it apparently represents his views and concerns. Both Brother Britnell and Brother Malone (also a preacher) are good men, dedicated Christians, able preachers who love the Lord and desire the salvation of the lost. What is offered here is in no way intended to reflect upon them personally. They are my brethren and I accept them as such even though they are separated from each other in alienated segments (sects) of the brotherhood and do not accept each other as a "faithful, sound preacher" but each one thinks he is such, of course. But on the point of the article they find agreement.
Please read the article first. It is representative of a relatively new concept among Churches of Christ. It has developed gradually during the last 50-60 years until it is entrenched among us and accepted as if it is exactly the way it was done in the days of the apostles; precisely the way the Lord set it all up. But it is an example of how, from a small beginning as a seemingly innocent practice, departure from the Lord's way can grow until it spawns an en-tire religious system - the clergy system. It began with misplaced emphasis and erroneous concepts which are now fixed into a man-made tradition.
Almost every other denomination has had this practice in place even from their origin. Early in Church History we can find the pulpit and the clergy system developing into its fullest measure in the Roman Catholic Church. This is the original "pattern" for the whole business of pulpits and clergy. All other religious institutions have copied all their variations from Rome; including all segments of the Church of Christ Church.
In the article, Malone makes great lamentation over "the empty pulpits" so abundant among Churches of Christ today. It is incredible, but Malone implies, and he and Britnell must believe, that "the millions unsaved" can't be reached because of "the empty pulpits" located in the buildings of the Church of Christ! These "pulpits" are "empty" because they do not have a "full time gospel preacher," a professional, occupying the pulpit! Apparently these brethren believe that "the millions unsaved" will remain lost until we fill these "empty pulpits" in our church buildings! Look at Malone's drawing or illustration. What does it say to you? Whether intended or not, the implication - yea, the teaching! - is that "the millions unsaved" are literally standing there before "the empty pulpit" as if that is the place or the source from which to learn how to be saved! Isn't that ludicrous? It seems to say that all "the millions unsaved" must gather before a pulpit in order to hear the gospel of Christ officially delivered by some professionally trained, hired pulpit minister.
Also implied is the absurd idea that this is the only way, at least the best or major way, for reaching "the millions unsaved." Even more astounding is the fact that such good men can believe and publish such an unscriptural, ridiculous idea as if it is the truth of God!
The entire teaching of the article is a classic example of man's attempt to justify and perpetuate "the pastor system" or "clergy system" borrowed from the denominations, that has fastened itself upon Churches of Christ today in nearly all of our divisions. At this point they all unite and join hands.
Malone tells us that it is estimated (no doubt exaggerated) that there are "in excess of 18,000 Churches of Christ today, and that we have hardly more than 6000 full time gospel preachers." Hence, Malone and Britnell weep and moan over the empty pulpits, unfilled with a professional "full time gospel preacher." (Since that unscriptural term, "full time gospel preacher" will be used so often, I shall save space by abbreviating it as FTGP. That is a designation or title, among others, that we use to describe our "pastor." We are not yet willing to call our FTGP's what they really are - clergymen!)
If we accept Malone's analysis (and it seems to be the accepted view today), this means that there are 12,000 of these church organizations (euphamistically called, "the local church") that have "empty pulpits," or else they are "filled" (I like that descriptive word!) by someone other than a professional FTGP.
Right here I need to digress long enough to point out to you that what this hired employee of the local church is called in no way indicates what he is or what he does. What do these men mean when they call themselves a "full time gospel preacher?" How in the name of common sense can we call him "full time" if he engages in preaching less than two hours per week? It is ludicrous That is not what he is and it is not what he does: it is just what we call him! He ain't what he is called! Now a "pastor" or "clergyman" or "pulpit minister" he is, but by no honest reason should he be called a "full time gospel preacher."
In addition, how can we honestly call him a "gospel" preacher, when most of them preach so little of the gospel in their pulpit performances? They are primarily concerned with building a big church operation, and any "gospel preaching" done is incidental to this, by and large. They make "talks" with a little scripture thrown in just to make it sound like "church." Many don't know the Scripture and they can't preach what they don't know. They are talkers and speech-makers, not preachers of the word! No wonder the people in the pews know so little about God's word and have so little respect for it. There are many young people in our churches who have never heard a real, "old-time" gospel sermon!
Instead of being concerned about the pulpits (jobs) that are empty, we had better concern ourselves with emptying the 6000 that are supposed to be "filled." Let's try to make honest-to-God gospel preachers out of these men by getting them out of the pulpits in the church buildings and out preaching to the lost where "the millions unsaved" are to be found! Maybe we could then make some progress in reaching them with the message of salvation.
Also, if these pulpits just must be retained and "filled," perhaps we can "fill" them with those who should be expected to be qualified and teach (shepherd and guide) those who are the saved, the sheep, the saints; that is, with "the elders" themselves. They are required to be "teaching-pastors" (Eph. 4:11), yet they "hire" a professional clergyman to do what they should do by the Lord's clear directions (Acts 20:28). It is a shame, but it appears that 95% of them can't even teach an acceptable class, much less publically set forth any teaching of merit! They are an official Church Board of Directors who manage budgets, buildings, employees, and the operation. I confess to you that I do not know of even one of these elders, appointed church officers, who of his knowledge and ability holds "fast the faithful word...that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict" (Titus 1:9). (I am not including any of these so-called FTGP's, who have gotten themselves elected to the office of Elder, along with being the FTGP. Some of them are quite able and knowledgeable in the word.)
In Malone's view, these 12,000 "empty pulpits" make a shameful, if not a sinful, situation. Something must be done! "The unsaved millions" are standing there before these "empty pulpits," and must await our providing a professional FTGP, who alone can "fill the pulpit" so as to reach the masses who are unsaved. Using the elders, as pastors-teachers, will not do it. Using the non-professional, non-full time preacher is not adequate! Get it, please, reaching "the millions unsaved" by filling the pulpit can only be done if it is "filled" by the FTGP who is an employee of the local corporate church! Isn't that sad? Indeed so, but not as sad as the mentality, belief, and teaching of such an ungodly doctrine.
In the New Covenant Scriptures we do not read about any preacher being hired by some "local church" to fill a pulpit in a church building in order to reach "the millions unsaved." They did not sink millions of $'s into property and buildings - they had none and needed none! In the Scripture you do not read of anyone who was hired to "preach for and to" some "local church" organization. There were no "Pulpit Ministers" nor "Preacher schools," Schools of Preaching; no "Doctors of Ministry" or "Masters of Divinity.'' Such clergy class came years later.
Let me point out that Malone and Britnell believe, if we can depend upon what Malone has written and Britnell has published, that only FTGP'S, those who are trained in our "preacher-factories," schools, colleges, seminaries, can adequately fill the pulpit. But here we encounter a real disparity between the two brethren. They by no means agree upon which school(s) should indoctrinate and train ("hatch") these FTGP's. This is very important. Britnell holds that the only qualified training done by any school engaged in the training, development, and grooming of Pulpit Ministers is Florida College. Only those indoctrinated and creedally established in the traditions and interpretations of his "conservative" ("anti") segment can be considered as sound, loyal, faithful Church of Christ Pulpit Ministers. No other school or college can "hatch out" an acceptable FTGP. He will not approve the training received elsewhere.
The same is true of Malone. He won't accept those professionally trained Pulpit Ministers from Florida College. In his view all acceptable FTGP's must come from a "ministerial" training school like Abilene Christian University, David Lipscomb, Harding, etc., in order to be sound, faithful, loyal Church of Christ Pulpit Ministers. The Church of Christ has dozens of Preacher Schools ("hatcheries'') operated by Churches, along with the Ministerial and Seminary training offered in the colleges and universities. Malone would not likely approve of the preachers produced by some of these preacher schools.
While the two men will disagree over who the sound, loyal, faithful FTGP's are and where they should be trained, both men do agree that these empty pulpits must be filled with professionally trained, properly indoctrinated FTGP's. Here they agree and almost all other denominations likewise agree. They all have a clergy system. The professional FTGP's (please remember that is not descriptive, it is merely a title) are the clergy, the pastors of the local church.
It is apparent that they do not believe that mere Christians can "fill the pulpit" except on occasion as a fill-in for the professional. The Scripture clearly tells us that the early disciples were scattered abroad and they went everywhere preaching the word. That can't be done in our day. Of course, they did not have "pulpits" located in elegant church buildings like ours that needed a hired professional to "fill" it.
The tragedy here is not in all these empty pulpits, but in the empty, anti-scriptural teaching and practice that has brought us to this sad state of affairs. Furthermore, it is incredible that anyone would dare claim that (1) "the empty pulpits" (or "filled pulpits" either) and (2) reaching "the millions unsaved" with the gospel are directly related in any way whatever! Our FTGP's are not hired to reach the lost with the gospel. They are hired by the corporate Board of Directors (The Eldership) to (1) "grow a church" (as our moderns speak of it), (2) serve as general manager of the corporate operation, (3) "fill the pulpit" - serve as "Pulpit Minister" - as the official speech maker and morale booster and (4) be the pastor. It is ludicrous to speak of them as "full time gospel preachers."
Just think about it. How can filling all these 12,000 "empty pulpits" reach "the millions unsaved"? One thing is for sure, the lost are not standing or sitting before some pulpit, in some Church of Christ building, ready and anxious to hear the gospel! These people who are gathered before the "empty" pulpits and the "filled" pulpits are not any substantial part of "the millions unsaved." In 99% of the gatherings before the "pulpits" you can count all the unsaved on both hands and have fingers left over. The audiences are "members" of that local church who are attending the corporate-called and corporate-controlled meeting that we now call the "worship service!" The audiences are "the saved" in 99% of the cases, and we all know this.
Anyone who can believe that promoting young men to at tend one of our preacher-making schools or theological seminaries to "prepare for the ministry" and thus qualify to become a FTGP to fill an "empty pulpit" in one of our church buildings, has anything directly to do with reaching "the millions unsaved" can believe anything he wants to believe! The two are not directly related at all in the Church of Christ clergy system. Oh! Yes indeed, there are "the millions unsaved" out there who need to hear the gospel with the offer of salvation through Christ. But Malone's and Birtnell's solution to this tremendous need is to produce more "pulpit fillers" and keep them in the hired position of talking to the same group of saved people all the time. How tragic. But their view represents the current belief and practice of the Church of Christ Church today in all segments.
Malone's article promotes the idea that FTGP's are somewhat a breed apart from the ordinary man; that is, a cut or two above, sorta superior to, separate and distinct from, other Christians. This has long been the position of most denominations; hence, their elevation of the clergy to a special status of deference and honor above others. They give them special titles like Reverend, Father, Doctor, or Very Right Reverend Doctor. We do the same thing only we use different titles: The Pulpit Minister, Evangelist, Local Preacher, Brother Smith, Doctor Jones, or Our Minister. This is a prestigious profession and position; and in our day it is quite a materially rewarding one, with some of them now receiving salaries of $50-$100,000. That isn't bad for a position where the occupant works at his claimed profession - a Pulpit Minister - less than two hours each week.
The Christian Chronicle, December 1985, carried a News Brief to this effect:
"Of eight professions tested to determine the public's perceptions of their status, medical doctors and ministers emerge as the most prestigious."
That is one of its appeals and a reason why many enjoy the status of being a "man of the cloth." If one learns how to "play the game," understands the "politics" of working as the principle hired hand of a corporate church, exercises the proper restraint in his pulpit speeches, promotes the power and authority of the Eldership (the Boss that he must please!), and is a positive personality, he can go far if he has any ability at all. Fame and fortune can be his in this prestigious position. One must be the "right kind" of FTGP or Pulpit Minister to enjoy the full benefits of such a position. No types like John the Baptist, Paul, Peter, Stephen, Jeremiah, Amos, Hosea, and not even Jesus Christ could qualify for such a prestigious role! A mere resume from any of these types would close the door to any consideration for such men as the Pulpit Minister in a Church of Christ Church!
Malone claims that there is "great virtue" in the work of a FTGP and there is "wisdom in pursuing it." Then he declares: "Yet apparently few youth from professedly 'Christian' homes are openly expressing a desire to become gospel preachers." Why? Maybe more and more of our "youth" can see through the sham of this whole business, realizing that it is merely a job like any other job. These FTGP's are hired (and fired) as employees of the structured local church institutions to be "pulpit fillers" not a gospel preacher in reality. They are too often the servants or hired men of men! It appears that more and more, within the Church of Christ Church, the Pulpit Minister is not viewed as a prestigious position. The pulpit performers are seen as pretenders, politicians, organization managers; not as true blue men of deep conviction and dedication who belong to the Lord as His servants.
Malone (and obviously Britnell also) says: "It is a sad com-mentary on the so-called 'Christian' homes to have such a dearth of preachers." Note that above he spoke of "professedly 'Christian' homes" because they are not rearing and urging their sons to "enter the ministry" and become a FTGP to get a job as a pulpit filler.
He then says, "There is a crying need for more parents...who will dedicate their sons to the service of the Lord," meaning become a FTGP! This concept is Roman Catholicism! Get it, brother and sister, the way to "dedicate your sons to the service of the Lord is by "dedicating" them to being a professional Pulpit Minister, a pulpit filler, a FTGP so-called! Only those sons who take up this profession as a hired employee of some local church organization are actually "in the service of the Lord!" Look at that concept and assertion. Do you believe that? Can't you see the necessary implication? That is the claim of Rome and most denominations - only their clergy are "in the service of the Lord" as priests, pastors, and clergy of the Church. The laity, the members (that's you, brother or sister!), the non-clergy are not in the service of the Lord in their view. The role of the laity (member) is (1) be taught, (2) obey, and (3) PAY! That describes the role of the "member" of the Church of Christ Church as well.
Note it well, engineers, farmers, sales personnel, lawyers, merchants, mechanics, and all such people are not (really) in "the service of Christ." Only our professional FTGP'S, our clergy, are in "the service of the Lord."
Now look at this statement:
"The deplorable truth remains that many fine young men with good minds and personalities and fluent, articulate speech are planning careers in fields which, at best, afford limited influence of a spiritual nature when these same young men could become great movers of men for the Master"
Read that again and think about what it really says. I guess that Malone and Britnell are serious and really believe that line. The idea is that all the "fine young men with good minds and personalities, and fluent, articulate speech" should train to become Pulpit Ministers, FTGP'S, working as an employee of some "local church" corporation! This is the profession for our brightest and best. All other professions at their very best offer only "limited influence of a spiritual nature" when compared to the hired man of some church, the professional Pulpit Minister. Malone gets carried away claiming that only as a FTGP can young men "become great movers of men for the Master." Can you believe these assertions? These professionals do indeed think more highly of themselves than they ought to think.
Here is the claim: If a young man wants to become a great mover of men for the Master, he must prepare himself to get a job as a FTGP, filling a pulpit in some church building two or three times a week! May God have mercy on this class of men, along with all the other classifications of hired "Ministers" who have become so vital and so great in their own eyes, just like the clergy in any other denomination!
I am an old man and am somewhat acquainted directly and indirectly with many of our Church of Christ Church professional preachers. I raise the question: Where are all these great movers of men for the Master? Some of them are well-known for being "movers of men" in a multitude of Church activities! They always are coming up with some new "ministry" or some other drawing attraction for the young or old, but they are not "movers of men for the Master? One modern church in Jackson, MS has 70 different ministries! The idea is to keep the "members" busy at something. Find something for everyone to do within the corporate church control. They rush off to all the workshops to learn the latest in what to do for the young people, the elderly, the singles, etc. They are living in delusion! They mistake activity for service to the Master. In the main all these denominational, worldly activities and ministries are of little value and do great harm! The harm is that most sincerely believe that all of this activity is doing "the work of the Lord." It isn't true. Proof of this analysis and judgment lies in the astounding fact that the Church of Christ Church, of all segments, is drying up and dying! We are failing completely to reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the rush to all these worldly approaches borrowed from other denominations, we are not able to even keep the saved saved! The Church of Christ Church is losing members at an alarming rate. What is being done is a fizzle and failure. It is of the world, borrowed from the other sects!
We are so busy in the Church functions and activities, we don't have time for the important things - reaching the lost and caring for the needy! Our efforts are turned inward toward ourselves. We are so busy entertaining, eating and drinking, and working in our own ministries, serving ourselves, that we have no time or desire for the things of God! We are not a spiritual people, but a worldly people. And we can rest assured that we shall reap as we have sown - to the flesh!
Oh! May God help us open our eyes to the truth and give us the courage to turn back to His will and His ways! The professional FTGP - Pulpit Minister - is from the wisdom and will of men; not from our Lord Jesus Christ! May God have mercy on us. - CAH.