links to 4 items worth your time

1. The History of the Bible, Animated [4 min. video; National Geographic]

“… making the Bible available to the masses …”

2. ‘This Little Light of Mine’ Shines On, a Timeless Tool of Resistance

“You can’t just sing ‘This Little Light of Mine.’ You gotta shout it …”

3. The Gospel Work of Song

“Singing is part of what it means to be human.”

4. The Decline of American Christianity Is Real but More Complicated Than It Looks

“… this so-called decline is a bit more complicated than it might seem at first blush …”

links to 10 items worth your time

1. The Humble Origins of ‘Silent Night’ [required reading]

“One of the world’s most famous Christmas carols, ‘Silent Night,’ celebrates its 200th anniversary this year.”

2. Christians Sing Together

“From the very beginning of the church singing was important to the fellowship. Though many have unbounded confidence in their theories of what happened in local church gatherings, it is wiser to say ‘we don’t know precisely what happened, but we do are pretty sure about some things.’ One of the elements we are sure of is singing.”

3. The Strange Journey of Christian Rock and Roll

“… Christian rock has had a strange and circuitous journey back to the center of American culture.”

4. Compliments and Criticism – The Difference May Surprise You

“… in the end, only God changes people.”

5. Our Obsession with Imitating the Early Church and Another Way Forward

“… the early church wasn’t trying to be the early church. They were trying to be Jesus.”

6. A Tale of Two Mennonite Pastors and How to Disagree

“Theological (or political) disagreements matter, but need not be toxic to relationships. There are stronger ties that bind us together. … how George II and Ruth chose to relate to each other still proves instructive. As we spend this holiday season among family and friends with whom we might disagree, it’s helpful to remember that, though we maintain legitimate differences, there are things that matter more.”

7. A Different Kind of Christmas Story (for Kids)

“The book is entitled, ‘The Third Gift,’ by Linda Sue Park (Boston: Clarion, 2011).”

8. Church is Hard

“I’ll remember, He has never failed to meet me there.”

9. Max Lucado Reveals Past Sexual Abuse at Evangelical #MeToo Summit

“Now is the time for across-the-coffee-table conversations that begin with the words, ‘Help me to understand what it’s like to be a female in this day and age,’ he said. ‘Help me to understand what it’s like to never go on a jog without carrying a canister of mace. Help me to know what it’s like to overhear guys chuckling about weight or bust size. Help me to understand what it’s like to always be outnumbered in the boardroom. Help me to understand what it’s like to be hugged chest to chest, unable to break free. Help me to understand what it’s like to fear filing a workplace complaint because my supervisors are all male. Help me to understand what it’s like to be the brunt of catcalls, whistles, and dirty jokes. Help me to understand.’”

10. Christianity Today’s 2019 Book Awards

“During book awards season, at least, the answer to ‘Do I need more books?’ is always yes. That applies whether you’re someone who likes to read a reasonable amount — or someone who also likes to read a reasonable amount, but more.”

on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: February 22-28

Among the things that happened this past week in American Restoration Heritage history …

February 22

Feb. 22, 1874 – A letter to the editor is printed in the St. Louis newspaper The Globe concerning a meeting in which Knowles Shaw is preaching.

“To the Editor Of The Globe:

“Having learned that the great revivalist, Knowles Shaw, would preach at the Central Christian Church, Fourteenth and St. Charles Streets, on Sunday morning, I was induced to go and hear him. Mr. Shaw is certainly a man of extraordinary power … The hall in which he preached this morning was crowded, and I have seldom seen an assembly of people so deeply moved with seemingly so little effort on the part of the speaker. …

“He … announced as his text, ‘Come, see the place where the Lord lay.’

“I will not attempt to give any idea even of the sermon. It was of a character that can not be even sketched. The streaming eyes of the whole audience gave evidence of the power of the man and the effectiveness of his words. If any one desires to have his soul moved to its profoundest depths, let him go and listen an hour to Mr. Shaw.”

Due to his singing ability, his authorship of many hymns (and music for songs), and his habit of singing people into his meetings and singing during the course of his sermons, Shaw was commonly known in his time as “The Singing Evangelist,” and yet, his name is virtually unknown to us today. However, during the 1860’s and most of the 1870’s he is one of the most sought-after evangelists in the Restoration Heritage. Unlike most evangelists among our tribe at the time, Shaw speaks quite deliberately to elicit an emotional response from his hearers; this is the bull’s-eye he aims for in his sermons.

Shaw’s life was cut short at the age of 53 in a train wreck on the Texas Central Railroad between Dallas and McKinney, Texas in 1878. At the time of his death, e was on his way to conduct a meeting in McKinney, having just concluded a five-week long meeting with the Commerce Street Church in Dallas. His death was the sole fatality in the accident. His last words were:

“Oh, it is a grand thing to rally people to the cross of Christ.”

A portion of the inscription on his tombstone in the East Hill Cemetery in Rushville (Rush County), Indiana reads:

“An Acceptable Evangelist of the Church of Christ.”

If you’ve ever sung We Saw Thee Not, I Am the Vine, or Bringing in the Sheaves, you’ve sung some of the lyrics and/or music that Shaw authored and sang in his sermons.

February 23

* Feb. 23, 1837 – After vigorous debate, Bacon College in Georgetown, Kentucky secures its charter from the state legislature and Walter Scott is unanimously elected as its first president. The reason for the legislature’s debate is due to concern that support of Bacon College will hurt enrollment in Baptist-oriented Georgetown University (a concern that will prove true). The cost of one semester’s education at Bacon is $21.00 and the cost of room-and-board in Georgetown averages $2.00 per week. Over 200 students enroll in the college during its first year of operation. There are eight professors and teachers: J. Crenshaw, Tolbert Fanning, T.F. Johnson, W. Knight, S.C. Mullins, U. B. Phillips, C. R. Prezminsky (sic?), and Walter Scott.

Being the first institution of higher learning founded by members of the American Restoration Heritage, Bacon College is initially known as Collegiate Institute; however, the school soon changes its name to Bacon College in honor of Sir Francis Bacon, the founder of the scientific method.

Bethany College, founded by Alexander Campbell in Bethany, Virginia (becoming West Virginia during the time of the Civil War), will have its start three years later in 1840.

* Feb. 23, 1908 – In the Music Hall in Cincinnati, Ohio, a six-day debate begins between Charles T. Russell and Lloyd Smith (“L.S.”) White. Russell is regarded as the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The debate revolves around six propositions with a different question on the table each night of the debate. L.S. is also known for being one of the first two preaching ministers in Churches of Christ to be engaged in “full-time local work” (W.A. Sewell being the other; cf. the entry for Jan. 6 in this series).

February 24

* Feb. 24, 1811Edward Dickinson Baker, Sr. is born. He will grow up to become a preacher within the Restoration Heritage known for his eloquence and skill in public speaking. He will become a U.S. Senator. And, will become Abraham Lincoln’s best friend (they were law partners together in Illinois). Lincoln will name a son of his after him (Edward Baker Lincoln). Baker will introduce Lincoln to the nation at his inauguration as President.

And, while leading a regiment of the Union Army in an ill advised and poorly prepared attack, Baker will be killed in battle – four bullets at close range to his head and heart – at Ball’s Bluff (aka: Harrison’s Island), a battle fought in Loudoun County, Virginia early on in the Civil War (Oct. 21, 1861). A number of friends will recall that in the days and hours immediately preceding the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, Baker spoke with them several times of his death (age 50) as a close-at-hand certainty.

Naturally, Lincoln will receive the news of Baker’s death quite hard:

“With bowed head, and tears rolling down his furrowed cheeks, his face pale and wan, his heart heaving with emotion, he almost fell as he stepped into the street.”

Since he was also a Senator at the time of his death, Baker‘s death prompts the formation of the Congressional Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, a panel that, seated primarily by Lincoln’s opponents, will typically place itself at odds with Lincoln’s strategies for the prosecution of the war, making for endless drama and difficulty for many throughout the conflict.

What of Lincoln’s son, the one named after Edward Baker? He died tragically at the age of three in 1850.

* Feb. 24, 1960 – An article appears on page one of The Dallas Times Herald describing Carl Spain‘s recent address (“Modern Challenges to Christian Morals”) at the Abilene Christian College (ACC) Lectureship.

“A Professor of Bible and Religious Education said Wednesday that colleges operated by members of the church of Christ should admit the denomination’s Negro preachers to graduate study. In discussing present-day challenges to morals, Carl Spain said in his prepared text, ‘You drive one of your own preachers to denominational schools where he can get credit for his work and refuse to let him take Bible for credit in your own schools because the color of his skin is dark.’ He said colleges of other denominations and state universities and some public schools in Texas admit Negroes, and asked, ‘Are we moral cowards on this issue?’

“There are people with money who will back us in our last ditch stand for white supremacy in a world of pigmented people. God forbid that we shall be the last stronghold among religious schools where the politico-economic philosophy of naturalism determines our moral conduct.'”

In an interview Spain said that there had been some ‘instances when Negroes desired to enroll in Bible courses at Abilene Christian College’s graduate school, but did not do so because of housing, eating, and other problems. He said faculty members had discussed the situation and that others shared his view that Negro preachers of the church of Christ who can qualify academically should be admitted to the graduate school. Don H. Morris, ACC president said, ‘Like most schools we have had applications for admission from colored people, but our school has not provided for their registration.’

“Spain said he brought up the subject to stir up some thinking among church of Christ members attending the Lectureship and that his views would apply to the schools of any denomination practicing segregation. All other schools operated by the church of Christ in the South are operated as all-white schools. Those in the north and on the west coast are integrated.”

Also in his address, Spain had said: “God forbid that churches of Christ, and schools operated by Christians, shall be the last stronghold of refuge for socially sick people who have Nazi illusions about the Master Race. Political naturalism, in the cloak of the Christian priesthood, must not be the ethical code in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.”

The following year (1961), students of any race are admitted into ACC’s graduate study program and in 1962, the same becomes true for undergraduate classes. As a result, other colleges associated with Churches of Christ in Oklahoma (Oklahoma Christian), Arkansas (Harding College), and Tennessee (David Lipscomb College) soon adopt similar policies.

February 25

Feb. 25, 1859James P. Shannon dies of an acute asthma attack at the age of 59. His body is buried in Columbia, Missouri. Shannon is primarily remembered for two things: his work as a college administrator and his abundant efforts (from 1844 until his death) in writing, debate, and speech as a “fire-eater” (a radical proponent of slavery).

Shannon was the president of the College of Louisiana from 1835-1840. It was Shannon who succeeded Walter Scott as president of Bacon College in 1840 when the school made its move from Georgetown to Harrodsburg, Kentucky and he served as Bacon’s president until 1850. He also served as the president of the University of Missouri (1850-1856), as a co-founder (1853) of what will become known as Christian University in Columbia, Missouri, and as the first president of Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri (1856-1859).

Shannon’s vigorous defense of “the peculiar institution” is all the more noteworthy in light of the observation of one well-known abolitionist of the time, John Gregg Fee. Namely, that it is members of Stone-Campbell Movement churches who own more slaves per person than members of any other church tribe in American Christendom. While the majority of those manning Restoration pulpits, or occupying desks as editors of brotherhood papers, are anything but fire-eaters, the rank and file of those occupying the pews in the South are, to one degree or another, quite sympathetic with Shannon’s views on slavery. Consequently, editors tend to write about slavery (e.g. – a number of articles in the Millenial Harbinger), pulpits tend to be very guarded or virtually silent on the subject, and a great many members practice it.

This daily, deep, long-standing gulf between pulpit and pew on a huge social issue – the willful enslavement of another human being for one’s own gain – will do nothing for the ability of Restoration churches to engage in truly civil and constructive conversation on other matters, be it a Christian’s participation in military service and war, or matters of “doctrine” such as instrumental music, missionary societies, etc. Slavery is “the elephant in the living room” for many congregations long before many men march off to war and “see the elephant.” Any discussions, therefore, of the major reasons for division among Restoration churches during, or following, the war that do not seriously take the issue of slavery into account are, at best, inadequate, more nearly, as fundamentally flawed as Shannon’s views on slavery.

February 26

Feb. 26, 1857 – Alexander Campbell reports in the Millenial Harbinger that he is starting a speaking tour through the South to raise funds for Bethany College. His son, Alexander, Jr. will accompany him on this trip.

Campbell’s (Sr.) post-millenial beliefs nurture his drive for deep reform in higher education and his fervency for educational reform fuels his understanding of the millenium. Campbell believes that society as a whole needs a complete overhaul and since education is the tap root of the health of society, he views the prevailing model of education as not getting the job done. And so, Campbell founds Bethany College in 1840 and it will, in effect, become his laboratory for the testing and refinement of his beliefs about what education, and society, should become.

According to D. Duane Cummings, Campbell’s philosophy of education can be summed up with these six phrases: (1) ‘wholeness of person’ (development of physical, mental, and moral power), (2) ‘moral formation of character’ (moral excellence being the primary objective), (3) ‘study of the Bible’ (the centerpiece of the core curriculum), (4) ‘no sectarian influence’ (Scripture is to be studied free of outside influence), (5) ‘perfectability of individuals’ (instruction in individual morality will inevitably lead to wider social reform), and (6) ‘lifelong learning’ (from cradle to grave).

Consequently, in many ways Bethany College is a strong contrast to other colleges of its time. For example, while other institutions focus heavily on history (Greek and Roman), Bethany emphasizes the sciences. In fact, Bethany is one of the first colleges to offer a bachelor’s degree in science.

But, perhaps of greatest interest (surprise?) to us today is the fact that Campbell never viewed Bethany as a college that, so to speak, served Restoration Heritage churches or was merely a sounding-board for Restoration ideals. Not at all. He believed Bethany was operated for the benefit of society as a whole and that wider society was represented at Bethany. In the words of Richard T. Hughes:

“Campbell made no requirements that the institution’s trustees be aligned with his own movement, and indeed they came from a wide variety of Protestant persuasions. College Hall resounded each Sunday with worship and instruction ‘performed by respectable ministers of various denominations.’ It is clear that Campbell committed Bethany College to the cause of that ‘common Christianity … in which all good men of all denominations are agreed.'” (Reviving the Ancient Faith; p.40)

Bethany College is still in operation today in Bethany, West Virginia.

February 27

Feb. 27, 1866 – The editor and publisher of the Gospel Advocate, David Lipscomb, gives full vent to his feelings regarding his brethren who are associated with the American Christian Missionary Society (ACMS). Never a fan of the ACMS to begin with, it was the ACMS’ passage of a resolution in 1863 rescinding its neutral stance on the war and throwing its full support behind the Union, that finally, and fully, burnt Lipscomb’s toast. An up-close witness to the years of death and destruction wrought by the war, especially among his Southern brethren, Lipscomb will now leave no doubt as to how he sees the ACMS and his brothers in the North who continue to support it, as well his distaste for military service on the part of any Christians, anywhere.

“… when we looked as we did in the beginning, to see this society of CHRISTIANS, set an example of keeping its hands pure from the blood of all men; and in its action to find strength and encouragement for ourselves and our brethren that needed help, we found only the vindictive, murderous spirit ruling its counsels, and encouraging the CHRISTIAN (?) work of CHRISTIANS North robbing and slaughtering Christians South. So far as we have been able to learn, this has been its chief solicitude for four years past, and to this solicitude it has conformed its actions. We doubt not it has been a valuable auxiliary to the political organization of earth in inducing the followers of the prince of PEACE to become men of war and blood.”

Because he holds these views, the name ‘David Lipscomb’ will be largely frowned upon by the majority of Restoration Heritage churches in the North and, because of his views on military service, a large number of Restoration Heritage Christians in the South will consider him either a weakling or a coward in regard to the Lost Cause (the Confederacy), or a traitor to his country (no matter the government). Throughout the remainder of his life, Lipscomb will take not a single step back from this perspective on either the ACMS or military service.

February 28

Feb. 28, 1868‘Racoon’ John Smith dies at the age of 83 in Mexico (Audrain County), Missouri at the home of one of his daughters (Emily Frances Ringo). His body will be buried in Lexington, Kentucky. A man of truly unique personality, very little education (a total of four months), and a vast memory of Scripture, Alexander Campbell once said of him:

“John Smith is the only man that I ever knew who would have been spoiled by a college education.”

Raised as a Baptist in rural, eastern Tennessee (Sullivan County), Smith becomes a Baptist preacher, but continually finds himself in hot water with his Baptist kinsmen. Why? Their vocalized complaint is that he uses too much Scripture in his preaching, but there’s much more to it than what they say (after all, we all know that people typically offer their “best sounding complaint,” not their real concern). The real issue is that Smith is growing increasingly frustrated and unhappy with the Calvinist elements of Baptist faith and such clearly shows in his preaching. Example: Smith interrupts one of his own sermons to exclaim:

“Brethren, something is wrong, I am in the dark, we are all in the dark, but how to lead you to the light, or to find the way myself, I know not!”

Upon encountering Alexander Campbell’s paper the Christian Baptist, hearing Campbell speak once (on Galatians, at a length of 2 1/2 hours), re-reading his New Testament, and no small amount of pondering and prayer, Smith switches over to the Restoration Heritage and continues preaching – with obvious joy and to great effect. His plain, but articulate manner of speech and preaching, coupled with his knack for sharp, witty humor, communicates especially well with country folk and in these respects (preaching style and primary audience) Smith is something like Alexander Campbell’s opposite.

A brief anecdote captures a bit of Smith’s essence. On one occasion he was asked what the difference was between baptism and seeking God at a mourner’s bench. Without a pause, Smith replies:

“One is from heaven; the other is from the sawmill.”

It is Smith who is chosen to preach the first sermon at the Hill Street meeting in Lexington, Kentucky on Jan. 1, 1832, a meeting between representatives of the Stone (Christians) and Campbell (Disciples) movements. In this sermon, Smith says:

“Let us, then my brethren, be no longer Campbellites or Stoneites, New Lights or Old Lights, or any other kind of lights, but let us come to the Bible, and to the Bible alone, as the only book in the world that can give us all the light we need.”

And it is Smith who then formally shakes Barton W. Stone’s hand and so, seals the deal that unites the two movements into one – the Stone-Campbell Movement.

links: this went thru my mind

Afghanistan, Iraq, ISIS, veterans & war: The Truth About the Wars

“If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, I think we’re there.”

Church, expectations, inclusion, mission, perceptions & welcome: 3 Ways ‘All Are Welcome’ Is Hurting the Church

“Churches — like individuals — are called to know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and discern a clear and specific mission to where Jesus is calling them to act. Many times churches actually do have in mind a particular subset of people with whom they’d like repopulate their congregation. Many times this particular subset looks an awful lot like the current membership of the church, albeit 20-30 years ago. Often, though, neighborhoods and needs have changed. And a vital ministry — perhaps to immigrant workers, to retired folks, to single adults — is forgotten in light of chasing the ever-elusive ‘young families.'”

Corporate worship, hymns, music & singing: My Journey Away from Contemporary Worship Music

“I make this plea to my fellow ministers, do not neglect these milestones from ages past.”

Economics, income inequality & politics: A Change That Isn’t Coming

“…  until the two parties put forward lasting and structural fixes for these problems the pain and outrage are only going to intensify. And as the pain grows the American electorate will continue to lash out blindly and schizophrenically, alternately punishing the party in power and hoping for a change that isn’t coming.”

Joseph Smith, Latter-Day Saints, Mormons & polygamy: It’s Official: Mormon Founder Had Up to 40 Wives

“The biggest bombshell for some in the essays is that Smith married women who were already married, some to men who were Smith’s friends and followers.”

links: this went thru my mind

Behavior, habits, & thinking: How to Debug Your Brain and Build Better Habits

“… we tend to make stupid decisions at transitions, because we don’t think about them …”

Capitalism & faith: Capitalism: An Economic System that Requires Us to Think and Act As If God Does Not Exist

“I have come to believe that American Christians especially have become comfortable with this inner pluralism, internalizing a kind of practical atheism, laying it alongside belief in God and acknowledgment of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. With the unintended but inevitable result that God gets pushed into smaller and smaller inner spaces. Naturally, people want examples, so I’ll offer one here: capitalism.”

Disappointment, expectations, & photography: Here’s How to Stop Being Disappointed by Your Photos [this 6 1/2 min. video is applicable to much more than just photography; required viewing]

“How about giving up unrealistic expectations …”

Ministry: Ministry Isn’t Fair

“Today may have been truly awful. Tomorrow might be even worse. However, we never need to doubt that through us, in the sometimes cold and wet trenches of ministry, God is working. Who knows, with some perseverance, today’s trench may be tomorrow’s vineyard.”

Singing, spiritual discipline, & spiritual formation: Singing as a Spiritual Discipline [required reading]

“Our problem is that we enjoy, celebrate, bemoan, criticize, celebrate, and judge church life based on what we like. We are deciding on the basis of what we like because we’ve bought into the lie that our corporate singing should be personal. Personal worship for a personal savior, right? But what would church look like if we reframed corporate singing, not in the ever-narrowing category of “worship,” but as a spiritual discipline?”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Accountability, church attendance, church membership, discipleship, responsibility & spiritual formation: Why join a church? (This generation of Christians wants to know.) [required reading]

“It’s the difference in becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ and being an attender only. Attenders have no commitment to the team, but are looking for a comfortable place.  They sit back and let others take the lead. But disciples are committed to this body of believers and determined to forward its vision.  Attenders want a good seat, but disciples take a stand!”

Capital punishment, civilization, government, humanity & society: Are We Descending into Barbarity?

“We Americans like to think of ourselves as among the most developed and civilized countries in the world (if not at the top of the list!). But much of the rest of the world thinks otherwise. We don’t help our case when we continue to engage in acts that can only be called barbaric.”

Christ & salvation: Christ Confesses Us

“What is salvific is that Christ, witnessing our lives, recognizes and confesses us.”

Congregational singing: 15 Reasons Why We Should Still Be Using Hymnals

“…  hymnals … are important symbols for worshiping congregations. Here are some of the reasons why.”

Conscience: Can You Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide?

“God never intended your conscience as your guide. It has another purpose.”

Divorce: A Good Infographic About Divorce

“In 2012, 2.4 million people got divorced in the U.S. … So what’s happening and can anything be done to keep the love?”

Prayer: * What Good Does Prayer Do?; * Does Prayer Really Make a Difference?; * Prayer Killers for Pastors

* “Why do I pray? There must be a thousand reasons. Here are the first 20 of my answers …”

* “I know the traditional cliché that prayer is for our sake, not God’s. It changes us, not God, or God’s plans. Even C .S. Lewis said that! I have the greatest admiration for Lewis, but on this account I think he is dead wrong.

“Prayer does certainly change us, but that’s not why we’re told to engage in it. We’re commanded to engage in prayer because it is a God-ordained means of impacting him and changing the world. Jesus didn’t say if we have faith and pray our attitude toward mountains would change. He said the mountain would move! Prayer changes what happens in world.”

* “How’s your prayer life? On a scale of 1 to 10 from non-existent to stellar how would you rate it? I bet most charitably argue for a 6 to 8. Few might place them self in a 9 or 10. Rating myself honestly, I am a solid 3.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Children, mothers & parenting: What are We Teaching Our Daughters?

“… what God does require is that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8). That is a teaching that can, by grace, bear eternal fruit in a daughter’s life. A woman who is skilled in every domestic art is of little Kingdom use unless she also thinks biblically, discerns wisely, understands the times, and can serve her family and church with these vital gifts as best she can.”

Church decline & Southern Baptist churches: Five Reasons Why Most Southern Baptist Churches Baptize Almost No Millennials

“The report identifies five problems behind the baptism drought …”

Gun control & violence: More Guns, More Shootings?

“Although the data on the impact of right to carry laws is inconclusive, there is a great deal of evidence demonstrating that the more guns in a community, the more violent crime in that community and that owning a gun increases the likelihood that you will die a gun-related death.”

Singing & song-writing: The Tone-Deaf Singer [required reading]

“We sing best when that gospel is dwelling richly within us. God is not looking at the quality of our tone or the perfection of our pitch. He is looking at the heart. Tone and pitch matter, but when you stand with the congregation and sing to the Lord, it is your heart that is far more significant. You can be utterly tone deaf and sing beautiful music in the ear of God when the gospel is dwelling richly within and when you are singing to exult in the Savior.”