ARE YOU ORTHODOX?
T. PIERCE BROWN
Some use the term “orthodox” to mean “Correct, in terms of what the scriptures authorize.” Others mean by it, “That which is generally approved or accepted as the correct way.” Our teaching should be orthodox in the first sense, both in method and content. We should not be too concerned with being orthodox in the sense of simply doing things in the generally accepted way.
In Mark 2:1-4 there is an interesting story with significant lessons for us. When the multitude heard Jesus was there, they gathered in such numbers that there was no room for them, even about the door. The orthodox or accustomed way to Christ was blocked.
They brought a paralyzed man. He knew he was in a pitiful condition and believed Jesus had the cure. He could not get there by himself, but had four friends who helped him. What powerful lessons for us! There are many that are paralyzed by sin, and would come to Jesus if they knew how. It is our business as teachers to get them to Jesus. Those of us who teach should never be more concerned with the accustomed way of doing things than we are with the primary goal of getting men to Jesus. We do need to be concerned with being orthodox if we mean by it following God’s pattern.
Is it not a tragedy beyond comprehension that many “sound” brethren are standing around the door trying to be so orthodox that those who are paralyzed can’t get in? If they did get in, sometimes the scathing statement of Jesus would apply, “Ye compass land and sea to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him twofold more a child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew23:15). One difference is, it appears that some in the present situation are not willing to compass land or sea to win anyone to Christ. It is true that the church in many places is in a sad situation, with many “liberal” brethren who would have fellowship with almost any kind of doctrine. What makes the condition even more sad is that many “conservative” brethren are more concerned with defending their understanding of some particular passage of scripture than they are in reaching the millions of lost with the gospel. If a particular understanding of a passage does not pervert the gospel plan of salvation, pervert or corrupt the worship or lead to immoral lives, it should not cause us to spend so much time on it that we fail to keep before the world the message of the gospel.
In the story of the paralyzed man, he was “borne of four” (Mark 2:3). The importance of a united, concentrated, concerned effort is suggested here. One man could not have handled the problem by himself. Can you imagine the impact it could have on the whole world if every newspaper, radio and television station in the nation carried the news that 10,000 churches of Christ were cooperating in getting the gospel to every nation in the world, instead of many newspapers carrying the news that the churches of Christ are fussing about something again? This in no sense suggests that we should cease to contend earnestly for the faith that was once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). It does suggest that we make sure the things we are contending for are vital truths, the misunderstanding of which would cause one to be lost.
The greatest lesson in this story for those of us who teach in classes or from the pulpit is that the primary concern was to get the man to Christ. They were not trying to give him a theological dissertation on the therapeutic values of some religious exercises. Sometimes we seem to think we must convince a person of the reasons why it is good or bad to support orphans’ homes, have only one container or more for the fruit of the vine on the Lord’s table, why we don’t wash feet (in case we do not), or how much better the CHURCH OF CHRIST is than any denomination, before we can tell him the wonderful story of Jesus. A Christian needs to know many things to grow and be mature, but those of us who teach in home Bible studies or in the classroom need to know when to use milk and when to use meat. We also need to know when to depart from the usual trite, flat, stale and unprofitable way we may have been teaching before, even if it seems unorthodox to some.
Here they were so concerned with getting the man to Christ that they broke up the roof to do so. This was not the “orthodox” or customary way, but it was the right way. Any time we are more concerned merely with being “orthodox,” or doing things in the way we usually do them than we are with getting men to Christ, we do great disservice to God’s cause. Those who know me and have read my writings know that I am not advocating doctrinal unsoundness or unscriptural teaching. I am advocating using whatever methods it takes that do not violate a scriptural principle to get a man to Jesus. This is correct orthodoxy.
I am suggesting that there are many kinds of things that are causing souls to be lost because they cannot get through the door to Christ. Too many that are concerned with maintaining the status quo are blocking the entrance. We should be willing to “take the roof off” if necessary, to get people committed to Christ. It must not involve a different message than the pure truths of the Bible, but it should involve unorthodox or unusual means of calling attention to those messages, if it takes that.
For example, we have tried to get more preachers of the gospel produced by encouraging them to attend what we have called aChristianCollegeor school of preaching. I have done it, and will continue to do so, as long as I can find any that still uphold sound doctrine.
What do you suppose would happen if every teacher in every classroom decided to encourage our boys and girls to do as the early church did as recorded in Acts 8:4? If we mention any evangelistic effort, we normally encourage them to go to a Christian college and get some training that will help them to occupy a pulpit. Just suppose Christian mothers and fathers were willing to “take the roof off” by such an unorthodox practice as helping their children go into some mission field, either for a year or two of specialized training, or even during the summers, to teach the gospel instead of waiting to go to a Christian College where they could be prepared to be “The Minister” in some large congregation that would provide them the appropriate salary. Kennedy proposed a Peace Corps. What about a Prince of Peace Corps to carry the message of peace to a desperate world? Or would this be so much like the Mormon method that it would be counted as unsound? I am not advocating a missionary society, but simply individuals who decided to do evangelistic work instead of simply talk and study about it.
Does this sound like some “far out” crackpot who claims that it is unscriptural to be or have a “located preacher”? I have been a “located” or “dislocated” preacher for more than half a century and still believe and teach that it is right for a man to be such. I also know that until and unless we get farther from the “clergy” system we claim is wrong, but often practice, and back to the Bible way of men and women individually giving themselves to the spreading of the good news of Christ, there will be fewer “entering the ministry.” In spite of our claims, we often have made the expression refer to “entering the pulpit.” “The Minister” has often become the most important cog in the ecclesiastical wheel. A “minister” is no longer one who serves mankind under God’s direction, but the man who can vocalize most appealingly.
The thought I want to leave with you is far broader and deeper than that. It is that we need to be willing to “break the roof up” if necessary, to do that which Christ called us to do. Are you willing to try to do that to get the paralyzed men to Christ, while remaining doctrinally sound and steadfast in the faith? “Hold fast the traditions which ye have been taught” (2 Thessalonians2:15) without making “void the word of God by your traditions” (Mark7:13).