Spiritual Perspectives


Gary W. Summers

           Just a week away now (January 19-22) is this year’s lectureship hosted by the Florida School of Preaching in Lakeland.  Although this is the first time I have been honored with an invitation to speak, it is not the first time I have been associated with some of the faculty.  Gene Burgett, who spoke here three weeks ago, and I have known each other for a dozen years; he held a meeting for us in Texas.  Some of the other faculty members occasionally spoke on the Annual Denton Lectures.  Brian Kenyon and my son Tim had a class together at Freed-Hardeman.


     More important, however, is that they have published excellent books for the past several years.  I have purchased (and read) all of them from 1994 through 2003, and they are all worth having and studying.  We will devote some space here to citing some of the highlights from previous years. 


     We also want to encourage those who can to take a day off work, if possible, in order to spend a day there.  Take a long weekend and visit on Monday, or break up the work week and travel there one of the other days.  Another alternative would be to attend one of the evening sessions, in which you would be able to profit from two lectures.  Those who work second shift could get to hear three morning lectures.


     There is a schedule on the bulletin board and a few more in the foyer this morning.  Look the schedule over and see when might be the best time for you to attend.  As one who has hosted such events, I can attest to the fact that these brethren work hard to provide this pro-gram each year.  We are blessed to have this spiritual feast so close at hand.  There are other events in the area periodically, but this one may be depended upon to invite speakers who are known for their faithfulness to the Word.  Many of their previous books remain in print, and at $16.00 they are a bargain (most are 500-600 pages). 


      The year 1994 marked the beginning of publication for these books, and the topic that year was The Doc-trine of Christ (487 pages).  A thorough review cannot be given.  Our procedure will be to note some of the subjects discussed and provide a few quotations, which must of necessity be few.  Oftentimes there are useful charts which cannot be reproduced here.  This first book began with a chapter on “Christ And His Doc-trine,” followed by theological sections on the Godhead, the Bible, Truth, authority, the church, forgiveness, grace, law, miracles, sin, hell, and heaven.  Practical material included Biblical teaching about civil government, the home, the Christian’s influence, righteous-ness, materialism, and works.


William E. Wardlaw: If man cannot know anything for sure, then he could not know that he is in a lost condition and in need of a Savior. Why then should he be concerned with religion at all (67)?


Brad Poe: It would be a cruel joke for God to allow His Son to bear the brute force of His wrath on the cross and endure the punishment that our sins de-serve, and then act nonchalantly about punishing those who reject that vicarious act on the cross…. If there is no hell, then the cross was unnecessary (273).


Richard O’Connor: An unfaithful Christian…is of no profit to God and cannot be restored to his former effectiveness unless he is willing to turn in repentance back to the righteous God who gave him his “saltiness” at the outset (346-47).


Terry M. Hightower: When one reads the history of God’s people, especially in the 1800’s and 1900’s (e.g. Joe Blue in Arkansas when dynamite was placed under his pulpit at a revival), he sees denominationalists allied together for the defeat of their despised common foe: the gospel preacher! (427-28).


     1995’s book was Good News That Troubles the World (506 pages).  Some of the chapter titles are: “Jesus Troubled The World,” “The Good News That Troubles The   Indifferent,” “The Good News And Our Re-ward,” “The Good News Troubles Some Women,” “John The Baptist Troubled The World,” “Paul Troubled The World,” “We Must Not Make Friends With The World,” “The Good News Troubles Homosexuals,” and “Trouble In The Church Today.”  Some quotations are listed below.


V. P. Black: When we become partakers of the divine nature of Christ, we have an appetite for those things that are good, pure, and holy (67).  How can one claim to be a partaker of the divine nature of Christ and refuse to be involved in the work of the church? (68).


David Watson: Many are those in false religions who are more faithful to their falsehoods than so called Christians are to Christianity (242).


Dennis Gulledge: Whereas some are profoundly disturbed at any teaching which would expose their favorite worldly enticement, there are others who are unshakable in their disinterest and hardly give a second thought to anything that the preacher might say on matters related to morality and spirituality (385).

     You Have Heard It Said…But The Bible Says! was the theme for 1996 (542 pages).  Some of the “You Have Heard It Said” titles are: “It Is Arrogant And Divisive To Claim To Be In the One True Church,” “God Was Once A Man (Mormonism),” “Man Is Born In Sin,” “Man Is Saved By Faith Only,” “Baptism Is Not Essential To Salvation,” “Men Can Work Miracles Today,” “Mechanical Instruments of Music In Worship Is A Matter Of Opinion,” “Adultery Is Getting A Divorce; It Is Not A Sexual Sin,” “People in the World Are Not Under Law To Christ.”  All of these are religious errors that are examined and refuted in the book.  A few quotes follow.

Robert R. Taylor, Jr.: On April 6, 1844, Joseph Smith delivered a sermon relative to his beliefs about God. This was just seven weeks before he died in a blazing gun battle in Illinois. The Mormon founder stated,

God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man…. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea…. And you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves (146-47).

Robert M. Williams, Jr.: There are many honest people in denominational churches who do not know what their church teaches, nor why they practice what they do (166).

Terry M. Hightower: Max [Lucado, gws] was asked why he does not extend the gospel invitation at the Oak Hills church, and he said that he did not want to run anyone off! (399).


     If the Foundations Be Destroyed, What Can the Righteous Do? (506 pages) came out in 1997.  Some of the chapter titles are: “Foundation Principles For The Home,” “The Church And The Home,” “How May The Church Assist Dysfunctional Families?” “If The Foundations Be Destroyed, Who Will Care For The Helpless: Orphan, Aged, Needy?” “Joseph In Potiphar’s House,” “How May We Know Who Is A Christian?” “Confusion Over The Authority Of Elders,” “Following Social Fads Rather Than Divine Principles,” “Is The Foundation of Preaching Being Destroyed?” and “Developing Strong Congregations.”  A few quotes follow.


Darrel Davis: Problems are not inherited in marriage—the problems are in the people who marry. Our concept of marriage is so unrealistic—too many people spend all their time getting ready for the wedding and no time getting ready for the marriage (253).


Joseph Worndle: A “member” of the church once told me that he had been divorced three times. He had felt so guilty about this until he found an elder-ship that gave him peace of mind by allowing him to worship with them and even serve the Lord’s Supper (404).


Flavil Nichols: Our secret sins may be the most dangerous and damnable sins of which we are guilty! The elders of the church do not know how to admonish and try to save me—for my sins are “secret” from them! (444-45).


     In 1998 the overall subject was Meeting the Challenging Tests of Life (558 pages).  Some of the titles are: “Tests In James Chapter One,” “Tests Come To Those In Positions of Power,” “Tests Come To Employees,” “Tests Faced In Marriage,” “Crisis Forum: Loss Of A Child, Mate, Or Parent,” “Loss Of Income,” “Loss Of Health And Aging,” “Tests Confront Us In The Realms Of Truth And Conscience,” “Tests Unique To The Young,” “Facing The Tests Of Life,” “Tests Faced In Soul Winning,” “Tests To Grow Spiritually,” and “Tests Faced In Restoring The Wayward.”  Quotes follow.


Billy Lambert: Today the Lord may not deliver us from the furnace, but he will get in the furnace with you (Ps. 46:1) (173-74).


Mike Elledge: We even have a term for people who are trying to justify not spending enough time with their children. It is called “Quality Time,” and it is just another invention of wishful thinkers who are hoping that not spending enough time with their children will not come back to haunt them (231).


Winford Claiborne: The Methodists had a conference several years ago out in the State of Texas investigating the question, “Why are Methodists churches dying?”  And one of the answers was, “We do not preach anything anymore.” Well, churches of Christ are heading in that direction, at least some of us are, but there is still a desire on the part of many of us…to have a “Thus saith the Lord” (553).

     What Does It Mean To Be Christian Like Paul? was the title of the 1999 book (698 pages).  Some of the  matters relating to Paul are: “Paul Changed Religions, Could You?” “Paul An Example To Preachers,” “Did Paul Make A Mistake?” “If Brother Paul Visited Here,” “How Did Paul Handle Church Funds?” “Did Paul Emphasize Doctrine?” “What Did Paul Teach About The Church?” “What Did Paul Teach About Water Baptism?” “What Did Paul Teach About The Second Coming Of Christ?” “How Did Paul Reach The Lost? By Starting Congregations; By Stabilizing Congregations; By Teaching Congregations To Help One Another,” “How Did Paul Solve Problems?” “Eating In The Church Building,” “How Did Paul Deal With Criticism?” “Must An Elder Have More Than One Child To Meet The Qualifications For An Elder?” “Must An Elder Resign If His Wife Dies?” and “What Is Paul’s Thorn In The Flesh?”  Below are only a few quotations.


V. P. Black: Many members are trying to live the Christian life without being crucified with Christ. There is not any person strong enough, wise enough, smart enough, to live the Christian life without being crucified with Jesus (66).


Dale Flowers: So if we have the man power, if we have the brain power, if we have the technical power, if we have the Gospel power, if we have the financial power, why is it that those who yearn to go [missionaries, gws] can’t go? Why is it that those who want to hear don’t have the opportunity to hear? … Could it be we lack the will power? (466).


Jackie M. Stearsman: A challenge: Let them [the change agents and the university-in-diversity” bunch, gws] go among the denominational world and unite them, then let them come home and show us how they did it (571).


     The 2000 lectures posed the question: Do You Understand Preaching? (691 pages).  Some of the chapters are: “What Does It Mean To Preach Jesus?” “Preachers Need To Study,” “Jesus The Master Teacher,” “Demas As A Preacher,” “Preacher, Encourage Us!” “Destroying Influence,” “Why Do You Want To Preach?” “Do We Need A Pastor?” “Restoring The Erring,” “Is Preaching Out Of Date?” and “Common Misconceptions About The Scriptural Role Of Preachers.”


V. P. Black: How long has it been since you have heard your local minister say anything in one of his sermons that could not be said in any religious body in the city where you live? (29).


Demar Elam: A denominational church in Dothan, Alabama offers its members a swimming pool, gymnasium, indoor running track, racquetball courts, steam room, sauna, weight room, and private coaching in various sporting activities for youth and adults (378).


B. J. Clarke: It used to be the case that when people evaluated a preacher, they did so primarily on the basis of his knowledge of the Scriptures and his ability to communicate the same (685).

     Another vital topic was treated in 2001: Do You Understand Leadership? (573 pages).  Some of the chapters are: “Essentials Of Leadership,” “Following A Leader,” “Leadership And The Future,” “Men’s Business Meetings,” “Preacher-Elders Agreement On What Constitutes Error,” “Stopping False Teaching,” “How Do We Honor Leaders?” “Do Elders Have Authority Only In Example?” and “Training Small Children To Behave Properly In Worship.”  Below are some quotations.


Tom Holland: In fact, if there is any thing worse than the problem of no leadership, it is the problem of the wrong kind of leadership… (26-27).


B. J. Clarke (repeating what others have said): …it is better for the church to be Scripturally unorganized than to be unscripturally organized (404).


B. J. Clarke: Furthermore, if the decisions of an eldership are required to submit to the wishes of the congregation, then why have elders make decisions at all? Why not just take a congregational vote whenever a decision need to be made? If the wishes of the congregation are going to ultimately decide the matter anyway, why not just cut out the middle men, the elders, and save time? (419).


Terry M. Hightower: I have heard about one pastor who would excuse himself from business meetings for a few minutes so that he could telephone his wife in order to find out how to vote on certain questions that had arisen! (435-36).


B. C. Carr: It is sad to note that today we have so many who occupy our pulpits, in the present crisis, who can only preach on love. They are afraid to be negative. Everything they preach must be positive. Instead of using the sword of the Spirit, they are waving a butter paddle. Can you imagine Jonah going to Nineveh to preach nothing but love, or commendation? (484-85).


     2002 brought us Do You Understand Worship? (605 pages).  All of the acts of worship we engage in publicly are covered, as well as unauthorized additions, such as the use of mechanical instruments of music.  Others are: “Is All Service Worship?” “Does God Care How We Dress in Public Worship?” “Are Wedding and Funeral Services Worship?” and “Lexicons Can Be Wrong.”


Roy Dicks: Lifting up holy hands is a figure of speech built on the ancient prayer gesture which expresses purity of heart and motive (222).


Timothy Kidwell: On one occasion, while attending a luncheon for ministers of the area churches of Christ, a minister, addressing the group, said, “Don’t preach Scripture stuff! Especially on Sunday mornings. People do not want to hear it. If they don’t have fun, they will not come back.” (234).


Brian R. Kenyon: For example, parents who do not regularly attend church services teach their children that congregational worship and Bible study are not really that important (580).



     Last year’s book (2003) approached another crucial subject: Do You Understand Fellowship? (635 pages).  V. P. Black provides 42 pages of excellent material on the Beatitudes, which alone would be worth the price of the book, but there is much more: “Is Eating A Common Meal Fellowship?” “Does Truth Produce Division? (Pr. 28:4)?” “How Do We Encourage Brethren In A Splintered Fellowship?” “May One Speak On Programs Where Questionable People Appear?” ”May Forsaking The Assembly Break Fellowship?” “May One Congregation Withhold Fellowship From Another?” “Should One’s View Of Marriage, Divorce, And Remarriage Be A Matter Of Fellowship?” and “May Hand Clapping In Worship Be A Matter Of Fellowship?”  A few quotes appear below.


V. P. Black: To be “poor in spirit” is to be willing to be where God places us; to bear what he lays upon us; to go where he bids us; and to do what he commands us (33).


Jimmy Clark: Third, truth is consistent with its nature. Truth cannot contradict itself and be the truth (105).  Whenever anyone draws a conclusion that clearly contradicts another Scripture, it is certain that the conclusion is wrong (106).


Gene E. Stilwell: Here, again, is where congregational cooperation is necessary. If fellowship is withdrawn, then there can be no fellowship extend-ed by any member (2 Thes. 3:14)…. The church, as a whole, must recognize this and not extend fellowship to those who have rejected God or have been rejected by the Father (314).


Brian R. Kenyon: The truth of the matter is that there is as much authority in the New Testament for hand clapping, mechanical instruments of music, and/or the handling of snakes (572).


     The 2004 lectureship book will undoubtedly be as good as all of those reviewed; its title will be: Do You Under-stand The Grace Of God?  If anyone is unable to attend but would like a copy of the book, I will be glad to bring back some copies with me.



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