Jump Start # 3091
Jude 3 “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was one for all delivered to the saints.”
There is a small, old abandoned brick church building that sits outside of the town of Windsor, Illinois. Recently, I stopped by this place. The building was built in 1874. It’s one of those things that history buffs need to do.
Back in the late 1880’s, there was a strong progressive spirit that was working through many congregations, especially in the north. The desire to have instrumental music and work through a national missionary society seemed pleasing to many folks. These new innovations were causing turmoil and division in many congregations. Many thought it was time to adopt these practices. Others saw them as steps leading away from the N.T. pattern and the Lord. Tensions were high. The brotherhood papers were busy battling these issues. Families were divided on these things. Even in my Indiana, the story is told of an organ being brought into the church building. Late one night, some broke into the church and chopped the organ up.
Every August, outside of Windsor, Illinois, at a place called Sand Creek, brethren gathered for preaching, singing and fellowship. In August 1889, one such gathering took place. It is said that 5,000 people came. The famous Daniel Sommer was the featured preacher. The day before the meeting took place, several from surrounding congregations gathered to write a document that was to be presented the next day. Historically, it is known as the “Address and Declaration.” Sommer preached more than an hour. Then Peter Warren, a well known preacher from the area, read the document. It had been signed by men from six area congregations. It was a stake in the ground. Unless the progressives stopped their innovations, they would no longer be considered brethren. Fellowship was ending. A division and a major split was going to happen.
Most historians use the date of 1906 as the official split between the Churches of Christ and the Christian Church. For the 1906 census, Gospel Advocate editor, David Lipscomb was asked about how many churches of Christ were in the fellowship. He made the distinction between instrumental and non-instrumental congregations. Because of that, most use the 1906 date as the starting point.
But outside of Winsor, at Sand Creek, in 1889, a line was drawn. The progressives dug their heels in. A division was taking place. After that August meeting at Sand Creek, everyone went home. The Sand Creek church had a problem. Who was going to control the church building, the progressives or the conservatives? A lawsuit took place. It went to the Illinois Supreme Court. Eventually, the conservatives kept control of the building. But the fighting between the two sides left a sour taste in many people’s minds. It filled the newspapers. And it further drove a wedge between the two sides.
So, on a recent preaching trip to Illinois, I went by the Sand Creek building. It’s old, small and no longer used. A cemetery sits beside the brick building.
Our verse today is a good reminder of the call to stay true to God’s way. Contend earnest for the faith, is what Jude wrote. “The faith,” is not our convictions or conscience. It is the N.T. pattern. Paul said in Ephesians, there is one faith. Since the days of Nadab and Abihu and running through O.T. history, including the likes of Jeroboam, there has always been some who were not content with God’s way. They want something different. Some want what others are doing. Some think they know a better way of doing things than God does. So the spirit of change has been sung through the ages.
Jude’s words are to earnestly contend for the faith. Defend God’s word. Support God’s word. Stand with God.
There are some lessons for us, even those who have no taste for history:
First, the fight for truth often is a real fight. We are seeing this in our country over the issue of abortion. Those that do not like controversy will go along with the loudest and largest group. Those that want to hold the line to where the Scriptures are often are mocked, and ridiculed. Satan will try to get a foothold in every congregation if we let him. The role of shepherds is to guard the flock. Protect it. Watch it. Danger is lurking and they need to be aware of it. Trouble, problems and error never just go away. Like mold on a wall, they seem to grow and grow.
Second, in fighting for what is right, one must not use wrong. The Sand Creek declaration, signed by men from six area congregations sure sounds like a creed to me. In fighting one thing, we must make sure that we do not run past Jerusalem. Creating a wrong to fight a wrong never works. It sounds like the signed document was a power play. The area churches were kicking out the progressives. We’ll have nothing to do with you. But in doing that, they forgot about the independence and autonomy of each congregation.
Third, the best way to fight any error is to simply preach and teach the N.T. way of things. The concept of a missionary society is not supported Biblically. Look how the early church operated. Antioch sent Paul out. It was not a confederation of many churches, it was one.
Teaching and teaching and teaching the N.T. pattern and showing that God’s way works, and it’s sufficient to do what God wants, and that the early brethren were content with God’s way of doing things. We don’t need documents outside of the N.T. We don’t need an alignment of area churches to prove our point. Just stick with the Bible. Error sounds sweet. Error looks good on paper. Error appeals to the emotions. But error falls apart when it is investigated and Biblical evidence is sought. That’s the way things need to be done today.
And, all these years later, what do we see? The progressive side continues to move further and faster away from the word of God. Today’s Christian church doesn’t look like anything similar to the 1880’s model. That’s the way error works. Once the barn door is opened, there is no closing it. What one generation wanted, the next wants more. The generation following that, wants even more. And, in a short while, they are standing so far away from God’s pattern that they no longer can even see it.
Today, there is virtually no contact between those in the Christian church and the churches of Christ. Most do not even know that there was at one time a common beginning point in America. Most today, do not care about the past. And, to the spirits of that old Sand Creek document, the two have nothing to do with each other. Attitudes and how one views God’s word and Biblical authority are not even in the same solar system these days. Today, there is little in common at all.
Could things have been done differently at Sand Creek? Probably. Would it have stopped from what eventually happened? Probably not.
Sand Creek…interesting place in Restoration history. Glad I got to see it.