Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Leadership (Part 3)


That last post generated a lot of discussion - some of it on the topic, and some way off topic. After venting and listening to some responses, I want to give an example of rising above this pettiness that can consume us if we're not careful. At a time when churches are cracking up, leaders are not respected, and feelings are seared, we need good examples. Here is my hero when I think of church leadership. T. B. Larimore.

Larimore was a wildly popular Church of Christ preacher in Sherman, Texas in the 1890's. This was a time in our history more turbulent than even today. The restoration movement was being ripped in half. Lines were drawn, sides were taken, and the fight was on!!! What were the issues? Instrumental music vs acappella singing, missionary societies vs local congregational support for foreign missionaries, special fundraising vs Sunday collection as the only way to raise money, acceptance of previous baptism vs rebaptism in a Church of Christ, located preachers vs "mutual edification." There were other issues, and, remember, the wounds from the Civil War were still festering. (Our revisionist tendencies say that it was ALL about instrumental music.)

In 1897 two ministers who had been former students of Larimore at Mars Hill College wrote him a letter urging him to speak out on these issues. They said, "It is not best, in our humble judgment, to be silent when we see our fellow men, and especially our own family, drifting apart. Please, therefore, answer the following questions according to your judgment . . . (instrumental music, organized mission work, conventions and lectureships, paid located preachers) . . . Thousands of your brothers and sisters believe it is your duty to speak out on these questions, and strive to unite the people of God. And surely when duty calls you will respond." To this challenge, Larimore replied, "Never, publicly or privately, have I expressed opinion or preference relative to any of these matters over which brethren are wrangling and disputing and dividing the church of Christ - never! I am sorry to disappoint any of my friends, but it is clearly my duty to leave the discussion to wiser, better, abler men, and just simply preach the Word, avoiding all questions that gender strife among the children of God. I shall simply do as I have always done - love the brethren. They may refuse to recognize or fellowship or affiliate with me; but I will NEVER refuse to recognize or fellowship or affiliate with them - NEVER."

Larimore never recognized the split that even the U.S. Census recognized in 1906. He preached in both instrumental Christian Churches and acappella Churches of Christ, and he felt comfortable in both. By the time he died in 1928, Larimore had planted more churches, preached more sermons, and baptized more people (over 10 000) than any other living preacher at the time! What an example. That's who I want to be.

26 comments:

Bill Jordan said...

Larimore, according to some really fragile history, had a hand in the "planting" of the Kaufman church of Christ.

I was told by Edward Cave who had tried to piece together the congregation's history back in the late 1970's that Larimore held a revival in Kaufman in 1903 and came back later and helped establish the congregation in either 1906 or 1909.

Cave printed that information as fact at one time with out giving any attribution to the history. He did that with a lot of history and was proven to have a lot of the facts and names wrong when better records were produced. He was respected more for his photography and photo library than his accuracy for facts, but he did preserve a lot of Kaufman history and that is to his credit.

Anyway, Larimore's name did come into play in the founding or "planting" of the congregation in some level of effort.

I just thought you'd like to know that in a figurative sense you've taken over the pulput where you hero once preached.

I have more confidence in the 1909 date than I do the 1906 date. Again, some Ed Cave data from 1907 clouds the picture. But there is solid data that shows the congregation was in operation in 1910.

I'll leave it at that for now. But when I get time I have an item to add to this conversation concerning the instrumental music topic that I uncovered in my study about restoration history. I'm going to be interested to know if you've run across the same story or point of view since you've done a lot's more research than I have.

Charles Sean North said...

Wow. That is nice to know. I'll be sure to mention it. On second thought, not many people know who Larimore was. That is something I'll have to fix!

Holly said...

I am sensing something... I see a big room, filled with people... Oh. It's Charles teaching a Restoration History Bible class in the church auditorium.

I like this Larimore guy. It would be interesting to know more about him.

Anyway, he epitomizes what I was trying to convey to you what I thought a church leader should be like. He ignores those who would be argurmentative and keeps preaching. He stayed firm on the teaching of salvation and refused to be sucked in to the issues that do not concern our path to heaven.

If the churches of Christ are going to keep shouting that they are nondenominational, then all of those issues are to be decided upon by each congregation and their eldership, and not fuss about the other congregations choosing otherwise. Otherwise, they need to give in and organize one authoritative group over all the congregations. Take your pick and stick with it! It just amazes me how this guy was able to float between all the different congregations.

Did he write any books that you would recommend? You know how I love books!

Mike Holder said...

The last blog was way over my head so I thought I would jump in quick before you, Brian, Bill and Joe lose me in the sea of words not in my vocabulary.

Larimore seems like a big picture guy. So often we get caught up in the mountainous volume of the trival that we can no longer see Jesus give us "the look" and hear him say "stop wondering through the forest, get out in the open where you can see me, be led by me, minister to the ones walking around lost and hurting".

I think that is a great test of leadership. Can you see past the trivial, over the hills of debate, through the fog of personal preference, and around the corner of pettiness to catch the shadowed glimps of the truely important? Bring it into focus and act on it appropriately.

This is the leader I strive to be in every aspect of my life and yet so often fail at it.

Sounds a lot like Paul huh? not doing what I desire to do but the opposite.

By the way. I think having Bill and Charles stare at me while I read is distracting enough. Joe and Brian fore-go the pictures please!

Ok. Now back to lurking.

Brian England said...

Mike, I'm thinking about getting a glamour shot done before posting my pic. I think your comments are spot on.

Since we have a bunch of history buffs here (I've heard Bill attended Mars Hill with Larimore), it reminds me of the Roman Empire focusing on periphial issues such as building Hadrian's Wall in England, while their Empire collapsed from within.
I believe that was the biggest problem Paul was trying to correct in his letter to the Corinthians. Two big groups of people were fighting over periphial issues and Paul kept redirecting them back to the Cross. One group valued logic and rational argument (good Greeks), while the other seemed to value experience and perception. Sounds a little like a sermon we heard Reverend Charles preach a few weeks back--learning to live in community with people who think and are wired differently then us.
Well, just for clarification, I'm a proud member of the group of "greek thinkers" and I refuse to change teams as long as you have "experiential feelers" like Joe who frequently pat me on the rear.

Bill Jordan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Jordan said...

Well Charles I bet you didn't expect your blog would be turned into a discussion on butt patting, but that's the risk you run when Aggies are allowed access.

By the way, do whatever you wish about Brian, but Mike, Joe and myself will be ignoring him from Sept. 1 thru Nov. 30. Of course when the Agriculture and Mowing College goes 1-5 heading into October we most certainly will give him plenty of "attention."

And if he really does get one of those glamor shots I'm going to change my photo to one with a black bar across the eyes.

Charles Sean North said...

Holly - I'm so glad you've jumped in! I see that room too - full of eager minds, ready to have a complete historical paradigm shift. The last time I taught a series on church history, an older lady came to me after the first class, and said, "I'm almost 80, and that's the most depressing lesson I've ever heard in church." Is Kaufman ready??? Here's a good web site to read some more on Larimore: http://www.therestorationmovement.com/larimore,tb.htm

Yeah, I don't know about the butt patting! It is fun to see Bill and Brian make fun of each other - seems the heat is off me.

Speaking of glamour shots, how do you like my new header?

Charles Sean North said...

Here's that link again: www.therestorationmovement.com/larimore,tb.htm

Holly said...

When you have an infant, "butt patting" has a whole different meaning... (LOL)

Ryan said...

"If the churches of Christ are going to keep shouting that they are nondenominational, then all of those issues are to be decided upon by each congregation and their eldership, and not fuss about the other congregations choosing otherwise. Otherwise, they need to give in and organize one authoritative group over all the congregations."

Nice insight Holly

Bill Jordan said...

Charles, the new header looks good.

Now here is the history project I need some help with:

In doing some research on Alexander Campbell a few months ago I ran across an article by a writer from Tennessee that had an interesting take on the subject of instrumental music that I had never considered or heard before. I can't remember the writer's name, so attribution at this point is in question, but I'll keep digging if anybody has any interest.

His claim was that the "issue" really brewed up just after the Civil War. As reconstruction got underway the southern states were certainly in bad need of new transportation and communication means, but one of the most pressing needs was for raw food and meal supplies.

According to his article, David Lipscomb set off on a campaign of letter writing to churches in the north asking for them to send food and food supplies to the churches in the south to help ease the suffering.

There was not much response from the northern churches. Lipscomb was very dissapointed and remained bitter about the lack of support from the north for many years.

Keep in mind too as an asside here that his request went out to many churches in the north that were associated with the Stone-Campbell movement of past years. Letters when to Disciples of Christ churches, Christian Churches, Reform Movement congregations, Christian Missionary Society congregations, etc. No mention was made of Churches of Christ because as far back as 1866 that name was not used as a title, but more of how many in the movement's subscribers were defined. That's not a very good way of saying this, but basically it wasn't a name found on many church signs. It may have had some use in the south, but not in the north where the name Disciples of Christ or Christian Church was the most often seen sign, followed right behind by Reform Movement.

Anyway ...

Among Lipscomb's positions as the publisher of the Gospel Advocate was a stand against instruments in worship. But, it was not a radical stand against instruments. He took a conservative point, just saying it was safer to go only where he knew it was safe ... aka / a cappella.

However, men Lipscomb mentored and taught recognized his bitter wound because of the way the churches in the north had not rallied to the aid of churches in the south. As they spread out across the country following the Civil War most of those men took even stronger stands about instrumental music, painting the organs and pianos of the north as the the devil's tools. Their claims rang out that the Christians of the north were more in love with their instruments than they were the brothers and sisters in the south and they used funds after the war years to revamp their organs, etc. instead of helping with the food drives for the south.

Naturally, as we'll too often do, those preachers schooled under Lipscomb slid scripture text under their positions to support their campaign against instrumental music. That cry rolled on like a snowball going down hill and became one of the dominate battles among the Restoration Movement in the late 1800's and early 1900's. And naturally, it hasn't vanished as we all know.

Lipscomb himself never made those claims about churches in the north being more in love with instruments than they were their hungry brothers in the south, but he never tried to temper the tone of the preaching either.

In the years after the Civil War most of Libscomb's ink was used to battle the efforts he saw as trying to change the direction of the Reform Movement and especially the teachings of Thomas and Aexander Campbell.

He felt men like Herbert Willett and James Garrison were leading the Christian Church in a direction far removed from the Campbell's teachings and he attacked the Christian-Evangelist publication on many occasions as the weapon of much discard.

There is little doubt that southern members of the movement did hold Lipscomb in high regard. His publication was printed and well received for 46 years and he was always remembered as the leader that finally found food supplies in Kentucky and Tennessee to help feed brothers and sisters in southern churches after the war.

Now, is any of that fact, fiction or a real "bending" of the true story? I don't know the answer, but it certainly seems a good possibility that the anger from the Civil War may have really spilled over into the "instrumental music" conversation and fueled it to the point of a major debate.

It runs hand and hand with much of the same conversation that fueled debate on "women's roles" about the same time and also points to lingering wounds from the Civil War and later wounds over prohabition that fueled that debate.

I'd really like to know if there is any merit to that story because I want to stop telling it if there is no valid documentation to prove it.

Bill Jordan said...

Holly: You might want to check out e-bay. There are two Larimore books being auctioned right now. No bidders YET.

jenn said...

Charles, the new header is great! I really like it.
Holly, I'm with ya!!! GO BABY BUTTS!!! :)

Love y'all!!

Brian England said...

Bill, thank you for sharing that story. I think there might be a lot of truth to it. Your post reminded me of some research I did for Doug Foster (I think it was him) where I had the opportunity to read some of the old Gospel Advocate and Octographic Review articles in the late 1800's.

Your post inspired me to break out some of my old outlines. Here is a quote I found of Lipscomb: " The fundamental difference between the Disciples of Christ [this would have included Churches of christ at the time] and the society folks was that the conservatives wanted people to come to Christ, while the liberals wnated to build 'a strong and respectable denomination' based on moneyed societies, fine house, fashionable music and eloquent speeches." (Gospel Advocate 1987, 'The Churches Across the Mountains')

I know Lipscomb directed his ministry and messages to the poor. This was definetly his primary focus. As a result, he often spoke against building bigger church buildings and filling them with ornate instruments. I remember reading several of Lipscomb's speeches where he went after "the aristocrats" and Northern churchmen catering to the wealthy. He even complained about the use of a new Hymnal that he thought was more suited for the rich then the poor. So, your story would make sense.

The poverty and suffering caused by the Civil war had to contribute to his feelings about the "Northern Aristocrats." However, preachers in the South were preaching this same message before the War. So, it seems to me that his favor toward the poor had more to do with his belief that Christians are called to be seperatists from the world and politics and were to reject anything "modern." He just thought organs were instruments of modern religion and distracted from God's real concern--ministry to the poor. He thought the church should be completely devoted to the people God had shown particular favortism--the poor. I think the "War of Northern Aggression" just intensified his earlier beliefs.

I would suggest reading some of Richard Hughes and David Harrell, Jr's work. They have written quite a bit on this subject. I have three or four of their books in storage. I'll pull them out and bring them to you.

Charles Sean North said...

Man would I love to go on and on about Lipscomb! He is either the greatest preacher/elder and church leader in history or he is the devil - I've heard it both ways! There is plenty validity to that story Bill. The Civil War had a profound influence on Lipscomb. It colored almost everything he did. Also, lingering hatred over the Civil War was the ultimate cause of division in the restoration movement - it really is revisionist history to blame it all on "the instrument." Plus, it is slanderous to say, "well, those progressives up north just don't follow the bible like we do." Wow, is it 1906 all over again?

Bill Jordan said...

I'll have to dig this out of my stuff at home, but there was a MAJOR blowup right after the war between Lipscomb and the missions society group over Gospel Advocate's publishing rights to Campbell's hymnals. They canceled orders and were going to really cost him some big dollars and he backed off.

Sometimes lost in all of this is the black and white of the REAL issue for some of these guys. They were making money off of all this and their economics starts waltzing out into the light of day. It's no crime to make an honest living, but you have to wonder at times if they didn't take the banter up a knotch or two just to sell papers. Would a publisher EVER do that??? :-)

And then when you take a nice look at how close all of these "Bible college" types were, ie. Harding, Lipscomb, et al, you really have to start wondering who was in who's pocket. Not that plenty of good hasn't come from their effots, but they sure had some close ties.

That doesn't change the fact that Lipscomb had a deep passion for the poor and hurting and tried to help them after the Civil War. But at the same time, these guys help Rush Limbaugh like status in the communications complex of the day and they also had their hand in a lot of other "stuff."

Charles Sean North said...

Absolutely. That's why they were called "editor-bishops." Scary!

Bill Jordan said...

Sorry, but I have the Lipscomb story about the hymnals upside down.

Robert E. Hooper, writing in The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, tells the story this way:

Lipscomb emerged from the Civil War with a Southern bias. He believed that if the war had done nothing more than free the slaves, it had served a good purpose. However, Lipscomb did not allow Northern members to escape without a challenge. Because the American Christian Missionary Society had supported the North in the war, he refused to sell Campbell's hymnal, now owned by the ACMS, through the Gospel Advocate, calling it "blood-stained." Lipscomb was confronted in Kentucky and told if he did not support the ACMS the Kentucky Disciples would not support the Advocate. He backed down and returned to selling the books through his and Tolbert Fanning's publication.

Also in the same article Hooper writes:

In 1906, when the director of the U.S. religious census wanted to know if the Disciples of Christ were divided, it was Lipscomb who answered for the conservatives in the south. In his response to Director S.N.D. North, he stated: "There is a distinct people taking the word of God as their only sufficient rule of faith, calling their churches 'churches of Christ' or churches of God,' distinct and separate in name, work, or rule of faith, from all other bodies of peoples." Thus, in the next U.S. religious census, Churches of Christ were listed separately from the Disciples of Christ.

Bill Jordan said...

I feel a need to challenge Brian on his information about Larimore and myself attending, or meeting at, Mars Hill Academy in Florence, Alabama in the early 1870's.

We had no such meeting.

It appears the nearest we came to meeting was in California. Larimore moved to Berkeley, then to Santa Ana in the early 1920's. He died at Santa Ana on March 18, 1929.

Several years later, 1953 to be to the point, I was born in Paso Robles, California just down the coast from Santa Ana. I'm sure he would have liked to have hung around another 24 years just to meet me, but it appears that complications from a hip fracture got in the way of a longer life.

Joe D said...

O.K....I admit that I am short on church of Christ historical facts. You guys rattle off these facts like you were teenagers at the turn of the twentieth century. But I can not remain idle and silent when my social practices are being drug through the proverbial mud. I can't help it if I spent my formative years were consumed with football and I can't help it if me and my friends were not homophobic. I will have you know that I have severely curbed my "butt patting" practices and is used now only when the situation really calls for it or if I "fall off the wagon". I am a charter member of butt patters anonymous. Ron Flannagan practically broke me of the habit and my life has been forever changed. While I am mentally devoid of significant church history facts, I can tell you that butt patters have been around since Alexander Campbell ever picked up a Bible and stood on a stump. The first known person to ever embrace the practice, which can be loosely equated to a 'holy kiss', was a Mr. Pat Freely who first performed the act in 1869. Incidentally his wife's name was Fannie. The practice of butt patting spread like wildfire through the country, but the true remnant of patters are sports figures who actually "restored" the act of patting in 1917. Their resolve was to restore the 19th century act of patting to the best of their ability and as closely as possible to the original form and practice. Sadly, however in the early 1920's there arose a controversy as to how the act should actually be performed. There were those who thought that patting should be done only to signify a "job well done"-- an affirmation if you will. They became known as conservative patters. The other group, scorned by the conservatives, thought that you could pat whenever the mood struck you even as a social act of greeting. This group was known as the liberal patters and have been "written up" in many contemporary peer journals pertaining to the practice of butt patting. The two groups continue to fight and bicker. Several decades ago, they even began to debate the issues among patting institutions as to how many times you should pat at one time. There are those that think you should pat once--- known as one patters, and those that think you can pat many times-- known as "multiple patters". There are also current arguments where some say that you can freely pat at anytime during a church service like during the meet and greet for instance, and there are those conservatives that contend that you can only pat after the closing prayer, but never in a building that has an attached kitchen.

So before you disparage my liberal views on social greetings, know that there is a rich, albeit ugly history of butt patting that I continue to embrace, yet at a much subdued pace.

So debate ahead on church history, but if you dare, debate with me the history and practices of butt patting. Don't forget, though that the basis of all butt patting facts should be only by direct command, apostolic example or implied inference.

Charles Sean North said...

Bill - It's nice to know that you're so into our restoration history. It really is fascinating stuff. Here's a good book recommendation - "The Democratization of American Christianity" by Nathan Hatch.

Joe - Satire can get you in big trouble. But it's nice to know Jesus used it. Actually its used in the OT as well. I think the entire book of Jonah is satire/political protest written during the time of Ezra-Nehemiah when butt-slapping Gentiles was forbidden.

mike holder said...

Charles, thanks for bringing the conversation back around to church history after Joe slammed us into a brick wall of butts.

and by the way Joe, when slapping becomes cupping it has gone to far.

Joe D said...

You can call it satirical if you want to, but I think that "satire" is a watered down label of what I really am by nature. I am a genetically born and well trained smart aleck (aleck is also a watered down word). I mean no harm, it is just my highest and best use of humor. You guys were way too deep with your restoration facts and figures. I bow to the historians (historians may also be a watered down word).

Joe D said...

"Brick wall of butts"--- I did not bring the subject up for your information.

And to Charles who said that satire can get you in trouble..... I am not the one who published in his own blog an article that sparked 50+ comments (some anonymous) with issues dog-piled in from instrumental music to proper use of fingers to make various signs. Before you judge me and tell me that I can get into trouble--- I will say that you shouldn't worry about the micro flash card in MY eye and forget that you have a beast of a desktop Apple computer with external hard drive and wide screen monitor in YOUR OWN eye.

Charles Sean North said...

See, now that's how to update Jesus' parables and teachings while remaining true to the original intent. I intend to remove that desktop from my eye soon and replace it with an iPhone.