[forthright] How Does Your Garden Grow? / Alexander Campbell (1) / The God Centered Community

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Thu, 5 Mar 2009 06:58:42 -0800 (PST)
Forthright Magazine 
Straight to the Cross

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How Does Your Garden Grow? 
 by Mike Benson

Church work is like gardening (2 Timothy 2:6), without
the bib overalls and straw hat. The seed is the Word (
Luke 8:11). Preachers are patient laborers (James 5:7),
seeking to bring their produce to harvest (Matthew
9:37-38; Matthew 13:30). Making a good garden is
dependent upon several factors--the right seed, proper
fertilizer, sufficient water, warm sunshine, insect
control and periodic weeding, etc. (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Joel Neal Pinion, my old gardening buddy over in White,
Georgia, used to laugh and say, "Mike--growing a garden
isn't just about pulling weeds." His humor had a point.
Having spent considerable time in my own vegetable
garden and having observed other growers and their
produce, I can attest to the truthfulness of his
statement. Pulling weeds is but one aspect of what a
gardener must perform.

Respectfully, I wish some of my fellow "gardeners"
could learn that lesson. To read from the pen of some
of my brethren, you would think that weed pulling--
i.e., exposing false teachers and false teaching--is a
preacher's sole responsibility; it is THE gospel.
Virtually every issue of their bulletin or paper is
devoted to "weed-pulling" and little--if anything--is
written from the vantage point of optimism or

Please don't misunderstand here--left unchecked, the
weeds of false doctrine can choke a congregation and
MUST be pulled up (Titus 1:10-11; Romans 16:17, 18; 2
John 9-11; Matthew 7:16-18) in order to ensure the
garden's growth (2 Peter 2:2; 3:18).

However, a preacher-writer who devotes 98% of his
energies to condemning wrong will never produce the
kind of soul-harvest the Master husbandman requires
(Hebrews 5:14). It is impossible to grow a garden by
simply pulling up weeds. Yes, weeds can choke plants
and rob the soil of important nutrients, but if the
full range of garden tending efforts are neglected, the
herbage will eventually wither and die. And if somehow
it survives this imbalanced treatment, it will be
incapable of yielding fruit (John 15:16; Romans 7:4).

Where are the articles about the joy of Christian
service? Where are the lessons about the blessings of
our fellowship? Where are the sermons addressing the
good things about the Lord's church? Where are the
literary treaties on what is positive about the
Christian life?

Where are the essays concerning basic, Bible doctrine
and how to be saved? (If a preacher isn't careful, he
can prefer condemning to saving-- Jonah 3-4; Luke
15:25-32). The Bible says the "sum" (not some) of God's
word is truth (Psalm 119:160 ASV). It is not a matter
of "either or" brethren, but "both and."

The sole purpose of teaching through the printed page
and internet should not be merely to denounce and
attack denominational error and or liberalism. This is
to be but a part of the whole commission we are to
fulfill (Matthew 28:20). Paul himself said that his
gardening efforts involved a complete balance. "For I
have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of
God" (Acts 20:27; cf. 2 Timothy 3:16).

Those of us who preach through the printed media and
internet might do well to heed the advice of one
Christian educator of the past who challenged his young
students to leaf through their Bibles and underline
those passages which they seldom or never addressed and
then preach on them. Note Paul's example, "...I kept
back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to
you, and taught you..." (Acts 20:20).

Joe Neal was right--good gardening requires a
comprehensive approach. It's not just about pulling
weeds. May God help us to keep this in mind as we
declare the wonderful word of God.

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Alexander Campbell (1) 
 by Michael D "Mike" Greene

"Upon these principles, my dear son, I fear you will
wear many a ragged coat," said Thomas Campbell to his
son Alexander. Of what principles was the father
speaking? Alexander, having been in America only a
short time, had just refused a salary of $1,000 a year
to take charge of a school in Pittsburg.

Alexander had read his father's Declaration and
Address. He had determined to dedicate his life to the
advancement of the principles contained therein and to
take no monetary compensation for his labor. He further
purposed to "divest himself of all earthly concerns,
take up the Divine book and to make it the subject of
his study for six months." Thomas' remarks expressed a
father's concern for the well being of a son./1 But
time would disprove Thomas Campbell's dire prediction
of his son's future.

Alexander Campbell was born September 12, 1788 in
Antrim County, Ireland. He was the eldest child of
Thomas and Jane Corneigle. Under the tutelage of his
well educated father and uncles, he was raised in a
home where he was exposed to the scriptures and the
classics. His later education at Glasgow University
provided him a level of education enjoyed by few,
especially on the frontier of America, a nation itself
barely three decades old when he arrived on her shores.

Thomas Campbell had left his family in Ireland and
migrated to America in 1807. Some months later, he sent
for his family. A shipwreck which the family survived
and a smallpox outbreak kept the family in Scotland
until they were able to emigrate in 1809. It was during
this time that Alexander Campbell was able to attend
Glasgow University. In the 300 days he spent at the
university, he was exposed to various reformation
efforts led by such men as John Glas, Robert Sandeman,
and James and Robert Haldane.

A more intimate acquaintance was made with a man of
reformation sympathies named Greville Ewing. In small
meetings at Ewing’s home religious issues of the day
were discussed. Changes that Ewing called for were
weekly communion, exclusion of human creeds,
congregational autonomy, plurality of elders in each
church and others. Ewing also held the view that faith
is based on testimony rather than being a gift from
God./2 No doubt we see the influence of these men and
others in Campbell’s later work including his writings,
sermons, and debates.

It was also during his time at Glasgow that his
increasing knowledge of the Bible and exposure to
reformatory ideas led him to break with the
Presbyterian Church. His father's break was much more
formal, involving letters and interaction with the
presbytery and the synod. Alexander’s was the more
sublime act of simply refusing communion.

Thus the stage was set for that fateful meeting between
Thomas and his family on the National Pike in
Pennsylvania in October, 1809. It was shortly after
that meeting that Alexander made his resolve to
dedicate his life to the proclamation of God’s word and
the principles contained in the Declaration and

When the Campbell's returned to Western Pennsylvania,
they established the Washington Association as Thomas
had proposed in the Declaration and Address. A church
was established near the Brush Run Creek which flows
near the farm later owned by Alexander. It had no
denominational name. It was simply called the Brush Run
Church. It was the only church to hold membership in
the Washington Association.

Alexander then begins his lifelong quest for truth.
During 1810 he preached 106 sermons on the fundamental
basis of Christianity. His faith in creeds, the clergy
and Protestantism had been shaken. On July 15, 1810,
Campbell declared the independency of the church of

As with other pioneers of the Restoration Movement,
Campbell had no idea of where his commitment to the
principles he had pledged to preach would take him. But
he never relinquished his desire for truth.

In 1830 he wrote in the Millennial Harbinger;

   "Often I have said, and often I have
   written, that truth, truth eternal and
   divine, is now and long has been with me the
   pearl of great price. To her I will, with
   the blessing of God, sacrifice everything.
   But on no altar will I offer her a victim.
   If I have lost sight of her, God who
   searches the hearts knows I have not done it
   intentionally. With my whole heart I have
   sought the truth, and I know that I have
   found it [Italics in original, MG]."/3

By the time Alexander reached the age of 22 years, he
and the Campbell family found themselves among that
unnamed throng of immigrants who came to the shores of
the new land known as America. Thomas came due to
health concerns.

Alexander and the others came to be re-united with
their beloved Thomas. Some of that multitude of
immigrants came to America seeking a better life and so
carved out of the wilderness a thriving new nation.
Others came seeking religious freedom and brought with
them a mindset of independence in religion as well as

The Campbells found a ready home among them as they put
down roots in soil much to their liking. But their
consuming purpose was not a better life, although they
found such. It was not simply freedom to exercise their
religion, which they also found, but a quest for
something on a higher plane. Theirs became a search for
a purer form of Christianity. They sought a reformation
that would go far beyond the trappings of Protestantism
and Catholicism all the way back to the Bible. They
sought a restoration of New Testament Christianity.
Theirs became a "search for the ancient order of


1/Richardson, Robert, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell,
Vol. I, 1897, Reprinted by Religious Book Service,
Indianapolis, IN., 274-75. 
2/Foster, Douglas, A., Ed., The Encyclopedia of the 
Stone-Campbell Movement, 2004, Eerdmans Publishing 
Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 118. 
3/ West, Earl Irvin, The Search for the Ancient Order,
Vol. 1, 1974, Gospel Advocate, Co. Nashville, TN., 54.

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The God Created Community 
 by Barry Newton

Thinking they had seen it all before, curious
Israelites gathered to investigate an unusual sound. At
the center of the commotion a group of men were
speaking loudly and boldly. Certain individuals from
the crowd suddenly became surprised as they recognized
the wonders of God being proclaimed in languages from
their own distant homelands. What did all of this mean?

A man called Peter unraveled their bewilderment. In
essence, he explained that God had been and was at

Peter’s message revealed that what had interrupted
their activities celebrating the first fruits of the
spring harvest involved God pouring out his Spirit as
God had foretold years earlier through his prophet Joel
that he would do. But that was not all.

God had also been at work through that man called Jesus
who had been killed some fifty days earlier at
Passover. Through miracles God had accredited Jesus. It
was God’s plan that Jesus would die on the cross. But
even more amazing, through king David, God had foretold
about a millennium earlier that the day would come when
he would raise this one from the dead to enthrone him.
God had made Jesus to be Ruler and Messiah.

God had created new possibilities for their lives. If
they would reject evil to truly serve God and if they'd
be baptized, their sins would be forgiven and they
would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

On that day those who responded to the message were
baptized. And the first harvest made possible by Jesus'
death and resurrection was gathered by the Lord into
his newly formed community.

In a world filled with cynicism about institutions,
entrenched with human opinions regarding cause and
effect and racked with fear over what will be,
disciples would do well to remember who their Ruler is
and to whose community they pertain. The agendas,
creative thinking and cultural tastes of humanity did
not create the church; God did. 

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