How My Mind Was Blown in Memphis

How many, reputed orthodox, have not the mark of God’s people! and how many, reputed heterodox, have it so evident, that all may see it!

Barton W. Stone, “The Christian Messenger” (Volume 1; Number 1) p. 7

Five years ago this month, I was faced with a difficult decision: “Change your mind, resign, or be fired.” This ultimatum, given to me by my Step Dad and Granddad who served as my elders at the time, was the first major challenge to a principle I had been taught from the time I was very little: “We ought to obey God rather than man.” I was trained to stand by my convictions regardless of what anyone else, including my own family, believed or thought. Of course, I understand that they too were operating upon their own convictions in serving the ultimatum, and I no longer harbor any ill feelings towards them. To their views of fellowship? Of course. To their sectarianism? Definitely. But to their love of God and their personal relationship with Christ? Not at all. Their ultimatum was not the first of its kind.

On the seventeenth day of August in 1889, Elder P.P. Warren took the stand to address the Sand Creek Church following an hour and forty-five minute speech by Daniel Sommer. Warren voiced his concern with festivals, chiors, and missionary socitieites. He solemnly declared, as my family did in their letters to various area churches, that these brethren were not in harmony with the gospel and were, in fact, in opposition to it. Nevertheless, he made it clear that his position was not from a place of hatred when he read the following message publicly:

And, let it be distinctly understood, that this “Address and Declaration” is not made in any spirit of envy or hate, or malice or any such thing. But we are only actuated from a sense of duty to ourselves and to all concerned; for we feel that the time has fully come when something of a more definite character ought to be known and recognized between the church and the world.

And so, two unstoppable forces colided that August 127 years later when I was given the ultimatum to change my mind (which I didn’t beleive possible), resign (which my love for the work, at first, prohibited me from doing), or be fired (which my soul could barely have handled but my persecution complex would have enjoyed I am sure). After much prayer, contemplation, and counsel from a dear friend, I chose to resign.

The difficulty in changing my mind and then making the decision to stand by my convictions was beautifully voiced by Barton W. Stone in the first publicaltion of The Christian Messenger.

Says the preacher, should I change my opinions, and reject the standards of this church, I must lose my salary, my whole living, and turn out in an unfriendly world, and with my helpless family face poverty and disgrace with persecution. Says the teacher, if I change my sentiments, I shall lose the patronage of this church; they will no longer entrust their children to my care, and want must be my lot… “Buy the truth,” is the advice of Wisdom. Whoever obtains it must give gold and silver for it, in the sense I have stated. But surely it excels rubies.

Barton W. Stone, “The Christian Messenger” (Volume 1; Number 1) p. 2

A little under two months following my resignation, I travelled to Memphis to attend a conference hosted by William Bell. Some others attended the confernece with whom I was aquainted, but among that number were a variety of Christians from Methodist, Pentecostal, and various other backgrounds of which I had never enjoyed fellowship. At this time, I was highly suspicious of their faith, for I had always been instructed in the narrower than narrow way of the more radical Churches of Christ. Yet, at this conference, something incredible happnened.

It dawned on me that these Christians, including individuals like Glenn Hill (who many of you know), had travelled hundreds of miles by car, plane, and bus to study and fellowship together. Then, knowing my background, were still willing to welcome me with open arms, smiles, and wonderful hospitatlity. Their hugs and loving attitudes tore down my rehearsed defenses better than any theological argument or well worded essay I had ever conisdered.

I left that conference excited and somewhat confused.

Thankfully, Brother Hill, as mentioned earlier, could see that confusion mixed with excitement in my eyes and connected me with my good friend Dallas Burdette of Montgomery, AL. Though my heart was convinced that the fruit of the Spirit which I partook of in Memphis was genuine, my head was having difficulty processing how that could be. Through Dallas’s patience and mentorship, he provided me with the language I needed to voice my questions, and it was from there that I began to ask the Scripture these questions that I didn’t even know to exist before my trip to Memphis.

My circle of fellowship, like so many I had grown close to in 2016-2017, had shrunken dramatically that fall only to have the process completely reversed when I encountered grace for the first time in my life over the following months going into 2017.

The words by Stone at the beginning of this blog ring true for me to this day.

How many, reputed orthodox, have not the mark of God’s people! and how many, reputed heterodox, have it so evident, that all may see it!

Barton W. Stone, “The Christian Messenger” (Volume 1; Number 1) p. 7

It is for this reason that I perfer love over doctrine, character over theology, and charity over knowledge.

2 Replies to “How My Mind Was Blown in Memphis

  1. You are wise way beyond your years for the persecution you have endured combined with your beautiful, open heart. I shed tears of joy for you, your family, and those that you teach! By your example and teaching, so many will see and learn the true love of God so their empty well within can be filled with the only truth, love and peace that passes human understanding. I pray for continuous blessings for you and that you overcome and continue to grow through all adversities in this life.

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