Tag Archives: David Lipscomb

“Money given to build houses is not given to the Lord”

In the summer of 1891, a plea for help appeared in one of the papers. Bearing the heading “Left to Die,” the letter writer stated that the cause would die in a particular location if the brethren there did not receive sufficient contributions for a new church building. Reflecting on this assertion, David Lipscomb demurs:

There is not an intimation in the New Testament that the success of the word of God anywhere depended upon a house of worship. A house of worship is not mentioned as being needful or even helpful to the establishment or upbuilding of churches of God. This would seem strange seeing they were entirely without houses and not many great or rich or noble came into the church, but the humble and poor. Yet it seems never to have occurred to them that a house of worship was needful. Now the general plea is that without a comfortable house of worship in a place even before there are members to worship, men can not be made Christians.

I am constrained to believe there is more sinful waste in the building and use of houses in which to worship than in any other thing connected with religion. There are in Nashville one million of dollars invested in meeting houses that stand locked up six days out of seven, 144 hours out of 168. Where is capital invested to lay inactive like this save in religion? And what is true of Nashville is true of all the cities in the land. In the country it is even worse. In the country immense sums of money are put in meeting-houses that are opened one hour per week sometimes one hour in a month. Where save in religion, is there such a piling up of dead capital? What would be said of people that would put money into buildings to so lay idle in any other field than that of religion? There is a superstitious idea that these houses are God’s houses, are sacred, and the superstition is so gross that it would actually exclude God himself from the house save on the set occasions. Were you to ask the owners and guardians of one of these houses the privilege of teaching the Bible in it, in the sensible heaven-approved way in which other things are taught, they would refuse it.

I am not opposing these houses, but the superstitious use or rather disuse of them, and the making the success of the cause of God depend upon having a meeting-house. They are not God’s houses. They are built for the comfort, and to gratify the pride of men and women. And any use of them for teaching the word of God that interferes with the gratification of that pride is refused. God is locked out of them except about three hours a week. Now the point I wish to make, is, why were houses of worship as a factor in the building up the church, wholly ignored in the primitive churches, yet regarded as so necessary now? How would a heading from Paul, “Left to Die” —sound, making the existence and success of the cause of God depend upon raising money to build a meeting-house, to be opened three hours in a week, kept locked against all admission, against God and others at all other time? It would be a discordant note in his writings.

But says one, “It is impossible to build up the church of God without a house in this age and country. Experience shows it.” Why is this? We think there can be but one reason given. The article of religion we are trying to spread at this time is a very inferior one. In the days of the apostles it was of a character that it was spread not only without houses of worship, but frequently the preacher preached from behind prison bars and wearing a chain. They worshiped in upper rooms, in caves of the earth, and at times in the catacombs of the dead. The religion of Christ, as he gave it, could overcome and survive all these difficulties, and run and prosper in spite of them. It must be a degenerate specimen of his religion that dies for the lack of a meeting-house kept locked up seven hours out of eight. And it seems to me a sinful waste of means, when whole states and territories are without the preached gospel, to bury three or four thousand dollars in one house, to be opened three hours in a week. The religion that requires that to keep it alive, is not worth keeping alive. As a comfort to the people needing the house, unable to build it, I have encouraged and helped, usually in building houses. Have spent money against the protest of my conscience, feeling that it had better be spent in preaching, but when it is presented that the cause will die without the house, I feel like saying, let it die, it is not worth preserving.

Money given to build houses is not given to the Lord. He has not asked money for such purposes. He may give us credit for what we thus do as kindness to our brethren.

Excerpted from “What Is Needed to Keep Alive and Spread the Church of God” (Gospel Advocate 33.26 [July 1, 1891]: 404–405).

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“The most distinctly southern city I ever saw”: Nashville, 1897

Morrison Meade Davis (1850–1926)

Morrison Meade Davis (1850–1926)

To follow up on J. A. Lord’s comments about Nashville in my last post, here’s an excerpt from an account of a visit that M. M. Davis, then pastor of the Central Christian Church in Dallas, paid to Nashville in the summer of 1897:

Nashville is a splendid city of 100,000 people, and is the most distinctly southern city I ever saw; much more so than Dallas. It is strange but true that I traveled 400 miles north and found myself in the midst of a typical southern people; incomparably more so than those I left. That it is full of thrift and enterprise is evidenced by the Centennial Exposition, the best state show ever seen in this country. So good is it that in the estimation of competent judges it compares favorably in many respects with the Columbian Exposition at Chicago. The grounds are spacious and beautiful, the buildings are massive and artistic, and the exhibits are one perpetual and pleasing surprise, and I feel it my duty to urge every one to visit it.

We have about 3,500 people here, with fourteen organizations and twelve places of worship. I had the honor and pleasure of preaching at the Vine St. church, the oldest and largest of them all. They have a $40,000 house in the very heart of the city, and 600 members. R. Lin Cave has been pastor for more than sixteen years, and I never knew a man more universally loved. His recent resignation and call to the presidency of Kentucky University have cast a gloom over the whole church and city, for he is popular with everybody. He has a son, R. Lord Cave, who bids fair to become as great a preacher as his father. And why not? If there is anything in heredity, and we all believe there is, then the grandson of the peerless Dr. Hopson, and the son of R. Lin Cave, two of our strongest men, ought to be a man of power. The Woodland St. Church on the east side of the river, under the pastoral care of T. A. Reynolds, has a good house, with 300 members, and is doing a great work. This church boasts the proud honor of being the mother of the state mission work. A. I. Myhr, the leader of the missionary hosts, has his membership here. C. A. Moore, late of Missouri, is pastor of the South Nashville Church, with David Lipscomb as one of his elders. The other churches have preaching, but no regular pastors.

The Gospel Messenger, late of Mississippi, is now in this city. M. F. Harmon, filled with energy and aglow with hope, a young man of much promise, is its founder, proprietor, and editor. For some time, however, O. P. Spiegel has shared with him his editorial honors and labors, and just recently J. M. Watson has been added to the editorial staff. Bro. Watson will have charge of the office, thus giving Harmon time for outside work when necessary and Spiegel will continue to push its claims in Mississippi. This is the place for the Messenger, and I will be surprised if these three young men do not make it a success. They have wisely inaugurated a publishing house in connection with the paper.

Here also is the Gospel Advocate, edited by David Lipscomb, E. G. Sewell, and F. D. Srygley. This is one of our oldest papers, and is regarded as the representative of the anti-organ and anti-society sentiment. It has a publishing house, and supplies its constituency with much of their literature.

Nashville is pre-eminently a city of schools. Vanderbilt University, Peabody Normal, Belmont, Ward’s and Price’s are well-known institutions. Fisk University and Roger Williams Institute are large schools for the colored people. H. L. Surber is just beginning the second year of Southern Christian College, and he is hopeful for the future. Fanning Academy, founded by Tolbert Fanning, another one of our church schools for girls, is near the city. J. A. Harding’s Bible School for the training of young preachers, is here also. The very atmosphere of the place is charged with the educational idea, making it a most desirable place to live. This is not strange when it is remembered that there are not less than 3,50o students here every year…

(Excerpted from “Texas Letter,” Christian-Evangelist 34.38 [September 23, 1897]: 600.)

So here we have a progressive’s view of events on the ground in Nashville at the turn of the century. Harmon’s Gospel Messenger ran strong for a few years in the mid 1890s, but never approached the circulation of the Advocate. It would close up shop in Nashville about a year after Davis wrote these words. O. P. Spiegel briefly tried to revive it in Birmingham as a periodical voice for the Alabama Christian Missionary Cooperation, but he too had abandoned it by the end of 1902.

In 1897, division between progressives and conservatives was becoming clearer. Even so, Davis can still say that “we have about 3,500 people here, with fourteen organizations and twelve places of worship” and refer to the Gospel Advocate as “one of our oldest papers.” Wishful thinking? Perhaps.

Conservatives in Nashville would certainly have disagreed with Davis’

Vine Street Christian Church

Vine Street Christian Church

assessment of R. Lin Cave and the Vine Street church. Twelve of those fourteen churches to which Davis alludes were conservative in sympathy. That said, none of them could claim the social standing, the respect, or the wealth that Vine Street and Woodland Street held. This comes through in some of David Lipscomb’s most scathing comments about Vine Street: “The Vine Street church, in Nashville, is a strong church numerically, pecuniarily, socially. It is surpassed by no such church in Nashville of any denomination in social and intellectual and pecuniary ability. It is the weakest church claiming to be Christian in the city. I have known its work for fifty years past. During that time it has not planted a church or sent out a preacher” (Gospel Advocate 1907, pg. 681, emphasis added).

It would be difficult to miss the point: Vine Street’s pride in its social standing—and its apparent lack of interest in evangelization—tarnished its faithfulness.

Still, though, I wonder what Lord was getting at in his comments about Nashville? Is social standing all he sees? Did he expect Vine Street and Woodland Street to start planting churches in numbers that would stem the conservative tide? Did he expect the conservatives to shoot themselves in the foot with their own dogmatism or their own “inadequate theory of church expansion”? We will never know.

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I’ll be back to the Birmingham materials soon. My trek through the Firm Foundation has yielded some interesting results that I intend to share here.

“Synagogues of Satan”

Tolbert Fanning

Tolbert Fanning, 1810-1874 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been reading J. E. Scobey’s Franklin College and its Influences (1904) of late. Scobey’s book is part biography of Tolbert Fanning, part history of Franklin College, Fanning’s short-lived school.

Reading this morning, I came across this bit from Fanning’s pen that seemed worth sharing:

“It is an indisputable fact that even churches formed of the wealthy, speculative, and idle are little more than synagogues of Satan. I pretend not to account for the mystery; but if there be truth in existence, there is something in labor which controls and subdues man’s animal appetites–reconciles him to his Maker and renders him contented with his lot. If it be an object to have honest society, the proper plan is to form it of a working population; if we wish good morals, we must find people who live by industry; and if we wish to live with the pious, we must find an association in which the rule is adopted and carried out punctiliously that ‘he that will not work shall not eat.’ All the sermons, lectures, and papers of Christendom will fail to make an idle, luxurious, and sport-seeking community either wise, virtuous, or happy. The best and happiest beings of earth are such as ‘do their own work, laboring with their own hands,’ and love to have it so. The working classes are admitted to be the most charitable of all others.”

Christian Review (1846), quoted in Scobey, pp. 24-25.

Snippets from the pens of Fanning and David Lipscomb along these lines could easily be multiplied. Fanning’s writings frequently feature attacks on wealth in the Church and push through the lines we usually draw in contemporary American society (and American Christianity) about wealth and poverty, socioeconomic and educational status. Franklin College — and its institutional descendants, the Nashville Bible School (1891) and Alabama Christian College (1912-1922) — were characterized by a deep commitment to the value of manual labor and of education of the poor.

In Nashville, these commitments are what set NBS in its early years apart from schools like Vanderbilt University and Ward-Belmont College, schools that indeed were open, but open for those who could afford to pay. As time went on, the pedagogical vision of Fanning and Lipscomb was forgotten in the quest of college administrators to conform their institutions to the prevailing standards of American higher education in the twentieth century, a quest that was paralleled in churches in the same period as Fanning himself suggests in this excerpt.

New Book

Foy Short coverGardner Hall, Foy Short: A Life in Southern Africa  (Port Murray, NJ: Mount Bethel Publishing, 2012).

Without a doubt, there has been a sea change in the historiography of the Churches of Christ in recent decades. The hagiography (and, in some cases, posturing) of the early 20th century has largely been left behind. What has replaced it is a much more sophisticated kind of historical and theological analysis.

But there is still some room for improvement. Some writers, for example, have continued to view the first half of the 20th century as something of a theological wasteland or as an embarrassing chapter in the family history to be hastily passed over, a regrettable period marked by debates, sectarianism, and fractiousness. To some extent, this is an understandable reaction. Many people in mainline Churches of Christ have had trouble owning this history (assuming that they are even aware of it) because of those traits. They have preferred, instead, to jettison what they understand to be an unsavory past in favor of the perceived promise that a (de facto) merger into American evangelicalism might bring with it.

But I digress.

Fortunately, this state of neglect has begun to abate. The past few years have witnessed renewed interest and a number of fruitful projects. Among these, we should certainly mention the publication of John Mark Hicks’ and Bobby Valentine’s Kingdom Come (2006), a book to be noted for the fact that it takes David Lipscomb and James A. Harding’s ideas seriously. (I should also call attention to Hicks and Valentine’s continuing work on K. C. Moser and R. L. Whiteside.) Interest is blossoming in other quarters as well. The folks at the Alabama Restoration Journal have been doing good work directing attention to significant figures in that state (including a very helpful issue devoted to John T. Lewis). At this year’s CSC, one presenter made two very nice presentations on noted missionary and Foy Wallace bugaboo Don Carlos Janes, and another entire panel was devoted to the Lipscomb-McGary rebaptism controversy.

But even with this renewed interest, other problems remain. The general histories, for as thorough as some of them are, have tended to (with the exception of Hughes and Harrell) overlook and have otherwise failed to take seriously the various “wings” of the Churches of Christ — premillennial, non-institutional, one cup, mutual edification, etc. — that arose during that period. In this regard, there is still much work to be done if the history of these smaller fellowships is ever to be seen as more than a footnote to the history of mainline Churches of Christ.

That brings me to the present work, Gardner Hall’s Foy Short: A Life in Southern Africa (2012). The book, of course, is a biography of Harold Foy Short (1921-2012), longtime missionary among the Churches of Christ in what is now Zimbabwe.

In 1921, Will and Delia Short, along with their infant son Foy, left Harper, Kansas, and Cordell Christian College, for Rhodesia, a British colony in southern Africa. Once there, they joined the ongoing mission work of John Sherriff, a New Zealand native who came to Rhodesia to preach in 1896. Once in Africa, Sherriff underwent a change in his convictions regarding instrumental music in worship and gradually came into affiliation with the Churches of Christ in the United States.

The book proceeds briskly through Will Short’s early mission work in the

Bennie Lee Fudge (1914-1972)

northern part of the country, the hardships of raising a family in the bush, and the complexities of navigating changing affiliations among stateside churches. Turning to the childhood of young Foy, we pick up with his departure for the United States in December 1940 to enter college. Gardner Hall does a fine job of describing key influences on Foy’s thought in the six years he was stateside: his professors at Abilene Christian College — R. C. Bell, Homer Hailey, and others; his developing friendship with Bennie Lee Fudge; and his work alongside Fudge on the faculty of the newly created North Alabama Bible School in Athens, Alabama. After narrating Short’s return to Africa in 1947, the book enters a rhythm in which his work at various mission points in Rhodesia alternates with accounts of periodic return trips to the States. Interspersed are discussions of various controversies that Short had to deal with in his work (both those specific to Africa and those imported from the United States), profiles of his native coworkers, discussions of his continuing educational work both in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and in the States, and some notice of how his work was affected by deteriorating political conditions in Zimbabwe after the nation gained independence in 1980.

The book concludes with two helpful appendices: one which gives the reader an orientation to the history of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and another which provides short biographical sketches of a number of American evangelists who have worked in the country since the time of John Sherriff.

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As I thought about this book and this review, I was reminded of some words of Iain Provan I read recently:

“All testimony about the past is also interpretation of the past. It has its ideology or theology; it has its presuppositions and its point of view; it has its narrative structure; and (if at all interesting to read or listen to) it has its narrative art, its rhetoric. It is intrinsically embroiled in advocacy, even if it may go out of its way to try to disguise this fact and appear neutral. There is no true neutrality, however; no dispassionate, unbiased, and presuppositionless presentation of the facts is possible. People always write about the past because they wish to communicate some kind of truth to their readers or to advocate some kind of virtue. It has always been so; it will always remain so.”

This might strike some as a controversial statement. Consider this, though. “Objective” histories of the Stone-Campbell Movement written by Disciple scholars in the early 20th century often failed to even mention the existence of a cappella Churches of Christ. The Church of Christ was a small splinter group in their eyes, the redneck cousins they were embarrassed to claim. (A more contemporary version of the same phenomenon can be seen in the attitude of many mainline outlets among Churches of Christ toward their separated brethren in one cup, non-institutional, and non-class churches.) What’s the lesson to be learned from reading DeGroot and other Disciple historians from that period? They teach us, quite inadvertently, that sweeping claims to objectivity rarely ensure that no agenda in fact exists. Often, such claims simply mean that the agenda is masked – masked, often enough, to the eyes of the author himself. Better, then, to be honest about one’s presuppositions up front.

It seems to me that much of the value of the newer historiography among Churches of Christ comes from how it embodies that point. It holds in tension two seemingly contradictory impulses.

First, it is no longer a priori beholden to maintaining walls between groups. It’s our historians — not our churches or news outlets — that are in the forefront of this development. The Alabama Restoration Journal, for example, brings together historians from non-institutional and mainline conservative backgrounds — two groups that have less in common than might appear at first blush. ACU Press’ series of histories of the three major streams of the Movement is a cooperative project across traditional lines. The World History Project (set to be released soon) does the same thing on a much larger — and international — scale.

At the same time, most of this work — and this is key — respects the real differences that exist among the various wings of the Movement. The cooperative projects just described make no attempt to carry the banners of their respective parties or to fall back on the kind of lazy ecumenism that has descended on so many quarters, the ecumenism that attempts to bypass our differences by pretending that they don’t really matter or by claiming that they are merely matters of preference. (This is not, by the way, a swipe at serious ecumenical dialogue.) That’s true of the ACU Press and World History projects and of the Alabama Restoration Journal. Because of this, they have the freedom to tell the story in all of its messiness and humanity.

This gives me hope for more of the kind of historical work done by Gardner Hall in Foy Short. Hall forgoes any kind of programmatic claim to objectivity — and that’s a good thing. This is a personal story for him. He knows (or knew, in the case of the late Foy Short) many of the people about whom he writes. He was raised and educated in the North Alabama non-institutional milieu about which he writes. But that’s not to say that Hall has no concern for the ‘facts.’ He has clearly done due diligence in his research, digging up archival documents and interviewing participants spread out over two continents. Moreover, he doesn’t feel the need to hide facts that might be inconvenient in some quarters (e. g., Will Short’s close association with Don Carlos Janes and the Word and Work).

At the same time, he is up front about his assumptions. He understands that Foy Short’s life tells a story, makes a point, that he believes needs sharing. He is concerned to position the nature of Short’s work in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe independently of mainline parachurch mission efforts in the same region. Yet, at the same time, his work is not harsh or argumentative in tone.

For my own purposes, I was especially interested in how Hall’s book would interact with John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine’s thesis in Kingdom Come. As I’ve indicated here before — even though this was not their primary purpose — Hicks and Valentine’s Tennessee-Texas paradigm has been beneficial for many in non-institutional circles in coming to terms with a number of questions. One of the most important of those questions is this: was the non-institutional movement of the 1950s entirely de novo or did it have a clear lineage in the history of Churches of Christ and in the history of the 19th century Stone-Campbell Movement? The work of Hicks and Valentine (along with the earlier work of Richard Hughes) has shown that the non-institutional protest did not arise out of the blue. It had a clear and demonstrable lineage.

That said, it was a lineage that drew on many different theological threads in the Movement’s history. It was not, in other words, an uncomplicated lineage coming out of one source (e. g., the writings of Daniel Sommer), as some hostile observers have suggested. The discussion arising out of the work of Hicks and Valentine has helped to show that we can point to at least two (but probably three) varieties of non-institutional thought. Hall’s primary interest in his discussion of Hicks and Valentine is in the demonstrable continuities in the thought of NI leaders like Short and Bennie Lee Fudge with the “Tennessee” thought of David Lipscomb and James A. Harding. These continuities are readily seen in his parents (who were themselves educated at J. N. Armstrong’s school in Harper, Kansas) and in his time at ACC and in North Alabama. Hall’s own take on the Tennessee tradition is worth quoting at length:

“[Harding and Lipscomb’s] approach to the scriptures emphasized God’s grace, separation from the world, trust in God’s providence, and strict construction in the interpretation of the scriptures. Some who today claim the Lipscomb-Harding heritage as their own do not emphasize that latter characteristic. Historian Richard Hughes believes that Barton W. Stone’s teachings had a strong influence on Lipscomb and Harding. Lipscomb and Harding’s grace-plus-convictions approach heavily influenced churches in North Alabama in the early part of the twentieth century … Bennie Lee Fudge would pass on these values to his protégé, Foy Short, although Foy had probably already received a good dose from his parents who in turn had received them from J. N. Armstrong, a student of Lipscomb’s.” (pp. 50-51)

Hall’s four-point interpretation of Hicks and Valentine’s Tennessee Tradition gets a lot of things right. It emphasizes something critical to Lipscomb’s thought – “strict construction” in the interpretation of the Bible – that Hicks and Valentine largely pass over. Worth adding, in this reviewer’s opinion, would be some discussion of how Short exemplified (especially in some of his editorial decisions discussed on pp. 135-138) the value placed on open discussion in the Tennessee tradition and the more expansive views of fellowship that also characterized that tradition. (This last point is also exemplified in the life of John T. Lewis. That’s another blog post, though.) Overall, though, Foy Short is a real and valuable contribution to an ongoing discussion about the validity of Hicks and Valentine’s categories.

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Going forward, I think there are several points that bear further discussion.

  • This book, to my knowledge, constitutes the first serious historical work on mission work among non-institutional churches and the significant ways in which those missions differ from mainline mission efforts. (Indeed, the book is worth every penny for showing that the phrase “non-institutional missionary” is not an oxymoron.) There are other mission efforts that, it occurs to me, might bear out a similarly detailed investigation. What about the now three-decades-old effort by NI missionaries (and native preachers) in the Philippines?
  • This book does much to (helpfully) complicate the neat and tidy taxonomies that dominate mainline discussions of all of the “wings” of Churches of Christ: premillennial, non-institutional, etc. It steadfastly disallows the tendency to see the wings as the province of fringe radicals who have nothing to say to — and are totally disconnected from — the “mainstream.” To cite one example, I was intrigued to read about Will Short’s connections with Don Carlos Janes and the Word and Work. Foy, as we learn in the book, did not share his father’s “Bollite” (to borrow a phrase) sympathies. But it is still interesting to think about how fluid the theological spectrum in the churches was in the early 20th century, especially on the mission field.
  • This book, as we have said, carries the Tennessee-Texas-Indiana paradigm forward, recognizing some important ways how the Tennessee-Texas dispute played out in non-institutional circles in the middle of the 20th century. But how does that paradigm hold up as an interpretation of the later history of the non-institutional communion? I especially have in mind here the disputes of the 1980s and 1990s. If, in other words, we grant the existence of a Tennessee stream of thought in NI circles (concentrated primarily in North Alabama), then — to creatively paraphrase Tertullian — what does Athens have to do with Bowling Green (or Tampa or Nashville)?

Birmingham, 1924

S. H. Hall

Samuel Henry Hall (1877-1961)

In the spring of 1924, S. H. Hall held a meeting for the young North Birmingham church. He was there for about two weeks (April 20 to May 2) and when he returned to Nashville he wrote an extended piece for the Advocate describing the condition of the work in Birmingham. Hall was the consummate publicist, as can be seen in the regular column he wrote for the GA during his time in Atlanta (1906-1920) and Los Angeles (1920-21). He has an eye for the details, which proves to be a real boon for the historian. That really comes through in this piece.

Here it is:

Beginning on April 20 and continuing till May 2, I had a most delightful time with the Birmingham saints. The twelve-days’ meeting was conducted at what they call the North Birmingham congregation, where Brother Hugh A. Price, Jr., labors. The meeting resulted in seventeen baptisms and one from the Christian Church. We had a packed house at every night service, with the exception of one or two evenings.

I found the work in Birmingham in a most excellent condition. Brother John T. Lewis graduated in the same class with me at the Nashville Bible School in 1906. He soon began work at Birmingham, and my lot was cast in Atlanta. We have been together but little since then. He was in a meeting at Selma, Ala., the most of the time I was in Birmingham, but got back in time to help add much to the pleasure of my stay. Finding in a room on the third floor of one of their up town buildings a mere handful of members, and some of these with cranky ideas that hinder instead of helping the cause, John T. Lewis put his hands to the plow with the determination of not looking back, and a great work has been done. Here is what we have there to-day: The West End congregation, with around three hundred and fifty members and property worth $8,000; the Woodlawn congregation, with about two hundred members and property worth $5,000; the North Birmingham congregation, with one hundred members and property worth $5,000, and about $1,000 cash in bank for a better and larger building; North Lewisburg, with about seventy-five members and property worth $2,500. This congregation is just out of the city. And at Ensley we have a colored congregation, with one hundred and twenty-five members and property worth $2,000. They have a mission in Pratt City, with property worth $3,000. They also have a mission in Tarrant City, with some money in bank toward a building. At Ensley they have in lots around $5,000, and are preparing to build there. They also run a mission at Bessemer, and are helping many other weak places out of Birmingham. This all looked good to me, and it shows what can be done by those who love the cause of Christ enough to work at it seven days in the week. Lewis knows no other way to work.

Just a word about others who have helped in the work. Brother Hugh A. Price is a most excellent church worker. He went there and worked with his own hands to help procure his support until the work could use him for full time. He is now giving his whole time to North Birmingham, which has every indication of becoming one of the strongest churches there. Brother W. C. Graves, whom I baptized at East Point, Ga., in 1912, also went to Birmingham with the Telephone Company and has been supporting himself and preaching all the time. It is due to his efforts that the North Lewisburg work has been developed, and he has helped much with the colored congregation and fills in at West End and other places when needed. These three men — Lewis, Price, and Graves — love and esteem each other most highly and pull together. While at times they differ in their judgment about some features of the work, they submit their ideas as a matter of mutual helpfulness to each other and push the good work onward and upward. Brother Lewis studied under Brother D. Lipscomb. Perhaps there is not a man among us who went through the whole Bible under Brother Lipscomb so often as did Lewis. He makes me think more of Brother Lipscomb in his ideas of things than any one I know. He has a headful of plain, old-fashioned common sense, and there is no greater blessing that can come our way. I would so much love to tell of problems he has solved and difficulties he has overcome, but time forbids this.

Brother Pullias has helped as local preacher at West End. Brother I. B. Bradley has also helped, but has been compelled to be away from the work for a number of weeks, due to the condition of his wife. These two brethren are held in the highest esteem. Brethren F. W. Smith and E. A. Elam have conducted revivals there and contributed to the success of the work, and maybe others, but these are all that I know of just now. Lewis, Price, and Graves are exceedingly fortunate in marriage, and their wives would hardly live with them if they did not make good, so they must have their share of the honors. The Lord bless them and multiply their number is my prayer.

— S. H. Hall. “A Delightful Stay in Birmingham, Ala.” GA 66.20 (May 15, 1924): 463.

We can glean a number of interesting things from this. First, we get membership numbers and property values for each of the Birmingham congregations. The building values give us a small window into the relative social status of the Christians who made up Lewis’ churches. For example, when First Christian Church in Birmingham built its downtown meetinghouse in 1904 (a structure that O. P. Spiegel would call “one of the completest and most beautiful in the country”) it did so at a cost of between $21,000 and $25,000 dollars. When West End, by contrast, left Fox Hall in downtown in 1910 to construct its own building, it did so at a cost of $8,000.

Second, note Hall’s comments about the relationship between Lewis and David Lipscomb. He writes, “Brother Lewis studied under Brother D. Lipscomb. Perhaps there is not a man among us who went through the whole Bible under Brother Lipscomb so often as did Lewis. He makes me think more of Brother Lipscomb in his ideas of things than any one I know.” Hall is not alone in his estimate of the theological similarities between Lipscomb and Lewis. This is a point that will be repeated by others in the pages of the Advocate, at least through the 1930s and 40s. When, in the 1950s, Lewis’ Lipscombite views on cooperation and institutional buildup became inconvenient for the Nashville establishment such expressions disappeared from the pages of the Advocate.

Along those lines, Hall’s report inadvertently attests to Lewis’ insistence that congregations become self-supporting as soon as possible. We see that in North Birmingham, which constructed a meetinghouse and secured the services of Hugh Price only as they were financially able to do so. Hall clearly sees value in this approach and writes approvingly of it in other places in the Advocate in the early to mid-1920s.