Monday, June 25, 2012

"Advancing the Kingdom Through a Trained Ministry"

The Rev. Dr. Alonzo Cleon ("A.C.") Brooks hailed from Sandersville, Ga., but I'll bet, by the time he was 41, when he delivered "Advancing the Kingdom Through a Trained Ministry," at the October 1937 International Convention of the Disciples of Christ in Columbus, Ohio, that he felt like a Kentuckian. He had done his undergrad work at Transylvania in Lexington, and then, after getting his masters from Yale, he came back to the Commonwealth to serve at Christian churches in East Union, Walton, Hazard and Mount Sterling. He also taught history and English at Walton High in 1922 and '23, just before the basketball team there got really good, and served as a trustee for Stinnett Settlement School in Hoskinston.

Here's part of his address at the 1937 convention, as recorded the following year by the Christian Board of Publication:

... The ministry's major function is the presentation and demonstration of Christ who is God's power and God's wisdom. It is perfectly obvious, therefore, that the Kingdom of God depends for its advance upon the skill, consecration, devotion and culture of its leadership. However, there is a growing feeling that much of the weakness of the church lies just here and that a better-trained ministry is needed if the church is to occupy its rightful place in the field of human advance.

Increasing numbers are questioning the future of the church. The article by William Corbin in the August issue of the American Magazine, entitled, "Why I Don't Go to Church," in which the author claims that until he was twenty years of age church attendance had become a fairly well-established habit and then suddenly he discovered he had drifted out of the habit, may be symptomatic. The discovery was so disturbing at first that he started upon an investigation of the reasons why he and countless numbers of others like him had quit the church. His business interests took him into various parts of the country and he developed the hobby of asking various people why they do not attend church. This is his conclusion stated in his own words: "so my own conclusion, and that of the hundreds of people I have talked with, is that the church today, as we have found it, has nothing gripping or enlightening to say. Frankly I have listened for one sermon that would open up a new vista of understanding and feeling, and I have listened in vain." Outside of the church he claims to find books, movies, individuals that move him to better social behavior and enlarge his outlook.

The July 18 issue of the New York Times carried an article dealing with the future of Protestant churches based upon a recent survey by the editors of the American Magazine. Five reasons for the conclusion that the church is going out of business:

"First, as a center of charity it has been replaced by secular civic and county chest funds administered by business men and social workers. A vast part of relief has been taken over by the government.

"Second, the church as a fountain of healing has been replaced by the science of medicine.

"Third, the church which once exorcised devils from the mind is being replaced by gland specialists, dieticians, psychiatrists and psychologists.

"Fourth, the church, once the cradle of education and founder of many colleges, is no longer the keeper of knowledge and the source of education.

"Fifth, great art and music once inspired by the church are now secular and for the most part have nothing to do with organized religion."

Personally, I do not think the church is going out of business. The church is the never-failing spring that supplies the life-giving waters to these various streams that have flowed, and must continue to flow, from it. However, there may be some support for the belief that the church is not adequately fulfilling its mission today. ... Today we are beginning to understand that an uneducated ministry means suicide to the progress of the Kingdom of God.

We have seen the standard of requirement in the best professional schools rise rapidly in this century. It takes longer preparation and requires harder work to graduate from a first-class law or medical school today than it did ten years ago. The ministry cannot hope to hold its own with the leaders of other professions unless it insists upon theological training and discipline as rigorous as the training in the best professional schools.

The first volume of the series of studies in theological training in America states that only a short while ago the minister was likely to be the leading citizen of the community, qualified for that leadership by an education often superior to that of his neighbors of other callings. Now the minister finds himself surrounded in his community and in his church by professional and business men whose education is equal to, and ofttimes superior to, his own. Formerly the church occupied the central position in the community, fulfilling many social, educational, and philanthropic functions which are now being taken over by other agencies. Many churches here and there are still the center of the community life, but for the most part they are found only where the minister is so magnetic, refined and cultured as to command unusual respect and loyalty. It is growing more and more apparent that the church is not being reckoned with in those areas where the destinies of civilizations are being determined. Where large decisions are being made that affect the happiness and welfare of entire nations the church is thought to be impotent for such decisions. The Great War revealed this, that the Christian church is not consulted on questions of such vast importance. That war started in Europe, the oldest of the Christian continents, a continent of over 375,000,000 Christians of which more than 90,000,000 are Protestants. There are three great hierarchies of priests, the Roman Catholic, the Greek Catholic and the Protestant, all educated and consecrated, yet in the midst of this multitude of Christian leaders and followers the whole continent slipped down into hell.

... The Kingdom business is the biggest, the most compelling, the most urgent and the most challenging business in the world. ... Too long the leadership of the church has been backward instead of forward. Science and industry have marched forward but religion has not made equal changes. Unless religion will assume more responsibility in readjusting its program and be willing to advance as other fields of human interest advance we will continue to suffer the ill-effects of a growing paganism and a secularism that may arise and master us. The science of warfare marches on while the science of religion marks time. God has made us for an our like this, may we not be found wanting. May we train and develop some Moseses, Abrahams, Isiahs, Jeremiahs, John the Baptists and Pauls whose moral insight, social passion and mental alertness can command the respect of a jittery world and lead human minds to the dependable and satisfying sources of the abundant life and thus advance the Kingdom of God.

Rest in peace, the Rev. Dr. Brooks--and Mrs. Brooks.


  1. I disagree with the Rev. Dr. Brooks.

  2. Yeah, on the face of it, I disagree with him in some places and agree in others. But, to be fair, he wrote it for a specific time and place--not you and me now. He might write something different for us today.

  3. What an interesting life he had already had.