Saturday, July 7, 2012

Walking With Warner's Vision

I have “stuff” on my computer that I occasionally must sort and send to the Recyle Bin; it slows my computer too much. The picture below shows a tour group standing in what was E. E. Byrum’s front yard in Grand Junction a century ago. Byrum succeeded D. S. Warner” as Editor of the Gospel Trumpet and became the spokesperson of the fledgling Reformation Movement.

Today, I am midway between the National American Convention, and preparing for the 120th encampment at Grand Junction--now Warner Family Camp. A product of that so-called religious reformation, I have roots in and around Grand Junction’s “metro area. It is part of Michigan’s “boonies” and shows signs of candidacy for the recycle bin.

What is now The Blueberry Capital was once home to the fledgling Gospel Trumpet Company. That venture is now Church of God Ministries, Anderson, IN, primarily because the Byrum Brothers were Hoosiers before they became Church of God publishers and they liked their old home area of central Indiana as a business home. While growing as the “faith publisher” of an occasional “Reformation Magazine”, The Gospel Trumpet spawned a religious reformation, that sprouted from a limb of the National Holiness Movement and today ministers on every continent, in about 90 countries.

We stand with one foot in that past, and our other foot firmly planted firmly in the future, supported by a minimal complement of qualified agencies supporting our mission and message. Ours is a goodly heritage; we have a wholesome and transforming message, yet we are not always able to “sort our stuff” as well as we should.

This will be our 120th year in Grand Junction, if you date back to that first camp of 1892. If you go back to that “first national encampment” at nearby Bangor (1883), this would be our 129th year. Warner Family Camp is no longer “national”. We are a small district camp, merely one of a great host of state, district, and regional meetings of a similar nature.

We are better prepared to serve today, and are better qualified to share the gospel than a century+ ago. For one, I have no desire to return to those primitive days, but I would like to recapture the commitment and consecration to God, the Word of God, and the Church of God, of those “early saints.” Reports tell of one man walking 170 miles from Ohio to Grand Junction, for one of those early camp meetings. Those early “Flying Messengers” not only preached by faith, but people and preachers alike supported “by faith” their Gospel Trumpet magazine, for which many of them sold subscriptions.

There were people like “Mother Sarah Smith” who traveled with Warner’s musical evangelistic ministry, but the total ministry was more driven by the likes of the young (16-year-old Barney Warren). Warner found Barney in Geneva Township (rural South Haven) and Barney became the bass singer for the team that traveled with Warner. He later penned 7,000 pieces of music, and became a longtime preacher-pastor! Stories abound, telling how idle copies of The Gospel Trumpet became messengers predating organized church ministry in many cities, states, even nations abroad.

Gale Hetrick, when writing his saga of THE CHURCH OF GOD IN MICHIGAN, wondered at the wisdom of locating an exciting but tiny religious movement in the sand pits of Grand Junction. When I was a boy in the 30s, getting over the RR track as we approached the Camp Ground, sometimes required a “good run” if you made it up-and-over the first time; it was a “sand trap“!. That is the crossing just one mile north of town, at the county line, as we approached from South Haven--now decent road

What Hetrick and others of us found through the years, is encapsulated in a poem DS Warner wrote on one of his many subjects. He made a fleeting reference to the place “where the Lightning tracks crossed” - his reference to the 4-way RR Crossing in downtown Grand Junction. North and South it went from Chicago to Grand Rapids; East and West it went from South Haven (on Lake MI.) to Kalamazoo. From that focused spot, they could go anywhere in the world. AND THEY SOON DID, accompanied by “literally tons” of Gospel Trumpets, which soon developed bi-linqual abilities, and became multi-ethnic messages, carried by highly diversified messengers, going into a multi-cultural world.

We have the message they left for us, and we have honed our understanding of it, but we need to express it in fresh contemporary concepts. We have the means they wished they could have. Like Peter and John going into the Temple, they left us their best, along with some stuff we no longer need; but, IF ONLY WE WOULD DO AS WELL WITH WHAT WE HAVE, AS THEY DID WITH WHAT THEY HAD!!! IF ONLY WE WERE AS COMMITTED TO REACHING PEOPLE, as they were!

I’m not romanticizing our history. The truth is, we could shuck a little stuff into the Recycle Bin, sharpen our Biblical vision, and re-focus our message more clearly on healing our hurting world. THE FATHER ABOVE would be more pleased with us if we did; I believe. As a member of our Chog. Historical Society, I value the backward look - but only so long as it helps us better determine our forward direction.

Actually, I could do with a little less looking back, so that we could better look forward. Preserving things like traditions, campsites, saints homes et al has value - BUT WE DON’T HAVE ANYTHING IN THIS MAN’S MOVEMENT THAT WE DIDN’T GET OUR VALUE OUT OF. It could be time to tear down (sort out, send to recycle bin) some of our Museum Pieces and build new for that new future God just might be calling us to transition into -- either that or chip in the bucks for proper preservation while also properly proclaiming the Word.

I have NO IDEA when the Lord will return and bind up this wounded world. WHAT I DO KNOW is that HE CALLED US to go (G O -- G O), not just to Jerusalem and Judea, but Samaria and the uttermost parts. He called us to become a United Church for His divided world! AND, He has provided us fabulous favors for our sharing His healing, distributing His peace, and channeling His grace. Will we do it ... ?

From Warner’s World, I am

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


In his "Monday Morning Reflections" from Wisconsin, Derl Keefer makes the observation that July 4 is not about "fireworks" but about "freedom." I wish my noisey neighbors, who kept me awake for several nights, could have been more sensitive to the true meanings of this holiday--including those firecracker worshippers that accidentally burned down the large St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Kentwood, greater Grand Rapids.

We celebrate this Independence Day by displaying the stars and stripes. We close public offices, banks, and many businesses in honor of this special Day. Parades mark the primary public event in many cities and towns across the land, as backyards come alive with cookouts. Let us also remember people like the former slave, Frederick Douglas. Douglas was not only a former slave but also a member of the human race that was once considered inferior to white people; i.e., sub-human.

We also remember Frederick Douglas as a highly intellectual and generously accomplished American citizen, a brilliant human being, and a man who deeply believed in God and country. He operated a successful newspaper and became an active abolitionist. He may well be best remembered as one of America’s most brilliant orators. On July 5, 1852, Douglas delivered an oration for which we still remember him, after 150 years.

The year Douglas spoke, our very young and still new nation was but 3,000,000 people scattered about in an unstudied wilderness. At that time, we had little--still very undeveloped-- infrastructure. We had a president and a congress, but we had not yet realized our need for a stronger federal government and a stronger cohesiveness beyond the divided interests of competing states.
On this occasion, Douglas spoke to a segregated black audience on the subject of “What, To the Slave, Is the Fourth of July?” He spoke the day after the nation had just celebrated Independence Day 1852. In that interpretive speech Douglas declared:

“I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ringbolt to the chain
of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed., I regard it. The principles contained in
that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to
them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, at whatever cost”
(Frederick Douglas/Preaching With Sacred Fire/Martha Timmons & Frank
A. Thomas/W. W. Norton/NY /2010/141).

Within a decade of the Douglas oration, our forefathers fought a civil war among themselves, trying to determine whether or not these principles found in the Declaration of Independence--taken from the Bible--would protect every citizen or select citizens only. One hundred fifty years later, we have hopefully stopped waging civil war, but we still wage painful and protracted political, moral and spiritual warfare between advocates of what we could rightly call the 99% and the 1%. Ultimately, we will either extend liberty and justice to all, or we will retain special interests for the favored few. And I have to wonder: would Frederick Douglas have guessed that we Americans would still be fighting for the very existence of our national integrity 150 years later? The principles he affirmed in his highly interpretive speech of 1852 need our reaffirmation this July 4, 2012.

From Warner‘s World, we must, as Douglas said,
“be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, at whatever cost” (italics mine).