The “Underground Church of Christ” in Leroy Garrett’s Renewal and Restoration

Can you re-imagine the church that Christ built as found in the Bible? What you are about to read may surprise whether you are familiar or not with the churches of Christ and the Restoration Movement especially if exorcism surprises you. In all honesty and considering all sides, I have read much of Leroy Garrett’s Restoration Review where Garrett promoted a renewal and recovery of his perceived errors among the churches of Christ. However, I wish I could say that Mr. Garrett makes a strong case to reconsider previous beliefs. Below, I give exerts from the most surprising article that I have read from “progressive” perspective. Garrett presented a church that I would not have thought even he would imagine coming from the progressive movement among the churches of Christ. Here is what Garrett presented of this “underground” church:

Even with this going on around us, we of the Churches of Christ may still be surprised to learn that it is happening among us too. For the most part it is still a subtle and unstructured development, and yet it has the essential features (plus a few others) of other underground movements.

Much of it is yet in its embryonic stage, taking the form of cell groups within well-established congregations…The minister himself is sometimes involved, being a rather status quo preacher in the pulpit, but a deeper, freer, more daring individual within the cells. The underground members understand that he can go only so far, and they excuse his mainline orthodoxy in the pulpit on the grounds that if he went too far he would only destroy his chances to liberate the congregation. […]

It is a movement all right, and I am telling you here that it is the most significant development in our history as a brotherhood. […]

Occasionally the preacher has a rather select group, an underground element, in one of these classes, at which time he is so different from the man who occupies the pulpit that people might suppose they have two different ministers. Somehow he gets by with saying unorthodox things in the class that he could never say in the pulpit and keep his job…It may be a psychological oddity, but it seems that the farther one is from the pulpit the more latitude he has. This is why our best ministry may be on an outing with the young people or a gathering in a home. […]

One important expression of the underground Church of Christ is the Campus Evangelism, conducted by the Lubbock Church of Christ. While its efforts are directed toward winning the college campus, which it will not even begin to do until it becomes less Church of Christlike, it is enjoying success in winning and holding many of the youth of the Church of Christ. No less than 12,000 of them assembled in Dallas recently, and one can be sure that not even a tithing of that number would have showed up if the program was to be what can be expected in the typical services of a Church of Christ.

It is amazing how different these meetings can be from the usual programs. […]

One only needs to interview the participants to see what kind of people we will be tomorrow, due in part to the efforts of Lubbock today in keeping our young people from running off. […]

When the historians of tomorrow are evaluating what is now happening to us today, searching for the elements that graduated us from obscurantism, the Hilton Hotel will surely get some of the credit. At the Hilton one could hear the radiant voices of thousands of youth, singing new songs of Zion even as they crowded into the corridors, preparing for an afternoon of witnessing for Christ. […]

What transpired at the hotel could not have happened in our Dallas churches, and this is significant. […]

It is a report on some of our most spiritual people who are moving underground for the sake of renewing the church instead of leaving it to rot in sectarianism…They have to become cells or movements on the periphery of orthodoxy in order to wage peace from within.

Because of this any underground effort tends to be exclusive and secretive, if not surreptitious…The underground works well by invitation only. […]

What happened is surely the beginning of a new chapter in our history, and how that chapter ends will depend on how we all react to what is going on. […]

Most of them already knew each other or had heard of one another, and the one thing they all had in common was a quest for things of the Spirit. Many of them were known to have the gift of tongues, some the gift of healing, others the gift of prophecy. They believe that the gifts listed in 1 Cor. 12 are as much for the church today as ever. All of them had stories to tell of what has happened to them in the Church of Christ. A brother from California related at length how his elders assigned him a research project on the Holy Spirit in order to combat some of the false teaching going on in their community, and how he studied his way to a belief in the gifts of the Spirit for our time, and how he was consequently fired. At that time he was the highest paid minister in the Churches of Christ in his part of the state. He turned to ‘secular work’ in order to support his family and be true to his convictions. He told how, as he was pouring himself some coffee one day, he was singing a spiritual song only to realize suddenly that it was not in the usual English words, but in a tongue!

A brother from a prominent Church of Christ, who was recently an elder, told of his ministry of healing through prayer, and privately he related to me how he (and others) had driven a demon from his own daughter. It was evident that his emergence into the world of the Holy Spirit had completely transformed his life. He was as kind and gentle as any man I’ve ever met, certainly manifesting the fruits listed in Gal. 5 if not the gifts of 1 Cor. 12. […]

We must lovingly accept the underground and even encourage it. Allow that Sunday School class to be far out if they must be; encourage them to read all the stuff and debate all the issues. Permit cell groups to multiply and filter out into more and more homes. […]

The retreat in Dallas was marked by much prayer, praise, counseling, and personal testimony. Classrooms were used for more intimate prayer groups. Almost continually, even when someone was speaking, small groups would move back and forth from these candle-lit rooms. Oftentimes one who was ‘seeking’ would be prayed for, along with the laying on of hands, that he might receive the Holy Spirit. One such brother explained to me, in typical Church of Christ fashion, that he had decided to take Luke 11:13 for what it said.

The Lord’s Table was kept prepared throughout the retreat, dressed with a candle as well as goblets of wine. Like the prayer cubicles, the Supper was also entered into spontaneously, with one free to go forward at anytime and partake. Two or three would go at a time, kneel around the Table and break bread together. At one point in the retreat there was a communion service in which they all participated together, other than the one on Lord’s Day.

To my surprise there were but a few instances of tongue-speaking, the same brother each time, a seminarian. His words were interpreted each time by another young brother. […]

They did things in this retreat in their adoration of the Lord that would be embarrassing to most of us. They lifted up holy hands in prayer, praising God with the whole of their being. They wept tears of joy as they sang and praised his name. They cried ‘Praise the Lord’ with an enthusiasm that most of us can muster only when watching a Cowboy football game.

I found myself deeply gratified with these signs of spiritual revival within our own Church of Christ ranks. To see people who have long been discouraged by an inert religion praising God with tears streaming from dosed eyes, hands lifted heavenward with palms extended upward as if to receive His grace, and singing hymns in choked voices that previously had little meaning to them—I say, to see this is to believe that here are great resources of power for a spiritual renewal that we must have if we are to survive. […]

The most amazing part of the retreat was the driving out of demons. This was led by a sister who had impressed me as a most remarkable woman, a responsible Christian eager to help others in their spiritual growth. But on this occasion she both disturbed and frightened me. She was dressed like a priestess of the Buddha, with her decorative kimono reaching to her shoeless feet. After a sermon on the crossing of the Red Sea, she proceeded to tell us that she had talked to God that day as she knelt there (pointing to the Lord’s Table) and she had learned that some of us had demons. Moreover if we did not yield our wills to His and allow His power to dispose of them, that she was going to expose us for what we were. She was of an upbraiding attitude, a perfect semblance of a scolding wife, a role I could not have previously assigned to her. Her words snapped with fire as she told us she’d call names, if need be, in order to expose the demons. […]

She urged all those who wanted to place themselves before the Lord, or some such words, to do so. Nearly everyone in the room went to the front and kneeled around her, praying to the Lord. After awhile she began to exorcize the demons, talking to them as one would a dog. ‘Get out of here in the name of Jesus Christ,’ she would say with snarled lips, as she addressed the demon of self. […]

She was exorcizing demons from the ones who had for days been manifesting the power of the Holy Spirit. Do you drive demons from folk who are baptized of the Holy Spirit? In the scriptures the demons were in control of the persons they inhabited, but this sister was driving demons from folk whose lives are controlled by the Holy Spirit. […]

It is risky to suppose that a Negro with a Molotov cocktail can be made into a responsible Christian by getting him to speak in tongues, or that a person with serious emotional illness can be made whole by laying hands on him. […]

Some readers may suppose that I am making too much of all this, that it is an overstatement to speak of a Holy Spirit movement among Churches of Christ, one that could easily solidify into a sect. This being the case my only recourse is to alarm you” (Garrett, Leroy. “The Underground Church of Christ.” Renewal through Recovery. Restoration Review: Vol. 11, No. 1. January 1969. P. 5–14. emp. added)

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
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7 Responses to The “Underground Church of Christ” in Leroy Garrett’s Renewal and Restoration

  1. I grew up with Leroy. He baptized. he married me to my late wife. He took me home from church when my folks left me there. Him , my father, and Carl Katherside broke away from the Church Of Christ and with the founding coming from the three of them founded the Wynnewood Church of Christens. .I was 7 or 6 at the time, I am now 66 Leroy was the purest soul I have been blessed to have met in my life. The world is a much sadder place with his passing. I think that you should reread his teaching with a mind set open to truth. Not bias of thought. I was with him in the hospital when hid older brother died. I will never forget his last words. He said that I will go knowing that I have never done another man wrong. Leroy can say the same thing. He never took a breath that was not used to show love and promote salvation .for those that believe in God. A more gentile and loving soul has never inhabited this earth. He is now at God’s side. The world was blessed to have him walk upon it for 96 years.

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  2. Jack says:

    Hello Scott, what is the source of the Garrett quotes? Thanks

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  3. This quote: “Permit cell groups to multiply and filter out into more and more homes”, makes me even more convinced that dividing into groups when the church normally meets on a Sunday night or a Wednesday night is not right. We are to meet together. These false teachings he was trying to get into the church have succeeded to some extent, and most likely though this way. I know – I used to attend one, but it was on a Tuesday evening.
    It looks to me that this way of wanting the church to become was a sign of the times. Many of what was described was what the “hippies” of the time were engaged in and once again, wanting the church to be more like the world to attract people watered down the pure word of God and led many people away.
    We actually lived in Lubbock during this time. I didn’t know about all of this, but from listening to the adults then, I knew some of the preachers were “different”.
    Thanks for posting. ~Sharon

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    • Thanks for the comment. This is event is shocking.

      There are no apologies with the outright admission to change things by infiltrating. Isn’t it strange how those with convictions are inevitably excluded from changing things from within while these progressives have no problem of doing so from within?

      “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves”, Acts 20:29-30.

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      • Good point, and the verse tells exactly what was happening then and is still happening now. Too bad so many in the church don’t have a clue, and the churches without elders unknowingly hire preachers that are “change agents”.

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