This piece from David Lipscomb in 1866 speaks for itself. “The spirit of the church must be changed–radically changed in this respect,” he writes, “before it can be truly the Church of Christ.”
“The crowning characteristic of the Christian religion in the esteem of its founder, is that the “poor have the gospel preached to them.” The church that fails to exhibit that its first, most important work is to preach the gospel to poor, has utterly failed to appreciate the true spirit of its mission, and the character of work it was established to perform. The congregation of true worshippers of Jesus Christ always exhibits the greatest anxiety to have the poor preached to. In all of its provisions for worship, the comfort and accommodation of the poor must be its first object. The congregation that erects the costly and elegant edifice, that furnishes the floor, the seats, the altar, the communion table, in such a manner, that makes the poor feel that they are not for them, cannot be the Church of Christ. The congregation whose members dress in the “fine linen and purple” of wealth, whose equipages and bearing are of a character to prevent a home-feeling in the plainly dressed, humble poor, in their midst, is not a congregation in which the spirit of the Redeemer dwells. The individual, man or woman, who attends meeting in such style of dress, that the poor, plainly clad laborer is made to feel the unpleasant contrast in their equipages, is an enemy of the religion of Jesus Christ. The poor of the land are driven from the religious services of the so-called Church of Christ, because the whole surroundings at those services, plainly say by their costly and gilded equipments that they are for the rich, not for the poor. The profession of Christianity, has well nigh run into the sheerest mockery of the religion of primitive times upon this very point. Where is the house for worship in the city or the country, that is now builded with a view of its adaptation to the wants and customs of the poor, and not rather to exhibit the tastes and minster to the pride of the rich? The poor fail to attend religious worship, especially in the cities, not because they are less disposed to be religious than the rich, but because the pomp, dress, parade, equipages and style of these services declare plainly to them, they are not for you. The spirit of the church must be changed–radically changed in this respect, before it can be truly the Church of Christ. The thousands of the poor in the cities and in the country, must be sought out –preached to–must have congregations whose dress, style, manners and associations will draw them, rather than repel them from them, and these congregations, so conforming themselves to the true spirit of the Gospel, and adapting their habits to the necessities of the poor, will alone constitute THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.”
David Lipscomb, “The Spirit of the Church,” Gospel Advocate 8 (13 February 1866) 107-108.