James Andrew Pilgrim, Sr., was born to James Alexander Pilgrim and Mary Lou (Sims) Pilgrim, on January 13, 1908. He had three (3) brothers and four (4) sisters. They grew up in a religious home, being associated with the Methodist Church, where their parents took them. The writer was given his grandfather’s copy of “THE DOCTRINES AND DISCIPLINE OF THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH, SOUTH, 1902”, hereafter referred to as D/C. It was edited by Jno. J. Tigert, DD, LLD, June 5, 1902. It is not certain if this copy was handed down to the writer’s grandfather by his mother, Sara Emiline Pilgrim, or not.
It seems that the family followed the teachings of the discipline for years without questioning any of its content. When the writer’s father became an adult, he became a serious Bible student, thinking on his own. He began to notice serious differences between what the word of God said, and what those following the discipline were teaching and doing. He began visiting other churches, seeking one which followed what he had found in the Bible. Sadly, he quickly saw that they were doing some things according to the word of God, but were teaching and doing other things contrary to the scriptures. He continued to search for a body of believers which taught and did what he was reading in the word of God.
James Andrew Pilgrim, Sr., called Andrew by most, had been taught that babies were born sinners and needed to be baptized to be saved. (D/C, pp. 9, 219). Young Andrew found this to contradict Romans 3:12, which says, “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no not one.” Verse 23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;….” The scriptures do not teach that babies are born out of the way, but become sinners due to their actions. Jesus showed the innocence of children in Matthew 18:1-6, by telling his disciples that they had to be like little children if they desired to enter the kingdom of heaven. Further, the studious Andrew did not believe that a loving God would place the innocent soul of a little child in the hands of some who might not do what his church was teaching, allowing the child to die lost. Also, Andrew learned that anyone to be baptized had to believe with all his heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and confess the same. (Acts 8:37-39). He also saw that repentance was connected to baptism. (Acts 2:38). Andrew knew that a baby did not have the capacity to believe and confess. Since a baby was not born in sin, and had not sinned, it had nothing of which it needed to repent.
Further studies in the scriptures revealed another difference in things taught in God’s word and the church he was attending. Andrew had been taught that one could choose to be baptized by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. (D/C, p. 222, 228). Yet, his reading of the gospel of Christ, the doctrine of Christ, said those being baptized were immersed, “buried” or “Planted.” (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12; Compare Acts 8:37-39). He was looking for a church which did this.
Justification of man was taught by his church to be by “faith only”, labeling such as “a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.” (D/C, p. 5, IX, 9). Andrew could not harmonize this with James 2:14-26, esp. verse 24. He also accepted the truth of such statements as John 8:24; Luke 13:3, 5; Matthew 10:32, 33; and 1 Peter 3:20, 21. These taught that man had to do more that have a mental assent to obey Jesus, the author of eternal salvation. (Hebrews 5:8, 9).
Andrew questioned the church’s right to have a governing conferences over the churches, with a governing body, made up of Bishops, Presiding Elders, and others. (D/C, pp. 19-89; 311-344). He read only of local churches being self-governing, or autonomous. (New Testament). Cf. Acts 20:17, Elders (plural) over the church (singular), not visa versa.
The church he was attending taught that observance of the Lord’s Supper could be done monthly or quarterly. (D/C, p. 95). Searching the scriptures led Andrew to believe that it should be done weekly. (1 Corinthians 11:25, “as oft” and Acts 20:7 telling how oft; Comp. 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2, weekly giving).
The writer’s father told him that he could not understand why his church and others called themselves after men and doctrines, rather than those found in God’s word. Cf. Matthew 16:13-19 and Romans 16:16; Acts 2:47; 1 Corinthians 12:27; 1 Timothy 3:15; etc.
Interestingly, as Andrew searched for a church like the one he had read about in the word of God, the town drunk told him to check out the local church of Christ. At first, he thought, “What do you know; you are a drunk.” He had not gone there because he had heard many negative comments about “those people.” However, he went, and to his surprise, what he heard was what he had been reading in his Bible. After a period of study, he was convinced that the truth was being preached there, and he became a member of the church of Christ, and later, a gospel preacher of some fifty (50) years. He married a devoted Christian woman, Cora Lee (Elliott) Pilgrim. He converted each of his living siblings, along with his mother. He taught his father, who was convinced to do as his son had done. Rather than doing so, he went to his preacher, telling him what he had learned and was going to do. Instead of using the Bible to show him that he was wrong, he used an emotional plea, saying, “Now, Davey, you know if you do that it will be like saying your good ole mama and daddy went to hell.” With that emotional tactic, he kept him in his church. What did that have to do with anything?
A number of other things could have been discussed, such as, security of believers, preachers called pastors, women’s role in the church, and such like. Today, women Bishops and pastors, acceptance of the LGBTQ’s, and more.
Finally, this writer is blessed to have had Christian parents who taught him the word of God, not a discipline, manual, catechism, or any other book written by men or women. He has verified such many times through the years and found it to be right. His parents taught him to obey God, because He will always be right; man can be and is often wrong. Marshall Keeble used to say, “The Bible is right.” The writer was taught by his parents not to follow them if it were learned that they were wrong. (Cf. Luke 16:19-31, esp. 27, 28). Read Proverbs 3:5, 6; 14:12; 16:25; and Acts 23:1 with Acts 26:9. Do what James Andrew Pilgrim, Sr. did. Read, study, and change anything needing amending. Compare whatever church or organization you are in to the Bible. If it is not right, find what is, and enter it.
This writer loved and loves his parents for their great example, leading him in paths of righteousness, and for the thousands of gospel meeting to which they carried him as a child and teen. Whatever this now older man has done is in great part due to their godly influence.
“Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? (Galatians 4:16). I pray not. Write to the address below if there are any misrepresentations or questions.