(photograph of Ellis J. Crum)
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
“And He is the Head of the body, the church…” (Col. 1:18)
INTRO.: A hymn which identifies the church as the body of Christ is “The Church of Christ.” The text was written and the tune was composed both by Ellis J. Crum, who was born on Apr. 11, 1928, in Bloomington, IN, the son of Ellis J. and Marion Lucille Rice Crum. Even as a child at the age of five, he was telling Bible stories to large crowds. From ages eight to twelve he spoke on such subjects as “Fighting the Good Fight of Faith” and “What Boys Can Do,” often standing before audiences of 800 or more. His first preaching took place at age sixteen at Bloomfield, IN. Also, he attended the Stamps-Baxter School of Music in 1944, where he first began to work on his dream of publishing a hymnbook. Graduating from Linton Stockton High School in Linton, IN, Crum married Norma Nell Owens of Lyons, IN, on Aug. 25, 1946, in Vincennes, IN, and enrolled at Indiana University in Bloomington.
After two years of college, Crum moved to work in preaching with the church of Christ at Bridgeport, CN. His evangelistic labors in North America took him from Connecticut to California, and from Canada to Mexico. The Crums had five children, three daughters, Cheryl, Janella, and Beth, and two sons, Jay and Brent, two of whom were born when he was working with the church in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. In 1956, Crum published his first hymnbook, Sacred Selections for the Church, in which this song, “The Church of Christ,” first appeared as the opening number. The book contained 665 hymns. For many years beginning in 1958, the Crums made their home at Kendallville, IN, where they were members of the Kendallville Church of Christ, and his work often involved home Bible studies, personal work training classes, camp directing, song instruction, and speaking at workshops, in addition to visiting over thirty countries, including several tours of the Bible lands and five preaching trips to Ghana in Africa.
In 1977, Crum published Special Sacred Selections. Also, he purchased the R. E. Winsett Music Co. and combined it with Sacred Selections to form the Sacred Music Trust. When he republished Sacred Selections in larger type, “The Church of Christ” was retitled simply as “The Church.” Among the over 150 other hymns which Crum wrote, composed, or arranged are “The Breaking of Bread” to the tune (Bread of Life) that had been composed in 1877 for Mary A. Lathbury’s hymn “Break Thou the Bread of Life” by William Fisk Sherwin (1826-1888), and some extra stanzas for “Lead Me To Some Soul Today” with original single stanza by Will H. Houghton and tune by Wendell P. Loveless. Crum, aged 83, died on Monday, October 17, 2011, at Lutheran Life Villages in Kendallville, IN. Preceded in death by his parents and a brother, Larry Crum, he was survived by his wife, his children, their spouses, and thirteen grandchildren.
This song mentions several different facets of our Lord’s spiritual kingdom as taught in the New Testament.
I. According to stanza 1 the true church follows Christ’s word
The church of Christ follows Christ’s Word,
Where he doth speak, there we are heard;
Where He is silent, we are too,
What Christ commands is what we do.
- We follow Christ’s word because it will judge us in the last day: Jn. 12:48
- This means speaking only as the oracles of God: 1 Pet. 4:11
- It also means keeping His commandments because we love Him: Jn. 14:15
II. According to stanza 2, the true church consists of all the saved
Jesus will add your name above,
If you’ll believe, repent, and love;
Confess His name before all men,
Be buried in water with Him.
- The names of the saved are enrolled or registered in heaven: Heb. 12:23
- To have our names added above, we must believe: Jn. 8:24
- But we must also repent and be buried in water (baptized): Acts 2:38, 47
III. According to stanza 3, the true church is Christ’s bride
The church of Christ, the Savior’s bride,
For which He suffered, bled, and died,
Is open to all who believe
On Jesus Christ and Him receive.
- The church holds the same relationship to Christ that a bride holds to her husband: Eph. 5:22-27
- Jesus suffered, bled, and died to pay the purchase price for this bride: Acts 20:28
- Being part of Christ’s bride is open to all who will believe and receive Him: Jn. 1:12-13
IV. According to stanza 4, the true church is the body in which we give Christ the glory
Unto Christ be glory for aye,
Work through His church, don’t go astray;
Oh, follow not the mind of man,
For God gave us a perfect plan.
- We should always seek to give God the glory: Phil. 4:20
- This glory is to be given in the church: Eph. 3:20-21
- And it is according to God’s perfect plan which He purposed in Christ Jesus: Eph. 3:10-11
CONCL.: The chorus encourages those who are members of Christ’s body to labor in God’s kingdom for the spread of the Lord’s church.
Work for the Master every day,
Help lead the erring to the way;
Believe His word, obey His command,
The church of Christ will forever stand.
Through the years, several friends have expressed to me their opinion that the words are an excellent summary of Bible teaching about the Lord’s church, almost like a sermon in song, but some aspects of the music, especially the rhythm, can be a bit difficult to grasp and follow. In any event, as God’s called out body is obviously an important part of His overall scheme for the redemption of mankind, it is good for those who make up that body to sing about “The Church of Christ.”