A line drawing of the Rock Spring church building (c. 1887).
Originally printed in The Anderson Files from the December 2013 issue of Gospel Advocate.
Compiled by Neil W. Anderson, Publisher.
Last month I spoke at the 181st anniversary of the Rock Spring Church of Christ near Smyrna, Tenn. The story of the church, the oldest congregation in Rutherford County, begins in 1804 when this church was a Baptist congregation. In 1832, the members voted 97 to 3 “to renounce all human creeds and doctrines and accept the Bible as their only rule of faith.” Afterward, they simply became known as the Rock Spring Church of Christ.
Alexander Campbell had a great influence on churches of Christ in Tennessee. A second generation leader was Tolbert Fanning. In 1844, he estimated 300,000 members in the U.S. with 135 congregations in Tennessee – 93 of them in Middle Tennessee. Few men of his generation did more to place the pure Word of God, stripped of all the traditions of men, into the hands of the people than Fanning.
In 1845, Fanning preached at Rock Spring and attended a co-operative meeting there. In addition, he established Franklin College for young men in Nashville, Tenn. Years later he started the Gospel Advocate, now in its 158th year. Other men who preached at the Rock Spring church during those early days were David Lipscomb, E.G. Sewell and J.C. McQuiddy. Each one was closely associated with the Gospel Advocate.
I personally admire the knowledge of the Bible that characterized people of that era as seen in their Christian convictions. We are thankful these brethren have maintained the faith.