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ERIK TRYGGESTAD Will Norrid teaches a class in Loyd Auditorium at Freed-Hardeman University.
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Photo by Erik Tryggestad

Grow the church by doing good

Series at Freed-Hardeman Bible lectures discusses importance of helping people in order to spread the Gospel.

HENDERSON, Tenn. — Jesus’ reputation for doing good preceded him. Can Churches of Christ say the same?

“I don’t know that that is the initial response people always have when we talk about the Lord’s church,” said Will Norrid, who preaches for the Lebanon Church of Christ in Dresden, a small town in west Tennessee.

I attended his class, the first of a three-part series, “Growing the Church by Doing Good,” during this year’s Bible lectures at Freed-Hardeman University.


Related: Doing good in a divided world


The class was a rare gem found behind a mustard-gold curtain in Loyd Auditorium. The folks at Freed use those curtains to section off the balcony into four classrooms for concurrent classes. As we flipped to the story of Cornelius in Acts 10, the voice of Dan Winkler boomed through the curtain from his session in the auditorium below. Norrid called it “brother Dan’s bonus content.”

Will Norrid teaches a class in Loyd Auditorium at Freed-Hardeman University.

Will Norrid teaches a class in Loyd Auditorium at Freed-Hardeman University.

Cornelius, a centurion, had a vision from God and called for the apostle Peter. Though he was a Gentile, the soldier already was familiar with “what has happened throughout the province of Judea,” as Peter said in verse 37. Cornelius certainly didn’t know as much as most Jews did about God, but he seemed to know about Jesus’ good deeds.

Norrid also pointed to the Old Testament story of Ruth, whose kindness toward her mother-in-law, Naomi, was known by her entire community, including Boaz, her future husband.

“I love the scripture,” Norrid said. “I know you do, too. You wouldn’t be here on a Tuesday morning if you didn’t.”

But before Christians can “get to the depths of Scripture” with those who don’t know Jesus, they must be “known as people who live it,” he said.

“If we don’t get that right, it doesn’t matter in one sense if we get all the correct doctrine, the correct teaching … straight out of the New Testament, just like the first century church.

ERIK TRYGGESTAD Will Norrid teaches a class in Loyd Auditorium at Freed-Hardeman University.

Will Norrid teaches a class in Loyd Auditorium at Freed-Hardeman University.

“If we could restore it perfectly in our manner of worship, in our method of life, in our approach to mission work, in the way we raise funds, all that would be for naught if we are not known as people who do good.”

I made sure to come back the next day for the second session, taught by Taylor Bell, a preacher and licensed professional counselor who works with at-risk youth. He focused on the question, “Who do we help?” Namely, that would be those who love God, those who loathe God and those who lack God, Bell said.

Scotty Smith delivers a three-point speech in the style of his father, Billy R. Smith, during the Freed-Hardeman 2022 Lectureship Appreciation Dinner

Scotty Smith delivers a three-point speech in the style of his father, Billy R. Smith, during the Freed-Hardeman 2022 Lectureship Appreciation Dinner

Every sermon at Freed-Hardeman should have three points that start with the same letter, by the way. It’s something the preaching students got from Billy R. Smith, who taught Bible at Freed for 47 years. I went to a dinner honoring Smith during the lectures. It was part heartfelt tribute and part comic roast. It was awesome.

Billy R. Smith, right, longtime professor and administrator at Freed-Hardeman University, shares a laugh during the university's 2022 lectureship.

Billy R. Smith, right, longtime professor and administrator at Freed-Hardeman University, shares a laugh during the university’s 2022 lectureship.

ERIK TRYGGESTAD is president and CEO of The Christian Chronicle. Contact [email protected], and follow him on Twitter @eriktryggestad.

Filed under: benevolence Evangelism Freed-Hardeman Insight Lebanon Church of Christ lectureship Opinion Top Stories Will Norrid

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