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James DeForest Murch

By James Riley Estep, Jr.


Lincoln Christian College and Seminary JAMES DEFOREST MURCH (1892-1973). A Stone-Campbell adherent, Christian Church/Church of Christ, focused his career on advancing Christian education in the local congregation, higher education, and through evangelical publications.


Influences, Education and Teaching

Christianity Today called him, “One of its most influential evangelical leaders,” (Editors 1973, 3). He was also described as being “an initiator and pioneer” (Editors Christian Standard 1973, 3). One need only review his autobiography’s table of contents, Adventuring for Christ in Changing Times, to gain an appreciation for the breadth and depth of his commitment to the evangelical community, as it lists the numerous institutions with which he was involved, e.g. National Association of Evangelicals, Cincinnati Bible College, Standard Publishing, Christianity Today, United Evangelical Action, National Sunday School Association. His educational legacy and continued influence on the Stone-Campbell movement is perhaps most evident from the recent article “Was Murch Right?” which continues the debate of Murch’s endeavor to place the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ within the broader evangelical community over 30 years after his death.

James DeForest Murch was born October 23, 1892 in New Vienna, Ohio. Born into the home of Everett Delonzo and Ella Mallory (Savage) Murch, he was raised in a family strongly committed to the Stone-Campbell tradition, and he remained within that tradition throughout his entire life. The prominence of his father as a preacher in central Ohio permitted the young Murch to have contact with leaders within his tradition as well as those individuals who would eventually become leaders within his generation. Due to his family background, he had the necessary network of individuals to one-day became a major voice within the Stone-Campbell movement.

Murch likewise established a Christian home, marrying Olive Cameron in August 25, 1915. He commented of his wife, “Olive has all the qualifications necessary to have built a career of her own but she chose to build one that has been of immense help to me in my life and ministry” (Murch 1972, 335). With her he had his only child, James DeForest Murch II.

Religious Background

The history of the Stone-Campbell tradition in the 20th century and the life of Murch are so parallel and intertwined that it is virtually impossible to separate them. “One of the big challenges to which he [Murch] responded was to get the many Orthodox beliefs in Christian Churches/Churches of Christ to recognize other logical conservatives in North America, and vice-a-versa. More than any one else, Mr. Murch, who came from this movement, worked to break down this massive barrier. His great work will continue to bear rich fruit for years to come” (Editors, Christianity Today, 1973, 31). While his desire for a closer affiliation with evangelical Protestantism was obvious, it was to his Stone-Campbell heritage that he had “deepest and strongest” ties. His books, such as Christians Only (1962), The Free Church (1966), Christian Education in the Local Church (1943), and Teach Or Perish (1961), not to mention the biography of B. D. Phillips (1969), are all reflective of his Stone-Campbell heritage.

“His zeal to get Bible-believing Christians to work together is epitomized in title of one of his books, Cooperation Without Compromise, a study of the National Association of Evangelicals… At the same time he provided an all-to-seldom-found bridge between brethren in the restoration movement and what is generally called evangelical Protestantism” (Editors, Christianity Today 1973, 31). This element of Murch’s belief is essential to understanding his life and career, since it serves as the motivating force for his work in Christian education both within the Stone-Campbell tradition and the evangelical community.

However, while Much was firmly committed to his theological heritage, his desire for unity with the broader evangelical community often placed him in opposition to the more sectarian and reactionary elements within the Stone-Campbell tradition. When writing about the division within his tradition, he stated, “I love the Brotherhood. When I say that, I mean all those Right, Left, and Center who are committed to the Restoration ideal and are sincerely seeking to serve Christ and to do His will as revealed in the Holy Scriptures” (Murch 1972, 284). Murch favored the “centerist” approach within the Stone-Campbell tradition, identified as the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, as opposed to the “leftist” Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) or the “rightist” Church of Christ (acapella).

Educational Background

Unlike many leaders in Christian education in the 20th century, Murch had no formal education in the field of Christian education or denominational theology. He started attending Ohio University during the Winter quarter in 1912. He had a keen interest in English language, philosophy, and history at Ohio University and he develop his critical thinking abilities, particularly when debating faculty members. “Because of my commitment in Biblical Christianity, I could not accept any of the philosophical ideas advanced…I brashly challenged them” (Murch 1972, 19-20).

Murch commented, “If I had given as much attention to my studies as I did to student activities I might have been a scholar” (Murch 1972, 20). He was elected as an honorary member of the Sigma Delta Chi due to his work in the field of journalism. He served as a staff writer for the student publication Green and White and as editor of the University annual, Athena. He was also a member and eventually president of the literary society as well as a member of the intercollegiate debate team and Tau Kappa Alpha, all due to his literary work. He earned his AB in 1915 and eventually an MA from the University of Cincinnati in 1918. He was awarded two honorary doctorates, from Northwest Christian College in 1929 and Milligan College in 1959.

Career and Life Work

Murch’s career and life as best described by the title of his autobiography, Adventuring for Christ in changing times. He held positions throughout the evangelical community, each one advancing the cause of Christian education in some fashion. He was an ordained Disciples of Christ minister in 1915, later affiliating himself with the more “centerist” element, the Christian Church (Independent), holding several located ministries as well as serving as Sunday School superintendent while engaged in editorial work. The most notable congregational position being the volunteer Director of Christian Education at the Westwood-Cheviot Church of Christ in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Murch is perhaps best recognized as the editor of numerous magazines and journals. The following is a list of editorial positions held by Murch with his dates of service:

  • Something Doing, 1916-1918
  • The Lookout, 1918-1925
  • Restoration Herald, 1925-1934
  • Christian Endeavor Quarterly, 1925-1934
  • Christian Action, 1935-1945
  • Christian Unity Quarterly, 1941-1945
  • Standard Bible Teacher and Leader, 1944-1945
  • Christian Home Life, 1944-1945
  • United Evangelical Action (first major endeavor outside the Stone-Campbell Tradition), 1945-1958
  • Christianity Today, 1958-1961

Murch’s autobiography provides an abundance of information regarding his activity within each of these editorial positions, including anecdotal data. However, his life work was not limited to editorial work. Murch was an active member of many evangelical associations, including the following:

  • National Religious Broadcasters (Board of Directors, 1942-1968, President 1956-1957
  • National Sunday School Association (Board of directors beginning 1946, President 1949-1951)
  • Evangelical Press Association (Trustee 1949-1959, President 1949-1952)
  • National Association of Evangelicals (Board 1958-1971)
  • Disciples of Christ Historical Society (member since 1951)
  • North American Christian Convention (1934-1973, meeting planner and workshop coordinator)

Retirement & Death

“In my later years I have been thrust into something approximating the role of a patriarch by my brethren in the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ” (Murch 1972, 342). Murch “retired” at the age of 70. During his retirement he supervised the indexing of the Christian Standard, as well as committing his time to writing several books. Murch became a visiting lecturer and preacher throughout the United States. In fact, until his death in 1973 he was given a weekly column in Christian Standard entitled, “Today in Christendom,” the last installment of which coincided with the release of his obituary.

Murch “died Saturday, June 16 after a brief illness while working on plans for [North American Christian Convention] convention-displays and the distribution of his recently completed autobiography” (Editors Christian Standard, 1973, 3). Throughout his career as a teacher, editor, speaker, and director his faithfulness to the Stone-Campbell heritage was evident particularly his funeral. Representatives from Cincinnati Bible Seminary, Standard Publishing, Christian Restoration Association, North American Christian Convention, Christian’s Hour Radio Program, as well as various Christian colleges who had honored Murch during his lifetime, and Mrs. B. D. Phillips of the Phillips Charitable Trust of whom he had developed a close friendship and written her husband’s biography (Editors, Christian Standard, 1973, 3).

Contributions to Christian Education

Murch’s contributions to the evangelical community are varied. It would not be possible to enumerate them all specifically. As previously mentioned, to some extent all of Murch’s work could be considered in the service of Christian education, including his work in Christian’s Hour radio program. However, the following section highlights his major contributions to the field of Christian education in both the Stone-Campbell tradition and the evangelical community.

Sunday School and the National Sunday School Association

As early as 1912, at the age of 20, he was teaching Sunday school classes for his peers at Ohio University, eventually becoming the superintendent of the Bible school at his father’s congregation. Murch’s commitment to the Sunday school is indeed evident in his autobiography. Chapter 8 illustrates Murch’s attention given to the Sunday school that he regarded the attendance figures of the Sunday school to be far more significant than simply the number of people who would show up for the sermon (Murch 1972).

Murch served as the Bible School superintendent at Westwood-Cheviot in Cincinnati for seventeen years, where he also chaired two building committees to advance their Christian education program by expanding their facilities (Editors, Christian Standard, 1973, 3). His book, Christian Education in the local church, describes a “graded blueprint,” of how to build a Sunday school. Murch advocated that Christian education must grow beyond the Sunday school.

The modern concept of Christian education is in the local church raises above this prudential and inadequate situation. It sees the churches total educational function merged into a properly correlated and supervised organization that fully meets the needs of the individual and the community. The challenge of building an adequate program of Christian education for the church in our day should elicit a higher qualities of leadership the pastor has to offer (Murch, “The Pastor and Christian Education” manuscript, 2).

Murch understood the Sunday school to be part of the church school. The church school has broadened educational endeavors of the church of which the Sunday school is but a part. Murch writes in “The Pastor and Christian Education”that “the church school of the future would not only meet on Sunday morning, but Sunday evening and throughout the week. It will give expressional training not only to youth but to the child and the adult. It will not only ‘teach the Bible’ but will offer advanced courses in every area of knowledge and practice vital to Christian living and church efficiency” (Murch, “The Pastor and Christian Education” manuscript, 8).

Murch voiced his enthusiasm over the fact that worship attendance in the United States was at an all time high, but voiced his innate concern that these people often do not make their way to the Sunday School, noting “they scarcely know it exist except for children, women, and oldsters” (Murch, “A Church School Blueprint” manuscript). He criticized the poor condition of the Sunday School assessing that, “thousands of Sunday Schools are operating as they did a half century ago with a merry-go-round curriculum that covers less than half of the Bible and provides littler application to life, to say nothing of realistic instruction concerning the Churches mission in the modern world. These schools have only a tenuous connection with the larger educational program of the church, which lack integration and real Christian objectives” (Murch, “A Church School Blueprint” manuscript, 2-3). Hence, Murch was a critical proponent of the Sunday school.

National Sunday School Association (NSSA)

Murch describes his involvement in the establishment and promotion of the National Sunday School Association as being “more rewarding than the hours, days, and the years” spent in any other educational endeavor. He regarded it as his greatest work in the cause in Christian education. The NSSA initially received a favorable response from the evangelical community due to the ill-well felt toward the International Council for Religious Education (ICRE), which had reportedly abandoned the evangelical community, and hence could not reasonable be used in their congregations.

NSSA was started April 12-17, 1944 meeting of the church school commission of the National Association of Evangelicals. The NSSA held its first convention October 2-6, 1946 with a thousand in the afternoon sessions and 4000 on the Saturday night sessions. The NSSA had three main emphases according to Murch: the Bible, the evangelism, and spiritual power. “All these had been lost in the infiltration of ‘liberalism’ into the Sunday school” (Murch 1972, 171). For Murch, the NSSA was the Sunday school in macrocosm, an amplification of his previously stated convictions regarding Christian education. A detailed account of the NSSA’s formation and mission can be found in Murch’s Cooperation without Compromise (1956), chapter 10 entitled “Revitalizing the American Sunday School” (pp. 121-134).

“Christian Action”

The carnage of World War I, the world brotherhood paralyzed, the advance of theological and political liberalism, and the Great Depression were assessed by Murch as “the destruction of Western civilization was actually happening before our eyes.” (Murch 1972, 101). He was concerned for the Church not only about the pervasive nature of liberalism but the conservative reactionary spirit and the expansion of hierarchical structures which he regarded as a distraction from doing the work of Christ. In the midst of these concerns, Murch describes a personal experience that would change him: “One unforgettable night, after a crushing day, my heart a sparingly bowed down, I awoke startled by a voice. I looked about, but they was no one else in the room. Then there flashed into my mind blinding voice the words of Romans 12:1,2. … As I analyze this scripture passage I saw in it a plan for a ‘Crusade for Christian Action.’” (Murch 1972, 102) Hence, he started Christian Action as a means of restoring the spiritual vitality in the church during this time of great social upheaval.

He announced and promoted publishing the formation of the group in the Christian Restoration Association, Christian Herald materials, and this is what gave it more or less the springboard to launch itself as a nation-wide movement. Murch notes, “one of the most thrilling by products of the Christian Action Crusade was an effort to bring about a meaningful unity between Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (a capella)” (Murch 1972, 126). Christian Action reached out to conservative Disciples of Christ and Baptists waiting for their leadership to focus as he had on the subject of unity and on areas which agreement can be made as opposed as distinctive areas in which we are different (Murch 1972).

Higher Education in the Stone-Campbell Tradition

Murch’s manuscript “The Pastor and Christian Education” speaks of institutions of higher education offering courses and programs specifically in Christian education so as to meet the need for “an expert knowledge of Christian education in the local church.” The thrust of this manuscript is the need for pastors to be acquainted with the history, theory, and methods of Christian education, rather than focusing exclusively on pulpit ministry. Hence Christian higher education advanced Christian education in the local congregation by preparing pastors as well as specialized ministers specifically trained in the area of Christian education. (Murch, “The Pastor and Christian Education” manuscript, 3).

Murch served on the faculty of Cincinnati Bible Seminary, where he was a member of the department of Christian education since the institution’s founding in 1924 (Murch 1972, 61-68). He had originally taught at Cincinnati Bible Institute, but when it formed Cincinnati Bible Seminary, he continued on as Professor of Christian Education. Even though he had been an interim president as well as one of the founding voices at Cincinnati Bible Seminary when the more conservative reactionary element within the seminary began to become dominate just as it did eventually at Christian Standard, this in essence forced his resignation.

The city of Cincinnati serves as the unofficial headquarters of the Christian Church (Independent). Murch served at both Standard Publishing and Cincinnati Bible College, which provided him a amplifier so that his voice could be heard throughout the Stone-Campbell tradition. He could advance the college through the Christian Standard and Cincinnati Bible Seminary could be advanced by having scholarly academic writings published (Murch 1972).

Biographical Resources

  • Belcastro, J.(1958).“Cooperation without Compromise (Review)” Encounter: 358-359.
  • Cobb, Rick.(1999) “A failed unity movement within a unity movement: The Murch- Witty unity movement, 1937-1947.” Restoration Quarterly. (41. 2) 87-101.
  • Editors.(1973). “Editorial: James DeForest Murch, 1892-1973,” Christian Standard. July 15, 3.
  • Editors. (1973). “James DeForest Murch,” Christianity Today. July 6, 31.
  • Editor. (1961). “Ten false charges,” Christian Century. November 1, 1291-1292.Gresham, Charles. Personal Interview. April 2001.
  • Marling, Norman H. (1958). “Cooperation without compromise (Review).” Foundations : 82-88.
  • McAllister, Lester G.(1963). “Christians Only (Review).” Encounter : 502-504.
  • Murch, James Deforest. (1943). Christian Education in the local church. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company.
  • ________. (1959). Cooperation without compromise. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing.
  • ________. (1961). Teach or perish. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publsihing.
  • ________.(1972). Adventuring for Christ in changing times. Louisville: Restoration Press.
  • ________. “A Church School Blueprint” Manuscript. Milligan Archives, Christian Education file.
  • ________. “The pastor and Christian Education” Manuscript. Milligan Archives, Christian Education file.
  • Sloneker, G. Mark. (1995). You can’t do that!: The life and labors of Burris Butler – An account of a ministry at Christian standard and with Standard Publishing Company (Joplin: College Press).

Murch provides us with the most comprehensive and insightful biographical research in his autobiography, Adventuring for Christ in changing times (Louisville: Restoration Press, 1972). Written in first person, but passive, it is an invaluable source to any study of his life. In addition to this primary source, his personal papers and files are archived in the Welchimer Library at Milligan College, P. O. Box 210, Milligan College, Tennessee 37682 (1-800-262-8337). There are several files relating to Christian education, public education, and variety of different educational institutions with which Murch had contact. Many of these files simply contain pieces not produced by Murch, but rather used in his research or influence in his thinking. The archives are quite extensive consisting of twenty-four large boxes cataloged in two collections.



  • (1973) Murch, James DeForest. Adventuring for Christ in changing times. Autobiography. Louisville, Kentucky: Restoration Press, 1973. “The manuscript for this book was completed January 1, 1972, and no major changes have been made in it since that date.”
  • (1969) Murch, James DeForest. B. D. Phillips: Life and letters.; Louisville, Kentucky: Privately Published, 1969.
  • (1968) Murch, James DeForest. The Sword and the trowel: Exile and restoration.; Glendale, California: A Division of G/L Publications, 1968.
  • (1967) Murch, James DeForest. The Protestant revolt: Road to freedom for American churches.; Arlington, Virginia: Crestwood Books, 1967.
  • (1966) Murch, James DeForest. The National Council of Churches: A critique.; Wheaton, Illinois: National Association of Evangelicals, 1966.
  • (1966) Murch, James DeForest. The free church: A treatise on church policy with special relevance to doctrine and practice in Christian churches and churches of Christ.; Restoration Press, 1966.
  • (1963) Murch, James DeForest. God’s answers to life’s problems.; Glendale, California: Gospel Light, 1963.
  • (1962) Murch, James DeForest. Christians only: A history of the restoration movement.; Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1962.
  • (1961) Murch, James DeForest. Teach or perish.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961.
  • (1961) Murch, James DeForest. The World Council of Churches: An analysis and evaluation.; Washington D. C.: National Association of Evangelicals, 1961.
  • (1958) Murch, James DeForest. Teach me to pray.; Cincinnati Standard Publishing Company, 1958.
  • (1956) Murch, James DeForest. Cooperation without compromise: A history of the national association of evangelicals.; Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956
  • (1955) Murch, James DeForest. The coming great church: A critique of the World Council of Churches.; United Evangelical Action, 1955.
  • (1952) Murch, James DeForest. The growing super-church.; National Association of Evangelicals, 1952.
  • (1943) Murch, James DeForest. Christian Education in the local church.; Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1943.
  • (1941) Murch, James DeForest (A Latter-Day Christian). God still lives: A testimony and a challenge.; Butler, Indiana: Christian Action, 1941.
  • (1941) Thornton, E. W., J. Vernon Jacobs, and James DeForest Murch. 600 doctrinal illustrations.; Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1941.
  • (1939) Murch, James DeForest. The Sunday school handbook.; Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1939.
  • (1937) Murch, James DeForest. Christian minister’s manual.; Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1937.
  • (1934) Murch, James DeForest. Christian action bible studies.; Cincinnati: Christian Action, 1934.
  • (1934) Murch, James DeForest. Junior quiz book.; Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1934.
  • (1933) Murch, James DeForest. Bible studies: For Christian action crusaders.; Cincinnati Standard Publishing Company, 1933.
  • (1930) Murch, James DeForest. Successful C. E. prayer-meetings.; Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1930.


  • (1999) Cobb, Rick. “A failed unity movement within a unity movement: The Murch- Witty unity movement, 1937-1947.” Restoration Quarterly, 41 (2), 87-101.
  • (1983) Murch, James DeForest. “Right of religious broadcasting.” Religious Broadcasting, 15, 64+.
  • (1973) Editors. “Editorial: James DeForest Murch, 1892-1973.” Christian Standard, 108 (28), 3.
  • (1966) Murch, James DeForest. “The pastor and Christian Education.” Manuscript.
  • (1965) Murch, James DeForest. “Mirror of a movement.” Christianity Today, 9, 28-29.
  • (1963) McAllister, Lester G. “Christians only (Review).” Encounter, 24, 502-504.
  • (1961) Editor. “Ten false charges.” Christian Century, 78 (44), 1, 1291-1292.
  • (1960) Murch, James DeForest. “World Council of Churches. Some evangelical gains at Saint Andrews.” Christianity Today, 4, 21-22, 29-31.
  • (1960) Murch, James DeForest. “Trumpet call of reformation (Review).” Christianity Today, 4, 36.
  • (1960) Murch, James DeForest. “Evangelical sermons of our day (Review).” Christianity Today, 4, 39.
  • (1959) Murch, James DeForest. “United Church of Christ.” Christianity Today, 3, 10-14.
  • (1958) Belcastro, J. “Cooperation without compromise (Review).” Encounter, 19, 358-359.
  • (1958) Maring, Norman H. “Cooperation without compromise (Review).” Foundations, 1, 82-88.
  • (1958) Murch, James DeForest. “Church and Civil defense.” Christianity Today, 3, 15-17.
  • (1958) Murch, James DeForest. “A Church school blueprint.” Manuscript. Milligan Archives, Christian Education File.

Chapters in Books

  • (1966) Your church their target - - “Chapter 9: Reds and the World Council of Churches.” Your church their target. Kenneth W. Ingwalson eds. Alrington, VA: Better Books.
  • (1965) Why in the world
  • (1965) We believe in prayer
  • (1964) “Departmentalization.” Edward J. Hakes eds. An introduction to evangelical Christian education. Chicago: Moody Press. 308-317.
  • (1963) The coming world church. Lincoln, Nebraska: Back to the Bible Broadcast.
  • (1957) Redigging the wells - - “Chapter 2: The Restoration Movement”
  • (1953) Evangelical Sunday school lesson commentary, Cleaveland, Tennessee: Pathways Press (1953-1967)
  • (1951) Christian Education in a democracy. Frank E. Gaebelein eds. New York: Oxford University Press. (see page vi)
  • (1944) Living for Jesus - - Introduction, April 18 – Christ our Comfort, May 10 – Spiritual Dividends, June 7 – Love for Enemies, November 29 – What is Contentment, 1944
  • (1943) Altar fires of faith
  • (1939) God’s purpose: A Book 366 Daily Sermonettes
  • (1937) Great songs of the church


  • (1966) Christian Endeavor essentials, 1966
  • (1963) Church-State relations: The American Way, 1963
  • (1937) Studies in Christian living, 1937

Reviews of James DeForest Murch’s Works

  • McAllister, Lester G. (1963). “Christians Only [Review].” Encounter (24): 502-504.
  • Belcastro, J. “Cooperation without Compromise (Review)” Encounter (1958): 358-359.
  • Editor. “Ten False Charges,” Christian Century. November 1, 1961, 1291-1292.
  • Furguson, Everett. (1967). “Free Church: A Treatise on Church Polity [Review].”Restoration Quarterly (10): 58.
  • ________. (1962). “Christians Only.” Restoration Quarterly (6): 163.
  • Marling, Norman H. “Cooperation without compromise (Review).” Foundations (1958): 82-88.
  • McAllister, Lester G. “Christians only (Review).” Encounter (1963): 502-504.
  • Reed, Forrest F. (1962). “Christians only.” Disciplina (22): 55.
  • Waddy, John. (1990). “Christians only: A History of the Restoration Movement [Review].” Gospel Light (60): 186.

Excerpts from Publications

(1943). Murch, James DeForest. Christian education in the local church. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company.

Christian Education in the Local Church was Murch’s most significant writing on the subject of Christian education. The book is divided into three parts: History (consisting of ten chapters), Principles (consisting of eight chapters), Practice (consisting of seventeen chapters) noting Murch’s emphasis on the practical. Murch’s convictions regarding Christian education are summarized in the Preface of his book.

Murch 1943, Preface.

Christian Education is the hope of the world. It is a divinely appointed task, which should challenge the best leadership of the church. Christian education is most effective when it functions scripturally. … Facing this situation, as it pertain to the local church, it occurred to the writer that the whole case for Christian education needed to be restated. … It was evident that superficial thinkers has assumed the problem of Christian education to be identical with that of secular education, and had proceeded to apply modern secular philosophy, psychology, pedagogy to the religious situation with little regard for the teaching of the Word of God. … This conviction prompted a restudy of the Bible and the history of Christian education thus certain definite educational principles were discovered which had the stamp of divine creation or approval.

Murch 1943, 96-98, 100.

He addressed the common misconception such as the purpose of education in the church is “identical with secular education” or “to construct the new social order or conduct a social center or just gain Bible knowledge or to strengthen and perpetuate the church” (Murch 1943, 96-98). What is the purpose of Christian education according to Murch? “Thus it is clearly seen that the educational function of the church has for its sublime object fitting men to live in perfect harmony with the will of God” (Murch 1943, 100). He bases this definition on passages of Scriptures regarding the Bible teaching on the purpose and function of the whole church.

Murch 1943, Part 2.

In Part 2 of the book, Murch demonstrates the components of a successful theory of Christian education. He regards those components to be the pupil, curriculum, teacher, instructional methods, the Divine element, and ultimately the product. All of these components are to be defined by one’s theological framework.

Murch, 1944, 150, 156.

Murch identified the divine element as the qualitative distinction of Christian education from secular education. “The process of Christian education involves more than the objective, the pupil, the curriculum, the teacher and the method. These may be sufficient to produce required results in secular education, but the religious process is not quite so simple. … The problem of Christian education has spiritual aspects which are beyond the abilities of mere man to solve” (Murch, 1944, 150). Murch summarizes his principles part with two concluding statements: “Christian education is the process of building the mind of Christ into the life of man and helping him grow individually and socially into the perfect man.” “The purpose of the church school is to win men to Christ as Lord and Savior, teaching them the Word of God and training them in Christian character and service.” (Murch, 1944,156)

(1961) Murch, James DeForest. Teach or perish.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961.

Murch shows his propensity for organization and structure in that of the seventeen chapters comprising Part III, fifteen of them deal with such items as organization, the minister’s role, the elder’s role, superintendent’s role, cabinet’s role, and the various departments are addressed and how to aid in those departments. Of course under departments, he handles such things as what kind of specific supplies and what is peculiar to those particular departments. Charles Gresham, personal acquaintance of Murch, commented that his book was the only Christian education text produced by the Christian Church (Independent) at that time, and remained a standard textbook within the tradition for several decades.

Murch, 1961, Pg vi.

Murch describes this book as “a frank evaluation of the present situation in which the Church finds itself; an inventory of its education potential; a call high commitment and zealous action; and a proposal for revitalization, expansion and advance. It is an inspiration, yet practical, appeal called forth by and geared to the times”.

Murch 1961, 66.

The book contains twelve chapters, considerably shorter than his previous volume. The first six of which could be described as critic of the current situation of Christian education in the church and in the world. The later six are his recommendations for revitalization. Chapter 7 is titled as the book is titled, “Teach or Perish” in which he sets forth his agenda for restoring the teaching ministry of the church. “The last best hope of the Church, the nation in the world lies in Christian education - - in an immediate, comprehensive, universal, mass program of Christian education at the local church and community level”.

Murch 1943, chapter 12.

Once again Murch emphasizes that Christian education to maintain its Christian nature, it’s going to have to root itself primarily in theology not in the same rootage as the secular educators. He maintained that theology must be the starting point and the distinctive of Christian education. Murch’s book does indeed have an apocalyptic tone. In fact his first chapter is called “An Apocalyptical World” talking about the need for his redemption. The final chapter (chapter 12) is the “Time is Short,” where he speaks of the imminent need to reconcile for world Christ.


Murch, James DeForest. (1973). Adventuring for Christ in changing times: Autobiography. Louisville, KY: Restoration Press.

Murch, James DeForest. (1962). Christians only: A history of the restoration movement. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company.

Murch, James DeForest. (1961). Teach or perish. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Murch, James DeForest. (1956). Cooperation without compromise: A history of the National Association of Evangelicals. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Murch, James DeForest. (1956). Christian education in the local church. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company.

Author Information

James Riley Estep, Jr.

James Riley Estep, Jr. is the Professor of Christian Education at Lincoln Christian Seminary, as well as an Associate Dean at Lincoln Christian College. He also serves as Director of Academic Assessment and Faculty Development for the campus. He was a student of Warren Benson's from 1994-1999 at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL).