Alexander Campbell

Excerpt from Chapter 21 of Christ’s Faithful Servants, copyright 2023

. . . While he often helped raise money for Christian churches and causes, he refused any personal compensation for his preaching and often turned down large sums of money for his services. He was courteous and respectful to all, including non-believers. He was also a devoted husband and father. In his writings, teachings, and lectures, he consistently focused on Christ, the Bible, and how to live the Christian life—and he had little patience for any “Christian” preacher who focused on anything else. Indeed, for Alexander, the Christian life was neither real nor sincere unless it permeated the entire mind and soul of the believer.

Campbell’s Public Speaking. In all of his public speaking, Alexander used a conversational tone and spoke extemporaneously, without notes or prepared remarks. By all reports, he was a captivating speaker, who would hold his audience’s interest throughout long speeches. For example, “Raccoon” John Smith—who would later become  a prominent preacher, evangelist, and leader in the Disciples movement—once rode twenty miles to hear Campbell speak, only to be disappointed that he spoke for only thirty minutes. Then Smith looked at his watch and realized Campbell had actually spoken for two-and-a-half hours.

Campbell  would methodically and logically prove his point, often using illustrations and analogies adapted to the understanding of the audience he was addressing.[1] Since his goal was to encourage his listeners to think about the Bible rather than blindly accept dogmas and creeds, he encouraged questions.

He carefully distinguished the roles of preacher and teacher—a preacher proclaims the gospel and calls sinners to become followers of Christ, while a teacher helps those followers to understand the Bible and what it means to live a Christian life. He did not object to one person performing both functions, but he protested against those who confused the two by lecturing to sinners about morality or theology, or by failing to teach Christians how to obey the Word of God. Campbell himself was more teacher than preacher. During his many travels, he focused more on teaching the faithful than preaching to sinners.

Everywhere he went, he attracted large crowds. He frequently had to speak in town squares because the gatherings were too big for the largest town buildings. His appeal cut across all races and classes of people—black and white, wealthy and poor, well educated and not. . . .

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[1]. For example, during his debate with Robert Owen, Campbell compared Owen’s vision for the future of mankind to a beehive, where all work for the common good, but to what ultimate end? Similarly, Campbell accused Owen of wanting to destroy Christianity’s hope of immortality by reducing it to the level of witches, ghosts, and old wives’ tales. (See Mr. Campbell’s First Reply. A transcript of the debate can be found at, last viewed 1/20/2023.)