Churches of Christ in Decline? Reflections

Did you notice? The church planting plan I linked to in the last post was organized very much along the lines of Lencioni’s Silos, Politics and Turf Wars. That is, it has a short-term vision (plant a church). It had intermediate goals (launch an ad campaign, have outreach events, etc.). It had eternal principles (reliance on prayer, theological foundations, etc.). And it had measurements (number of mailings, dates of events, etc.)

It doesn’t use the terminology of Lencioni, but the fact is, a church that is truly on a mission — where everyone is on the same mission and intensely so — will necessarily fit that pattern. Of course, very few established churches do.

And planted churches will not be involved in in-fighting. They’ve agreed on what they want to do and how they’re going to do it. They’re just working the plan all the members have signed on to.

It’s an interesting phenomenon — the model for church planting fits the model for eliminating silos, politics, and turf wars. Why would that be? What does the fact that growing churches by nature do the things that prevent infighting tell us about why non-growing churches don’t grow? Continue reading

Pepperdine Materials

Well, I made my presentation today here in Pepperdine. I referred to a number of items on the website in answer to questions, so here are a few posts that may help some who attended.

Here is the PowerPoint presentation from the lecture: Why Are There So Many Divisions In the Churches of Christ? (For a fuller explanation of this material, go to Do We Teach Another Gospel?)

Here’s the Amazing Grace lesson series which addresses all the questions other than on divorce.

Here’s the material on divorce.

Buried Talents: The Archaeological Evidence

Recently, a number of scholars have noted that archaeological and other evidence supports the idea that the early church had women elders and bishops. While the existence of the evidence is undeniable, some argue that such women were part of heretical sects.

However, others argue that women had these roles early on but the church later came to reject this practice. As a result, references to women have been deleted in the ancient writings that have been preserved, but the archaeological evidence continues to testify to women having had leadership roles. Continue reading

Amazing Grace: Conclusions, Part 1

[I’m reposting these for the benefit of our teachers. This is supplemental material in case last week’s outline doesn’t get you through two weeks. The last two are newly posted.]

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Feeling forgiven. Obviously enough, the first important consequence of understanding grace better is to appreciate — to feel — the forgiveness God has given us.

Tragically, many of us go through life feeling unworthy, struggling to perhaps one day be good enough to merit God’s forgiveness. It’s a miserable existence. I’ve been there.

Others, however, unwilling to feel so miserable, convince themselves that they really do merit God’s forgiveness and so become arrogant. In the Churches of Christ, this arrogance typically shows itself as doctrinal perfectionism — that is, the idea that only those with perfect doctrine will go to heaven. Continue reading

Churches of Christ in Decline? What It Takes to Be a Planted Church

Again, this is just an idea. I’ve never done this. I don’t know anyone else who has. It’s probably impossible. But at the worst, this would be a good exercise for any church leadership. What would it take to turn an existing church into a planted church?

Here’s a sample church-plant plan. Now, stop and read it.

Continue reading

Are We Sacramentalists? Sex, Children, and Such

BaptismIn the previous posts, I tried to give a taste of the sacramental nature of the Spirit — how human actions, empowered by God’s Holy Spirit — cause spiritual things to happen here on earth.

But there are other examples. For example, I’ve earlier mentioned how marriage is a sacrament, as marriage is a covenant with God and brings a bit of heaven to earth, as we restore men and women toward Eden.

But there’s more. You see, sex not only brings a bit of God’s joy to married men and women, it brings babies. And babies have souls. You see, a very human action creates one more soul with the potential to spend eternity in heaven. Sex thus is especially sacramental — and therefore is an act of worship (except when performed in rebellion to God’s design). Continue reading

Churches of Christ in Decline? Setting a Short-Term Vision

Okay, I’ve warned you against just buying the hot new evangelical book and making it the short-term vision. It doesn’t work. Well, actually, sometimes it does. But not always.

Back when the church growth movement was in full swing, those methods actually worked for a while. Now, they’re about worn out and — more importantly — we’re beginning to see theological problems with them. Many church growth methods led to consumerist churches, catering to “felt needs” rather than recruiting people to join in God’s mission.

Therefore, we need to spend a little time in theological reflection. It’s not that hard. We just have to get back to elementary principles — and away from the books. Continue reading