Replanting a Denomination: Resurrection and Paranoia

Here’s the critical point that so many miss. When an institution begins to decline, it will continue to decline unless something changes. Even if you believe the 20th Century Churches of Christ had perfect doctrine, something still has to change.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.

— Rita Mae Brown, Sudden Death (Bantam Books, New York, 1983), p. 68.

The solution to the problem is found in the scriptures, of course. Arlin J. Rothauge writes,

Death and Rebirth. When decline reaches the point that is called “the survival syndrome,” a congregation loses its sense of mission and channels all remaining resources toward its own preservation. On occasion only a dignified “burial” remains for the dying congregation. It determines this critical termination point by the unwillingness, or the incapacity, of the members and the leadership to face the necessary changes. In the natural life cycle of institutions, the death phase means the end.

The faith stance of the Christian community, however, raises an option that goes beyond this natural sequence. A new future in the cycle emerges out of the “Easter mystery.” The resurrection transcends us as the ultimate metaphor of what we believe about reality. That is to say, even in death we shall live. It is possible to survive death. Because our faith affirms transformation beyond the end, even death could become a transition to rebirth.

The Life Cycle in Congregations, p. 7.

Ultimately, if a congregation or a denomination is meant by God to exist, it is God who can and will resurrect it. Death, for the Christian, is the beginning, not the end. After all, in our baptism we’d died to the world to live for Jesus. We’ve already been resurrected once! We shouldn’t doubt God’s ability to do the same at the institutional level.

As noted in the PowerPoint slide, change isn’t easy. In fact, it makes people mad. When someone suggests that the Churches of Christ need to change to reverse their decline, the reactions are all too predictable —

* Anxiety and fear — How can we be sure God approves, especially when we’re doing something different?

If you transition from a works-based religion to a grace-based religion, you have to learn to trust God’s mercy rather than your own works, but you’ve been taught that God is not all that merciful. You struggle to reconcile the “free gift of the water of life” (Rev 22:17) and Nadab and Abihu. You have to unlearn much of what you were taught, and many people refuse to accept the idea that they’ve been in error.

On the other hand, more people find the true doctrine of grace delightful, and readily see God’s truth in it.

* Denial — We’re not in decline! Just look at how much worse other denominationsreligious bodies are doing! God isn’t giving the increase, so it’s really not our fault!

There are many websites citing the statistics showing our decline and arguing that things really aren’t that bad. Phil Sanders writes,

Some Encouraging Statistics

According to Flavil Yeakley, who presented this material at FHU a few years ago, one can say these things about churches of Christ:

* 12th largest religious group in America
* 6th fastest growing church in America
* 4th in the nation in the total number of congregations
* 5th in the nation in number of counties in which there is a congregation
* 1st in the nation in distribution of congregations
* 1st in the nation in weekly attendance

According to a survey by Barna about five years ago, churches of Christ were first in donations among religious groups (for our size).

Each year there are about 1250 new church plantings and about 3750 church closings in the United States. This is a loss of 2500 religious congregations per year.

When you consider that we lost only 69 churches of Christ (2000-2006) out of a total of 15,000 and yet have the fourth most congregations throughout the US, this is rather remarkable! Even the loss of 350 in the last three years (2006-2009) out of 7,500 is rather small.

Let’s not be discouraged. We are not pitiful and not dying. Many of our losses were actually mergers.

Phil

The call for changing doctrine or die is premature…

According to Dr. Yeakley, from 1980 to 2007, Oklahoma (home of the Quail Springs Church of Christ and their critics, as well as the Edmond Church of Christ that sponsor’s Phil’s ministry) lost more members than any other state — 9,406 net and 11,011 adherents (“Adherents” includes members and their children). Tennessee lost 5,479 members and 10,187 adherents, meaning they lost LOTS of families with young children! Imagine losing over 10,000 adherents, half of whom are children. That’s just unimaginably bad news!

We are growing at less than our own biological growth rate — we aren’t converting enough people to replace those of our own children who leave. How is this “encouraging” news? It’s denial.

* And there’s paranoia. Richard Mansel, managing editor of Forthright Magazine, writes,

Progressivism in the denominational world seeks to move past Scripture and to be free to find truth in a variety of methods and resources. We see a measure of this growing within Churches of Christ. Progressives, as a whole, do not wish to be restricted from finding truth where ever and in whatever form they desire. Freedom is the centerpiece of their hermeneutic. …

In the field of ethics, an enormous divergence of beliefs exists between liberals and conservatives.

“A Gallup poll showed overwhelming liberal support for homosexual activity (83%), premarital sex (89%), illegitimacy (83%), abortion (67%) and doctor assisted suicide (73%). Liberals support polygamy, adultery and cloning humans at an exponentially higher rate than conservatives.”/3This discrepancy can only be explained by differing presuppositions. Why else would there be so much conformity on these issues in such large blocs within these two philosophical views? They are approaching the world with opposing perspectives. They can each look at the same object and see completely different items.

Sadly, progressives are being successful in their methods because many are being influenced into accepting the liberal worldview on ethical issues.

Speaking as a Church of Christ progressive, who corresponds with progressive thought leaders daily, this is either slander or paranoia. And consider this other article by the managing editor

Progressives in the denominational world abandon biblical authority in their efforts to bolster and validate denominationalism and its manmade doctrines and methods.

“A fundamental principle of Liberalism is the proposition: ‘It is contrary to the natural, innate, and inalienable right and liberty and dignity of man, to subject himself to an authority, the root, rule, measure, and sanction of which is not in himself.’ This principle implies the denial of all true authority; for authority necessarily presupposes a power outside and above man to bind him morally.”/1

Refusing to be bound by Scriptural authority, these denominational progressives employ whatever methods work, no matter whether God approves or not ( Colossians 3:17). In the words of the Center for Progressive Christianity, they “value the search, not the certainty” in their utilization of Scripture./2 They place results over reverence for Biblical truth. If it draws crowds, it becomes God’s will.

… Progressives in the Lord’s church have not been as digressive as those in the religious world, as a whole. These brethren emulate and admire the denominational progressives. They borrow their methods and vocabulary and, in a lesser way, follow an adapted version of their progressivism. However, a bit of poison is still poison.

Yes, when an institution needs to change, many people will react with paranoia.

* Conflict. Are the Churches of Christ in conflict today? Unquestionably. Is this a new thing? Not really. We were born in conflict and we’ve been in conflict ever since. In fact, I’m not sure we know how to do church any other way.

Obviously, when some argue for change and others argue for the good ol’ days, there’s going to be conflict. The question is whether we deal with our conflicts in a healthy, mature, Christ-like way.

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32 Responses

  1. “a congregation loses its sense of mission and channels all remaining resources toward its own preservation.”

    This is also known as Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy. It holds far almost all large organizations – especially government bureaus. (see http://www.jerrypournelle.com/archives2/archives2mail/mail408.html#Iron and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bureaucracy for descriptions of the iron law).

    There are cases in history where a congregation was correct in seeking first to preserve itself from attacks. I don’t believe that is the case in America today.

    Please ask yourself and your fellow members of your own local congregations, “Are we serving ourselves so much that we neglect the non-Christian?” I confess that too many times in my life the answer for me was “yes.” I still struggle with this today.

  2. Jay

    I have given your webb page to several COC preachers that really need to implement “change” I pray they will look and ponder what you say.

    Even in engineering we have very fundamental truths that we practice, but we have evolved in our methods to solve difficult problems. We have learned to literally squeeze oil out rocks that were in the past unsqeezable.

    We can use different methods to attract the lost to our services or better yet train our folks on how to effectively present the gospel.

    We can start by being a friendly congregation who will seek out and win our visitors. I have been to one COC in our town three times anf have never recieved an acknowledgement that we attended. That is not acceptable. We need to be more pro active in winning souls. Membership winning is or should be a mutual attraction like two poles of a magnet. Both poles pull toward the other. We can’t expect people, the lost or unchurched to come to us by their own. We need to meet them halfway.
    I cannot imagine the “bunker mentality ” of some congregations, thought solid in their doctrine, that do not reach out or do not latch on to the visitor as a long lost friend in need of a place to call home. The apathy of some bewilders me to the point of frustration.
    What is the solution and why will we not get out of our circle of conversational comfort and include the stranger.
    Where is the falseness of that approach or is being friendly unscriptural? Most in tha COC and others groups as well are secure with the as is. If it ain’t broken we don’t need to fix it.
    The scripture about love each other is a joke in most of our congregations. I have been told you need to keep coming and maybe after several years you will fit in.
    What is the solution?

    Bob

  3. Bob

    My opinion is first we have to do away with the fear of any change.

    To be afraid of change as it may be sinful will cause those in that church to not welcome strangers or visitors as they may be outvoted on issues if more become members.

    I too see this in local congregations, and the more change is coming about all arounf them, the more they hunker down and preach on “the few will go in” to make themselves feel blessed instead of alone and maybe wrong on anything.

    The saddest part to me is that the young folks are leaving to seek other churches or congregations that are reaching out to new people to make them members. That in itself is good in one way, but so sad to see it happen to the older cjhristians.

    What to do? Get the preachers to realize they do not have to say they have all the answers to be seen as faithful and look at other views on many positions. I know many will not even read information from other preachers that are not of as conservative a standing as they are. How to learn without seeking is a mystery to me. Closed mindedness will destroy.

  4. John

    You hit the nail on the head, The older members are very carefull about change and new people from a more progressive congregation.

    We handed out bill Hybels book “just Walk accross the Room” . Many refused to read it because it was from a denominational preacher. They said, Why can’t we use the bible. I stated that all of Bill’s principles were scriptural especially letting the Holy Spirit lead you.

    The older we are we tend to refuse change. In my proffession that would be a tragedy.

    I believe in Bible study and we do it at home daily and are even considering taking communion during our evening meal. But there comes a time when you have recieved all the degrees in Bible you can, that you need to get out into the world and teach others and share the vast knowledge you have accumulated by word and especially by example.
    But we tend to huddle into our little mutual comfort groups, especially the older we become. Donna and I are in our seventies and sadly we find our peers boring and unwilling to cahnge anything.
    Dwayne…We call that crystallization for a large company that is status quo.
    We can change and all according to God’d word but it will take much perseverance and pressure.

    Thanks to you all

    Bob

  5. “As noted in the PowerPoint slide, change isn’t easy. In fact, it makes people mad.” — Jay

    As a “Neo-Conservative” (dubbed that by a leading progressive), who is trying to follow along, I have to ask what is meant exactly in saying that we need to change?

    Take, for example, the typical old school “sound” congregation wherein there is the following:

    1. The women do not lead prayers in the presence of men. Neither are they elders or deacons. Neither do they preside over the “Lord’s Table.” They do not teach classes with men in them. They do not lead singing. They are not the paid preachers, etc, etc, etc,.

    Would the need to change include changing the above situation regarding the role of women? If, so which of the above specifically? If some of the changes would be good and acceptable to God…are there ANY that would not and therefore be sinful?

    Further, assuming a church changed all of the above, and that one or more of the changes were against the will of God (contrary to the Scriptures), what should the rest of us say (or think to ourselves) about that church?

    Please know that I am sincere in writing the above and am genuinely interested in your thoughts.

    Also, what advice would you give in regards to the following —

    Suppose there is a well respected brother who believes AND TEACHES that babies are born guilty of sin and that God desires only certain individuals to be saved. That the rest do not come to God BECAUSE God in his Sovereinity did not choose and/or call them. That it is not God’s will for them to ever be saved.

    Suppose there is another brother (in the same church) who is convived that such “doctrine” (teaching) is totally wrong and in many ways damaging to the church and the furtherance of the gospel.

    Should he oppose the man and his teaching (in love, and with the proper motives and attitudes of course).

    Or, should he “respect” the beliefs and teachings of the man, accept them, and not speak out against them? For the sake of “unity”?

    What do you (any of you) think?

    brotherly,

    Hank

  6. Hank

    Not only are there are preachers who teach original sin but denominations. Psalms 51, where we derive the contemporary song “creat in me a new heart” also David proclams he was born in sin, thus they baptize infants. They believe that the childs soul is in danger if they don’t. As ridiculous as that may seem to us it is very real to them. My humble advice is to accept them as brothers and pray the spirit will correct any wronginterpetation thruough a study of the word.

    Now I may hurt a few feelings but here it goes. Attend an up beat contemporary evangelical congregation like the fellowship of the Woodlands and the Woodsedge Church also in the Woodlands, Texas.

    The mood and tempo is dynamic and the people are full of joy and very happy to be there. They literly hug you to death and won’t let you go home without a great send off. They follow up with cards, calls ,visits and emails. It reminds me of what the feast of the Tabernacles in the OT was like. It too was a blast. The Jews knew how to throw a party.

    Now reflect on our assemblies and the mood of worship. Is it up beat or dull. Would you bring a guest to the service? Most of what I have seen is it is very boring or would apear so to your guest. Is the sermon somthing you will remember. Does the preacher and his wife and elders and their wives greet you or are they off in a circle of their own? Do you invite the stranger to come back or ignor them altogethor.

    I would dare say even if the preacher is tongue tied and talks backward if you are a inclusive and friendly group you will grow. When you leave the assembly are you pumped up to talk to any one about Jesus by first gaining their confidence by being their friend?

    There are many was to change and be completely scriptural. Start by being happy, spreading cheer and give somone a hug. It’s contageous.

    Bob

  7. Hank

    What I see is any difference in thinking or belief from the ones in charge or those that are called on to teach the classes keep quiet to not cause a problem.

    If they really disagree, they leave. Again, to not cause a problem.

    I don’t see any discussion from the position of that particular churchs leaders, elders or not, or you will be marked. Only comments that support their position. That being the case, you see why there is a fear of growth.

    On the women praying with men present. One of the saddest comments I ever heard was at a funeral of a great sister. Her husband for 60 years said he regretted he knew she prayed everyday and yet, he never heard her sweet prayer as neither of them believed she could pray out loud with a man present, any man.That goes too far and I’ve made sure I hear my precious bride pray.

    In a disagreement, depending on the brother, I would like to go to him and discuss my beliefs and concerns. If the brother was just another member especially. If he was an older elder or preacher set in his ways, I wouldn’t.

  8. Hi Bob, I agree that we should be upbeat and happy and very loving to all visitors, who wouldn’t? (And unfortunatel, way too many Christians/churches are not. And they should indeed change. But the change Jay is alluding to will make “people mad.” So, he must not be referring to being upbeat and more loving. Which is why I aked about a church where:

    The women do not lead prayers in the presence of men. Neither are they elders or deacons. Neither do they preside over the “Lord’s Table.” They do not teach classes with men in them. They do not lead singing. They are not the paid preachers, etc, etc, etc,.

    Would the need to change include changing the above situation regarding the role of women? If, so which of the above specifically? If some of the changes would be good and acceptable to God…are there ANY that would not and therefore be sinful?

    Further, assuming a church changed all of the above, and that one or more of the changes were against the will of God (contrary to the Scriptures), what should the rest of us say (or think to ourselves) about that church?

    Now, the reason I ask that is because I am curious about HOW and WHERE to make actual and specific change(s) which makes people “mad” and, are there any lines wherein the change could become wrong? If so where? If not, well, there simply must be lines somewhere….

    As far as the brother TEACHING others that baies are born sinful and that God only desires some to be saved… you say —

    “My humble advice is to accept them as brothers and pray the spirit will correct any wronginterpetation thruough a study of the word.”

    Well, what if the spirit does not “correct any wrong interpretation through a study of the word”?

    Do “progressives” ever see a need to say, “Hey, brother, what you are teaching about inherrited sin and limited atonement is not true and you need to stop.”??

    Or, “for the sake of unity,” must progressives tolerate and accept every possible doctrinal error save the fact that Jesus is Lord?

    I hope somebody will address the specifics, because I honestly can’t see how being “progressive” allows for opposing women preachers and the idea that infants are sinful??

  9. Besides, would allowing (not opposing) women preachers and the teaching that babies are born full of sin really be “progress” anyway?

  10. Hank

    My wife and both pray. Her prayers have the true essence of the holy spirit and many tiimes becomes very emotional and as to pause to regain her composure. We have been to congregations that allow our womenn to pray in the assembly and in class. We have also been to places where they could not comment in class.

    By the extremes in “keeping them silent we lose 50 % of our prayer power and understanding the word. They have a better insight to some things that we don’t.

    I would challange most who see this post to go the Google and search “Dr Gene Scott and Mellisa Scott”
    Listen to both of them for a while and think about it.

    I beleive we have gone to unreasonable extremes to keep our women silent.

    There are situations where an elders wife would be more effective in helping another woman or in some instances another man through asituation by prayer and study.
    Do we limit our women in our home bible studies in teaching children and other men? I would hope not.

    We have a long way to go in our understanding of the word. Unless your are a scholar and are fluent in the Koine Greek it is difficult to understand what Paul was trying to convey for wemon, friendliness and worhip.

    We pray for a better understanding of his word.

    Bob

  11. The imagination of a man’s heart is evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21), all our righteousness are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), there is none righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10).

    A child’s mind isn’t developed to understand when they are selfish and rebellious that doesn’t mean it is right, it still isn’t how God wants anyone to behave. Proverbs 22:6 shows there is a time when we are accountable, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” People seem to think that God cannot be trusted with what is unknown to us. But He can be trusted. God is just and accountability is perfectly known to God.

  12. Anon,

    What is your point? Are you saying that babies are born guilty of sin? If so, and I do not, and if we are members of the same church, what do we do?

    Do we teach for one quarter that babies are born full of sin, and then the next quarter that they are innocent and pure from sin?

    Do we teach Jesus only died for some one quarter and then the next teach that God wishes all men would be saved?

    Do we flip a coin? Let people teach whatever they want? Not teach at all? What?

    Seriously…

  13. When did I say babies are held GUILTY of sin? When did I say God only wants some to be saved? I never said said any of that.

  14. Hank

    Psalms 51:5 Surley I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother concieved me.
    This where some, Catholic and Lutherans are coming from when they talk about original sin. You can argue with them till hell freezes over and you won’t convince them of the concept. So they baptize their babies and I would to if I believed the concept.

    One of the problems that we in the coC face is that our exposure is limited and we don’t know how to deal with people who radically differ from us.

    you can accept them, make friends of them, teach them and pray that it works or you can exclude them, which we are good at and let them probably be lost. They may have turned to you as a last resort for acceptance into a spititual relationship or Church.
    Conversion to Christ is easy it’s all the other stuff that make it hard for us to include those who do not agree with us. I have been in congregations that had many souls with different so called “doctines” that are not of our persuasion and it eventually all worked out. Some in the coC want all to be cookie cutter christians stamped of the same mold.In manty cases there can be strenght in diversity.
    Let me warn you when you start reaching out to people in evangelism you are going to come accross strange behavior and beliefs but your main responciblity is to bring them to Christ then teach them and learn with them the scripture or make disciples of them.

    The coC has lost it’s way in evangelism and the to;eration of those who are not like minded in every way.

    I praise you for being so open.

    God bless you Hank. No one said it was easy to help the lost

    Bob

  15. The church I attend practices believers baptism, not infant baptism. Would anyone like to address the Scriptures given that don’t believe we are born in sin?

    The imagination of a man’s heart is evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21), all our righteousness are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), there is none righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10).

  16. Again, do you or do you not ever see a need to say, “Hey, brother, what you are teaching about inherrited sin and limited atonement is not true and you need to stop.”??

    Or, “for the sake of unity,” must you tolerate and accept (and let people teach in your Bible classes, life groups, etc.) every possible doctrinal error save the fact that Jesus is Lord?

    I hope somebody will address the specifics, because I honestly can’t see how being “progressive” allows for opposing women preachers and the idea that infants are sinful? It’ really does seem that requires the toleration (allowing them to be be taught) of every conceiveable false doctrine short of “Jesus is Lord”

    Otherwise, someone has to say when and where and at what point a person teaching something which is false, must be stopped. But, and again, that doesn’t seem very “loving/accepting” according to my understanding of the progressive mindset.

  17. Hank, you keep saying born in sin is not what the Bible teaches, yet you won’t address the Sciptures??

  18. A,

    That is besides the point here. The fact of the matter is that I am convined that they are not born guilty of sin. At the same time, there are others who do believe and insist that babies are born full of sin. Now, (and here is the whole point), what do you and others here who suggest that “doctrine” should not get in the way of Christian fellowship and unity, suggest a church of Christ do if and when there happens to be a person (or more) who believes and wants to teach different than the rest?

    Do we teach for one quarter that babies are born full of sin, and then the next quarter that they are innocent and pure from sin?

    Do we teach Jesus only died for some one quarter and then the next teach that God wishes all men would be saved?

    Do we flip a coin? Let people teach whatever they want? Not teach at all? What?

    Seriously…

  19. Sorry about that. I was trying to copy and paste and made a big mess. Please disregard the above post.

    Again I am sorry for that

  20. A,

    That is besides the point here. The fact of the matter is that I am convined that they are not born guilty of sin. At the same time, there are others who do believe and insist that babies are born full of sin. Now, (and here is the whole point), what do you and others here who suggest that “doctrine” should not get in the way of Christian fellowship and unity, suggest a church of Christ do if and when there happens to be a person (or more) who believes and wants to teach different than the rest? Which is why I earlier asked:

    Do we teach for one quarter that babies are born full of sin, and then the next quarter that they are innocent and pure from sin?

    Do we teach Jesus only died for some one quarter and then the next teach that God wishes all men would be saved?

    Do we flip a coin? Let people teach whatever they want? Not teach at all? What?

    Seriously…

  21. Hank and others,
    You raise some questions and I would like to respond to them, but not carry on an extensive back and forth regrading these issues. I think it is important to understand that the way one frames a questions often determines the answer so I could attempt to re-frame some of the questions. If you don’t care for the way I treat the issues please feel free to ignore my comments.

    I would like to start by stating I believe the scriptures support the idea of the federal headship of the male. As part of the headship sole I think the male has the responsibility to sacrifice himself for the female as Christ did for the church. And I also understand that some smart, well read, devoted students of the word and devoted disciples of Jesus this headship issue differently than I do, as well as a number of other issues.

    In the CofC we don’t have female elders or preachers, but is there anything wrong with having a paid female minister for children’s ministries? Is there anything wrong with a woman making comments in Sunday school which may be edifying and encouraging to all present – including the men. Wouldn’t that be regarded as teaching? Haven’t there been women that really did the leading of the song from a pew while a man pretended to lead the song from up front? If a woman were asked to speak in the assembly about her Christian experience/witness and men and women were edified would that violate the teaching of scripture. Why is the Lord’s supper the only meal eaten in our lives that a woman can’t serve to us? Some see it as a headship issue b/c of their view of the supper but I don’t think that is our complaint. Could they serve the supper but not offer the prayer before the bread or wine or could they pray too as they did in Corinth? They already pass the supper to the person sitting next to them so would it be wrong to pass it from pew to pew while standing in the aisle? Perhaps we sometimes make too much of little things based on the slippery slope argument. My main point is that even if one believes in the headship of the male there is probably a lot more that we could allow women to do – and also that we are inconsistent in allowing women to speak in class or small groups but not in the auditorium.

    As to children – the scriptures (to my knowledge) do not directly address the eternal destiny of children that die young. I trust the God of all the universe to do what is right. However, the scriptures clearly teach that all mankind is fallen by nature ever since the fall of Adam and subsequent curse. Psalm 51 and other texts already have been quoted. Furthermore our experience shows us that children are simply younger than adults and usually have not honed their depravity as well as adults, but are clearly fallen, selfish little people. We all know it is never necessary to teach a child to misbehave. If there are two kids in a room with 50 toys and one kid has 49 and the other kid has only one it is normal for the kid with 49 toys to want the one toy that the other kid has. Problem is, many in the CofC refuse to acknowledge our fallen nature and claim we are basically good. How foolish! It is certain that we will eventually sin b/c we are sinful rather than we become sinful only after we sin. I will grant that we usually become even more sinful after we sin, but we were sinful to begin with. I find it sad and irrational that we take such a naive position regarding our own nature. I grew up being taught that we were basically good people and we just had to to read the bible and follow the rules and God would save us for our obedience. I discovered soon enough I was not capable of following the rules and the things I wanted to do were things I should not do – like Paul’s description of himself in Romans seven. I have no doubt at all that every person that reads this blog has experienced and continues to experience that in their lives. No amount of trying to say Paul was talking about himself before he was a Christian can explain that away. We are corrupt by nature and our only hope of salvation is that God will graciously save us as we will never merit it at all.

    So why do some men fall on their knees and accept the grace offered while others stubbornly refuse? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a quick and easy answer. Some say it is b/c God chose some over others from eternity past; thus God limits the atonement and he is never frustrated for he is sovereign over his creation. Some say God works on the hearts of all equally effectively but some continue to harden their hearts; thus man limits the atonement and perhaps God is frustrated that he was unable to save all. Others simply say that some of us are better people than others and God saves the ones that are best. No doubt others have their own ideas. Whatever you believe about this please let’s not pretend that is so simple that we can ridicule those that think differently or that place more emphasis on one scripture while I place more emphasis on another. If anyone thinks he does not have his own biases and preferences as I have mine, then let’s all make it a point to pray that God would give him a clearer view of himself.

    Now as to infant baptism. The view that has been expressed in other comments is close to the position of the Roman Catholic Church but the RCC differs from the reformed view regarding infant baptism. Personally, I believe in the baptism by immersion of believers but the Presbyterians think otherwise. Please do not confuse their view with the RCC and please do not present a caricature of it. It is (IMHO) far more theological than it is is biblical. And it is difficult to explain to anyone that does not have a good grasp of Covenant Theology. So I’ll simply request that people get familiar with Covenant Theology BEFORE they tell us what the Presbyterians and other reformed churches believe. If we are not wiling to do that then let us not complain that we are misunderstood and misrepresented by the Presbyterians or other denominations.

    I think I am trying to say that many of the questions simply cannot be answered in just a few short sentences. It would require lots of background and an openness to learning on the part of all participants – and I am 60 and tired. I find the oversimplification of these issues frustrating.
    Peace,
    Randall

  22. Really

    I’m 75 and tired. You have about my views Randall.

    Got to and hang somew lights. You all made my head hurt.

    Grace and peace dear brethern. We don’t all agree, but I love you anyway.
    bob

  23. I appreciate your thoughts Randall, and I agree with the gist of what you have just written (I think). For whatever it is worth, I simply don’t see how it is possible for a church (congregation) to exist without deciding together whatever it is they are going to believe and teach. Some doctrines (teachings) of the Bible are mutually exclusive. For instance, Either babies are born as sinners or they are not. There just cannot be any middle ground. I think it is called an “either/or proposition” or “the law of excluded middle”?

    The same hold true (I think) regarding the Biblical doctrine of whether or not God desires all men to be saved. As well as whether or not a sinner is saved (forgiven of sin) before or after he is immersed. And many other teachings could be listed.

    We all know that believers split and divide over all of these teachings. And naturally so because of the exclusive nature of an “either/or” proposition.

    To not divide would necessitate the teaching and believing of virtually everything and the result would be a whole lot of contradiction. The only other option (in not dividing), would be to not teach at all on these matters — to ignore them altogether.

    Having said that, I don’t understand why some are accusing others of being “unloving” and/or against “unity” and/or “legalistic” (or whatever else), simply because they refuse to support and accept whatever teachings there are that they believe to be contrary to the book of God.

    I feel that many of those who feel the need to actually contend for whatever it is they believe are being attacked for not accepting and allowing and submitting to beliefs and practices which they believe to be sinful.

    And I don’t think that is right.

  24. Is Richard Mansel ignorant or dishonest? It is an elementary mistake to judge so called liberals in the church by political liberals.

    People like Mr. Mansel make all sorts of statements and set up strawmen. I’d like to see an example of such people under the banner of Church of Christ.

    Mansel said ““A Gallup poll showed overwhelming liberal support for homosexual activity (83%), premarital sex (89%), illegitimacy (83%), abortion (67%) and doctor assisted suicide (73%). Liberals support polygamy, adultery and cloning humans at an exponentially higher rate than conservatives”. I ask, name one progressive Church of Christ that mirrors these outrageous beliefs. In fact, name on community with Baptist roots, or Assembly of God, or Church of God, or Christian church with such views.

    It appears that when all else fails to stop the herd escaping legalism, just make stuff up and print it and some people will believe it is true.

    Royce

  25. Dwayne,

    I didn’t know about Pournelle’s law. That really makes a lot of sense. It explains a lot about how national denominational headquarters get taken over by those with liberal agendas. And it explains a lot about who gets to be an editor-bishop in the Churches of Christ.

  26. In our old subdivision we had an interdenominational church which bore the name of the sub division. The membership consisted of all flavors that you can concieve. Most were baptised by immersion, some by sprinkling and some as infants. Their doctrinal backgrounds were never mentioned and the service was strangely much like the CoC with a methodist twist. The bible schools were taght by some baptists a few catholics, former coC and Luthern. Their mission/vision statement was simular to the diciples of Christ.

    These folks never mentioned their differences but tried to stay in a state of mutual agreement key on issues like the divity of Christ and the in dwelling of the holy spirit, Communion and baptisim were practiced.and performed by the persons desired mode. They had an early service where communion was served every week.
    Never , never were issues like infant baptism or original sin discused because they knew if they went down that road there would be no end.
    So to the surprise of many of you there can be unity from a background of diversity. These folks loved the Lord an loved each other. I dare say that I will see them in heaven.
    Why can’t we in the coC see that it is possible to be very different in practice and doctrine and yet unified in our love for Gog and each other. Don’t you think for a second the lost don’t see this difference. They say I don’t want any part of a dog fight where they go to the coC or Baptist church and condemn each other over what they would consider issues they don’t understand and would never understand because they are not Phd’s in theology.

    We need to stop this stupidity and unite for the sake of the other 90% in our communities that don’t attend Church. But I doubt if that happens. You all want dwell on issues I don’t understand. Of couse I’m just a lowly master degreed Petroleum Engineer. My bible came from the kitchen table and listening to other theologions on TV the internet or books.

    But I do know how to put together a project to solve problems and build things in the ocean. We start with a team of people who first can get along then who will inspit eof many differences in tecknlogy put aside those differences.
    Why can’t you so called Christians do this. The lost need our help and guidance not our bickering over theological BS. Now I will be still.

    Bob

  27. Hank,

    I’m not familiar with the term “Neo-conservative” in the CoC context. Does this mean you advocate preemptive religious wars? (Just kidding. But really have no idea what the term means in this context.)

    Anyway, I’ll shortly be putting up a post in response. These are very good questions that deserve a considered response.

  28. Hank,

    The point is not that we must approve of sin. It is that we must forgive as God forgives. Hence, if God lets you be his child despite your sin, I must treat you as a brother.

    Forgiveness of sin is not approval or condoning. But what forgiveness does is allow us to be in fellowship despite the fact we are all sinners.

  29. Hank,
    Above you said
    “For whatever it is worth, I simply don’t see how it is possible for a church (congregation) to exist without deciding together whatever it is they are going to believe and teach. Some doctrines (teachings) of the Bible are mutually exclusive. For instance, Either babies are born as sinners or they are not. There just cannot be any middle ground. I think it is called an “either/or proposition” or “the law of excluded middle”?

    And a little later in your comment you added
    “To not divide would necessitate the teaching and believing of virtually everything and the result would be a whole lot of contradiction. The only other option (in not dividing), would be to not teach at all on these matters — to ignore them altogether.”

    Perhaps this is what led some of the significant players in the early years of the Stone Campbell movement to come up with the following motto:
    In Essentials Unity
    In Non Essentials Liberty
    In All things Charity (love)

    Why should it be necessary to demand uniformity of belief/understanding on issues that are not of first importance, and are not understood well by so many of us?

    In the Declaration and Address Thomas Campbell wrote the following in proposition 3: “… nothing ought to be included upon Christians as articles of faith; nor required of them as terms of communion, but what is expressly taught and enjoined upon them in the word of God.” note that at the time he wrote this he had experienced only Presbyterian baptism; and note that he uses the phrase “expressly taught.” He is not now making reference to inferences nor deductions.

    In proposition 6 he adds “That although inferences and deductions from Scripture premises, when fairly inferred, may be truly called the doctrine of God’s holy word, yet are they not formally binding upon the consciences of Christians farther than they perceive the connection, and evidently see that they are so; for their faith must not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power and veracity of God. Therefore, no such deductions belong to the after and progressive edification of the Church…”

    I believe Campbell is saying that inferences may be great and can truly be called the doctrine of the Bible, but we should not force anyone to accept them father than they see the truth of the particular inference. Doesn’t that still apply to us today?

    To Stone Campbell history buffs:
    Note that Thomas Campbell was a devout Presbyterian minister when he wrote this and may well have had the Westminster Confession of Faith in mind when he spoke of inferences and deductions being truly the doctrine of God’s holy word. So he may well be saying you don’t have to be a Presbyterian to be a Christian. Perhaps we could return the favor by acknowledging one does not have to be a Church of Christer to be a Christian, indeed a Presbyterian may well be a Christian.

    Peace,
    Randall

  30. I’m not familiar with the term “Neo-conservative” in the CoC context. Does this mean you advocate preemptive religious wars? (Just kidding. But really have no idea what the term means in this context.) — Jay

    Todd Deaver referred to me as such (a “neo-conservative”) about one year ago.

    I guess it was because although I believe that we ought to “contend for the faith once delivered,” at the same time, I admit that to do so is not as easy as so many pretend that it is.

    In other words, while I believe that there is a line somewhere wherein a person will be lost because of what he believes, teaches, and/or practices…only God knows precisely where said line is. My point is that we need to do our best to make sure we don’t cross it. (Because it CAN in fact be crossed). I do not pretend to have the answers regarding where the line exactly is drawn. (As so many of our conservative brethren pretend like they know).

    I believe that we are expected to do our best to believe and practice and teach the “truth” to the best of our ability and that ultimately…God will judge.

    Does that make sense bro?

  31. I have learned from the above discussion. Let me add a few things.
    First, one of my great respects for the Campbells is that if they learned of a Biblical principle later in life, they lived by it. Thomas & Alexander both were immersed after beleiving they were fully saved. Therefore, where ever you are in your walk in the light, you can find the brighter path.
    The problem is the line between essentials and non-essentials. How can I accept continual mistakes in essentials for fellowship? Here’s where the charity (love) comes in. If I think I’m sure of something as God’s way, I should try to convince you, with open heart and mind. I may be wrong that its the one way or essential.
    The next problem is if either of us is stubborn, and not listening. Closed people walk away from every discussion sure that the other is essentially wrong. Judge yourself, have you clung to every conviction for a long time?
    Lastly, I find most people do not care what God says, they want to invent their own faith. Sadly, this idol building is with religious people as well as agnostics. We alll need to humble ourselves before each other and especially God.

  32. I’m always weary of church growth/loss numbers. For instance we (episcopal diocese of alabama) built new churches in places like say Shelby County where there is a lot of population growth whereas a church here in town has continued to be very small because it is in an area of town that was thought that it was going to grow when it was built but that has turned out to not be the case. My church fluctuates on numbers constantly due to the fact that half the church congregation is made up of college students who graduate and move on and are replaced by new ones. In these examples i would say church numbers are more of a reflection of population rather than a reflection on the denomination. We’ve been growing in a lot of areas in the state where as in other areas of the country have not been. It is far too complex for a simple number to really mean anything.

    I will say that in the last year our church got a new minister and a new music director and they have brought new life into our church. Our numbers were never bad (based off that almost all new members were not previously christian or our denomination), but we have definitely grown.

    I’m not completely comfortable with the health of a church of denomination to be determined by numbers.

    OH btw, I’m reminded of a joke.
    Q: How many [insert name of a denomination] does it take to change a lightbulb?
    A: Change?

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