Last evening I was reading some articles on the web and came across one by one of our “traditional” brothers whose subject was the danger of “Denominationalism”. His thesis is that denominations and denominational churches are unscriptural because they violate passages in the Bible that call for the unity of believers. How can denominational churches claim unity when their very existence is based on their differences? Up to this point the author was making a logical case. Then he disengaged his brain and exposed either his ignorance, (he is a bright, well educated man) or his bias.
After excoriating all denominational churches, and as a result all their people, he then made the case that the churchs of Christ alone are the undenominaitonal churches and are thus the only biblical ones. Any casual observer must admit that churches of Christ have their share of divisions. Here I will only consider the fractions of the churches of Christ, not the Restoration Movement churches as a whole which is a greater problem for anyone who subscribes to the notion that only the church of Christ has unity as discussed in the Bible.
Hmmm, church of Christ unity. In the very same paper by the very same author, there was a piece thrashing North Richland Hills church of Christ for having musical instruments in their worship services. Not only did the author disagree, not only does he not intend to fellowship with such people, he declares that they are not even saved. Some unity huh?
Lets see just how unified the beloved coC is. Institutional vs. non-institutional, once cuppers vs. multiple cuppers, Sunday school vs. non Sunday school, paid preacher, vs. mutual edification, just to name a few. I think you get my point. Then there are those who flagrantly lift their hands in worship, clap along in time with songs, sing during the Lord’s Supper, have a kitchen in the church, have women actually speak in an assembly, consider others outside of churches of Christ Christians, etc., etc.
Christian unity? I believe the denominational churches might have more unity than the coC. I have never heard a Baptist pastor brand a Methodist unsaved because they have different ideas about church government. I have never heard a Calvinist write off those in the “free will” camp as lost because they don’t agree with him on all 5 points of Calvinism. I admit that there is a sprinkling of those whose particular pet doctrine or myth defines in their mind who is saved and unsaved, but largely most denominations work fairly well together. Not so for our beloved churches of Christ.
I am glad to report that things are changing. There is a grace awakening happening across the Restoration Movement churches in spite of the viscous attacks of the most strict traditionalists and zealots. There will always be those few of every stripe who demand that everyone agree with them on every point or be damned to hell.
The sad truth is not obvious to most people but it is true none the less. Without exception those folks who believe someone else is lost because of what they either do or do not do on a given Lord’s day are also wrong on the doctrine of salvation. They put man in the drivers seat with God at his disposal in opposition to the biblical position of God being in control. Every person I have ever had communications with who teaches either a works based salvation or a supposed mixture of works and grace, to the last one, vehemently denies what he clearly teaches. Only one time in my 40 years of being a Christian have I had anyone admit that he believed we are saved by works.
There is only one unifying point that should bond believers of all brands, our common faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. All of the other practices and beliefs that divide God’s people pale in comparison to what we believe about Jesus Christ the son of God. We must first agree about who He is and what He has accomplished for sinners, and then how we receive the gracious gift He offers, which is eternal life. (Romans 6:23)
Pingback: And yet another good blog « Answering the Church of Christ
I think when a generation dies off (I don’t mean to be mean or divisive) but I think that is what it is going to take for real change to occur. I think we are on the edge of a second reformation in America. It is exciting brother!!!! I am excited about reaching out to the emerging generation that needs Jesus Christ. I think the Church of Christ in a few years will change. Issues that have divided will not longer be an issue (instrumental music, womens role in the church, etc). I think we will be more open, loving, graceous, kind, compassionate and be more missional. It is my generation (Xer) and others that want to authentic Christianity. We are tired of going to church and seeing the show (Powerpoint, praise team, etc.) We want to experience Jesus. Dan Kimball has written a wonderful book, “They Liked Jesus but not the Church”. A study is done that even in mega churches 20 and 30 somethings are leaving the church in droves. The church ignoring it. We are to worried about being non-denominational. Fighting over issues that dont matter. We are sick of it. We are ready for a 2nd restoration. A Holy Spirit revival that will allow us to meet Jesus. Having that personal relationship w/ Him. I see the emerging church leading the way. The worship is sacred. There are some churches that meet in homes or schools, coffee houses where your not intemidated. Dimmed lights, candles, incents, a cross on stage or an artist panting a picture of Jesus while giving a message. Drinking latte’s and sitting in comfortable couches. Discussing religion, God, Jesus, other issues, some non-Christians telling why they are not for a sermon or message. Having communion feasts with eachother. Praying congregationally with each other about real needs. Desiring more than anything to know Jesus. I think knowing Jesus is what it is all about.
I know many ministers are sick or orgnized religion. Elders who have burned them in the past and present. Christians who are Christians only on Sunday morning. The squeeky wheels always getting the grease.
Yet we are to be excited not burned out. God is going to fill us with his spirit and we will see a revival like never before. You should be excited, I should be excited and every minister should be excited. We need to change the way we do ministry but not the message. I think in the future we definately are going to be program driven. It is going to be more genuine. Real!
Oh, but I always keep the door of unity open to any believer ….
… just as soon as they admit they’re wrong and I’m right about _____________ .
I love your blog because you make us think!
Keep it up brother.
It means a lot.
You said it brother! I left coC because of this very thing. When at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter all our community churches gather to celebrate the one thing they have in common – Christ – except coC they never partake in community services. My heart just cried out to fellowship with my other brothers and sisters in Christ. A self rightous attitude that I belong to the right church is not going to fill my heart with the kind of love I need to enter the presence of God. I so agree with preacherman, I believe we are seeing a pouring out of the spirit. Open the eyes of my heart God, I want to see you! I want Jesus to be the topic of discussion every where I go. I want to hear how he is working in the hearts of everyone. I want the kind of faith that moves mountians.
Preach it Royce!
What kind of a tale have I fallen into here. Love the blog and company. What we all seem to be able to confess now, that this Christ we call Lord is living and very much a hands-on Head of his People, and that world-wide Church is a whole lot bigger than any of us can even imagine.
I will have to testify to this: I have able for some time to esteem highly the work that Christ is doing, yes in the coC, and thank God for it. They provide a very necessary piece of the whole that we non-coC brothers and sisters need and will benefit from. Example (1) my own Baptist tradition celebrates the Lord’s Table, once a quarter. Not nearly enough for me. Whenever I visit the local Church of Christ here in Berea, I am always welcomed around the Table and am blessed to fellowship with them as followers of the same Christ.
Here’s one final one that I found only today though I have known and greatly benefitted from a commentary on I John that used to be up .(2) check out this serious discussion on Baptism and see if you can’t be just a little bit edified.
John Paul Todd
Thanks for your visit John Paul.
Your might be interested in my recent post on baptism. The good Dr Weatherby failed to mention Peter’s clear statements about when he, and others received the Spririt and that, “when we believed”.
Every person who has repented (changed his mind about his course of life) and put their whole trust in Jesus ought to immedietly be immersed in water. Jesus commanded that disciples be baptized, Peter on the day of Pentecost said those who had repented should be baptized, and the Eunich was baptized after Phillip confirmed that he “believed with all his heart”.
This might seem to be hair splitting but I think it is important to recognize some basic truths. Water baptism is not faith, it is the outworking of faith, “a” response arising from faith. Water baptism is not repentance. It is the first observable confirmation of a repentent heart. Water baptism is not the new birth. It is the public declaration of it. And, God does not forgive sins on the basis of water baptism. He forgives and cleanses on the basis of the finished work of Jesus. Baptism perfectly pictures that cleansing.
Finally, it is easy to confuse what the Spirit does in salvation and what we do. “For by one Spirit we are all baptised in to one body–whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free–and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:27-31 ) God the Holy Spirit immerses the believer into the body at the moment of regeneration, many times in conjunction with water baptism but sometimes not. And we believers are made “to drink into one Spirit”. Immersed in the Spirit, by the Spirit, and into the mystical body of Christ.
We must always and forever trust only the Lord Jesus for our salvation and never should we trust an event in time, or any experience no matter how holy the intent. I am troubled that some people are trusting they are saved because they “came forward” at a meeting, or “prayed the sinners prayer”, or were immersed in water. None of these are wrong, but none of them supercedes faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Perhaps all of these may accompany our trust in Christ but alone are insufficient to save.
Thanks again for your visit.
I just read an article on CNN.com regarding unity in the Catholic Church without cultural uniformity (i.e., as Anglican congregations join while retaining their rites). I then wrote a post about the relationship of unity and doctrinal uniformity. In general terms, does unity require uniformity?
The short answer is no. What unites Christians is not that the look alike, worship in the same ways, or are all on the same page on various doctrines. The only thing that unites believers is their common faith in Jesus. Everthing else is uniformity, not unity. At least in the Biblical sense.