Here’s your sign!


I once spoke in a small church in Alabama and after my address I was approached by a man (whom I would learn later was the least spiritual church member I had met in years) and he declared I was “sound”. I am still not sure what he had in mind when he made that pronouncement but I have an idea. I didn’t know if I should consider it a compliment or not. I have since learned that most of the time the word “sound” applied to a preacher, teacher, or writer in church of Christ circles is simply code for saying “this fellow adheres to the tenants of the traditions and doctrines of the church of Christ”. I hardly fit the pattern, (no pun intended)

 

Many of those of us “with like precious faith” speak in code and for the uninformed it can be tricky. The term “like precious faith” is also a reference to compliance with church of Christ traditions first, and perhaps sometimes secondarily means what Peter intended when he penned those words in 2 Peter 1:1. The first time a gentleman used that term while speaking to me it was clear that he did not have in mind the righteousness that comes from God through Jesus Christ but rather another church of Christ. Trust me; they are not necessarily the same.

 

Following this same train of thought, what do you suppose is usually means when someone references “the Lord’s church”? My limited experience indicates that it always means only the churches of Christ. “The Lord’s church” is the church universal or “catholic” to be precise, which consists of ALL of those who have been saved. In that church there are no labels, but only that whose whole trust was, or is, in Jesus for eternal life and forgiveness of sins. I have a shocking news bulletin for you! There will be folks in heaven who were not members of a church of Christ on earth or any Restoration Movement church for that matter.

 

One of my favorite code phrases is “change agent”. I proudly wear that one myself. I was given that distinction by a fellow whose whole life it seems is given to defending a cappella singing in worship with a few less weighty matters thrown in for good measure. I dared to send an email disagreeing with him and that made me a “change agent”. I am in good company with two of the most famous being Max Lucado and Rubel Shelly. A “change agent” is not one who is leading folks into apostasy and unbelief but rather one who is preaching salvation through Christ alone sans any good works. How dare they! Recently a fellow spotted a book or CD by Lucado in a church and quickly informed the shocked brother that Lacado had “left the church”, again using church of Christ traditions interchangeably with the body of Christ universal.

 

Isn’t it odd that the labels sometimes appear to be backwards? For instance, Max Lucado preaches salvation by grace though faith in Christ alone and is labeled a “change agent” or “liberal”. While on the opposite end of the spectrum someone who teaches another gospel, which is not another, and teaches a mixture of trusting Christ and good works for salvation is called a “conservative”. That is strange to me. Is it conservative to abandon the historic, biblical, gospel of Jesus Christ just as those men Paul dressed down in his letter to the churches of Galatia? I think not. Back in the 1930’s it was “liberals” who were denying the deity of Jesus, teaching a works based salvation, and even denying the resurrection of Jesus. Now those same sorts of folks are labeled “conservative”. Odd at best in my view.

 

Time and space is limited so I will not attempt to mention all the labels people if our faith community have given each other over the last several decades. There are many of them. What are some of your favorites? Or, perhaps I am wrong, where?

 

Thanks for reading,

Royce

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12 comments on “Here’s your sign!

  1. I wish you were wrong.

    As one of those labeled “left the church” who had to explain to a good friend I helped point to Christ that my baptism hadn’t changed nor my beliefs it can be a hard experience.

  2. When I was a youth minister, I got into a discussion with our preacher about pushing Christian colleges as the only choice for the kids in the youth group. I told him that I would happily encourage them to consider Christian colleges as an option (after all, I graduated from one) but that I would not tell them that their faithfulness depended on it. I then asked him “What would happen to our campus ministries at public schools if all of our kids went to Christian colleges?” He said, “It doesn’t matter; all campus ministries are liberal anyway.”

  3. I have been labeled once as a “wolf in sheeps clothing” I kid you not. It was published even in the towns paper. I am glad I am not at that church any more. Crazy what people will label.

  4. I wish we could just get rid of the labels and just be known as disciples or followers of Jesus Christ. Believers. The term “Christian” was a label and is mentioned in the bible (let me know if I am wrong) but once.

  5. Laymond,

    I like Patrick Mead. I think he is a good man, gifted preacher, and is doing a good job for his congregation. I disagree with him though on “Open Theism”. Any religious system, school of theological thought, or doctrinal theory that puts man at the center rather than God is incorrect in my view. That does not mean that I don’t love those who teach differently than what I believe and I have great respect for them and for sure I learn from them.

    An example is John Piper who gives an opposing view in a book and here is a brief overview http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TasteAndSee/ByDate/2002/1199_How_Open_Theism_Helps_Us_Conceal_Our_Hidden_Idolatries/

    Piper, a Calvinist, I believe is right on this issue. I disagree with him strongly on some of his theology but I enjoy and am blessed by his ministry.

    Another technical name for “Open Theism” is “Freewill Theism”. The two are exactly the same. In a nutshell, man is calling the shots and God is on the sideline (in regard to salvation) waiting to see if man will become obedient, faithful, have faith, and finally become worthy of His grace manifest in Jesus life, death, and resurrection. This view not only takes God off the throne, it almost “humanizes” God.

    I appreciate the comment and the tip on Mead’s posts.

    His peace,
    Royce

  6. “I like Patrick Mead. I think he is a good man, gifted preacher, and is doing a good job for his congregation.”

    Royce you must be feeling generous, or maybe it is just me, I say the same thing, I am a heretic, Mead says it, he is doing a good job, go figger?

  7. Laymond,

    Are you claiminng your theology/doctrine is the same as Patrick Mead’s? I have never heard him, or read where he denies that Jesus is God, denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and is depending on his own good performance for salvation. Maybe I just missed what he said.

    Royce

  8. Well, there you go. In your own words you have made my point Laymond.

    Thanks for being so upfront about what you believe, or don’t believe.

    Royce

  9. Your depiction of open theism doesn’t sound much at all like what I believe. As I’ve let slip the grip of the platonic view of God (which I actually picked up from “The Consolation of Philosophy” by Boethius in my teens) I’ve been swept into wonder. God is far grander, more powerful and far more deeply involved in human history than my previous view ever allowed for.

    But, why are we talking about open theism in the comments of a post about the labels we use?

    When I was in Harding’s School of Biblical Studies, one particularly conservative fellow went on and on in a missions presentation about where in the world there were and weren’t “Lord’s Churches.” It was tiresome to listen to. He was so sectarian that he couldn’t even bring himself to use the standard sectarian title: “Church of Christ.”

    What I didn’t realize then was that I myself was already becoming negative, pessimistic and fundamentalistic. I became more and more so over the years as I felt betrayed by others and suspicious of people’s motives. Only in the past three years, by God’s infinite mercy and grace, have I found my way back out. I would never have thought of myself as a legalist at the time, and identified others who were, but that is exactly what I became.

    And I fear regression back into it.

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