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,