Over at Oneinjesus.info, Jay Guin’s blog, there is an ongoing discussion about a post he wrote concerning the future of progressive churches of Christ and ideas about how to have discussions about it. You can read the post and following comments here. I didn’t want to hijack Jay’s comments with a long reply so, this post. My thoughts on the subject….
The first thing that comes to my mind is that it would be a mistake to only continue to think in terms of “church of Christ” boundaries. If the mission of churches is to make Christ known, we begin with heavy limitations on what can be accomplished if Restoration Movement doctrine and history are the boundaries we plan to work in.
Secondly, just looking at what has already happened with “progressive” churches tells us what is possible for the future. Perhaps the most progressive of churches of Christ are Oak Hills in San Antonio. This great church, led for many years by Max Lucado, is reaching thousands for Christ. They have I think five mission churches that they planted and support. The largest coC congregation is Richland Hills Church of Christ on the north side of Ft Worth. Here you can see what drives them and has driven them to where they are today by reading their mission statement. I doubt that any Christian would disagree. About nine years ago a church of Christ preacher named Toby Slough had a vision of a church that would reach thousands for Christ in the DFW metroplex. He resigned his pulpit job and with a few friends who caught his vision they began Crosstimbers Church with the first meetings at a dude ranch. You can read about them on their “about us” section of their website. They now have three locations and are reaching thousands with the saving message of the good news about Jesus. These are only three of scores of churches with Restoration Movement roots that have decided to make the gospel more important than anything else, even their heritage.
Francis Chan is a Calvinist who planted the Cornerstone Church in Southern California. They have also planted three other churches and a Christian school. They are touching their communities in tangible ways and leading people to Christ and discipleship. If you go to their website and click on “Communities” tab and then on “Purpose” you will see the heart of who they are. Matt Chandler, a Reformed Baptist, leads the Highland Village Church in North Texas. Every Sunday thousands gather to hear solid Bible teaching and to experience spirited worship at three locations. Lives are being transformed by the hundreds by the saving message of Jesus.
I could go on and on naming Southern Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Bible Churches, Assembly of God, Christian, community Churches and the list is endless. I have pointed out a few churches that I have some personal knowledge of. These churches are as diverse as the listings of churches in the Yellow Pages in a large city. They represent a wide variety of views on theology and doctrine, and they also represent a variety of mission models. However, the thing that is common to them all is that they make much of Jesus. They keep first things first!
Any church where the pure truth about what God has accomplished in Jesus for sinners is not in competition with tradition, worship style, or some other hobby horse, is likely to grow as helpless and broken people find new life in Christ. Sadly, in far too many churches of Christ announcing the number of the invitation song in advance is just as important as what the preacher says from the word of God. Paul said the gospel is of first importance! The name “church of Christ” might be important but if it is as important to you as the gospel you are wrong. The response to the gospel and good works are very, very important but not as important as the gospel.
I promise you this. If your church’s history, a cappella singing, doing the Lord’s Supper a certain way, or anything else competes for first place on your list of priorities you are in trouble. Every church that faithfully keeps Jesus at the center of their teaching, worship, and work will reach those for whom Christ died. Those who don’t keep Him at the center will go through the motions each week and eventually die. Many are dead already and just don’t know it.
There is nothing sinful about having doctrinal distinctions. That is why there are so many different kinds of churches. It is sinful to allow those less important distinctives to put a damper on the saving message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and what that means to sinners and saints alike. Those churches, no matter the brand, who do not keep Christ at the center will become less and less irrelevant and a minor irritation for those who do.
I sincerely wish that all of us who name Jesus as Lord would share the attitude of Paul the Apostle who rejoiced when Christ was preached without regard to the man or the motive. The fact that Christ is being made known should make joy rise in our hearts.