The future of Progressive churches of Christ?


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.

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13 comments on “The future of Progressive churches of Christ?

  1. I see a split coming somewhere down the road between ultra-conservative churches of Christ and everyone else. This used to bother me … now I’m beginning to think it may be a good thing.

  2. This article seems to promote pluralism (all religious paths are equal). For example, you use Highland Village as an example of a church where “Lives are being transformed by the hundreds by the saving message of Jesus.” To say that various denominations have something to learn from (e.g. mission statement, emphasis on Jesus, etc.) is one thing. To say that they are “leading people to Christ,” and have “the saving message of Jesus” is wrong. Just as two people cannot look at a simple math problem and come to different conclusions and be correct, two people cannot look at how man accepts salvation and come to two different conclusions and be correct. Either baptism is a part of accepting salvation or it is not. The denominations you mention in your article would say no; Jesus would say yes (Mk.16:16). I think I will stick with Jesus!

    Sadly, some folks only “stick with Jesus” in Mark 16:16 and with Peter in Acts 2:38. It might be a good exercise to read all Jesus said and all Peter said. It is an eye opener!

    Although Alexander Campbell was a flawed man just as I am, I think he had it about right on the scope of the family of God. I assume from your remarks that you would disagree with Mr. Campbell whose ideal was coined, “Only Christians, but not the only Christians”. He did not have in mind only Restoration Movement people. See my post (https://gracedigest.com/2008/09/30/from-the-mouths-of-the-restoration-fathers/)

    Anyone or any group who thinks they have a monopoly on God doesn’t know Him well.

    Royce

  3. Royce, I do believe it is good practice to read all that Jesus said on a certain issue. Mark 16 is part of what Jesus said about man’s response to God’s offer of salvation.

    As it relates to your comments about A. Campbell, I still “stick with Jesus.” I want to build my house on the Rock (Mt.7:24-27), and not on the sand.

    God does not want any to perish yet He still has a will/standard that MUST be obeyed (2 Pet.3:9). Only those who do God’s will are going to be saved (2 Thess.1:7-9).

    You might be interested in this post, (https://gracedigest.com/2007/04/02/obey-the-gospel/).

    Royce

  4. Pingback: Top 10 Posts of All Time | Grace Digest

  5. Have you ever noticed how restoration movement churches tend to have a “sacramental” view of baptism but a “symbolic” view of the Lord’s Supper. In other words, you get saving grace from baptism but the Lord’s Supper is only a memorial and not the presence of Jesus.

  6. Your article caught my attention since I’m also concerned about the future of the progressive Churches of Christ. These congregations are encouraging to me, and Richland Hills has always been encouraging to me even when I was with Crossroads back in the day since it was a “mainline COC” that was growing and maturing and not associated with Crossroads, a church I left. But back to the progressive COC itt’s good to include other Christians, and that can be done without getting off into the Ecumenical Movement.

    Now I’ve been with a church for several years that teaches the books of the Bible expositionally book by book, context by context and even verse by verse in a series of messages (Calvary Chapel).

    This is just one of many groups of fellowships that make up the one body of Christ. All of us along with the churches you mentioned should fellowship with one another and know who are Christians by Jesus Christ being formed in us. In today’s world with religious freedom eroding in the United States we may have no other choice and if it comes to a point of us meeting at home in unregistered churches to study the whole Bible (like Romans 1) then we will need to have an experiential knowledge of who other Christians are.

    I hope the progressive Church of Christ (that are not liberal) keep growing in grace and knowledge of Christ and that we all avoid the trappings of the Emergent Church, Rick Warren (Chrislam) and the strange fire anyone can see on youtube. A little off topic, but related since those are the trappings I see today to trip us up and lose our focus that is set on Christ.

    Having found this site I plan on reading more.

    • I agree and disagree. Rick Warren is as much a gospel preacher as anyone I know. It’s easy to characterize someone without knowing them.
      If you examine his sermons and not listen to his critics you will find a far different Rick Warren. I don’t agree with him on metholology
      completely. I have never liked the “seeker church” idea but Rick’s theology and preaching are as sound as a dollar.

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