The effective (or ineffective) church of the 21st century

Over at  (Preacherman’s blog) he recently posted under this title ”

“What does the church need to do to thrive in the 21st century?”

Several people left comments, some were pretty good, some were not. The common thread of thought coming from the commenters seemed to be “Today’s church must get our of our comfort zones, the confines of our comfy buildings, and actually impact the communities we are supposed to serve.” And I don’t disagree at all. I do believe the problems with many of our churches lie much deeper than how we choose to serve others or deliver our message. Yes, every congregation should be making a “salt and light” impact on their neighbors, there is no room for debate on this. And, we can all agree that we need to get our message out to the “unchurched” or “unsaved” (you choose the term..) and not expect them to come to us crying out “Sirs, what must we do?”.

I suggest that before we appoint another committee to study the matter of the most efficient way to minister that we set some things straight first.

1. The world needs Christ more than it needs the “Church”!   I will not claim that my research is “scientific” but I have done some observation on purpose. After looking at sermon topics, Bible study titles, resources offered, etc. on both church websites and personal websites (including blogs), and reading the stories that get the most response from “brotherhood” publications, I have concluded that churches of Christ preach “Church” more than “Christ”. This is a trend that must be reversed.

2. Our churches must stop preaching a “gospel system” in favor of preaching a gracious Saviour.  On many church websites you can find the “5 step plan of salvation”, but precious little about our Lord Jesus Christ. Not long ago I visited “Apologetics Press” and read item # 8 of the 9 items under the label “What we believe” and I was astonished to find this statement which I quote:
    “Salvation is by means of obedience to the Gospel system, involving faith in God and Christ,    repentance from sin, confession of faith, and immersion in water for remission of past sins, coupled with a life of growing consecration and dedication.” (emphasis mine)

 Far too many of our churches have the same flawed theology. One only has to pause and think for a moment to realize that the “Gospel System” that is so important that some suggest we should surrender obedience to it, rather than to Jesus Christ himself, was invented in the early 1800’s. Peter, Paul and their contemporaries did not have a copy of the New Testament from which they could lift convenient passages to fit their view of how a sinner is saved. If any honest observer will read the Acts and the remainder of the New Testament they will find that the gospel message was about a Person, not about a Plan, it was centered on a Saviour, not a System.

3. Our worship must be centered upon a unique Person, not upon a uniform Pattern.  Modern day Pharacees have disgraced and deluted true worship in Spirit and in Truth so that instead of being from the heart it is from the head, and instead of being a delight it has become a duty. What happens on Sunday morning in many of our congregations is predictable, and appears to be done by religeous robots, going through the motions, doing all the right things in an almost mechanical way.

I am sure some of you have heard about the man who said loudly “Praise the Lord” and “Amen” in response to the singing and the sermon. Some godly coC elders cornered the fellow after the invitation and inquired about his insulting outbursts. He replied “Well, I’ve got the Spirit and I’m happy in the Lord”. The good elder said in response, ” Will you didn’t get it here, so be quiet”. Could this story be true in your church? 

4. We must become a people who find their identity in Christ and not in how we “do church”.   When we can say honestly we are who we are because of what God has done in Christ on our behalf, rather than striving to become who we hope to be, we are only then ready to give our lost neighbor a valid message of the very good news about Jesus.

I believe with all my soul that the greatest need in our churches is teaching our people who they are in Christ, that they are complete in Him, have a living hope that cannot be taken away, and are hidden with Christ in God, not based on their performance but upon His.

One preacher asked a large Sunday school class are you “walking in the Spirit” and they to the last one had no idea what he was talking about. The Christian life is not about rules to follow but about righteousness by faith. It is not what have “I” done but about what “He” has done on my behalf. In view of what He has accomplished apart from my effort and yours, what is my response and yours in our day to day living before a watching world? To whom do we yield?

Paul was the most educated of all the apostles, he graduated from the best religeous schools, he had the right blood line, he had strictly followed the Law, he possessed knowledge and human wisdom beyond his fellows, but in view of all these facts Paul said “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Phil 3:8,9) Should we not be willing to put away our preferences, our human desires, our pride, perhaps some of our traditions, so that we “may gain Christ” too?

In my view, only after we have started to live out Romans chapter 12 are we credentialed to go out and change our world. Men and women are made fit for heaven one heart at a time by hearing the same message Phillip preached to the Ethopian eunich from the prophet Isiah, “Jesus” was the message. Our problem is we want to do the work of God using the resources and in the energy of human flesh. Perhaps it would be good for us to “go wait” in prayer to be endued with Power from on high so that our ministries and message might be confirmed in “the power and demonstration of the Holy Ghost”, (I Cor 2:4,5) rather than depending on human wisdom.

We must be a people on mission with God in His ministry of Reconciliation. Our task is not to “correct” everyone else in the world who claims Christ as Lord, but to publish the very good news about Jesus both with our lips and our lives. We must make known the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life because He is the only way to the Father. Only when you and I personally know the Resurrection can we save men from death.

Our challenge in 2008 is to try to really “restore” the ancient church’s way of doing business. We are only kidding ourselves if we think that “we” alone are right and that everything “New Testament” runs down hill from Resortation churches.

His peace,
Royce Ogle



“..if I should die before I wake…”

Today we buried an associate. A 60 year old woman who had been selling real estate since 1972. Dying at 60 is way premature to this almost 63 year old.

Where is she now? With the Lord I think, I hope, but I don’t really know do I? I shared the very good news with her and she assured me she was “satisfied”. Though in some way I wish I could do more, I suppose I did what I could. I will take her word and find some measure of peace in the knowledge that she had found peace with God.

I have decided that if I must err, (and we all must err) that I should err on the side of the love and grace of God. After all God does love people more than you and I do. And, He has done something remarkable to prove His love by giving His only Son to completely pay for the sins of wicked people. Wicked? Yes wicked!

I don’t hear the word “wicked” used to describe humans much in sermons any more, except for my own. According God’s book, at the center of every man is a spiritual heart which is “deceitfully wicked” and only God can really know it. (Jeremiah 17:9) And, Christ died for the “ungodly”. 

The problem with you and me is that we measure ourselves by ourselves (each other). God on the other hand measures us by Himself. We lose every time!

Christ did not come into this world to condemn it but that people might be saved through Him. I don’t think I will be in the business of condemnation either since I am to be used in His stead in some mysterious way.

I will tell folks the very good news about His love, and how their sin debt has long been paid, and God’s gracious offer is forgiveness of sins and eternal life along with all the trimmings described in the Bible. I will tell them that by simple child like trust they can know the peace of God and have peace with God through Christ. And not by ritual, religion, saying certain phrases, going certain places, and going to certain houses of worship. Nope, only take Him at His word and expect Him to do what He has promised.

Every one of us, saved and unsaved, are flawed human beings. A remedy has been provided for every one of us. His name is Jesus. In the words of comic/song writer/singer Mark Lowery “I catch them God cleans them”.

Each of us contributes one sinner each to the formula of salvation. That is about it. Jesus has done and will do the rest. Have you put your whole trust in Him? You’ll sleep better once you have……”and if you should die before you wake….”

His peace,
Royce Ogle

The Deity of Jesus…part 1

Was Jesus God? Surely the deity of Jesus Christ is one of the essential beliefs of the historic Christian faith. Yet many people who claim to be Christians boldly deny that Jesus was truly God in flesh.I continue to be shocked and saddened by the rampant unbelief of professing followers of Jesus. Not only is Christ’s deity questioned but the resurrection of Christ is debunked by some of these same people.

In the next few post I will present a biblical case for the deity of Jesus Christ. I will not give you my opinion but rather the clear unvarnished testimony of the Word of God. Do I expect everyone to believe what the Bible says? Absolutely not. Perhaps somebody you will see the truth and abandon your unbelief.

Jesus when speaking to unbelieving Jews made this statement. “Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:42-47 NIV)

How you respond to God’s truth was the acid test in the first century and it is the same today. Those who do not belong to God reject truth and those who do belong to God accept it. Like those Jews of Jesus’ day who rejected His words, those today who reject His words have a father but it is not God.

Jesus claimed to be God, the prophets said he would be God, His mastery over nature proved He was God, His supernatural knowledge proved He was God, and His resurrection from the dead proved He was God.

If Jesus was God He necessarily then would have to possess the eternal attributes of God. The first of those is His eternal existence. Jesus did not have His beginning in the cradle of Bethlehem. Far from it. What is the record of the Word of God? I will mention a few verses.

The fist and perhaps the most obvious one is in John 1. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:1-5 NKJV) Verse 14 makes it clear who is being spoken of in verses 1- 5, “And the Word became flesh and we beheld His glory…”

Not only did Christ precede creation but was also the Creator. For Jesus to be God He could not be “a god” as some of the cults teach, He could not be “created”. No He had to exist outside of time, outside of creation. These words in John 1 leave no doubt to those who are willing to accept truth. Jesus existed before the world was created. The prophet Micah in Micah 5:2 said of Him “… Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting”.
Jesus said to the Jews “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58 NKJV) Then in Jesus great prayer in John 17 He said these words of Himself claiming His eternal existence, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5 NKJV)

There are other verses that make the same point. I believe it should be clear to any honest seeker of truth that according to the Bible Jesus existed in eternity before the creation of planet earth and teaches clearly that He lives forever, His life has no end.

Only God is separate from creation, separate from time, not bound by natural law, and has the ability to create by His spoken word. Next time we will examine other texts that show indeed that Christ was in fact God in human form.

His peace,

Royce Ogle

In defense of the gospel of Christ

Brother Edward Fudge, attorney, author, Bible teacher, from Houston, Texas just today sent out the following exchange in one of his “graceEmail” posts. Over the past few years I have communicated with Bro’ Fudge on some issues and have found him to be a kind gentleman whose love for Christ is unmistakable. I have great respect for the way Edward Fudge responds to critics of his view of salvation which rests wholly upon the work and merit of Jesus and not upon human work or merit.

I quote him here word for word with his kind permission. 


A church acquaintance with whom I grew up in North Alabama fully a half century ago wrote recently to tell me that I am preaching “another gospel” which is no gospel at all, for which I will be eternally lost, and that he knows that I “know better” than my expressed convictions on a variety of religious issues.

* * *

This unhappy gentleman is representative of a category of people who place their hope in a particular religious organization or in a system of man-made doctrine and whose allegiance naturally follows their hope. Missing is an understanding that Jesus really is our Savior, that he took our place in his own perfect doing and dying to set us right with God, and that our energies now are devoted to responding to God’s grace and not to cobbling together some kind of personal righteousness with which we hope to barter or bargain with the Almighty. In the view of my friend, salvation depends on being in the “right” church and reaching all the “right” conclusions in studying the Bible. Because this understanding of salvation provides no room for error, those who advocate it must pretend that they are now correct on every doctrinal point and persuade themselves of that illusion.

Laboring under this impossible burden, its carriers also feel logically obligated to condemn all who differ with them, who — since they themselves are definitely right — must be absolutely wrong. Wearing these blinders, one might acknowledge that another person generally lives a godly and upright life (as my friend would say of me), yet not hesitate to conclude and to announce to others that the person who differs from himself is willfully twisting God’s Word, knowingly teaching fatal error and consciously misleading others into what he clearly knows to be wrong.

I wrote back to this gentleman and assured him that my theological differences with him resulted from intensive Bible study over many years and are truly spoken in all good faith. I expressed regret that he seemingly trusts in something that can never provide hope or salvation. And I prayed that the God who spoke light out of darkness in the beginning would now shine in this friend’s heart to show him the divine glory in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). I understand where my friend is in his thinking. I was there once myself — and still would be, but for the grace of God.”

….and I would too.

His peace,
Royce Ogle