This from fellow blogger, grace filled elder, and Christian thinker Jay Guin. I quote this announcement from his blog:


I’m pleased to announce an online conversatoin among myself, Todd Deaver, Phil Sanders, and Greg Tidwell about grace. It’ll take place starting in week or so.

I’m the author of The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace: God’s Antidotes for Division in the Churches of Christ, and I operate a blog at I’m an elder at the University Church of Christ in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and I practice law for a living.

Todd, of course, is the author of Facing Our Failure and has his own blog at Bridging the Grace Divide. Todd is a fellow progressive. Todd is the minister for the Oliver Springs Church of Christ.

Phil and Greg are regular columnists with the Gospel Advocate. It’s fair, I think, to refer to them as “conservatives.” They are not what some would call “ultra-conservatives.”

Phil operates the popular Philanswers blog and has recently joined In Search of the Lord’s Way, a ministry that produces a widely syndicated television broadcast. Before making this transition, Phil was the longtime minister for the Concord Road Church of Christ on the south side of Nashville.

Greg also writes regularly for Church of Christ-affiliated publications, including several articles posted online at the Forthright Magazine website. Greg has been the pulpit minster at the church of Christ which meets at Fishinger and Kenny Roads, Columbus, Ohio for 25 years. Their building is situated next to the Ohio State campus, and they operate a campus ministry there. (I’m a big fan of campus ministry.)

The conversation will begin with a statement of agreed principles. Phil and Greg will then take up the question of when does a Christian lose his soul — the apostasy question. Closely related, of course, is the question of fellowship.

The site will permit comments, and there will be no moderation unless someone unduly tests our patience. We expect all commenters to follow the same rule that applies to the four of us –

(2 Tim 2:24-25) And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth … .

I’m hoping for lots of comments, and we may well not have the time to respond to all of them — or even most of them. We really need to focus on the main conversation. However, please don’t let that discourage you from commenting, as I’m sure all participants will feel as I do: I need all the help I can get. All thoughts will be most appreciated.

Please be in prayer that this conversation brings glory to God and helps to heal the division that so affects the Churches of Christ.

Jay Guin

Each of these men are well qualified and very able to aptly present the view of those positions they represent. The conversation has begun with Phil Sanders making the first statement and Todd Deaver’s brief reply and challenge.

My hope is that some understanding, some growth, and a more likely climate for Jesus to get glory will be the result. We shall see.


The Dumbing Down of Discipleship, Superficial Scholarship in the churches of Christ

In the last several months there have been several dozen blog posts and articles in coC journals about the decline both of the number of churches and membership. The Christian Chronicle has done a good job of examining the raw data available and raising some relevant questions as to why this trend is real.

I have read letters to the editor, blog posts, and listened to on line sermons, each with some suggestion about how to stop the downward spiral. Most of what I have read only touches upon symptoms and does not address the heart of the problem.

Last night I listened to a message preached by John McCord to his people at the El Campo church of Christ in El Campo, Texas. I invite you to listen to this young man’s sermon. John McCord is one example of a preacher who has decided to no longer facilitate the falsehood of legalistic teaching. This is an example of someone with the courage to bring ethics into the pulpit along with his Bible.

All of the hand wringing and ideas about how to be more relevant, develop better programs, and become more attractive to our communities are all exercises in futility unless the root of the problem is addressed. Shoddy and sometimes even dishonest Bible scholarship is our greatest problem.

The recent uproar about 21st Century Christian not including congregations in their directory that had one or more instrumental service on Sunday highlighted a shocking truth. Today, almost 25% of the members of churches of Christ in the United States attend a congregation which has at least one service on Sunday where singing is accompanied by musical instruments.(I am sure there are others the keepers of the gate to heaven have not discovered yet) This is not the problem. The awful truth is that many of the remaining 75% don’t believe the 25% is going to heaven because they have the dreaded “instrument”. This undeniable fact gets at the root of the decline of the numbers of congregations and members. Many educated, thinking people simply dismiss this sort of nonsense as silly and either move on to some other church of Christ or quietly leave the church tradition of their ancestors.

Why should we expect people to be drawn to or stay in a church that teaches you are in danger of hell fire if you don’t agree with what they teach, and what they teach can’t be supported by the Bible? Almost every member of our churches has a computer at home and within a few clicks of a mouse they can tap into the wisdom of trusted theologians on any given subject and quickly decide if a teaching is Biblical or a myth.

We must devote ourselves to honest interpretation of the scriptures and lay aside the traditions of men if they are not valid. Each of us will do so at great risk but it is worth the effort. Christian discipleship is not for the thin skinned and faint of heart. If you set out to be loyal only to Christ and the word of God you will become the target of zealots whose security is not in Christ but rather in what they do, the system they have endorsed, and the religion they are committed to.

To be what God wants us to be, without regard to the numbers or our critics, we must get back to the basics of the Christian faith. We must become a people of the Word whose lives have the flavor of an authentic, vibrant faith relationship with Jesus Christ. Every area of our lives should reflect our devotion to the Son of God and our unconditional surrender to His will. We must become known as people who love each other unconditionally, who hold each other accountable, who look out for the interests of others, and whose mission on earth is to make Christ known.

True disciples of Jesus are known by how they love. They are not known by how they worship, by what sign is over the door where they worship, or by what their church history is.They are known by loving each other and by loving even their enemies and by so doing loving God.

We must stop pretending we have it all right and everyone else is wrong. We must stop being church centered and become Christ centered. It is high time the Restoration Movement churches are restored to the faith of our fathers without all the trappings of man made religion. It is a life or death matter.


Odd Doctrine

Phil Sanders believes preaching about instrumental music is preaching doctrine. Do you agree? I don’t.

The most basic meaning of doctrine is “something that is taught”. In that strict definition it is doctrine. However, it is not Bible doctrine. Bible doctrine is something the Bible teaches. Instrumental music is not something the Bible addresses.

A few years ago some men came to the elders of a church of Christ to complain about the quality of the preaching. Their charge was that the preacher was not preaching the “full counsel of God” (doctrine). What they wanted was not Bible doctrine but speeches about the superiority of the church of Christ and other topics that define the most legalistic congregations.

There is glaring lack of Bible doctrine being preached from our pulpits. The great themes of the Bible such as redemption, justification, sanctification, prayer, the Holy Spirit, the church…and the list goes on.

A cappella singing vs. singing accompanied by musical instruments is related to Bible doctrine in the same way Al Gore is related to science, questionable at best.


Blog Traffic to Grace Digest

I posted my first blog post on June 29, 2006. It was 4 paragraphs and received one comment. As of today, and 782 posts later, I have learned some things about by blogging.

  • For each post I publish I get about 5 comments. Some posts get no comments and some get many comments.
  • My readers come from most of the states and from about 20 foreign countries. I have regular readers who live in Australia, England, Germany, and Africa. I was most surprised that someone in China sometimes reads what I write.
  • The busiest day for traffic to Grace Digest was 222 page views. The average for ’07 was 21, for ’08 it was 30, and so far in ’09 the average is 55 views each day.
  • If high visitors numbers is what I want I know how to get those big numbers. Tags (key words) like “a cappella”, “instruments in worship”, “coC unity”, “restoration movement”, get large interest and blog hits. Words like “Jesus”, “Christ”, “grace”, “salvation”, “forgiveness”, and “peace of god” get far fewer hits.
  • I am very likely addicted to blogging!

In view of the above facts about my blogging on Grace Digest, what subjects should I choose? And, more importantly, why do it at all?

First, blogging is a purely selfesh outlet for a frustrated writer and preacher/teacher. I seem to learn more when I write as I learn from God’s book and the school of life. I would write much of the same content even if I could not share it. Writing is a personal need fulfilled.

Without regard for the big hit numbers, I intend to share my heart with my readers. My first desire is to encourage every reader to consider the claims of the good news about Jesus and to trust him alone as the only basis of their standing with God. 

I am always learning. I try to, on purpose, approach my open Bible with an open heart and mind, ready for it to shape my thinking and by it’s truth to shape my life. A constant pursuit of objective truth is a passion for me. And, sharing those truths with others is also a very high priority. I know of no better way to accomplish that end than blogging.

I would be lying if I said the big numbers don’t matter to me, they do. But I refuse to taylor what I write with a view of having a large number of readers. So, I will continue to share what moves me at the moment and let the numbers be only numbers.

Part of my desire to continue blogging (apart from selfeshness) is fueled by the wonderful reports from people who have been helped in some way by reading my stuff. Recently, over the span of about 20 days, I received emails and other communications from several people who had read someting here that helped them to understand a part of the Bible better, had some theological question answered, expressed a desire to trust Christ more completely and be more devoted to him. And, I had 3 requests to use something I had written as a part of a sermon, lesson, and in one case a communion meditation.

It is encouraging to be validated by others who are more learned, more experienced, and widely trusted as men and women of God. Two years ago I think, 5 of the presenters at the Pepperdine Lectureships and 3 or 4 presenters at the Tulsa Soulwinning Workshop had recently made kind, encouraging remarks concerning something I had written. I am humbled.

I have also had several odd, nasty, hateful comments that I chose not to publish. Religeous zealots are often furious when you point out their hypcocicy and unbelief. Some folks are offended by truth while others embrace it and are healed by it. That is just the way it is.

As I complete this post and publish it I will shamelessly use some of those traffic generating “tags”.

John 6:40