PATTERNISM IN CHURCHES OF CHRIST: A TEMPLATE FOR SIN


Today I did a Google search for this term, “What is the Church of Christ pattern?” The search returned 905,000 hits. In most every case, the churches and individuals that came up in my sampling insist that the New Testament provides a “pattern” for worship which must be followed.

Interestingly, I could not find many who stated what the “pattern” is. Those in my sample who did define it included “pattern” components different from each other. Many patternists teach that the “pattern” extends far beyond worship, and their “pattern” is more elusive than the first.

No agreement as to definition

One Church of Christ insists that the five acts of worship (singing, praying, preaching, giving, and the Lord’s Supper) are the pattern. So they will quote verses that support those five things. Another Church of Christ will add baptism for the remission of sins and singing only a cappella to the pattern of “the one true church.” Still another adds to the “pattern” a requirement that only the King James Version of the Bible be used in public readings. The width and breadth of the supposed “pattern” is limited only by the number of people who define it.

The problem with “patternism” is the pattern. If what devout patternists proclaim  is true, wouldn’t it make sense that it would be relatively easy to find in the Bible? I am well aware of many of the proof texts but I must ask, “Is everyone reading the same Bible?”

What about those earliest Christians who, for perhaps two generations, got along quite well before many of the proof texts were written, and for sure before they were widely distributed? Were those early believers not able to worship God acceptably?

When patternism becomes sin

The title of this article is rather strong indictment. Tell me I’m wrong. At least one book has been written, plus scores of articles in periodicals and on blogs, condemning North Richland Hills Church of Christ in Texas, for its decision to include instrumental music in one of many Sunday services.

The attitude of those passing judgment is simple: Forget all the Christian service this church provides in its community, forget its faithfulness to preach Christ, to baptize believers and to live holy, loving lives. No Sir! These Christians went outside the supposed “pattern” and are damned because of it.

It is one thing to decided what is permissible individually or for my congregation, but when I apply that standard to every other Christian, and then teach that they will be lost if they do not comply, I am guilty of teaching “another gospel” and commit a grievous sin.

I recently listed over 40 different issues about which some Churches of Christ have divided, refused to acknowledge each other as brothers, and condemned each other to hell-fire. In each case, one group insists the other violated “the pattern.” In each case, the folks condemning have concluded that what the other people are doing is “unauthorized,” which puts them in open rebellion against God and means they are lost.

When this happens, Patternism becomes a template for sin! Those who design the template require everyone who claims to follow Jesus to fit their exact template or be lost. In Jesus’ day, the patternists were called Pharisees. Among some Churches of Christ today, they are called “elders” and “preachers,” but they are cut from the same cloth.

Yes, there is one “pattern” we should apply to our lives as believers. His name is Jesus.

Royce

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The Little Party Who Couldn’t Govern


Just over one year ago President Obama was sworn into office after a sweeping victory. His path to Pennsylvania Ave was dotted with huge enthusiastic, cheering, record breaking crowds who chanted “Yes we can!”. Accompanying President Obama was both houses of Congress solidly in the “D” category. One would have thought that with Congress and the White House in their pockets, Mr. Obama and the Democrats could really enact the “change” candidate Obama promised.

Now the boisterous left leaning crowds have quieted somewhat, a year is in the history books, and what has President Obama and the Democrats accomplished that is good? Um……………er………………….let me see…………….I can’t think of one thing. Oh, I remember, they say they have saved 2 million jobs. Using that logic the 911 perpetrators could claim they saved millions of New Yorker’s lives because they didn’t kill everyone in the city! Give us a break Mr. President!

(Before I continue I’ll make this disclaimer: Over spending has been our nations biggest problem since Nixon. That includes Reagan, the Bush’s, and Republican controlled congresses. Senators and U.S. Representatives love spending your money without restraint.)

What do Democrats have to show for their mandate to govern? I’ll offer some suggestions.

  • Tens of thousands of new U.S. Government employees, the largest growth of government since ’92 (Reagan).
  • National debt with numbers so high mathematicians can’t even grasp how much money is being projected as a short-fall.
  • Unemployed Americans in real numbers of 10 to perhaps over 15 percent.
  • Selected government bail outs of some banks and car companies that is yet is an unproven experiment paid for out of your grandkids bank accounts.
  • Less U.S. respect around the globe highlighted by the mad man of Iran thumbing his nose at President Obama’s deadline on nukes.
  • A President who has been nothing more than an official apologist for America’s historic greatness.
  • A military strategy in Afghanistan that looks as if it was designed by the Keystone Cops.
  • A shocking increase in attempted terror attacks on U.S. soil. (The current threat is “sure” according to security chiefs)
  • An attempt to take over the health care system in our country by the inept U.S. Government. (looked at the U.S. Postal Service’s P & L sheet lately?)
  • Historic tax increases are on the way to almost every American’s paycheck if the Democrats get their way.
  • China and Japan are increasingly being given more and more control of our future thanks to juvenile economic policy. (Their combined ownership of U.S. holdings and our debt to them is shocking!)
  • President Obama is a documented liar on the order of one William Jefferson Clinton. Need I lay out details?

I could go on but you get the picture. But, thank God for Democracy, the tide is turning. From the leftists from the insane Daily Kos crowd to the most liberal Representatives and Senators, liberals are seeing the writing on the wall. They are increasingly realizing that President Obama is not the man of their dreams while he might likely be the man of their nightmares.

President Obama’s approval ratings are falling like our national security and the Congress, well, lets just say the folks an’t happy with them. Unless things change drastically in the next few months President Obama will serve out the rest of his term with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress. That would be a good thing and it is the genius of the U.S. system, it tends over time to correct when on a course of destruction.

I’ll end this post with what irks me most about President Obama and his liberal friends, his and their disregard for the U.S.Constitution. When the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that limiting the free speech of corporate groups of U.S. citizens was unconstitutional President Obama rushed to the nearest camera to challenge the ruling. What an arrogant act!

It is not constitutional to tell a company how much they can pay an employee. It is not constitutional to tell any American he must buy health insurance coverage or pay a hefty fine. It is not constitutional to give the full rights of U.S. citizens to foreign enemy combatants. (It was wrong when President Bush allowed it and it is wrong now.) It is unconstitutional for the U.S. Government to infringe upon states rights. (the list is too long for this format)

This administration is characterized by the failed “Cash for Clunkers” program. Car owners traded in their gas guzzlers and received over valued trade in amounts as credits toward the purchase of more eco-friendly cars. The American people took advantage of the program. The problem was two-fold. Every consumer who traded in a clunker received $3500 to $4500 credit toward his new car. Each of these transactions cost U.S. taxpayers over $23,000 dollars (a low estimate given the latest available info)

Added to this debacle, U.S. used car dealers took a lump on the head due to much less inventory at their disposal and many consumers who would have done business with them went instead to new car dealers.

This sort of pooled insanity is typical of the government we have today. I am sincerely hoping for a better tomorrow. I am not very optimistic. Republicans are just about as bad as Democrats for spending other people’s money, the heart of our national problem.

May God bless America.

Royce Ogle

It takes 2 to tango..


Yesterday I learned the discourse at GraceConversation.com is no more. What began as sincere effort for two theological camps within the churches of Christ to have a civil conversation about apostasy ended abruptly with a verbal smack down by Mac Deaver.

My hat is off to Jay Guin who hosted the discussion at OneInJesus.info for his hard work to make the conversation between “Conservatives” and “Progressives” a possibility. I was not surprised that it ended as it did.

On the “Conservative” side, first Greg Tidwell bowed out citing health issues and the business of being a preacher. Then Phil Sanders stepped in to take Greg’s place. Now Sanders is “too busy” and Mac Deaver decided it was “pointless to continue”.

Both Todd Deaver and Jay Guin (especially Jay) articulated their views and challenged the views of the “Conservatives” with clarity, charity, and consistency. It was clear to this observer that the conversation was not going to accomplish very much shortly after the first exchanges by the two sides. The “Conservatives” were unable to state solid biblical evidence for their views and their inconsistencies were glaring.

The series of posts by these five men generated perhaps more comments, including my own, than any blog within the scope of churches of Christ. In the comments the “pattern” (pun intended) continued. Traditionalists stated positions, many of which cannot be supported by Scripture, that were well worn in the 60’s. And, with some exceptions, those on the “Progressive” side won the day with more reasoned conclusions and more Biblical foundation.

My conclusions are the following:

  • GraceConversation.com was not about grace. It was a discussion between two theological schools of thought, neither of which fully comprehends God’s grace. (In Jay’s defense, it was stated from the beginning that the conversation was to be centered on apostasy, with both sides agreeing that a Christian can be saved, and then lost, the only disagreement being when or how).
  • Behind all the talk, the whole of the discussion centered on one issue, instrumental music in worship in churches of Christ. The whole discussion can be summed up in this neat package. The traditionalists believe people who have a piano in worship are lost and the progressives don’t. That is what the whole debate was about.
  • It is a tired subject and will not be resolved. There is not one verse of Scripture that addresses musical instruments either being used or not being used in the assembly of New Testament churches. Traditionalists decide arbitrarily what is sinful and what is not based on their church history, and personal preferences. It is better for them if they can find a proof text but it isn’t necessary to have any to doom those they disagree with to hell.
  • Both the tradiditionalists and the progressives believe that at some point God may damn a born again Christian, one side just believes God is more patient than the other. Neither can say at what point God decides to zap a Christian back into a non Christian status. So, the conclusion is clear. According to Greg Tidwell, Phil Sanders, Mac Deaver, Jay Guin, and Todd Deaver, staying saved depends on how well a Christian performs, and not upon the ground of the work and worth of Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • The light of God’s truth is shining in the fellowship of believers called “churches of Christ”. I have seen many signs of hope in the past decade. Just look at how far we as a people have come away from fear and a legal system, and many, many of our dear people are tasting the fresh, life giving grace of God in Jesus Christ.
  • I long for a day when if the average church of Christ member is asked the question “Are you sure you are going to heaven?” they well be able to give a quick “Yes!”answer based on what Christ accomplished for sinners. Until that day comes I will keep holding up Jesus and the salvation He purchased with His own blood as the only ground and hope of helpless and hopeless sinners.

I love and have the utmost respect for Jay Guin and Todd Deaver. It has never been necessary for a man to agree with me, or I with him, for me to love him deeply and respect him as a fellow follower of Jesus. We agree much more than we disagree. I sincerely hope to be out yonder in eternity with Greg, Phil, Mac, and Jay and Todd. I wish God’s best to each man and hope they live long, healthy, happy lives.

Finally, I realize that I am in a razor thin minority within the “brotherhood” of churches of Christ. I deeply appreciate so many of you who while disagreeing with me have embraced me with love and patience and have encouraged me to continue to preach Christ. I hope that every reader of Grace Digest will clearly understand that disagreement does not necessarily mean estrangement. My dearest friends on earth completely disagree with me on some theological points, and I with them, but our common trust in Jesus makes us one, and nothing else can. Thanks for reading and for your comments.

for Jesus,
Royce

GraceConservation


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

Announcing GraceConversation.com

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 OneInJesus.info. 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.

Royce