Quail Springs Church of Christ “Disfellowshipped”: The Best Revenge

quailsprings.gifMany of us have been distressed by the ad placed by three ministers “disfellowshipping” the Quail Springs minister for being the preacher of a congregation that’s added an instrumental service. Some have suggested that the right-thinking Churches of Christ should publish their own ad … something to the effect of “They don’t speak for us!”

I think that’s a bad idea … a really bad idea.

Ultimately, the proper response came to me from a couple of old George Herbert (1593-1633) quotes–

“If a donkey bray at you, don’t bray at him.”

Or more elegantly,

“Living well is the best revenge.”

Herbert was a parish priest and clearly had been reading his Bible.

As an attorney, elder, and friend to one or two people, I’ve frequently been called on to advise people on how to respond when abused in the press. (And I’ve been there myself.) Almost always, the best advice is “Do not respond.” This is especially true in the religious press. It’s really, really hard, but decades of experience prove it wise.

Debates carried out in a truly public forum, such as the Oklahoman, cannot be won. They are always lost because those outside the Churches of Christ care nothing about proscriptive silence and laws of inclusion and exclusion. They will just see a denomination bickering in public. And they’ll react accordingly.

Have you ever been around a husband and wife who bickered in public? Did you care who was right? No … you just wanted them to shut up and handle it in private! And that’s how the readership of the Oklahoman will respond to any reply, no matter how well worded.

Hence, don’t bray back.

The correct response is, of course, the Biblical response. Turn the other cheek. And rejoice!

(Mat 5:11-12) “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

I’ll not pretend that it’s easy. How do you rejoice when you’ve been declared damned in your sins by brothers in Christ in a full page ad in the Oklahoman? Well, because the reason you were singled out is because you matter.

Irrelevant people aren’t persecuted — only those who threaten the status quo. And what greater praise can there be in this busy, distracted world than that you did something the really matters. Rejoice! The status quo needs threatening.

Notice that Jesus immediately followed this beatitude with these words,

(Mat 5:13-16) “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

How do you respond to persecution? By living well. By getting involved in your community and showing the true face of Christ. By being such an influence for good that people from outside the Churches as well as those within the Churches declare on your behalf, “Such a good congregation cannot be lost!”

As Peter said, surely interpreting the Sermon on the Mount,

(1 Pet 2:12) Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

and

(1 Pet 3:13-14) Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”

All we can do is live well and let God handle it.

(Rom 12:17-19)  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Finally, stand ready to teach those who want to learn. But —

(Mat 7:6) “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”

If you aren’t careful, your responses “can and will be used against you,” as the police like to warn those they arrest. Don’t argue with those who only want to twist your words to further condemn you.

Don’t bray. Rejoice. Live well. Let God handle it. He’ll either bring them to repentance (2 Tim. 2:25) or turn them over to even darker sin (Rom 1:28-32). Oh, and don’t step in front of stampeding pigs.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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0 Responses to Quail Springs Church of Christ “Disfellowshipped”: The Best Revenge

  1. Richard May says:

    You are exactly right, of course. The Oklahoman asked for an interview with Quail about the changes. When Quail agreed and the article and video appeared in the paper and on the Oklahoman website, it was only a couple of days before the money was raised for the ad (a little more than $11,000). The ad came out on Wednesday and Thursday night Quail and Popejoy were interviewed bya local TV Station (seperately of course). The opening comments from the anchor spoke of the riff in the Church of Christ. Everybody needs to stay away from newspapers and television.

    Incredibly sad deal. I asked the ad runners and authors on the blog associated with a publication they own to post the names of the churches who paid for the ad and marked Henderson. They refused. I am convinced that fewer than five churches were involved with the ad and it may have only been one church. I'm confident more would have contributed to it with more time, but I don't believe their initial fund raising got money from churches. The TV station only mentioned the one church who paid for the ad.

    The polarization that has existed on the east side of the Mississippi is moving west and it is very, very sad.

  2. Jay Guin says:

    Richard,

    Thanks for your comments. My guess is that only the two churches the ministers work for contributed to the ad, if that many — until after it ran. Churches who are in this camp aren't ashamed to publish their names as being opposed to instrumental music. Therefore, they are likely hiding the list of churches because it's so short. Why else?

    I'd also guess that these ministers' churches don't have elderships, as this would explain why they disfellowshipped the preacher, as though it was his decision. It was, of course, the elders' call. They would only assume it to have been his decision if in their experience the preacher had that kind of power. Interesting …

    Now regarding us east of the Mississippi, we've gotten divisiveness down to a fine art. But at least we normally keep it out of the papers. Fighting in the papers would make us look too much like Baptists!

  3. David Guin says:

    The cited verses certainly mandate that Quail Springs not respond in kind with its own ad. But do the other churches not stand in a different position? They have not been persecuted or criticized at all. Rather, the ad-buyers have dishonestly claimed to speak for people and churches for whom they have no authority to speak. That wrongfully brings those churches into disrepute. That seems to be a different situation to me.

    That may not necessarily mean that the other churches should take out their own ad. Just that the analysis and Biblical framework is different. The churches may still want to avoid a tit-for-tat debate through competing ads. But I think they do need to consider how to clarify that the ad-buyers spoke falsely when claiming to speak for them. Perhaps a joint service with Quail Springs as a demonstration of shared love for Christ regardless of each congregation's views regarding instruments (and invite the ad-buyers), or a demand for a retraction from the ad-buyers. That would be a good test of their character.

  4. Jay Guin says:

    I like it. Good thoughts.

    I think a counter-ad from anyone is clearly out of the question. It only prolongs the negative press — the fact that we are divided and can't get along.

    Now, the Christian Chronicle or some other journalists should definitely investigate the claims — and likely prove what we all suspect, that the ad overstated their support. However, either side could present dozens of churches that agree, and the press would try to be "balanced," making the whole issue look like a split down the middle, absent a survey of some sort.

    A survey would be really hard as there's no list of Church members (but $11,000 will pay for a lot of surveys and just one ad). It could be done, but it would be a challenging undertaking to do right.

    Therefore, the idea of a large, joint service may be the best idea. It's the best I've heard. It would show genuine unity. Those who refuse to participate will be interviewed and say hateful things, but they'll look small and petty compared to the unity service.

    Those churches that participate will need to be prepared to be ostracized, but what's the point of unity built on a lie? If the only way we can be united with certain churches is to lie about our opinions, well, we aren't really united — we're just pretending to be.

    The harder case is churches where the membership leans both ways. They won't participate, but maybe their leaders will be motivated to teach grace more powerfully so that find themselves split down the road as the pressure to go one way or the other becomes even more intense.

    A unity service! Let's do it. It would be worth the drive. Maybe I could take in an OU basketball game …

  5. JD #2 says:

    If you do you would probably want to go to an OU womens game. They are much more exciting these days (sad to say). The upside is their coach Sheri Coale is a member of a church in Norman.

  6. David says:

    Jay,

    Amen – this whole mess needs to get out of the public forum and shame on those who have taken it there or try to keep it there.

  7. dannydodd says:

    Great, great perspective on all of this. Sorry to hear of this happening to my Oklahoma family.

    It is my hope those involved follow your advice in this post.

  8. JDH says:

    I have mixed thoughts on the public dialog, if it can be called that. If public dialog is used to attack brothers then I agree it should not be done. If public dialog is used to defend brothers I beleive that to be a horse of a differant color. While we may choose not to engage in public dialog, or engage in public dialog, whatever we choose, we should do so in a manner worthy of our calling. I have tried to do that, that has been my intent and goal, how sucessful I've been at it, I'll let God decide and welcome the advice of my brothers and sisters.

  9. Jay Guin says:

    JDH,

    David made the point earlier that the passages I cite do not challenge coming to someone else's defense. And I don't think it's sin to do so, handled well.

    On the other hand, a response in the newspaper by pro-QS Christians begs for a counter-response, and on it goes. I would certainly not continue the banter back and forth. We need to be careful not to prolong the story — or if we do, that we do so on our terms.

    A unity meeting, for example, would be a good follow on. Such a meeting would be best if the invitations come from another congregation in the area — an a cappella service to which all Church members are invited, where a prominent preacher would speak and where Mark Henderson (the QS preacher) would preside over communion would seem about right to me. Offer up many prayers for unity and a better understanding of God's love.

    I wonder if any of the Oklahoma churches have the guts to stand for God's grace and the gospel by doing something like this? I mean, isn't this precisely the sort of thing the gospel calls us to do?

  10. JDH says:

    You are right Jay it's a tough one no doubt about it. And I wouldn't take the route of reply ads. I have taken the course of replying on a blog, and forum where the subject came up. I may or may not continue to reply on them I'll have to wait and see. It might be a wise idea for me to email you my reply before I post it, and have you look over it to see if it is worthy of our calling.

    On the unity meeting, great idea, I think it is wise when ever we can meet together, in unity and love. That IMHO should be our goal. I think that is what the gospel calls us to do.

    I may zig when you zag, but you know what bro it ain't going to bother me when we bump heads, just know I'm not intentionaly head butting you. 😉

  11. Jay Guin says:

    JDH,

    I'm just delighted to have you on my blog!

    And I have no problem with debating the topic on Church blogs (as I'm doing). I just don't want us fighting in the Oklahoman.

    I've not had much success persuading the hard liners — but I think we can all sometimes help the lurkers understand where we "change agents" are coming from. Many already know what's right — they're looking to understand why. If that makes any sense.

  12. JDH says:

    Jay,
    I agree that fighting in the newspaper is not the best or even the right way to go.

    Glad to be here Bro.

  13. Charles McLean says:

    If indeed part of the folly of the Oklahoman ad was to "put our business in the street", it would seem to me that to continue to do so in a counter-ad would be a similar folly.

    Here's another good idea that I am not so sure can happen: Have brothers gather up $11,000 to help Quail Springs with whatever godly project they have going, and give it to them. Notify the area churches by letter that this has been done. Make no mention of IM at all.

    Money speaks more powerfully than words, but I confess that it is often easier to get people to buy ammo than to buy bread.

  14. Jay Guin says:

    Charles,

    Thanks for the idea. Let me take it one step further: raise the money and then work side by side with Quail Springs in a joint project to serve the needy of the community.

    I love the symbolism of raising the same money and actually doing something Godly with it!

  15. GaryB says:

    It's nice to read some supportive words. We've taken the no response route as you have suggested here.

    On Thursday, May 1, the National Day of Prayer, we are hosting a joint worship service with at least 2 other churches from OKC – Catedral de Adoracion and Tabitha Baptist. A mostly white suburban Church of Christ, a Latino inner-city church and a black Baptist church coming together to worship and fellowship. Worship teams from all three churches will participate. Communion would be a great addition to the plan.

    We'll invite other churches of Christ and anyone else who would like to come be with us. You're welcome as well of course.

    Grace & peace to you,

    Gary Bruce
    Worship Minister
    Quail Springs Church of Christ

  16. Jay Guin says:

    Gary,

    It's a genuine honor to hear from you. You all are heroes in the faith.

    I'll be at Pepperdine teaching on why the Churches of Christ are so divisive. I'd be there in spirit — and speaking highly of you all to the saints in Malibu.

  17. David U says:

    I just got wind of this sad sad situation! This post is really good, and I appreciate your wisdom and spirit. Maybe we can exchange greetings at Pepperdine.

    In HIM,
    David

  18. Dan says:

    The good part of all this is that now it is evident where Quail Springs was going all of these years. The questions, concerns, and the rumblings of more than twenty years have now been validated. Whether the information comes through the Oklahoman, Christian Chronicle, purchased ads, or sites like this, more information is good. Mr. Henderson made a calculated decision with His leaders to make this move for publicity. It is after all, according to Henderson's own words, a stated goal to reach outsiders who instruments would appeal to. So for him, mission accomplished. The other good part of it is that non-instrumental churches have a forum for warning Christians about the self-proclaimed change agents. This is a debate between liberal and conservative approaches to Scripture. The liberal approach says something is acceptable to God based on God's silence. The conservative says something is not acceptable based on God's silence. The debate should be on which approach is most reverent, "safe", or spiritual. There is a fundamental difference in how these churches view Scripture.

  19. Mark says:

    Dan,
    What a strange post! Twenty years ago, I was trying to get ready to move out to Abilene in the fall to start work on a master's degree. Are you trying to say that the elders and I made the move to add an instrumental service for publicity? If so, that's equal parts funny and ignorant. We never had one discussion about generating publicity. It is obviousl that we got some, but that isn't why we made the move.

    Calling someone like me who believes in the inspiration and authority of Scripture and who believes the miracle stories that are presented in Scripture a "liberal" is also comical. This is a debate between conservatives who differ about the nature and function of Scripture. My belief that it is acceptable to worship with or without instruments isn't based on the silence of Scriptures because I believe the Scriptures have a quite a lot to say on the subject.

    In this odd post, you did present one thing correctly. We very much hope to reach people who are disconnected from God and from church and who will connect more with instrumental worship. We also want to reach people in our a cappella service, and we pray that God will be glorified in both.

  20. Scott says:

    Dan said:
    "The liberal approach says something is acceptable to God based on God’s silence. The conservative says something is not acceptable based on God’s silence."

    I'm sorry, I'm very late in commenting on this thread, but this type of logical fallacy is just too prevalent. What you are missing, Dan, is that not EVERY decision made by followers of Christ is made via a robotic process of scripture-scouring. Jesus often talked about discerning the fruits of something. Our good brothers and sisters at QS have spent time praying, evaluating, being sensitive to the needs of their community, and seeking direction from scripture, fellow followers and the Spirit of God. They didn't just say, "we can do this because the Bible is silent about it." I'll grant you that those you call "conservative" DO say something very like that… "God said it, we do it…" and, "God said nothing about it… so we believe it's sin" (unless it happens to be something we like… like buildings or microphones or Wednesday night services or VBS…). Dan, don't you hear the mindset of the one talent man in all of this? He's thinking, "I ought to do something good with this talent… but I know I've got a hard master who's ready to trip me up on a technicality… so I'd better not go beyond just "holding on" to it! Now, where's that shovel?"

    There is such a thing as conscienciously attempting to discern what will bear good fruit. More often than not, that requires risk… often ostracism among the "religious" as it did for Jesus himself.

    Instruments may not be right for your church, but no one beyond the body at Quail Springs can say it's not right for them because, silence or no silence, no one sees the needs, the personality or the calling of the Quail Springs body and community better than the church at Quail Springs.

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