Replanting a Denomination: The “Spiritual Sword” January 2010 edition

I’m typing on Christmas morning, listening to Alison Kraus, and enjoying a few moments of quiet before the kids (college age and older) wake up.

Yesterday, the January 2010 edition of the “Spiritual Sword” arrived on my doorstep. I subscribed in preparation for the GraceConversation dialogue, to get a better sense of current thought in the conservative Churches of Christ.

The new issue is a series of articles warning against change. Change, it seems, is very bad. Indeed, change produces the different gospel condemned in Galatians. Change damns. And we have lesson after lesson on how to assure the absence of change.

Praise teams, clapping with the music, dimming lights for emotional effect, showing approval by applause, moving the communion table to the back of the auditorium, giving microphones to some men and women in the audience to aid the singing, teaching classes from The Purpose Driven Church … these are all the work of “false prophets” coming as wolves in sheep’s clothing and requires that these false teachers be “marked.” (Gary McDade, “Insidious Influences,” p. 23 ff).

Among the darkest sins that change can produce is —

The claim that worship is to be refreshed by the strong breeze of the Holy Spirit who takes hold of services and, however well planned the services were previously, moves those to new heights of praise, hand clapping, lifting holy hands, with crying, confessing sins, giving testimonies, being led by the Spirit to understanding, guidance, and resisting temptation by his direct impact on the heart.

(William Woodson, “Standing for the Right,” p. 34.)

I thought about writing about the many exegetical errors and sins against logic that fill the magazine, but it’s too easy — and too sad. I can only bring myself to mourn.

(2 Cor 3:17-18)  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

(Col 2:8)  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

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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33 Responses to Replanting a Denomination: The “Spiritual Sword” January 2010 edition

  1. This is America. People worship who and how they see fit. People can put "Church of Christ" or "The Church of My Favorite Style of Church" on the sign in front of the building. People who agree with them tend to congregate together.

    I am saddened to see many congregations with the "Church of Christ" sign out front die off, especially because they show a disdain for people who are different. Maybe in a hundred years there will be no more buildings with "Church of Christ" on the sign out front. I trust God, however, that there will be people who love one another and love God with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind.

  2. James says:

    What strikes me so strange about such a point of view as you're saying is presented in the Jan 2010 issue is that it is the principles taught me in the Churches of Christ that cause me to see through it. It's a full list of "do not taste/handle/touch" issues that are not found in scripture at all. Our motto of being silent where the Bible is silent prohibits the very list in that issue (clapping is an issue of OT permission, NT silence, dim lights are a silence issue, etc.). I was raised in conservative Churches of Christ (enough to know the capital "C" irks them, but I'm the son of a school teacher and that bit of bad capitalization irks me more) to understand that anyone who bound beyond what the scriptures bind is going beyond the word. Binding a ban on clapping, lighting, and hand raising. is doing just that.

    A true conservative does not strip another's freedom in the name of resistance to change. Sometimes change = repentance from past transgressions of speaking where the scriptures are silent.

  3. It seems to me that Alex Campbell, Bart Stone, Dave Lipscomb et al were change agents for their time. If we can't have change I suppose we should go back to being what we were before, Presbyterians. But no, they changed from being Episcopalians or Catholics. So I guess we should be Catholics, but before them. . . No, actually I think James has a great insight. What we were taught can aid us in moving on. The respect for mental discipline and rationality of our Restoration forebears is worthy of emulation. And, ironically, the anti-traditionalism conveyed to us that critiqued aspects of the inherited Protestantism serves us in scrutinizing our own traditions. Feel free to critique me, as well.

  4. The longer I'm away from that part of the Lord's Church the more distant and alien it seems. It's hard for me to remember at times that I was once in full agreement with them.

    I believe the only things that will wake them from their delusion are learning the true history of our movement (and how Daniel Sommer and, later, Foy E. Wallace, Jr. hijacked it) or having a radical shift in thought, which is what happened to me.

    I agree with Jay that they are to be pitied. I hope God feels the same and grants them mercy.

  5. bradstanford says:

    Right before reading this post, I read this:
    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/01/w

    (Seth is more in touch with trends than almost anyone else, specifically when it comes to business.)

    The "disdain for people who are different" Dwayne refers to us the main reason that the CofC is dying. You don't have to sell out your beliefs to accept people with grace and humility. But the CofC is built on uniformity, so by default, a true CofC has to exclude the different, or else be in danger of Hell. Crazy, but true.

    If the conservative churches have declared "change" as their enemy, then they have declared in their own words the end of their own group. Especially in the 20 years after a turn of the century, there is major technological and social upheaval, aka, change. These changes come into the church like it or not, as we can see from, pews, song books, song leaders, suits, ties, communion plates, and all the other things that the first century church did not have, but the conservative, "we're just like the first century" Churches of Christ™ do. So leaders need to be focused on how to harness the coming changes to the glory of God, and for the furtherance of the Kingdom.

    The time for GraceConversation style dialog is past. It is better to focus on saving the hundreds of living injured, rather than trying to revive the one corpse.

  6. Larry Short says:

    Thanks James, I now have hope for a new year! If a true conservative keeps silent where the Bible is silent. we are in good shape. If only Rush could do this in politics.

  7. Frank says:

    Many will agree that the mindset and the approach described in this post are inconsistent and that they add up to fossilization.

    But if not that, then what should Churches of Christ be and do? What is worth retaining and why? I beleive that our biggest challenges are related to self-definition and charting a positive course.

  8. Jay Guin says:

    Frank,

    Those are deeply insightful questions. We really need to talk about where we go from here. Any ideas on what our self-definition and course should be?

  9. How do we respect this segment of the church and continue to grow in the grace God intends? I have lived much of my life around those who hold to this thinking. I know they are quite sincere in what is believed. I do not want to see division with these brethren. Unfortunately I see myself growing further from this mindset everyday. Are there any answers to the division I fear is coming?

  10. James says:

    Larry, we say it, and I wish we would truly do it. I'd bet +80% of our weaknesses as a fellowship come from lack of follow through on this one thing.

    As to conservatives = Rush, that's a whole other topic. I wasn't speaking of the political right, but conservatives in the theological realm. The definition I go by is worded well in "The Crux of the Matter": "Conservative: someone who respects the Bible's authoriy, letting it speak on its own terms (even to correct traditional beliefs and practices)."

    Unfortunately, not all who are labeled "conservative" fit that definition. People are pretty fast and loose with the term, just as they are with "liberal" which CotM defines as: "someone who denies the authority or accuracy of Scripture, emphasizing the ability of human reason to discover truth on its own."

    Childers, Foster, and Reese. The Crux of the Matter. Abilene: ACU Press 2002. 178

  11. bradstanford says:

    "Are there any answers to the division I fear is coming?" – Dell

    Jesus told us that there would be such divisions because of Him. When the truth of God takes hold of a person, and they remove the snares so they can take off running the race as if they want to win it, it's going to cause division. And, the enemy is going to try even harder to snare you again – sometimes in the form of the people you love, telling you that you have fallen away for not running like they run.

    Do not seek to avoid the conflict, for you would be avoiding places where God is. Instead, dress yourself in the armor of God and stand firm, not in doctrines, but in God's freedom. It was for freedom, that He set us free, after all.

  12. bradstanford says:

    "Any ideas on what our self-definition and course should be?" – Jay

    The course is simple: do what Jesus says to do. While the main reason people have left the CofC has been because of the push for uniformity, the underlying reason for that push is because people placed their salvational trust in a mechanism rather than a Person. The solution is to return to the person – Jesus – through obedience:

    1. Go
    …into your homes, your workplaces, your churches, cities, and countries.

    2. Preach the Gospel
    …with your speech, your charity, your compassion, and in the way you treat both your family and strangers. Be a sold-out servant for Jesus (see #3), and never look back.

    3. Make disciples
    …because of God's great love, forget your TV shows, your vacations, your lifelong dreams, and give them to the poor – those who are not rich with the wealth of having Jesus as their savior. Pour your heart into people. Spend your time, your money, your sweat, and your tears on them. This is not a zero-sum game. If you give, God will continue to supply you with more to give away. You will become a conduit, rather than a safety deposit box. There's no limit to what can be pushed through a conduit, but there is a limit to what can be stuffed in a box.

    4. Immerse them
    …into water, the Spirit, and community, by the authority of Jesus. If you are lacking in any of these, get discipled yourself so you can pass it on to those you pour into. These are the three legs of the body life "stool". Without these three in balance, the stool won't stand, and it will be unusable. In harmony, they will feed each other – immersion brings the Spirit, the Spirit brings community, the community brings people to be immersed. One continuous love circle!

    Go; preach using living (and daily) object lessons; make disciples by forgetting about yourself; and immerse your disciples in an experience they will never want to leave. This is the course set by the Lord.

    If it worked so well in antiquity that we have been able to hear the gospel in the 20th/21st centuries, then let us once again find ourselves defined by it. In doing so, no one will have to put "Church Of Christ" on the sign. Everyone in that city will know who that church belongs to.

  13. Larry Short says:

    James, I understood conservative religion.
    Jay and Frank, let me propose things to keep, and let go.
    Must not make up laws of silence to prohibit things not mentioned by revelation. Must fellowship those with variation on allowable choice. (I realize some define every practice as a salvation issue.)
    Still can prefer practices for reason not scripture. For example, acapella singing. I prefer simplicity in worship. I prefer to skip the orchestra, band, chorus, muti-media presentation. I like us to worship together not be an audience at a concert. (I admit preaching is not very together, unless we use Amens.)
    I want us to us the first century practices that are practical. I want us to immerse, commune often. I would like the love feast to be retried. Maybe we should learn to sing a few Psalms.
    I think class attendence is dying in the modern church. Mega churches are built on elaborate worship services and few classes. I see most of Jesus' teaching in small group discussions. Trend away from this is unhealthly.
    Anyway these are to begin the discussion. I want us to be Jesus' church, respecting His word (true conservatism) and our flavor for good reasons like us together rather than concert attendees.

  14. Anonymous says:

    “The solution is to return to the person – Jesus – through obedience”

    Then how about preaching the gospel. God knows who obeys the gospel, He knows who has genuine faith that Jesus paid the penalty of our sins a debt we can never pay, Romans 10:16 “But they have not all obeyed the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 1:17 “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.”

    Throughout the Bible, every dispensation, salvation is offered through the Messiah, salvation is given by God. Every believer in the Hebrew Scriptures was given eternal salvation through Christ’s blood. People don’t understand that all who have salvation are those who trust the Lord to be their Savior. David performed righteous acts, he also committed many sins, he understood the symbols, David understood that his salvation was not something he can merit, he knew that his salvation came from the Lord alone, he looked forward to the same Messiah we look back to. My faith rests on the Lord. The Lord alone is my salvation nothing else.

  15. Ray Downen says:

    Those who fear change might well note the many changes during the apostolic age. At first all disciples shared everything. Those who had gave if they chose to. Those who needed took if they would. They ate together, making sure that none were neglected in the distribution of food. They ALL sought to learn more and more about Jesus–what He did and what He taught. Daily they learned and prayed and studied and shared together.

    They were all Jews. Those who were added to the church feared God. Each had turned away from sin and had been buried in water as Jesus taught. Later they learned to accept Gentiles into their family of faith.

    Later some had to be encouraged to work and earn their own living. Where apostles were in short supply, they had to learn to teach and edify one another. Changes came even during the apostolic age.

    Christians either welcomed the change or resisted. Paul advised that those who resisted good changes should be treated as unbelievers. Those who persisted in resisting the Holy Spirit's mandates for change were enemies of God.

    The letters Jesus sent by John to seven churches of "Asia" might well give cause to think by those who have settled on particular ways of teaching and practice. Bad changes should be resisted. Good changes should be welcomed and embraced. All should be done to honor Jesus rather than our "fathers in the faith." Any who suppose Jesus and His apostles taught by silence are obviously wrong.

  16. Hank says:

    "Bad changes should be resisted. Good changes should be welcomed and embraced."

    I agree with above sentiment from "anonymous."

  17. Hank says:

    My bad, the qoute was not from "anonymous" but, from Ray.

  18. We could pray for those who consider us enemies. We could bless those who persecute us, blessing and not cursing. We could forgive, and not judge.

    I consider myself a basically loving person. But these things I am called to do for those who believe but wrest scripture to fit their own agendas are the very hardest for me to do.

  19. John Grant says:

    Thank you Ray!

    Great post!!!!

  20. bradstanford says:

    “The solution is to return to the person – Jesus – through obedience” -Brad

    "Then how about preaching the gospel." – Anonymous

    "2. Preach the Gospel
    …with your speech, your charity, your compassion, and in the way you treat both your family and strangers. Be a sold-out servant for Jesus (see #3), and never look back."
    – from Brad's previous post, prior to Anonymous

  21. Jay Guin says:

    Dell asked,

    How do we respect this segment of the church and continue to grow in the grace God intends? … Are there any answers to the division I fear is coming?

    These are great questions. While I don't believe we can persuade all among the more conservative Churches, I do believe there are hundreds of thousands who would run toward God's grace if it were ever presented to them.

    Therefore, it's premature to give up on our conservative brothers and sisters. Rather, we need to search out ways of getting the word to them.

    The conservative periodicals and blogs are going to filter and distort the progressive message. We will not be given a platform to state our case at FHU or the schools of preaching.

    The solution is therefore word of mouth and the internet. The powers that be can't keep us from studying the Bible with our conservative brothers and sisters over breakfast or across the World Wide Web. And the truth will prevail if only it's presented.

  22. nick gill says:

    Patrick Mead suggests that a healthier slogan on Biblical authority might be: "Where the Bible speaks, we are silent, and where the Bible is silent, we speak."

    When the Bible speaks to a subject, its testimony is authoritative. We might interact with it, but we have no words to add to it.

    But where the Bible is silent on a matter, we are free to speak, so long as we do not bind our words on others.

  23. todd says:

    Been away for a bit, moving and all.

    At what point do we realize that those who hold so firmly to the traditions of the fathers are becoming or have become those who teach "another gospel" and those with whom we should not even eat? We are to be kind and loving to wayward sheep but stand firmly and if need be harshly against those who would enslave God's children. The apostles make this clear in many places in the scriptures.

    I have watched and read these developments for the past twenty years – since Mr. Music wrote his grand tome on what was approved and what was not – "Behold the Pattern." Since that time the traditionalist viewpoint has hardened even further and scriptures have been twisted more and more to deny the freedoms God has granted in Christ. It has gotten to the point that discussion is no longer productive. Perhaps it is reaching the point where further discussion is sinful as encouraging further apostacy on the traditionalist side.

  24. Frank B. says:

    Nick, that's classic Patrick Mead. What a great statement.

    Regarding what to retain and what to relegate to the trash heap. I'll start safe: Biblical authority is a keeper. Now precarious: But how is the Bible to be viewed as a whole and how are the specifics of Scripture to be handled by the church? In a world of feminists, de-constructionists, post-modernists, etc. etc., it seems like Campbell's idea about a Common Sense reading of Scripture is out the window, yes? There's the interpretive question that represents a bit of an impasse for us. Say what you want to about old paradigms. At least they were, well, . . . paradigmatic. Who's doing the best work on this one?

    Next, the mentality and practice of trying to win the denomination war. Trash it. The war's over. Remember the Gilligan's Island episode where they encounter a Japanese submariner who thinks that WW2 is still on? Every CofC leader should watch that one. And yes, I'm very good-rooking! (Watch the show).

  25. Jay Guin says:

    Todd,

    I can appreciate your frustration. But I don't see how continued discussion encourages apostasy. It's not as though continued discussion of our disagreement somehow approves the views of those we are talking to. And I've never known withdrawal from dialogue to persuade anyone of anything.

    I will discuss these issues so long as there's a chance of persuading someone. I don't think that everyone is called to do that. I just think that's what I need to do.

    Some of us have a mission to our fellow Church of Christ members to share with them what we've learned, but we have a much larger mission to the many more lost people who've never even heard of Jesus. We can't spend all our energies on the Churches of Christ, and we can't continue to define ourselves by who we are not.

  26. Jay Guin says:

    Frank B —

    A Gilligan's Island theology? You should write a small group study guide. It'll sell!

  27. Royce Ogle says:

    Whatever the lable given by those who don't approve of us. Whatever the sign on the building where we worship. Unless other believers of a different stripe, and the watching world about us know us as people who love people unconditionally. And, unless they know us as people who make much of Jesus and his love for sinners we will have failed in the end to be what God would have us become.

    Our message, our mission, and our methods must be like that of Jesus, to redeem the whole man (person) by showing and telling the good news about Jesus' worth and work to everyone possible.

    The "church of Christ" and "The Restoration Movement" have become idols to many of our people. These subjects often get top billing and sadly the glory of God and his agenda are delegated to some lower rank.

    Royce Ogle

  28. Don Grabski says:

    What is the "progressive message" vs the Bible messasge?

  29. Pingback: Replanting a Denomination: In Reply to Greg « One In Jesus.info

  30. Rod Cantrell says:

    Do you have an on line libary of subjects you have covered over the years that I can look at ? Need something on catholicism.

  31. Jay Guin says:

    Rod,

    On the left side of the screen is a section labeled "Pages." The Pages form an index to the site. But I've never attempted a general discussion of Catholicism — although I've occasionally mentioned a thing or two about them. You can also use the search feature.

  32. Ray Downen says:

    It's good to see some taking an interest in restoring unity. My experience is that some in Churches of Christ agree with the Spiritual Sword's legalism. It even affects some young people. If only older folks were fooled into accepting human laws as being from God, time would cure our problems. But it's not that simple. So the right answer is love, as always. We must love the legalists even while we hate the legalism. And gradually more and more will be won to freedom in Christ. How encouraging is the example of the Richland Hills church and its leadership. What great good is being done by the e-mail ministries of Edward Fudge, Al Maxey and others who call for love to dominate our words and deeds. And the publishing ministry of Victor Knowles' ONE BODY is reaching many, just as is this web site. Good for Jay Guin!

  33. Ray Downen says:

    I should have also mentioned the influence of the annual TULSA WORKSHOP, which will bring together many this March 24-27. I graduated from Ozark Christian College, which stands for Bible truth and continuing love for brothers. I'll be attending a college-sponsored gathering here in Joplin, Missouri February 22-24 where the topic of each major address will be the revelation given through John. One of the speakers again this year is Jeff Walling. He's encouraging! Fellowship is good. Acts 2:42 suggests that the early church did things together. That's a good way to learn from others and help others grow also.

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