The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: A Model for the Post-Denominational World

unity-and-peace-thumb1019384This article in Christianity Today is one of the most exciting things I’ve read (other than the Bible) in a very long time. The churches — all denominations — in Buenos Aires, Argentina are uniting to do evangelism, do benevolence — even to send missionaries.

The denominations are dying. This is the model for how to do church in the 21st Century.

I’ve been talking about this idea for a while.

Regarding the Organization of the First Century Church

Replanting a Denomination: Answering Some Questions, Part 2

The idea here is for all the churches in town to form a coalition that allows the churches in a community to be the church in that community. As the leaders of the Buenos Aires churches discovered, it’s biblical.

Competition among churches, envy of sister congregations, and division are not.


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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12 Responses to The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: A Model for the Post-Denominational World

  1. Ray Downen says:

    For convinced Christians in towns like Joplin, Missouri it would be impossible for us to unite as suggested. Our ideas about how to become a Christian are so divergent that no hired voice could articulate them in a way pleasing to all of us. Only if all churches had no distinctive beliefs would it work to work and assemble together. Yes, unity is right. But Christian unity must be a union of Christians.

    One church (at least) in town would insist on using only one cup (with handles) when the church was assembled and partakingof a Lord's Supper ritual. Most would resist, for sanitary reasons. One church in town would demand that no musical instrument be heard during assemblies, but they would want singing to be enjoyed by all. Many love music and would not sit still for an anti-instrument "church."

    Some like it cold. Some like it hot. Services I mean. We have some who are pleased with two or three-hour long assemblies. Others prefer less than one hour. How should we please all? Some want "tongues" during the meeting. Others are repelled by any such activity. No, it might be right for one city in Brazil. I doubt there's even one city or town in Missouri which would sit still for combining all the churches in the city into one fellowship.

    The two Disciple churches in Joplin now have women preachers. Would they gladly give up their preachers in order to have unity? Most church members would not choose to have a woman as their "leader." And contemporary churches normally have one dominant "leader."

    The ideal is "one body" per neighborhood. Cities are an accumulation of neighborhoods. If the goal were to unite each neighborhood, there's some possibility it might work sometimes. But Buenos Aires is a large city. That the churches there would consider working together is commendable indeed. We would do well to pray that they might succeed in being united!

  2. Pastor Mike says:

    It would be a huge step in the right direction for churches to simply acknowledge that other churches with different interpretations of scripture are nonetheless churches. I can understand where some don't want instrumental music but some do and some allow women preachers but others don't and some prefer a common cup while some prefer individual while others use intinction and some – – – – – . But can we allow that they are still part of the Body of Christ? Doing so would certainly be a major boost to our witness to a dying world. What are the absolute basics that churches should be able to agree on?

  3. One Cup Man says:

    Christians can retain their own assembly practices, one cup, multi-cups, classes, no classes, instruments etc. and cooperate with oneanother. We can work with others without giving up our convictions regarding the assembly.

  4. Steve says:

    If someone believes they are a Christian, then they are a Christian. They may have many misconceptions and misunderstandings and fall short of following through with their commitment. But that applies to everyone, myself included. Banding together to do good works despite some differences in belief and style? Great idea!

  5. Jay Guin says:

    Ray,

    While the congregations couldn't merge into a single weekly service, they could unite for purposes of serving the community — of being Jesus to the community. And their leaders could surely share a meal, pray as one, and plan a campaign for the redemption of Joplin — working together to that end.

    Buenos Aires has all the problems you mentioned, but they've managed to pull it off. They don't all meet in the same building for Sunday worship, but they work together for the cause of Jesus.

  6. Tom Forrester says:

    C’mon Jay. Unity? Joining with people who only think they are Christians in order to reach our communities? Love between people of different churches? Let’s get real here. We all know that real agape love is to point out the error in others. That’s our calling. Matt 25:34-46 was first century only and passed with the spiritual gifts. It’s more important that we hold the right doctrine than the right practice and the work of a true Christian is to guard the truth. We’re not going to compromise it by associating ourselves with people who are workers of iniquity and refuse to understand the truth. Let those schmucks go out into the community. Our job is to straighten them out. We’re not interested in posts about unity and fellowship – let’s get with the program and move on to perfection. Anybody ready for a discussion on whether it’s scriptural to have song leaders and songbooks? How about whether or not we can have the announcements after opening prayer since it’s not one of the worship steps? Time to move on to some real meat.

  7. Ray Downen says:

    Steve opines, "If someone believes they are a Christian, then they are a Christian."

    If I believe I'm a Volkswagon Beatle, will that make me one? No, Nor will just thinking so create a born-again Christian. Jesus explains how anyone can be born again by speaking through His apostle Peter as recorded in Acts 2:38. Sinners MUST repent, which involves stopping selfishness and now giving allegiance to Jesus as Lord. And sinners MUST be baptized. Why? Simply because that's how Jesus says it's done! If He is Lord, then we do things HIS way rather than our own.

    All Christians should love one another, and it's the Lord's plan that we should form ONE body of believers despite differing preferences. Some of us have made our preferences into laws we feel all Christians must obey. But did Jesus ask us to make laws? No, He asked us to love one another and accept one another despite differing opinions.

    We do well to not create laws based on what Jesus did NOT say. We have no right to create even ONE law, let alone several. In Churches of Christ, the creating starts with an anti-instrument law, but where it'll stop no one knows. It's gone on to cups, classes, support of good works, and a multitude of opinions which some seek to force others to hold.

    As for church organization, we do well to resist forming extra-scriptural organizations to replace the Lord's church. But many para-church organizations are doing good work beside the church, not attempting to replace churches, but to help get the good works done. So can we join with other Christians in doing good works? Why not?

    Jay says some in a South American capitol have agreed to work together to do some good works. I declare that working together is good and is not bad. If we recognize that others share our desire to do good works, we are not thereby claiming that they are perfect people doing perfect things, we are agreeing that the work needs done and it's good to have help doing it.

    Shall we call unbaptized believers brothers? Well, if they are brothers in faith in Jesus, yes, they're our brothers. It won't adversely affect our beliefs to recognize that some are seeking to do good works in the name of Jesus even though they are not "one of us." If we can work with others to accomplish what we believe the Lord wants done, surely we should do so gladly. If their goals differ greatly from ours, we do well to refrain from joining. But our goals should not be sectarian as they sometimes have been. Our goal is to please Jesus and obey Jesus who calls for us to work with all others of like faith.

    Our "faith" should be based on what the Bible does say, not at all on what the Bible does NOT say. The barrier between many Church of Christ adherents and other Christians is a demand that unscriptural "laws" must be obeyed in order to have fellowship.

  8. Jay Guin says:

    Ray,

    I entirely agree that it takes more than believing oneself to be a Christian. Only those with faith (in the Johannine/Pauline sense) are saved.

  9. Ray Downen says:

    You, Jay, write:

    Author: Jay Guin
    Comment:
    Ray, I entirely agree that it takes more than believing oneself to be a Christian. Only those with faith (in the Johannine/Pauline sense) are saved.

    So you repeat your conviction that faith alone saves. Your redefinition of faith of course. Which you will say INCLUDES obedience. But in fact the word faith does NOT include obedience. James uses the word correctly and points out that faith alone is of no value to anyone.

    You seem to be sure that every time inspired writers speak of salvation by faith, they really meant to say "faith alone." Yet not once did they do so! Yet that is exactly what you say–clearly, no chance for denial. Everyone who has this "faith" is saved. Yet what the inspired writers say does not make faith all it takes to save from sin. What is clear is that without faith it is impossible to please God. That's not in question!

    I'd love to hear you state your acceptance of the truth that entry into Christ's kingdom comes by Peter's formula, "Repent and be baptized . . ." That's with no attempt to redefine baptism as something other than the immersion in water of which Peter was speaking.

    Jay, you're making clear that you do not accept as true that baptism brings sinners INTO Christ as Paul affirms, and that baptism in water is an act which saves as Peter says it is. Am I hearing you rightly? Have we wrongly supposed you were encouraging Christians to be MORE faithful to Jesus? If your "better way" is a way apart from truth, it won't be a right way!

  10. Jay Guin says:

    I just stumbled across this Barton W. Stone from Al Maxey —

    Among the leaders of the so-called Restoration Movement in America, this same irreconcilable conflict between unity of Spirit and uniformity of separatists was often noted. For example, Barton W. Stone, in an article entitled "Revivals of Religion" in The Christian Messenger (vol. 5, no. 7, July 1831), in which he wrote about the beauty of spiritual renewal and revival among the people of God, and the threat of the spirit of sectarianism against it, made the following observations:

    * "I saw saints of every name mingling together, and together offering their sacrifices of prayer and praise in the fire of love to their common Father and Redeemer, and together surrounding the table of their Lord. Here was unity indeed — not in opinions, but in the Spirit. I saw brotherly kindness, meekness, gentleness, obedience, all the divine graces, growing and abounding among the saints of God. The Bible was read with intense desire to find the Truth. This I call revival. This I call the work of God.

    * "Philosophers, dogmatists, and formalists, who were for measuring religion according to their own rule, were generally opposers of this revival. The great obstruction to this revival was the spirit of sectarianism, which like a restless demon, infected and destroyed the glorious work, wherever it came. Never can this spirit and the spirit of Christ amalgamate. As much opposed as darkness and light — as fire and water — are they.

    * "I saw Christians of all denominations lovingly united in worship, even in the breaking of bread at the Lord's table. In such work I will rejoice. Yet I have my fears that the demon of partyism will check and destroy it. Yet Christianity has prevailed so far as to have enlisted under her banners many who cannot and will not be drawn into the vortex of sectarianism, and who will remain free, and preach reformation to the sects in bondage."
    http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx29.htm

  11. Brethren, unity should be based on principles. Basic principles are that one must first hrer the gospel, believe, repent, agree the Jesus is the son of God and be immersed in water once. For christians to be united, they must all believe in these basic principles, you cannot expect a Toyota part to replace a Ford part.

  12. Pastor Mike says:

    Xolani,
    There are groups of Christians who choose not to observe sacraments, such as The Salvation Army and I believe, the Amish. As i have many friends in both groups, and their faith, knowledge of Scripture and pursuit of holiness shames/inspires me, I can not make proper sacramental theology one of the pillars for some level of unity.

    This raises a question in my mind. When we speak of the unity of believers, it seems that some fear we are talking about blending all the groups of christians into one large group, kind of like taking one of my favorite meals (Lasagna, broccoli and cheese, garlic bread, salad and rhubarb pie) and running it through a blender. Yuk! Part of what could be the beauty of the body of Christ is that we each maintain our own flavors, but combine them in a way that enhances each for the betterment of the whole. Instead, we seem to have broccoli telling the lasagna, bread, and pie that because they are not suffiently healthy, they are not really food and worth only of the garbage bin. Frankly, I like broccoli, but if it takes that attitude, I'll skip it.

    I think the unity of believers has more to do with allowing that while others interpret Scripture differently in some places, we all "serve a Risen Savior Whose in the world today.

    I'm not suggesting some sort of universaism, nor should I be interpreted as endorsing some sort of idea that the bible can mean whatever you want it to mean. I am suggesting that while it is good for us to meet with others of like mind on Sunday morning, we do our Lord no favors as members of His body by declaring all who disagree with our brand are hell bound.

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