The 2015 Churches of Christ in the United States

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21st Century Christian has just published the 2015 edition of The Churches of Christ in the United States. The book is not yet available on Amazon.com. (The most recent version on Amazon is from 2012.) It’s not available in Kindle format.

The website for the book includes a free download of state-by-state statistics. I compared these stats with some stats earlier reported here, resulting in the above chart. Continue reading

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Worship: A Summary

prostrationWe need to pause a bit to summarize.

* God created the heavens and earth as a temple in which to rest.

* Adam and Eve were created to be images of God, displaying his nature in the midst of his temple.

* Adam and Eve were also created to be priests of God in his temple

* Today, the church, as the body of Jesus, is the temple of God.

* Christians are being transformed by God’s Spirit into the image of Jesus, who is the image of God. We Christians are charged to display the nature of Jesus in his temple, the church. We are also created to be priests in the body of Christ — a priesthood of believers.

* At the end of time, the Creation and the Church will be one — one temple, with all of humanity fully transformed into the image of God/Christ. Continue reading

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David Crowder: “Here’s My Heart, Lord”

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Worship: On How to Die for Jesus

prostrationWe need to return to Rom 12:1 —

(Rom 12:1 ESV) I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Perhaps because of the verse numbers and the paragraphing of each verse, we tend to read the scriptures as a collection of proverbs rather than as a logical progression from thought to thought. As a result, we rarely recognize that Rom 12:1 is the theme sentence for what follows — all the way into chapter 15. And so it’s appropriate to read the next few chapters of Romans as an expansion on the overall theme: how to present our bodies as living sacrifices.

(Rom 12:2 ESV)  2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

In a typically Pauline juxtaposition, we offer our bodies by allowing our minds to be transformed! It’s as un-Gnostic as can be, and therefore very Jewish. The Jews did not separate body and mind the way the Greeks did. Continue reading

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Worship: The Pattern

tabernacleTabernacle imagery appears in several places in the New Testament, with the most prominent place being the book of Hebrews. We need to start in chapter 8 —

(Heb 8:5 ESV)  5 The [priests who served at the tabernacle] serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”

Astonishingly, this verse is often cited as a proof text for the idea that Christians should copy a pattern. After all, it’s argued, Moses was told to copy a pattern.

But this argument ignores the entirety of the book of Hebrews. The whole thing. Hebrews is built on a series of arguments that Jesus is superior to the Mosaic system. Hence, the writer is arguing that Moses’ following a pattern is evidence of inferiority and insufficiency. Continue reading

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Dave Crowder: “My Sweet Lord”

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Worship: Worship, with Reverence and Awe

Astonishingly, near the end of Hebrews, the writer makes a contrast between the obsolete, inferior worship at the tabernacle and compares this to the worship of God that takes places in heaven itself.

Therefore, he urges us to “offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Heb 12:28 ESV).

Now, the natural human tendency is to interpret “worship,” “reverence,” and “awe” based on our own culture and experiences. Therefore, where I grew up, this was speaking of being quiet in the church auditorium while awaiting the beginning of the service. And sometimes it referred to teenagers not whispering during church. Continue reading

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David Crowder: “Come Thou Fount”

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Worship: In Spirit and truth

prostrationIt’s been commonplace for centuries to argue that the Samaritans had the right spirit but lacked the truth — because they insisted on worshiping God on Mt. Gerizim, having been excluded from the Temple by the Jews.

(In fact, under the Maccabees, the Jews had destroyed the temple on Mt. Gerizim, so that the Samaritans of Jesus’s day had to worship at the ruins of their temple — one more reason the Samaritans hated the Jews.)

We then argue that the Jews had the truth — worshiping in the right place according to the right rules — but lacked the right “spirit” because they had a legalistic attitude.

This interpretation ignores both the history of the situation and the immediate literary context. After all, the Samaritans rejected all the Old Testament other than the five books of Law — Genesis through Deuteronomy. How is this a right spirit?

And how was Jewish worship “in truth” when the Temple authorities had been corrupted by the Romans and money — so much so that the Essenes preferred to live in the desert rather than offer sacrifices at a Temple where the high priest was not a descendant of Zadok and where the Temple itself was built by Herod, the detested “king of the Jews,” who was an Edomite rather than a descendant of David. Continue reading

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River Whyless: “Pigeon Feathers”

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