The Progressive Churches of Christ: Your Story

progressiveReader and frequent commenter Price wrote,

Your PERSONAL story of how The Story has impacted your is far more interesting and far more compelling …

You say you taught that divorce can only happen according to scripture when sexual compromise happens … until your daughter was getting beat up regularly … Tell me about that.

You say miracles ceased … until you saw it with your own eyes … Tell me about that.

You say that you went to a service where they used instruments and the people were joyful at times, solemn at times, and there was no great earthquake … Tell me about that.

Thank you for the help with my kids so I can work … Tell me why you started this ministry …

At least that’s how I see it … Don’t tell me about what happened 2,000 years ago unless you can tell me how it’s had an impact in your life …

Exactly. But we don’t do this in the Churches of Christ. Let me explain why. Continue reading

Posted in Progressive Churches of Christ, Uncategorized | 45 Comments

Progressive Churches of Christ: Resolving the Tension, Part 4.3

progressiveI want to dig a little deeper into the bigger, better gospel story that Mark Love presented in his blog. Fortunately, Mark has already done that for me, and all I have to do is cut and paste from his insights.

The first step is to recognize the extreme individuality of American evangelical Christianity — with the Churches of Christ being no exception.

When we move into a new town, we church “shop” to find the best fit for us. We ask whether we are being “fed” by the preaching. We look for great teen and children’s programs. What we rarely look for is a church that will challenge us to give up our entire worldview and live in a new way — although that sounds suspiciously like what Jesus did.

We see the goal of Christianity as being the eternal happiness of the individual. I make the choices that allow me to go to heaven rather than hell. I want a church that helps me make those choices so that, in the end, I am saved. It’s all about me. Continue reading

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Progressive Churches of Christ: Resolving the Tension, Part 4.2

progressiveNow, to make the point made in yesterday’s post, I need to quote Mark Love, because he’s a better storyteller than I am —

Let me start, though, with a scene from last night at Starbucks. I was sitting uncomfortably close (within my introvert perimeter) to a young couple having a very passionate conversation about God. She was a winsome evangelical. He was a skeptical something-or-other. She was giving this her all, because it seemed to me, they were serious about each other, but she could only marry a Christian. This was an all-or-nothing moment for her and she was pulling out all the stops. And she was getting creamed.

She was not getting creamed because she lacked the intellectual ability or because he was a better debater. She was getting creamed because she had a story that’s tough to defend. It wasn’t just that he disagreed with her. He was offended by her view of God.

Her story was predictable. All of us are sinners, and it takes only one to make us unacceptable to God. And there’s hell to pay, literally. God can’t simply forgive us our mistakes. He has to have a victim before he can forgive, a blood sacrifice. So, he sends his own son to die for us, to appease his otherwise unappeasable wrath. Continue reading

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Progressive Churches of Christ: Resolving the Tension, Part 4.1

progressiveI’m not an expert on story theory, but perhaps I can explain myself clearly enough not to waste your time.

We define ourselves by our stories. By “stories” I mean metanarratives, framing stories, and such like. These stories may or may not be true, but we act as though they are true — sometimes contrary to all evidence.

For example, we tell our children that happiness is found in a college education, a career, a family, children, and a large retirement fund. Which sounds really good. What we ignore is that there are plenty of very happy people with none of those things. Evidently, there are other paths to happiness — but we aren’t about to share those other paths with our kids. Continue reading

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Millennial Harbinger Available on Google Play Books

A. CampbellAlexander Campbell’s highly influential periodical The Millennial Harbinger is available for free on Google Play Books. Once added to your virtual library, the volumes will available on just about any device you can connect to the Internet. And did I mention that they’re free? Both Android and iOS devices have Google Play apps available.

It’s a little scary that when I stumbled across this quite by accident, Big Brother Google already knew that this would interest me and offered an immediate free download. I mean, I’m not ashamed of my Restoration Movement interests — not at all — but someone on the West Coast has a database on me that lists me as a buyer of Restoration Movement materials. (I wonder what else they know about me.)

Nonetheless, I leaned into the punch and downloaded every issue of the MH they have. And also the Christian Baptist (Campbell’s earlier publication) and the Campbell – McCalla debate.

It’s late, but I’ll be back to see what other jewels of Restoration Movement history has been made available by Google as I have time.

Readers, if you find anything else of interest to us Restoration Movement fans, please share.

Posted in Bible Study Resources, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Progressive Churches of Christ: Resolving the Tension, Part 3.2

progressive4. The worse thing you can do is to refuse to talk about the issues. The second worse thing you can do is bring up the issues from the pulpit.

Talk about this stuff in the classrooms. When the preacher launches into a sermon series on these topics, no one has the chance to respond. No one can ask questions. No one can offer what they consider counter-arguments. There is no dialogue — and these topics require fleshing out face to face in dialogue — slowly and carefully.

5. People fill gaps in their knowledge with their fears. Always. Continue reading

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Progressive Churches of Christ: Resolving the Tension, Part 3.1

progressiveThe sad truth is that Churches of Christ have certain inherent disadvantages when it comes to evangelism in today’s world.

First, we’ve been trained to “convert” the lost from among our denominational neighbors. When we realize that many of our neighbors are actually as saved as we are, we have to throw our old notes and tracts away.

Second, in many parts of the country, the Church of Christ denomination has a dreadful reputation as considering everyone else damned and being generally cantankerous and judgmental. Therefore, the name of the congregation makes evangelism more difficult.

Third, we live in an age in which music is a vital part of culture, and our music is out of step with the culture. In fact, we get upset when anyone attempts to bring in current musical styles. I’m sorry: the “lack of authority” argument does not fly and leaves potential converts questioning our rationality. Continue reading

Posted in Progressive Churches of Christ, Uncategorized | 26 Comments

Progressive Churches of Christ: Resolving the Tension, Part 2

progressiveWe come now to a challenging turn in the road. Imagine a Church of Christ that is well on the road away from sectarianism (the idea that everyone else is damned) and toward a healthy understanding of the Spirit and grace, but which insists on retaining its Church of Christ identity by being exclusively a cappella, keeping the denominational name, having no praise team, limiting the role of women, and engaging in fellowship only with other Churches of Christ.

There is a sense in which this congregation is doing extremely positive things for which it can be justly proud. It’s teaching a healthier gospel, a healthier doctrine of the Spirit, and doing many good works in the community. And it’s growing — but almost entirely by being a better Church of Christ and so attracting many Church of Christ transfers.

I’m not at all happy to say this, but my view is that the growth will end once this church has finished pulling dissatisfied members from the orbits of surrounding Churches of Christ. Someone will notice that baptisms are almost entirely the children of existing members. And the leadership will realize that to be evangelistically effective in today’s culture, the church cannot be a better but nonetheless sectarian Church of Christ. Continue reading

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Progressive Churches of Christ: The Unresolved Tension, Part 1

progressiveReader tb submitted this excellent, thoughtful comment:

Thank you for your thought-provoking comments. Being somewhere between comfortable to political range myself, I might suggest some revision of your categories.

There is a larger group of churches than you perhaps realize that is not still hanging onto the traditional banners, who are reevaluating steps of salvation within the light of grace/faith, and who don’t see GA or FHU as the bulwark of the brotherhood. The Holy Spirit is an active part of our congregational preaching/ teaching and slowly becoming a part of inner-member dialogue. We do not use instruments, have group-led worship, or women in formal leadership roles — although many women have taken on informal roles in some areas. Continue reading

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The Progressive Churches of Christ: Keith Huey’s Diagnosis, Part 2

progressiveIdentity

Huey writes,

In the past few years, the Churches of Christ have been blessed with some serious reflections regarding the future. In Things Unseen, Allen is primarily concerned about our modernist addictions, and, as we have seen, he wonders especially about our view of the Spirit. Other authors, however, have emphasized different issues: for instance, in The Crux of the Matter, Jeff Childers, Doug Foster, and Jack Reese are hoping that we can rise above our traditional isolationism. In Reclaiming a Heritage, Richard Hughes challenges us to develop a countercultural witness, and to reverse our progress toward the orbit of American Evangelicalism. Continue reading

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