The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: Part 9, A New Restorationism

cooperation.jpgIt’s just so easy, and facile, to say the Restoration Movement has run its course and we need to do something else now. If that were entirely true, why aren’t we all Baptists or Methodists or something else? Why are we still Churches of Christ?

Isn’t there anything about the Restoration Movement that’s worth preserving? And if we can capture the good, maybe we can give some purpose to the last two centuries. Surely it happened for a reason. Surely there’s something that’s worth keeping!

I think there’s quite a lot, actually. And so, I’d like to propose a new Restorationism built on the good we’ve inherited from our spiritual ancestors.

Without trying to be comprehensive, I’d say at least — Continue reading

The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: Part 8, Predictions

cooperation.jpgOnly God knows the future, and he’s not shared it with me. But here’s my best guess. And it’s part of why I’m so unhappy with how we progressives are acting.

This is, of course, the unless-something-happens-to-fix-it version.

* Many conservative churches will decline and die. It’s happening now. The trend will accelerate as the WWII generation dies out. The Baby Boomers are, by and large, leaving.

* Countless children who grow up in these churches, repulsed by the legalism, will leave Christ altogether. That’s been happening for years. It’ll get worse.

* Some conservative churches will hold it together by virtue of excellent preaching and programs, and a moderated works theology. They’ll support the conservative Church institutions. Continue reading

The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: Part 7, On Being Held Back by Forgotten Fights

cooperation.jpgNow, one of the biggest reasons we don’t know how to cooperate to accomplish truly large tasks, such as missions, church planting, and publishing Sunday school literature, is the old “missionary society” controversy. A missionary society is just a nonprofit organization through which several congregations cooperate to send missionaries.

When we split over instrumental music in 1906, we also split over societies. It was a mistake. We need to get over it.

Most of us never even heard of the controversy, but it has affected how we think of “church.” We think nearly exclusively at the congregational level. It doesn’t even occur to us to think at a denominational level. Continue reading

The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: Part 6, Forgetting Who We Are

cooperation.jpg* The progressives are moving so rapidly into a generic evangelicalism that we may lose the Godly parts of our Restoration Movement heritage. We have much to contribute to the evangelical mainstream — but not if we forget who we are.

We’ll consider what we have to contribute in a later post. The goal here is just to argue that we are losing our group identity (for good or bad). Now remember: we’re looking 20 or 30 years ahead. This isn’t going to happen this year. Here’s the evidence —

* First, many progressive Churches have already changed names, often becoming a “community church” or “Family of God.” Some have adopted entirely individualistic names. Continue reading

The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: Part 5, Leaving the Conservatives Behind

cooperation.jpg* The progressives have largely turned our backs on the conservatives, not creating the literature or institutions necessary to bring more conservatives into the progressive fold.

Let’s suppose that a group of progressive thought leaders got together to develop a strategy for helping as many conservatives escape legalism as possible. What would they do?

Well, wouldn’t they invite thought leaders among the conservatives to debate us? I don’t mean old style, Foy Wallace Jr.-type hateful debates. I mean a civil discussion. Maybe like the opposing editorials you often see in USA Today. Wouldn’t it be helpful if the Christian Chronicle gave half a page to each side each month to work through the issues? Continue reading