The Christian Standard is, I’m sure, the most widely read periodical of the independent Christian Churches. It’s been in continuous publication since 1866 and was founded by Isaac Errett, Alexander Campbell’s son-in-law. I strongly recommend buying a subscription. It’s a great magazine.
While Church of Christ publications are desperately trying to cut costs by going from monthly to bi-monthly (six issues per year) or dropping their print editions altogether, becoming internet magazines to save postage and printing, the Standard publishes weekly, and each issue is a gem. And they seem to be doing well despite also publishing their articles on their website.
Here’s the latest line up —
Elders & Ministers: Speaking the Same Language – Darrel Rowland
Should the Minister Be One of the Elders? – Darrel Rowland
Two Elders Now Ministers Talk About Elder-Minister Relationships – Darrel Rowland
What Elders Don’t Understand About Ministers – Darrel Rowland
What Ministers Don’t Understand About Elders – Darrel Rowland
Changing Signs and Signs of Change in a Tulsa Congregation – Greg Taylor
Beautiful Ugly Scar (Communion Meditation) – Max E. Smith
Meanwhile, the Gospel Advocate, surely the most successful of the Church of Christ theological publications (the Christian Chronicle may have more subscribers, but it’s mainly a news periodical) makes little use of the internet and emphasizes defending the 20th Century way of doing church. The Advocate was founded in 1855 by Tolbert Fanning and William Lipscomb.
By interesting coincidence, both periodicals have just published issues that address the Emerging Church Movement (ECM). As I’ve written quite a bit on the subject here lately, I was intrigued to see what the periodicals have to say.
Well, the Standard is pretty good. The November 23 issue has the first of a two-part article “The Emerging Church and the Stone-Campbell Movement: Some Striking Similarities” (regretably not yet on their website) and an editorial “Emergent, Emerging, and So Forth” saying,
For the most part, however, I am encouraged by the emerging church as it has found expression within the Restoration Movement. These young leaders are not afraid to ask tough questions. They understand the limitations of the language of modernity, as they search for new paradigms that will convey the ageless message of the gospel in these postmodern times. And, I might add, contrary to popular opinion, they are as doggedly interested in truth as the generations before them. …
They seem to take the [Restoration] movement’s existence for granted, such that somehow it should be self-nurturing and self-sustaining. … And they need to understand that a healthy Restoration Movement can play a big part in answering Jesus’ prayer for unity.
The main article notes the desire of emerging church leaders to seek “vintage” Christianity, that is, the earliest forms of Christianity and so enjoy the same sort of growth enjoyed by the early church. Sound familiar?
An undated editorial (I think planned for the upcoming issue) by Mark Taylor says,
And I relish the satisfying fresh air I discover when I encounter principles like some of those espoused in this issue:
“Be the church, don’t just come to church.”
“Participate in worship instead of watching it.”
“Produce, don’t consume—in the church community and amid a needy world.”
I want to lift up such notions, because I believe they could revitalize many congregations. …
Let’s not reject the emerging church just because it may call us to unfamiliar experiences or forms. Instead, let’s figure out where it’s capturing the genius of the first church, and then compare our own congregations to the picture we discover.
Is it possible some leaders outside our movement are restoring aspects of New Testament church life better than we have? If so, let’s not be too proud to learn from them.
Oh, wow … an editor willing to admit that he doesn’t know everything! An editor so confident that he can admit that he can learn from folks outside his own denomination! Good stuff.
Meanwhile the November issue of the Advocate has four articles on the Emerging Church Movement, filling 12 pages. The authors find much to fault and, other than Matthew Morine’s article, find nothing to learn.
Now, the Standard writes from the perspective of traditional churches that have planted many churches across the country, some of which have adopted much (not all) of the ECM’s ideas. The authors know the men who lead these churches. They are thrilled with their effective evangelism and rapid growth but concerned that the new churches won’t be full participants in the Restoration Movement, supporting the Movement’s institutions, and will instead become island congregations — doing a great local work but not joining hands with the Restoration Movement’s more traditional churches to work cooperatively to do even bigger things.
In short, the Standard works in dialogue with those it speaks about, and so the Standard speaks with an authenticity that comes from firsthand knowledge.
Anyway, I say all this to encourage you to subscribe to the Christian Standard — and to flee Advocate. And while I certainly do not endorse everything within the Emerging Church Movement (there is much internal disagreement, so they don’t either!), I do endorse taking the time to read their stuff for yourself. It’ll get you a lot closer to the heart of God than the Advocate.
The Standard, on the other hand, has found a good place within the Restoration Movement: proud of its heritage and yet humble and confident enough to learn from others.