What Must the Church of Christ Do to Be Saved? Chapter 1

Leroy Garrett has written another book: What Must the Church of Christ Do to Be Saved? The paperback is $7.95, but it’s also available in Kindle edition  for $0.99. For $0.99, it’s really an offer you can’t refuse!

It has 20 chapters, offering a 20-step plan toward salvation, and not many more pages. It’s simple, direct, and important.

Now, by “saved” Garrett doesn’t mean that he questions the salvation of the individual members of the Churches of Christ. Rather, he is concerned to save the Churches of Christ as a “viable witness to the Christian faith. What must it do to escape extinction in the decades ahead …?”

And the statistics are unambiguous that the Churches of Christ are in numerical decline in the United States, suffering a net loss of both congregations and adherents (members plus their children).

What’s the solution? Chapter 1 provides step 1:

Confess that we have been wrong about some things.

The sin that we must confess is our patent refusal to have anything to do with other churches and other Christians. In the old days we attacked other churches from the pulpit and mailed out tracts condemning “denominationalism,” implying of course that we were not a denomination. On the radio we “skinned the sects” and we debated anyone who had the nerve to take us on. We soon gained the reputation of believing that we were the only true church, the only faithful Christians, and the only ones going to heaven. We succeeded in causing other believers to resent us if not hate us. …

We are now more subtle, more benign in our sectarianism. These days we may not talk about other churches and believers the way we once did, but we still have nothing to do with them. It is as if other churches did not even exist. If it is a joint Thanksgiving or Easter service, no matter how glorious a service it may be, you can count on the Church of Christ having nothing to do with it. Even if it is a joint community effort involving all the churches, such as a campaign to help the homeless, we will not be in on it. It is now common knowledge that if the Church of Christ does anything it does it alone. The Church of Christ has nothing to do with other churches and other Christians (period!). …

We must change our ways and confess that we have been wrong. We are wrong when we imply that we are the only true church or that we are the only Christians. We are wrong when we suggest that people have to belong to what we call the “Church of Christ” to be saved and go to heaven. We are grievously wrong when we believe that if people are “not of us” they are going to hell. …

In coming clean of our partyism we must strip off what we are so widely noted for — not so much our good works but that we believe it is a sin to use instrumental music. And that is what we must confess, not that we sing acappella, which of course is all right, but in naming something a sin that the Bible does not name a sin, and for making the use of an instrument a test of Christian fellowship.

Garrett is a rare individual in the Churches. He speaks plainly. He says what he means. And he’s right.

My church has been involved in campus ministry to the University of Alabama since 1954. We once had a preacher who sat in a “Bible chair,” teaching Bible at the University (which is quite unconstitutional now, you know). And yet only in the last two years have we become a part of the association of campus ministries — not because we were against such things but because the ministries who were already a part of that association wanted nothing to do with the Churches of Christ.

To be allowed to join, our campus ministers had to do some hard, hard convincing. The other ministers there had run into other Churches of Christ in their careers. They knew what many Churches of Christ believe. It was a hard, hard sell.

You see, they weren’t against “the truth” or “the Lord’s church.” They were opposed to divisiveness, slander, backbiting — all those things the Bible opposes, too, and that the Churches have often been guilty of. It’s time to confess sin, repent, and change.

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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55 Responses to What Must the Church of Christ Do to Be Saved? Chapter 1

  1. John says:

    Though I no longer attend a CoC, haven’t in 20 years, I still have feeling for it. Not because I, in any way, think that it alone teaches truth, but because it is the church of my youth, my first community of faith. I remember the old Gospel Meetings at country congregations, with drop light bulbs and no screens on the windows, everyone fanning themselves with fans supplied by local funeral homes. And I must say, in most places the singing was great. If I were walk into a CoC service this Sunday I would feel like I was 12 years old again.

    But it wouldn’t last. The shallow sermons, topical or expository, the condemnational attitude toward other churches in the Bible classes, the by rote services for fear of deviating from “the pattern, would leave me starving and disconnected from all of God’s offspring.

    Indeed, I have noticed that the situation is better than it used to be. There are more congregations willing to embrace other lovers of Christ and desire to be fed more this week than they were last week. But, they are still few and far between. Still, God bless them. They have a difficult path to travel and I pray their presence will be a healthy, constant influence on the others, who for a while may listen silently, but, hopefully, allow the seed to take root deep within their hearts.

  2. Hank says:

    He’s probably right about the viscious attitude many members/churches have displayed in the past (even currently), but I have a feeling that all churches are declining in nubers today.

    Are the Baptist churches really growing? Doubt it. And what’s their problem?

    Or, what things have the Methodists done wrong that is hurting their numbers. Its not like they are leaving the coc’s in the dust?

    Even Calvarly Chapel and the mega churches are decreasing in numbers today.

    I think the world is just much less into into “church” (the money, staffs, and productions) and more into smaller groups disconnected from the proffesional churches.

    And a lot of people just don’t care about God or his word as much as they used to

  3. The Bible tells us how to be saved.ACTS 2:38. Believe means that we follow Christ in his teaching. I have been a member of the COC for 52 yrs, we follow more traditions than the the word of GOD. We don’t need to know every thing in the Bible,but love God and do his will. We cannot buy our way to Heaven,we cannot get there by warming the pews three times a week. But love others and teach the word of GOD. We have set ourselves up as judge, jury, and executioner. When I teach other I tell them that we are not perfect knowing everything that the Bible says,and teaches but I think we are closer than most others that teach other doctrines. Let us pray for others and not Judge them,God will do that.

  4. hank says:

    Too, I think the coc’s are gonna always be kind despised by all the others as long as they keeping insisting on and defending what the Bible actually says about baptism.

    We all know that the stance against “faith only” salvation has been and still is the greatese cause of hate. At the county fair last year, an old baptist man leading sc,ores of kids in the “sinners prayer” was also passing out tracts whic said, “Acts 2:38 – Satans Favorite Verse”. For real!

  5. John says:

    Hank, yes indeed, there are other religious people who act hatefully. But that is exactly the muck and mire that those who claim to follow Christ must climb out of. And that is done when we open ourselves, totally abandon ourselves, to the mercy and kindness of God; and, when we do, we will not die, we will not disappear.

  6. hank says:

    Yeah John, but I’m not evev saying the others acts hatefully. Maybe were the only ones who have. My initial point is that the above book about how coc’s need to be saved from their decreasing numbers could just as easily be titled “what the baptist church must do to be saved” because they are having the same exact numbers problem. Same for every other church out there today. Its just not right to make it seem that the dieing numbers problem is a coc thing. As if once we do and act like the other we will enjoy the same wonderful growth as they are enjoying. Cause they aren’t either.

  7. Price says:

    Does Leroy have a web site ??

  8. Todd Collier says:

    Actually guys according to the stats- the mainline organized denominations that have abandoned the Bible as foundationand adopted modernsocial values – pro-homosexual, et al – are indeed dropping like flies.

    The Baptists and Bible based denominational groups (usually congregations that claim a loose denominational affiliation but who follow very different local practices) are holding their own.

    Non-denominational churches – especially those that combine a high view of the Word and engage their membership in community service – are growing strongly.

    You will find these stats on just about any church growth website. The Acappella CoC is one of the only Bible based groups that is shrinking. The Independent CoC/Christian church is enjoying healthy growth just about everywhere.

    (for the record – I grew up in and have preached in the Acappella movement until two years ago when I became minister for my current posting an independent CoC in Virginia.)

  9. Alabama John says:

    What we must do is stop the hypocrisy. Not being a preacher, members will talk to me and I don’t know one who will say only those in the church of Christ will go to heaven. Yet, that is what is preached and stated by our preachers in sermons.
    We have become used to hearing preaching that we simply hear and do not believe or more importantly tech our children.
    That is one reason so many young leave as they cannot listen to preaching they do not believe like so many of us older folks have done.
    To save our churches, it would sure help if we would pass out in each congregation a questionnaire that each person anonymously filled out stating what they really believed to be true on these subjects and then read the results out loud to the congregation.
    What a shock to most preachers. Maybe it would take pressure off a lot of them as they just might believe that way too but preached as they do out of fear of being let go and branded “Liberal”.
    Being totally truthful with each other in our beliefs is what will save the Church in my opinion and nothing else.
    Continuing pretending will be our downfall.

  10. Hank says:

    Personally, I am way more interested in gathering with groups of other families of Christians in our homes for worshiping God and studying the Bible than I am about trying to get as many as we can to show up to the building on Sunday where we can all “give unto the Lord”. It seems to me that a lot of others feel the same. Accordingly, it just doesn’t matter to me how many people are “at church.” So many people just “go to church” to make themselves feel good and perhaps look good to others. But are passive, biblically ignorant, and no different than the people who never go.

    Having said that, I don’t really even believe that the numbers of people who “go to this church” or “go to that church” are accurate signs of which “church” is most pleasing to God. It only accurately shows which “church” has the most people and gets the most money.

    A lot of times, the most faithful groups of God’s people have been in the minority. Numbers are only numbers…

  11. theophilus.dr says:

    Gal 5:9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”
    In the context of this passage, Paul is speaking about the pervasive influence of legalistic teaching and how much its effect is magnified.
    People can be so accustomed to legalistic rhetoric from CoC sources that it is almost incongruous when they don’t hear it. For someone reading posts on this very site who is wondering if the CoC has really changed from its past, how many posts about the grace of God and unity are offset by one post from someone who spouts the old myopic views to “my liberal brothers?” Is it 10:1, 100:1? Read through posts until you come to one of these and feel the whammy in your stomach. A reader could think, “Oh, there it is! That’s the same old stuff. That’s evidence that they haven’t changed.” The reaction to our past legalism continues to be so strong (because our attitudes were so unloving) that one wonders if the ‘reputation” we so dutifully earned can ever be overcome. That’s why some congregations change their name. God help us.

  12. Todd Collier says:

    And yet Hank that attitude is the exact opposite of what Acts teaches. Teaching God’s word, doing God’s will, devotion to prayer and fellowship will produce growth. That is solid Scripture. A growing Church is doing “something” right. A dying church is not doing these things. It is only in trying to accomodate our own failure that we need to see the “truth” that growing churches are less than perfect or try to blame their growth on bad motives or efforts.

  13. Joe Baggett says:

    First of all it is important understand that traditional organized American Christianity is in decline in all forms and faith traditions. It is not only the church of Christ. But most have the mentality of the unsinkable church. Like the Titanic they think they have all the right doctrines and practices or the best programs that they are impervious to any attack.

    Here are a few things unique to the numerical and spiritual crisis in the churches of Christ. Since the churches of Christ are so built on having all the right doctrines and ideas there is practically nothing that can get our attention. It doesn’t matter how many churches close down, how many of our youth or even adult members leave the church for other churches or no church at all, how many churches split, how much we publicly castigate each other, how many ministers are unjustly dismissed, how many people are dis-fellowshipped, and so and so on!

    I don’t want to sound to pessimistic but more realistic. Most the damage for the average 89 member semi-rural church of Christ is irreversible. The average age is too old, the time it takes to change doctrine, practices and attitudes is so long and hard it probably won’t happen. Then you have people (I won’t mention names) they are telling everybody there really is not a problem the church is growing, we are doing better than the Baptist and Methodists. We must stop comparing ourselves to other denominations for validation.

  14. Robert Harry says:

    Jeff Childers, Doug Foster and
    jack Reese all from ACU wrote “The Crux of the Matter” and kind of says the same thing,

    We need to get back to the core teachings to survive.


  15. hank says:

    Todd, I wasnt accusing growing churches of having bad motives or efforts. Nor did I ever say that a church that is fully doing God’s will would not grow. All I really did say was that just because a church is “growing” (having lots of people and money), the same does not necessarily prove that it is pleasing to God. It may be doing things “right” in the sight of God or it may merely be doing things “right” in terms of atracting more people and collecting more money.

    But just because an organization is getting more and more people, it doesn’t neccessarily imply that they are God pleasing.

    And as Joe mentioned, “organized Christianity” is in decline as a whole. But that is no indication of whether the Lords church is dieing. Perhaps it is the most faithful who are moving away from “going to church” at all. Maybe.

  16. Rich W says:

    Let’s remember several OT prophets were very unsuccessful by today’s standards. Their followers continued to shrink. Yet, God saw fit to give us their stories because they did teach God’s message regardless of the fall out.

    Every attendance/membership study I have seen that considers the CoC with other groups places us right about the average (usually a slight decline percentage wise). I recently read an article of how the Baptist church is in a crisis mode due to shrinking attendance. Yet, we want to be like them.

    Yes, we have some repenting to do. The attitudes of some are far too harsh. But changing our doctrines, our fundamental values, to be like the other groups that are also losing membership is not the solution to our problems.

  17. Randall says:

    Leroy Garrett sends out an occasional newsletter. I believe you could send him and email to subscribe. Perhaps Jay could privately provide his email address for any that are interested. His essays and other writings can be found at this site: http://www.leroygarrett.org

  18. Robert Harry says:

    Go to Google and search for “The works of Leroy Garrett”. He has many almost weekly teachings or essays.

    Good Luck


  19. Bruce Morton says:

    Your weblog is at its best (as in numerous recent essays) when it is less about fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) and more about teaching others what the apostles taught. Religion in the U.S. is taking quite a beating at present (read John MacArthur’s The Truth War; he sounds more and more like a restorationist).

    I suspect that much of what Leroy Garrett writes is going to sound great to a religious environ like an inland sea — a thousand miles wide and a few feet deep (to quote a concerned Baptist pastor — and he is right). Our nation is more about “I feel…” than it is about “It is written.” And together with a commitment to vocal music only, that seems too much for folks these days. But strangely we are probably in much the same place as were early Christians in Roman Asia (as you know I believe). And we face many of the same spiritual issues that they faced — and that landed many early Christians in what became Gnosticism (cf. MacArthur who believes religion in America is sliding in that very direction).

    From what I have read from Leroy Garrett’s pen, at times he is missing some important lessons from history and urging that churches of Christ seek to repeat some early spiritual mistakes — as many congregations in the U.S. already are doing. And much in the name of reaching a young generation… that seems to deeply desires the sensational (as a Christian young man told me point blank a few weeks ago). To summarize the feeling of some/many: Since a spiritual siege is not real… then the Word of God is negotiable. And we can move some from an overarching focus on the simple and spiritual — expressed with vocal music — in our worship together.

    I see growing churches of Christ and in a religious environment like that in the U.S. at present, that encourages. For that growth — both young and old — is about people who see clearly the spiritual issues in the nation they are part of. Just finished teaching an Ephesians seminar (where is not important), including a look at the spiritual siege we face in the U.S. One kind, lovely girl who had just graduated from high school had been struggling with religion, according to her parents. She “got it” as she looked at Ephesians. And was baptized into Christ. And to hear her tell about what she nows sees is great news! She has a mission…. So do we all.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  20. Randall says:

    I have read just about everything brother Garrett has written since 1980, and I consider him a personal friend. Of course, I don’t agree with every single thing he (or anyone else) has written or thought, but I have learned a great deal from him – especially about our history. No way would I describe his writings as wide but rather shallow. I consider it insulting that you have chosen to do so.
    May God be gracious to you,

  21. Price says:

    Jay…thanks for the link ….

    Bruce… you deflect.. I may be interpreting you incorrectly, but it seems that you place the blame on lack of growth on anything but the CoC teaching and traditions… Why is it that sound doctrine increased the numbers daily in the first century and yet the pattern of growth isn’t maintained… Most of my friends that were in the CoC have left…couldn’t stand the legalism any longer… some have gone back to less legalistic churches..others just were damaged too badly… the CoC must first admit it has a problem within it’s own ranks…That’s not the fault of any denomination or Ephesian goddess…look within my brother and you will find the issues… The walls aren’t being knocked down…they are imploding… that’s a sign of illness when you can’t keep your own members from leaving… what’s with vocal only ?? That just eliminated the largest CoC in the faith heritage… There is no pride in extinction…

  22. Bruce Morton says:

    You need to back away from being insulted. I did not say that Leroy Garrett’s writings are shallow; they are not.

    But they will sound good to folks dealing with the same spiritual struggles Paul is writing about in Ephesians 4:17-5:21 (especially when they do not know they are dealing with those struggles). We may not have the threat of the Asian religions surrounding us, but we experience the same spiritual siege — and the same desire for the sensational. It saturates this country.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  23. Bruce Morton says:

    I find your post to me similar to previous ones on gender. You paint with a broad brush stroke and attempt to toss “Ephesian goddess” (or whatever phrase will work) into the mix. I, for one, do not appreciate such. Ephesians has relevance for our day as much as for the first century. Indeed, I find in that letter much that speaks to our day — and to churches of many names.

    Folks are leaving groups of all names. I have some close friends who are Southern Baptists. They are very concerned about the exodus of many teens. Bands/concerts did not keep them. One man who leads much of his congregation’s work has seen his son slip away into agnosticism. So, if you think this “implosion” is all about churches of Christ and the suggestion of a pandemic of legalism….

    You should know from many previous posts that I am not about to defend legalism. And I am also one to “look inside.” I would appreciate your not chastising me for the need to do such. That is not appropriate.

    From what I can tell from discussions with some/many who have left or who are disenchanted, much of the defection is about three subjects: 1) baptism, 2) music, and 3) gender roles. And I will suggest that holding to apostolic teaching on the above subjects does NOT announce inherent legalism.

    Yes, Price, I believe that some congregations can fall into legalism (and have done so). And Jay has been correct to note those dangers in his Galatians essays. But as I have mentioned before on this weblog (and been critiqued with great pointedness — and sometimes genuine unkindness), I believe Jay and others face the “Ephesian problem” by some of the stances taken. Just as dangerous as the “Galatian problem.”

    I think that is enough for now.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  24. Randall says:

    You wrote the following: “I suspect that much of what Leroy Garrett writes is going to sound great to a religious environ like an inland sea — a thousand miles wide and a few feet deep (to quote a concerned Baptist pastor — and he is right).”

    You think that doesn’t sound like a criticism of brother Garrett writings as being wide but rather shallow? Are you speaking of others, but not yourself, by suggesting that is the way a great “religious environ” may perceive him, but not your self? Then why suggest it?

    Let’s deal honestly with each other. If that is not what what you meant then what did you mean to suggest>

  25. Rich W says:

    In the 50s and 60s, the coC took a strong stand on baptism for forgiveness of sins and acapella music while it was also one of the fastest growing religions in the US. Now, it is growing/shrinking at about the same pace as the other groups and believe it is because of our bad doctrine. Problem Solving 101 says the change in growth must be caused by something else.

  26. Bruce Morton says:

    I am going to avoid anger re the “Let’s deal honestly with each other” comment. You question what you should not.

    Let me try again. I do not believe Leroy Garrett writes shallowly. But I do believe a nation filled with religious shallows right now is in the mood for specifically what he writes about music and worship.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  27. Bruce Morton says:

    Rich W:
    I am curious. Which is “bad doctrine?” Baptism for the remission of sins or vocal music worship or both?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  28. Price says:

    Bruce, honestly, it’s not my fault for finding it strange that you use the Ephesian goddess problem for all things theological…It’s like my Grand Mother’s castor oil…. Has there been a discussion that you’ve entered in which you DIDN’T bring it up?? I think anyone that has read your book would appreciate the energy and dedication spent but surely it is not the end all of every problem we face in the church today…

    And…. regarding your guide for fellowship …. why is it that the CoC has split into 24 divisions if the things you suggest are the only or primary test of fellowship ?? Seems odd that the tradition of a cappella singing, baptism and gender roles have so divided you… I was unaware of any CoC that refused baptism, or had preachers, Elders or deacons who were female…Now you ARE loosing MANY, perhaps soon all to the a cappella ONLY farse that has been taught. but generally those that allow for instruments have retained a cappella to some degree …. And yet the CoC is still falling apart… continuous division does take it’s toll.

    I’m guessing as long as the reason is some other than of our own making, the problem will continue… At least Garrett is admitting the problem and making suggestions as to how to turn it around… If that appeals to only the shallow minded I would be surprised but perhaps you are right… However, IMHO, doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result is shallow minded…perhaps it would be wise to at least consider that the CoC isn’t perfect and find ways to address it’s growing lack of relevance, at least in the most ultra-conservative groups…

  29. Alabama John says:


    What I see and hear most often from those leaving and waiting for a senior member of their family to die is two others you can add to your three above.

    (1) Proof texting badly and (2) the COC is the only ones going to heaven since the beginning of the NT. In my experience number 2 has been preached and names of famous preachers like Billy Graham and others used as examples, but never believed by most. This has actually been a stammering embarrassment when asked about it by folks of other beliefs that were considering the COC.

    Folks are seeking a place to attend where they really believe what is taught.

  30. Bruce Morton says:

    Alabama John:
    I agree that churches of Christ do indeed need to stop preaching and teaching that they are the only ones going to heaven. We cannot know how God’s mercy will extend to all, including to those who “pray the Rosary” (for example). I, for one, hope the Lord will save all who believe in Jesus (however they practice that belief). But that does not mean that I can also announce that all are “fine” — especially when I read the parts of the NT that include apostolic rebuke.

    And it does not translate to our deciding to stop teaching what the Scriptures teach. Correct?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  31. Bruce Morton says:

    You misrepresent what I believe and the work in a recent publication that looks at the background of Ephesians (you know that it is NOT all about Artemis of the Ephesians, since you have a copy of the book). I can tell that publication has brought out strong emotion in you, and I gather including bitterness. So, I think I should halt my weblog interaction with you in this chain. I do not think it helps folks sort through the Scriptures as they read the various posts.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  32. Bruce Morton says:

    Alabama John:
    One quick question. Is Ephesians 5:18-21 one of those areas where you believe churches of Christ have proof-texted?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  33. Alabama John says:


    Correct. That has been our error so its our duty to correct it.. The question is: Will we?

    We need to put equal emphasis on what ALL scripture teaches and not pick out those that back up what we want to teach.

  34. Royce Ogle says:

    Perhaps the weakest exegeses of Scripture I have observed in my life is the conclusion that it is the will of Jesus Christ that Christians only sing a cappella. Or, for that matter that worship is only singing, which is the implied teaching.

    Sing a cappella, it’s beautiful, we do every time we meet. But don’t condemn others who choose not to. Every group that goes further than the Bible does in prohibiting some act earns the criticism they get.

  35. Price says:

    Royce, I totally agree. Furthermore, I would suggest that most of the division and distress that has happened in the CoC over the past 50 years is over the most ridiculous of interpretations and applications of scripture…It seems that there is a NEED to disagree at times which is truly amazing… In fact, the only point of agreement I see consistently is the widely held belief concerning those dang denominations… Then there is the contending for the faith crowd who are just totally obnoxious…

    Bruce, I don’t recognize any remaining bitterness with the CoC.. Long forgotten… I simply can’t fathom why they continue to self destruct when it would be sooooo easy to turn things around… There are so many things to love about my faith heritage but it’s like trying to hug a cactus..

  36. Alabama John says:


    20: wrath, strife. Picking out words in a scripture to emphasize and leaving out emphasis on others that we are guilty of is prooftexting. Sermons on other words in that scripture but how many on the two words I just posted. Does that prooftexting or if you prefer “selective texting” fit us in the COC?

    A little further down than you questioned.

    21: faith, love, joy. longsuffering. Do we practice those words with other COC in all directions, even those in our own community or city ?

    You know the answers as well as I do.

    How do we stop this should be the question, not how can we change all other COC to be just like us.

    Ego’s are our real problem.

    23: Meekness (humbleness), temperance is needed and must be observed and its obviously not.

  37. Bruce Morton says:

    Alabama John:
    I have offered a copy of a recent publication that takes a look at Ephesians 5:18-21 in context (seems like we ought to be doing that, correct?) to Leroy Garrett and going to make the same offer to you. Please feel free to send me a note: MortonBLSL7 at earthlink dot net if an interest.

    I hope you do not conclude that all has been said and thought on the subject of worship and song. Royce and Price are not correct; Ephesians 4:17-5:21 represents a unified teaching with crucial messages for people under spiritual siege — that is, after all, the point of Paul’s teaching there! And part of the message has to do with the importance of unifying congregational song.

    I know you have read some of how I have approached Ephesians on this weblog, but there is much in the text that has not been discussed.

    Okay, enough for now.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  38. Bruce Morton says:

    Alabama John:
    A brief addendum Re proof-texting. To confirm, I too believe in teaching in light of a context. Indeed, perhaps it is ironic that for me we overcome some of this by acting on Ephesians 5:18-21. Paul is urging that Christians sing Scripture… as a means of exposing darkness. That is the import of the parallelisms in the context. Sing the Word helps us better know the Word and that helps us avoid proof-texting. Make sense?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  39. Price says:

    Bruce, the question you fail to address regarding Eph 5 or Col 3 is whether or not Paul was speaking to them about their daily life which was “under spiritual attack” as you suggest or whether this attack was going on only when they were gathered as an assembly…Most, in fact nearly all of those trained in scripture have concluded that the message wasn’t directed toward the conduct of an gathered assembly but rather toward the individual and their daily walk…

    That means if you preclude IM you preclude participation in it at ALL TIMES, not just in the assembly…You can’t listen to a radio with southern Gospel or contemporary praise songs because it might just cause you to break out in singing and praising God… You can’t watch it on TV…you can’t own a piano or any other instrument that might be used to praise God… Talk about proof texting… If you MUST have an approved worship list…go to I Corinthians 14 and copy that… As far as I know it’s the only commentary on what a worship service was like in the first century…let me know how it works for you…

  40. HistoryGuy says:

    I don’t want to intrude on your discussion with Bruce, nor will I burden y’all or myself with the IM issue, but I wanted to suggest two points of clarification since you all are on the border of it. First, some scholars believe Eph 5 (etc) is only about daily life and other scholars believe it is only the assembly; however, the scholarly consensus among journals and commentaries is that the text applies to both daily life and the assembly. You may be surprised that many ECFs took a “both-and” approach. Life and assembly were, to an extent, intertwined. How glorious it would be for us to return to living as Christians instead of “doing” church.

    Side note: I disagree with those who distinguish between worship in the church and worship at home, and believe such is a very poor argument; however, the church has always made a distinction between Christian living as worship and formal worship/liturgy, even though such could take place anywhere. If one believes all of life is worship – all the same – then we have yet another example of the great divide that we must cross on the path to unity. “We” means the church universal… End side note.

    Second, regardless if one uses Eph 5 to arrive at preclusion of IM, you are partially correct about the conclusion. It is true that theological and historical consistency demand the preclusion of IM whenever God is worshipped, especially if arguing from a covenant standpoint (my view). I would no more worship God with IM than I would pray to him with incense, despite my location (home, church building, etc.). Before the slander starts, please remember that I am a mid-30s agnostic convert, not one who grew up in the COC. Yet, I neither hate IM, nor consider it sinful in itself, nor did the historical church. The ECF did approve of IM in some settings (arts, education) though rejecting IM in the use of worship. While enjoying life, I can appreciate IM that discusses God (Mercy Me – Spoken For), the same way I appreciate IM that discusses life (Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay).

    The church (universal) has always distinguished between an action and worship ritual. Three examples: every day my wife has a bath, and we praise God for it, but it is not a daily baptism; I partake of grape juice and kosher crackers quite often, and praise God for it, but it is not the Eucharist; I pray during the day with various smells around me, such as Glade air freshener, but it hardly constitutes as the use of incense in my praise/prayer. At times the distinction is difficult for some modern minds, but to deny it, as some will do, not only shows a theological disconnection from Christendom, but minimizes the significance of Christian ritual.

    I pray that you are doing well, and hope these thoughts will facilitate discussion between you and Bruce.

  41. Price says:

    Hey History Guy…Hope you are continuing on a path to full recovery !! I always enjoy your comments…

    Yes, I would agree that the Church has it’s traditions which are certainly to be respected…And, I would certainly agree that our conduct should be consistent whether inside or outside a particular building….However, one can hardly say that it is God who condemns the use of IM in “the assembly” and then allows it at home or in the car. Using Eph 5 to prohibit IM in the assembly would also preclude it in private worship whether at home or in the car..I think I understood you to say that history tells us that most theologians and church leaders agree with that position.. Generally, even the most conservative groups within the CoC won’t go that far though I hear some do… . Imagine disassociating with a brother or sister in Christ because they sang along with a Christian band playing a modern version of a Christian hymn while driving down the highway… the arguments presented don’t hold water and the younger generations are calling them out on it…

    Furthermore, my point was not to stir up the IM debate again as it has been “exegeted” to the extreme and surely by now all who might have an opinion…have one…but rather it was to point out the failure of scripture to justify the division and splintering based on traditions rather than divine instruction… The CoC has splintered into 24 separate camps who seem to throw stones at each other as much as the “denominations”…. Surely our traditions, if they are to be respected and appreciated should cause us to unify and love one another rather than splinter and cast stones…I believe Leroy Garrett is simply suggesting some ways to stop the bleeding…some like to deflect and blame it on anything other than themselves which again IMHO seems counterproductive…. Blessings friend.

  42. Bruce Morton says:

    A delayed response as I was busy with a wedding — my youngest son and a precious Christian young woman who is now my daughter-in-law.

    I will be brief re your question. Philip Harland has done an excellent job of correcting our skewed ‘Western” view of worship assemblies and the like as he compares our religion with the archaeological evidence from Roman Asia. I suggest a look at his Associations, Synagogues and Congregations (which I have mentioned before). Good study of inscriptional evidence that reveals the Asians assembled often and in many settings. Is Paul talking about assemblies (“speaking to one another”)? Yes, no question. And this was different from private/in-the-home gatherings in the minds of the Asians.

    So, we should read and hear Ephesians 5:18-21 (and the parallel of Ephesians 5:11) with the parameters of Paul’s teaching: public assemblies. That is not to say that his teachings have not application beyond. Certainly, we need to hear Ephesians 4:17ff. as setting the broad context. But the Asians were specific regarding their worship practices; the large majority appear to have taken place in the public arena.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  43. Bruce Morton says:

    And Price:
    I do understand your point in all of your posts. My point was to highlight that Ephesians 5:18-21 is telling churches (of all names) far more than we have soaked up. It is more than vocal versus IM, and that is where Leroy’s Garrett’s message is culturally exactly what much the nation wants to hear… and exactly what we should not be emphasizing.

    I saw it this morning in a church of Christ where I worshipped. People just watching… offering no song to the Lord during a time of song. Just sitting back listening to others. Neither vocal music only or with-IM assemblies automatically rescue churches from the overarching threat We are allowing ourselves to avoid the weight of Paul’s teaching by much of our conversation. This is about more than churches of Christ and unity — because it is about a spiritual siege that is crushing churches of all names. You talk about splintering of churches of Christ. Absolutely it happens… and partly as a result of not lifting our voices to sing the Scriptures. And when we do not write the Word of God on our hearts… then we are left unprepared to face the ruler of the kingdom of the air.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  44. Price says:

    Bruce. Congrats on the addition to your family. I trust it is a tremendous blessing for all involved…

    Regarding the “skewed” view of Eph 5….As History Guy pointed out, the majority of the ECF’s felt that this passage applied BOTH to the assembly and every day life… rather than just some worship assembly.. Makes sense…are we really to be totally different people inside a particular building versus inside the building? That makes my point of view neither Western nor necessarily skewed… It just makes it different than yours…

    I would consider it odd that God would require us to depend on the unearthing of ancient civilizations in order to know what is proper in regard to Christian worship when he could have made it so plain….Actually, I believe he did make it quite plain…We enjoy a great freedom in our worship styles and preferences….and for those that really want to get into the details, Paul did provide what the assembly looked like in I Corinthians 14… However, it seems that the description of worship in this passage has been rejected entirely in preference to anything else….

    My problem with how most people interpret Eph 5 is that they apply it ONLY to the worship assembly. It seems that this way of interpreting the passage isn’t consistent with what those closest to the time frame considered appropriate.. I actually believe that it speaks more to every day life but it would not be inconsistent to expect that a believer would act appropriately both inside a building and outside it… IMHO there doesn’t seem to be different rules of conduct.

    Sadly, yes there are many half dead Christians who need something more from their worship services…perhaps if it were not so regimented and people were free to express their joy in various ways…they might…

  45. If I understand Bruce correctly, by pointing out some of the less than perfect results from our current methodology or direction it seems to be taking, he isn’t saying it is wrong as much as he is saying it could be much better. Our discovery of Biblical revelation sometimes looks like tiers of an archaeological dig. A researcher doesn’t find an old cup from the 6th century buried a few feet underground and assume that’s all there is–time to quit now. They keep digging, hoping to find an ancient city in the older strata. I feel too often we in the CoC tradition discover something new (to us) and we want to stop and relish the discovery, and maybe even get defensive about it, rather than keep digging. We “discovered” Ephesians 5 and said it meant acappella music only. And we defended that to the detriment of unity in the body of Christ. Then we “discovered” grace and how the release from the bondage of legalism allowed people to see that IM is not prohibited like we had thought, and in fact it is perfectly okay. But let’s don’t stop digging for meaning of these verses by spending our effort defending our relatively newly found “freedom.” I think Bruce is saying, “Let’s don’t stop here.” We are free from bondage so that we can be free to keep on digging. In fact, Bruce has done some early spadework and is describing some things he has found that he thinks are important. I think Bruce is sometimes perceived as being adversarial; I thought that at first, too, but it didn’t take long to see that he had an entirely different intent. I think Bruce’s points are good and his data are supportive. That doesn’t mean I endorse all his ideas, and I know for certain he doesn’t endorse all of mine! I am still working on the conclusions he draws and the relevance to us today, but I see the intent of his material as being constructive.

    Bruce feels strongly about what he has discovered and what he feels the Lord has led him to think about it. He thinks the church today is in trouble, and I wholeheartedly agree in principle, although our definition of “church” may not be the same and the reasons we are in trouble may not be exactly the same. But I understand the challenge of trying to convince people that something is important. I feel strongly about some of my interpretations, too, and when I present them I can come across pretty strong, even perceived as adversarial, measured by the response. I have to just back off and take a chill sometimes.

    Unity is pulling in the same direction toward the Lord Jesus Christ. Uniformity is everybody thinking the same thing about the details. I know that Bruce and I are brothers in Christ walking toward the Lord, and we don’t have to agree on everything for me to know we are both on the same road.

    Bruce, feel free to correct me as needed if I have inaccurately represented your views.

    Grace and Peace

  46. guestfortruth says:

    Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. ( 2 Tim. 4:2) That is what is going to save the church of Christ! No compromising the word of God with the denominations! The (body) church of Christ is growing in those countries that are allow to receive the Word of God ( e.g India, sudan, Africa, America, Latina , china etc.) the prosperity and comfortable lives makes difficult to be evangelizing in the USA. Looks like the book of Leroy is a call for Ecumenism. 2 Cor. 11:3 “3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”

  47. guestfortruth says:

    2 Timothy 4:5

    ” But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

  48. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:

    I always enjoy the latest installment of Garrett’s pious rant: “the Churches of Christ are so mean and so bad and so hateful, because they, like, say bad things about other religions, so let me tell you how they are so mean and so bad and so hateful because they say mean and bad and hateful things about other religions, and, by the way, have I said how mean and bad and hateful the Churches of Christ are, I mean how can anyone say anything bad or mean or hateful about another religion, Oh, and by the way, have I told you how mean and bad and hateful the Churches of Christ are?”

    Garrett’s arrogant and judgmental approach towards the judgmental approach he perceives in others is pathetic.

    He, as often is the case with digressives, becomes mired in “who’s right” rather than looking at “what’s right.” Fixated on problems in the church (real and imagined) he has set up a paradigm where the Church of Christ must bend to his whims in order to “be saved.”

    Garretts approach has led the Disciples of Christ to the brink of extinction and will do the same to the Church of Christ should we go down this path.

  49. JMF says:

    Greg Tidwell:

    I find your criticism of Garrett’s criticism to be weak.

    Are you ever critical and corrective to your children?

    So I guess it is the same — and okay — for me to be critical and corrective of your children?

    I am fine with you working to correct the problems in your congregation, I’m not fine with you intruding to correct the problems in my congregation.

    Just so, as a COC’er I can speak critically (if Spirit-led and out of love) of the COC as a whole. To monkey wrench myself into the middle of a Baptist dispute in my town is meddling. Make sense?

    That said, I don’t see Garrett alluding in any way to “who’s right” as opposed to “what’s right.” In fact, he seems to take issue (in this post…haven’t/don’t plan to read the book) with sectarianism. That is a “what”, while the guilty party is a “who.”

    …And inevitably we then come full-circle to whether we need to be sectarian, as we need to determine what is damnable. But then again, all of that was covered in it’s entirety in GraceConversation….oh, wait…. 🙂

  50. Alabama John says:

    Back in the old days WE had many debates with denominations on various points necessary to our salvation.
    They were a regular event around here.
    We would have one side on the church building set aside for each belief.
    They died down in popularity in recent years.
    Maybe what we should do is resurrect that form of debate back up but have it between the various churches of Christ. Be interesting to see who sits on what side and how we would change sides back and forth depending on the subject being debated wouldn’t it.
    When a church of Christ is growing in a foreign land, its worse enemy is when another church of Christ of different opinions moves in and tries to straighten out the converts. How I’ve heard preachers bemoaning this happening to them.
    We are our own worse enemy and this has got to stop.
    We look silly to others!

  51. Bruce Morton says:

    I did NOT say that all of Ephesians 4:17-5:21 was about the assembly alone. But we should keep in mind that much of what they did was in assemblies. Far more than in our society. The issue I responded to was your suggestion: “That means if you preclude IM you preclude participation in it at ALL TIMES, not just in the assembly….” No, not what I said. We need to remember that the focus is on religious music and in Roman Asia this took place in their public assemblies. I am unwilling to urge that we take Paul’s teaching beyond its context. So, please stop telling me what I must or must not believe.

    Now, as to the second aspect of this. As you may recall from my previous (outlandish) posts :-), the reason the background is important is because of the parallelism in the text. Ephesians 5:11 lays behind Ephesians 5:18-21, per the structure of Paul’s teaching. So… the question we should be asking is simple: What does spiritual singing have to do with “EXPOSING DARKNESS” — in ancient Asia (and for us). Paul writes the parallel, not me. But from what I can tell, it remains one of the most neglected aspects of the text by Protestants and Evangelicals during the past 50+ years (and perhaps longer). And I have not seen a look at the parallel in Restoration Movement writing as well. I do not know why and not guessing. But Paul’s parallel is clear is and it is important.

    And before you seek to Americanize apostolic teaching too much regarding that good ‘ole word “freedom,” let me highlight that Paul was dealing with EXACTLY that problem. The Asian Christians did not have the religious freedoms they thought they had, surrounded by the Asian cults. Are we different?

    Jay is correct about the threat of legalism (save where he seems to want to automatically extend the notion). But he, you, and all of the rest of us face an equally dangerous trap called AMERICANISM. Make the Gospel comfortable. Make it “fit” America… our values, ideals, even our concept of “rights.” I believe the Emergent Village weblog has called the idea the “palatable gospel.”

    I think Theophilus Dr. is close to where I am. I will not announce that everyone who uses IM is going to hell. That is the Lord’s business. However, I will comment that there are reasons why Paul quotes two LXX Psalms… but not all of them. And I believe we grab hold of the reason when we note the parallels in the text. There is only ONE way to “expose darkness”. Jesus’ example in the wilderness of Judea should wrap this up for us: “It is written.” And that is exactly what Paul’s focus is about: singing the Word of God congregationally (speaking to one another) — with the unity helping bind us together closely as we write the Word on our hearts together. Simple; spiritual; selfless; renewing. And when we give that away, we face great spiritual threats.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  52. Royce Ogle says:

    Bruce Morton,

    You have read Ephesians 4:17-5:21 and reached a conclusion. You have even written a book about it. And, it seems that at a minimum, many people disagree with your conclusion. How you could read that text and decide that singing a cappella, (singing Scripture) is the answer to all the problems Paul addressed is very odd to me.

    4:17 “no longer walk (live) as the Gentiles do”
    4:22 “put off your old self”
    4:23 “be renewed in the spirit of your minds”
    4:24 “put on your new self”
    4:25 “put away falsehood”…”Speak truth..”
    4:26 when you are angry don’t sin, settle the matter before bed time.
    4:27 “give no opportunity to the devil”
    4:28 “no longer steal”, “work”, “share”
    4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths”, Say only “What is good for building up”
    4:30 “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God”
    4:31 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
    4:32 “be kind to one another”, Be “tenderhearted”, “forgiving one another”
    5:1 “be imitators of God”
    5:2 “walk in love”
    5:3 “sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you”
    5:4 “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking”, “let there be thanksgiving”
    5:6 “Let no one deceive you with empty words”
    5:7 Don’t “partner with them” (sexually immoral or impure, covetous lost people speaking empty words)
    5:8 “Walk as children of light”
    5:10 “try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord”
    5:11 “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
    5:14 “Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you”
    5:15 “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise”,
    5:16 Make “the best use of the time” you have.
    5:17 “do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
    5:18 “Do not get drunk with wine”, “be filled with the Spirit”.
    5:19 “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart”
    5:20 “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”
    5;21 “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

    So Bruce, You have decided that verse is a cappella only, (a position that is only conjecture on your part), and that singing solves all the other problems, fulfills all the other commands of the passage. What a strange outcome.

    It would be not much different if Paul could speak to us today. “Don’t hang around people who are sexually immoral and perverse. Be honest, say what builds people up, live like who you are in Christ. Don’t live like the world and call yourself a Christian. Be honest, work hard, share what you have, be in subjection to each other, share your joy with others. Don’t drink too much alcohol but drink heavily of the Spirit, be filled with the the Holy Spirit and out of that fullness sing to each other and make a melody in your heart that only God can hear.

    Why not just take what the Bible says and be happy with it. Yes, there were wretched, evil, perverse, people living in that setting. And, they are here today. The answer is not singing. The Bible doesn’t even hint that singing is the solution. It is a result of being obedient to God and being filled with the Spirit.

    In my view this is the reason so many people disagree with your conclusions. You are trying to make the passage say more than it says.


  53. Price says:

    Royce….since the overwhelming large majority of informed and educated men of the word have concluded that this passage is not limited to the “assembly”…it may include it as behavior appropriate at all times…but also includes everyday life…that would mean that if one accepted this concept that singing any religiously tinted song at ANY time, in ANY setting should be done acapella… I agree that it’s a difficult conclusion to comprehend or lend any credence to at all…. Is the church about to collapse because I’m singing along with Third Day on the radio ??

  54. Darin says:

    As one who has left the tradition of his youth I found the article to be interesting. The discussion that followed reminded me why I left in the first place.

    In my understanding the basic premise is false. The idea that restoring the practices of the New Testament church is either required or asked for or had anything to do with why the early church grew is false.

    But as one who has spent seven years in working in the Christian world who no longer sets lines by such traditions I can also agree that much of what people want today is a good personal experience for themselves and their family.

    While I think it is better it still has its own issues. I agree with the person who questions following many practices that have already been abandoned by other groups of believers in America because they fail to produce disciples of Jesus Christ.

    I wish Churches of Christ would repent of their false teaching but also stop trying to copy what everyone else is doing.

    At least the Church of Christ taught that faith is active even though they often misunderstood what that faith was for and about.

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