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.

Around 1974 or so, I was a student at David Lipscomb College attending chapel. I didn’t much like chapel because the time was usually taken up by a preacher trying to drum up a crowd for his “gospel meeting,” although sometimes they offered free food for college kids, and I could see the holiness in that.

The college had hired a young guy to help in the Administration, and he was given the chance to speak to the students. He was probably 20 years younger than the next youngest guy to have spoken that quarter, and so we hoped that this might be a more-interesting-than-usual chapel talk. And it was.

You see, he spent his time talking about the importance of “witnessing” for Jesus. I kid you not. He said that exact word in 1974 in chapel at Lipscomb. And the students’ ears all popped because we all drew in our breaths collectively in shock. I said to the friend I was sitting next to, “He’s in big trouble.” I was right.

The very next day, a visibly shaken young administrator stood before us all and apologized for having the audacity to say that we should “witness” for Jesus. He was mortified and nearly in tears. I can’t recall why he said it was wrong. Something about “the denominations,” I think.

I do remember saying to my friend, “So now we have to apologize for saying that God is alive and active in our lives.” I was none too happy with the powers that be. I mean, how could witnessing for Jesus be wrong?

Well, it’s about stories.

Story 1: The age of miracles ended around 100 AD. The Holy Spirit retired after having authored the New Testament. There is no direct operation of the Spirit on the heart of the Christian, because that would be Pentecostal.

Story 2: We care far more about the scriptures and the truth found in them than the Baptists do.

Combine those two narratives,  and you interpret —

(Act 1:7-8 ESV)  7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.  8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

— to say that the apostles were to testify as witnesses to the resurrection. We modern Christians have not seen the resurrected Jesus, and therefore we cannot be witnesses. We can only point people to the testimony of the apostles found in the New Testament. Therefore, the Baptists are wrong and show their lack of respect for the scriptures when they claim to “witness” for Jesus.

That’s the “logic.” And like many doctrinal errors, it’s almost true. I mean, it is true that we can’t testify to having seen the resurrected Jesus as the apostles did.

But consider —

(Act 20:18-21 ESV) And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia,  19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews;  20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,  21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 

(Act 28:23 ESV) When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

It’s not just the resurrection to which a Christian might testify. It’s also the Kingdom of God. And it’s repentance and faith in Jesus. And all Christians have experienced these things. We should each have something to say about what has happened in our lives.

(1Jo 5:10-11 ESV) 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.  11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 

Who has the testimony of Jesus? “Whoever believes in the Son of God.” That’s who.

Who has experienced the new creation, eternal life in Jesus? Us. That’s who. (It’s very unlikely that John was saying in this late letter than everyone he was writing to had heard about the resurrection from a first-hand human witness.)

And so to declare that we can’t give testimony about Jesus because we weren’t there is to assert that Jesus broke one of his most important promises —

(Mat 28:19-20 ESV) 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

If Jesus is with us — the end of the age, which certainly includes now — then we can testify as to what we’ve experienced first hand.

And this is all very obvious — unless you inhabit a story that says that God has been on vacation since 100 AD.

The three men I admire most,
The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Have taken the last train to the coast,
The day the music died.

When Don McLean sang those words, he was likely thinking of the music scene in the early 1960s, but when I first heard the song in high school (1971), I thought he singing Church of Christ theology.

But I digress …

We don’t see God acting in our lives and in our churches because our story has no place for him. It’s about obeying rules, yes or no, plain and simple. And knowing the answers to the important questions, and we get them right and everyone else gets them wrong. We are people famous for our Bible knowledge. I mean, at least that was once true.

So here’s a step toward a cure. Have testimonies in church. Regularly. I might proceed along these lines —

* First, I would meet with the classes or small groups and ask people to tell me about their experiences with God. I’d try to create a safe place to share a vision of an angel or a word from God. I think these things still happen, and happen quite often, but are never spoken of in the Churches of Christ because we have a story that tempts us to laugh at such things. Therefore, few are willing to tell their story. And therefore few hear these stories. And therefore we feel justified in saying these things never happen — not since 100 AD.

* Second, I would impress on the congregation that God gives us these experiences to be shared. It’s just not right to receive a visitation from Jesus and not tell others about it. We are called to be witnesses of these things.

* Third, I’d ask members to let themselves be videotaped giving their testimonies. Why videotape? Because so many people struggle to speak comfortably before a crowd — even a crowd of friends. And to let the person testifying practice and fix mistakes. And because we have two services, and it’s a bit much to ask someone to share twice on one Sunday morning.

Standing before the congregation to give testimony might not be hard for your typical preacher or Bible class teacher, who’s used to speaking in front of others. But for many of our members, it’s terrifying.

Over time, I’d prefer that the members get comfortable giving testimony in person. I would. But that requires that the congregation affirm and encourage those members who give testimony. And the best way to make sure that happens is on tape.

* Fourth, I’d have testimonies regularly.

Now, this is a lot of trouble to put together, and most churches are understaffed. But to me, it’s a critical element of transforming a church’s story. We just have to learn to God as alive, active, and present — and no amount the scripture quoting will substitute for life experience.

And this one is just because …

They did not listen,
They did not know how,
Perhaps they’ll listen now.

They’re not listening,
They’re not listening still.
Perhaps they never will.

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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45 Responses to The Progressive Churches of Christ: Your Story

  1. Kathy says:

    Witnessing and confessing. Two big things we aren’t allowed to do.

  2. Joe B says:


    Even today those who decry that miracles have stopped pray regularly for supernatural healing from cancer and other diseases. I think public testimony is great. The trouble is that in some churches there may not be much testimony to share because spiritually we weren’t trained for this sort of thing. I was asked to speak at a small group seminar recently and one of the activities we did was “sharing our story” and testifying. It was awkward at first because most the stories went like this. I got baptized when I was young in the church or church camp and have been faithful ever since and learned some stuff. I knew there was bound to be more story than that in the group I was training. So I stared to ask for more closed ended “sharing of testimony had God had work mightily in their lives”. Finally a woman about 60 years old shared how the Lord delivered her from racial indifference. She told the story of how her son married a woman of a different race and socio-economic level and for the first time she had to love a person of different race and socio-economic level. Once she was in this situation she realized that she was really racially indifferent. She talked about how God had to teach her to see people the way he does and that being one in Jesus was more than just not being out right racist but actually integrating a Christian friendship with them. After this started then others followed with other testimony and by the end they had all shared things they had never shared before and then saw that it was really good stuff as people who had secretly battled something their whole lives hear someone on brave enough to talk about their deliverance from the same thing. My point is it takes somebody to get the ball rolling.
    Also it is really effective when there is a public testimony that is a part of the sermon. Rick Atchley did a series a few years ago called extreme makeover of the heart at the Hills church in North Richland Hills. Each part of the series dealt with something like depression or pornographic addictions or other things. For each one of this sermons there was a public testimony either in person or videotaped of how God worked mightily in in their life regarding that sin or struggle. Sometimes it is easier for a person to video tape their testimony instead of doing it in person, FYI. It was powerful and many people who had secretly struggled with the same things finally had the courage to begin their journey of deliverance.

  3. Price says:

    I’d even allow those who wanted to, to at least write down their experiences and give them anonymously.. There will be those that object.. strenuously… But, it is amazing that we don’t shout from the roof tops the great and mighty works of God when they happen.. It’s experiential.. The Bible is an ancient history book right up and until He shows up. Then it becomes alive and personal and relevant..

    I have spoken to small groups in various faith heritages.. The more conservative the group, the more they look at you like a circus attraction.. I get it.. I’ve told many that if I were sitting where they were sitting and it was them speaking instead of me.. I wouldn’t believe them either.. I’ve also had people come up and tell me things that I’m quite certain I am the only person with whom they have ever shared their experience. There is far more going on around us than we might be prepared or able to hear or see.. For sure, it’s not all happening in some far off land where only missionaries without cameras or video can witness it personally… I hope more and more folks start sharing the great and mighty things that the Lord is doing.. regardless of who is able to distort it for their own selfish purposes.. God is alive and well and doing quite well.. If only we could have eyes to see and ears to hear…

  4. Monty says:

    Since we’re on the topic, if you care to listen, hear a former Muslim ‘s converting to Christianity after being visited by Jesus while in prison:

  5. Price says:

    Amazing.. thanks for sharing Monty.. I find it difficult at times to pray for some of the radical islamists.. then Jesus goes and shows me up and recruits them for His team.. Good to be reminded of how great is His love for us.

  6. laymond says:

    As I recall, Jesus did his miracles out in the open for all to see. yes we all have things happen to us that feel strange, so we call it a miracle, We recover from a bad illness, we call it a miracle, I don’t recall any of Jesus’ miracles taking months or years to work.

    Monty, I didn’t read the prison confession, of the person you referred, but unless he had three witnesses who also saw Jesus, I really have my doubts, just call me Thomas.

  7. Monty says:

    Laymond, did you watch the video? If not, then you need to. Then, come back and let’s talk.

  8. Kevin says:

    You are right, Price; it’s hard to pray for the radical Islamists like ISIL and other terrorists organizations…especially when one spends much of their time trying to arrange their death. Try wrapping your mind around those two ideas simultaneously.

    I did a Bible study on Paul some time ago, and I naturally began with Saul-the-persecutor. I’ve read Paul’s conversion accounts in Acts many, many times, but I seldom dwelled on Paul’s life and actions prior to his conversion. I knew he persecuted the church, but I never really thought too much about it because I was always more interested in the actual conversion. You know…like rushing through the passages to get to Acts 22:16 in order to prove Paul wasn’t saved at the point of faith… = sigh.
    Anyway, I searched all the references to Paul before he became a Christian, and I compiled them into a Word document. After reading through them a few times, I realized that there may not be a whole lot of difference between Saul of Tarsus and ISIL zealots.

    Saul was:
    -participated in a great persecution
    -ravaged the church
    -abducted men and women
    -publicly proclaimed threats of murder for Christians
    -killed Christians
    -threw men and women in prison
    -imprisoned and beat Christians in one synagogue after another
    -approved and supervised the execution of Stephen
    -cast votes of death for Christians
    -tried to make Christians blaspheme, likely through torture
    -persecuted Christians with raging fury
    -hounded Christians even to foreign cities
    -persecuted the church violently, trying to destroy it
    -extremely zealous in his zeal for persecution

    Saul’s heart was as black. When I think of that young executioner, an ISIL acolyte, clad in black, waving a knife, “breathing out threats and slaughter,” preparing to behead those journalists…I now realize that is exactly who Paul was prior to his conversion. Paul may be the most improbable, unlikely convert to Christianity in history. Thank goodness that God saw something more in him…and if God is capable of saving this man, he can save anyone who would turn to Him. I remember when the news channels reported that Jeffrey Dahmer had been saved, and some questioned whether a serial killer could go to heaven. I hope so, because if there is
    no hope for Dahmer, then there is no hope for Paul and no hope for any of us either.

  9. laymond says:

    Monty, I did go watch the YouTube you asked me to, The video is a reenactment of what the man said happened, and it did not convince me that it was anything other than this man comparing himself to Paul. Without any of the witnesses.

    If we are to accept stories of people receiving special attention from Jesus in Sunday worship services, my advice to you is bring a lunch. It is like two or three fishermen comparing their catch, the first fisherman don’t have a chance.
    If the elders are to allow that, I suggest they set through them first before they put the congregation through that.

  10. laymond says:

    Kevin, I believe we should look at the life of Saul/Paul before and after his baptism, then say all we have to do is “believe” “have faith” I know it is hard to accept that unless we do our very best to obey God, we will not be accepted into God’s Kingdom. No matter what someone tells you, this is not a one-sided deal.

  11. Royce Ogle says:

    What part does Jesus play in your self salvation?

  12. Kevin says:

    Concur. But I don’t understand why you are making the point…?

  13. laymond says:

    Kevin first, there are many of the progressives who say all you have to do to be “saved” is to believe in Jesus. What I am pointing to is Paul did not just set on his butt and expect Jesus to do it all, Paul went to work.
    Royce, Jesus did the very same thing for both you and I that he did for Paul, he gave us all a second chance . what leads me to this conclusion? Hebrews points out after you accept Jesus as savior and you knowingly and willingly go back to your old life there is no third chance.

  14. laymond says:

    Heb 10:26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
    Heb 10:27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
    Heb 10:28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
    Heb 10:29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
    Heb 10:30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.
    Heb 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

  15. Monty says:

    The man could be psychotic, I suppose. Although, listening to him speak with tears streaming down his face years after his experience he doesn’t appear that way to me. He seems eternally grateful and caught by surprise that Jesus would reveal himself and his grace to him. I can’t imagine a hard line Muslim converting to another God and leaving Allah, unless something did actually occur in that prison cell. I mean that would be like a Saul of Tarsus type of thing wouldn’t it? And we both know that can’t happen any more, right? Except, how do we know that it doesn’t? I mean especially, if it does? More and more Muslims are giving their testimony of how Jesus spoke or appeared to them in a dream, literally out of the blue. I know it doesn’t fit into our God box of how we’ve figured Him out. A few years ago I would have argued your position. I’m just trying to let God out of the box I’ve tried to keep Him in. And it feels good!

  16. R.J. says:

    One woman in Equator claims to have taken a tour of Hell. She says that Michael Jackson is being torched by moonwalking demons.

    There are numerous reasons why I can’t believe her…

    1. Cruel and unusual punishment.

    2.That Hell is literal conscience eternal torment.

    3. That the fallen angels are executing God’s judgement.

    4. Disembodied souls already being judged.

  17. Alabama John says:

    Wonder if we tell our stories at our local church it will be divisive and cause some to look at others negatively?

    Was going to tell my bride and my story to our local church once but the elders required us to submit what we were going to say in writing for their approval first.

    WE didn’t.

  18. Jay Guin says:


    Hardly surprising. You’ve been known to consort with known change agents.

  19. Alabama John says:


    More than you know. Ever baptized anyone in a shower? I was told quickly that didn’t count and those that participated were still lost.

    Doing the best you can with what you have has never been a stance or acceptable in the church of Christ we grew up in.

  20. One of the keys to getting powerful testimony from our brothers and sisters is to guarantee that we will protect them from the disciples of Thomas,who would readily stand and try to rebut their testimonies, as a testament to their own fear and unbelief. I hear fear-mongering among these comments about some who might give erroneous testimony. It’s much like the rattle and clank of the dry bones who constantly try to suppress all prophecy by stirring fear of “false prophets”. Those of us who have regularly heard personal testimony within congregations over the years can bear witness that it almost invariably glorifies God. Those who do not know this are simply speaking from ignorance and inexperience.

    Jay, I appreciate your stance on testimony. As an elder in your own congregation, have you made progress toward opening the congregational floor to regular testimony? What is the view of your fellow elders on the subject?

  21. Jay Guin says:


    We have had testimonies of many kinds over the years, but not as often as I would like. The eldership as a whole is entirely supportive. It’s not controversial with the congregation. It’s more a matter of the time and effort it takes to do well.

  22. alegler says:

    And nothing’s off limits. The testimonies range from their journey to becoming a Christian to their struggle with same sex attraction.

  23. Pingback: The Progressive Churches of Christ: Looking Back, Looking Ahead | One In Jesus

  24. Price says:

    Dwight… I think that’s the problem.. We equate an encounter with God as some sort of bizarre experience or hallucination… That’s why people don’t share… sad really.. Is there no safe place to speak about what God has done ? I can think of countless experiences that were personal and without witness in the Bible… and God hid it from those that were around so that they couldn’t testify.. What did the people with Saul think when God spoke to him and blinded him.. What would have been their story about the event ?

  25. Dwight says:

    I agree with you, but the problem is that many of them are subjective to the person, while the one we read about were predominately objective as witnessed. I am not arguing that the experience wasn’t real to the person, but from working in the neurology field sometimes experiences are indeed realistic tricks of the mind, but even in this we ought to be willing to give the benefit of positive.
    But a word of caution must be realized as well. Mary Baker Eddy who started the church of Christ Scientist sect was known as a prophtess, but it was later understood that she also had seizures which put forth visions and bizarre actions of writhings. She later embarked on mental healing, which she believed could be used to harm others through mental means. This was her experiences put forth. Experiences shouldn’t be put forth as doctrine, but just as an experience. Whatever experiences a person has must be in agreement with sciptures, such as not going against it, after all it could be from a demon too. It must be used to edify others in Christ.

  26. Dwight says:

    Visions, such as Abraham/burning bush and Peter/ sheet with animals seemed to be very personal, but healings and miracles not so much. But even the visions came with power as Abraham showed God was with him and Peter’s understanding was enforced by the HS bestowing gifts on the gentiles.
    But I am not against people who believe they have experienced something, a long as the experience doesn’t contradict scripture. I don’t assign sin to things I can neither confirm or deny in a persons life and am willing to give the benefit of a possibility.
    I do wish we had more testimonies about what changed their life to God from the world, but in my case it is seemingly underwhelming. I grew up in the church and when I thought I needed to be with God and under Jesus I was baptized. An anvil wasn’t dropped on me and I hadn’t lived a life of debauchery before hand. And I wasn’t good many, many times after that point either, slipping and falling sometimes over the same things, but I know who God is and I know who I am and I know I need God more and more all of the time because of that.

  27. Price says:

    @ Dwight.. I agree that any experience should be in line with the foundations of God’s word and the principles articulated it, but not necessarily the human interpretations of same. Those that use I cor 13:10 to exclude God from being engaged with His people would object to any miraculous event it seems. Perhaps their lack of faith in the power of God to do what He wants is what is keeping them from seeing it.. or perhaps they need to leave the comfort of their pew..

    Just curious… have you personally ever felt like God intervened or guided you in a direction you needed to go ?

    I realize we need to be cautious but jeepers… We’ve gone overboard on caution to the point that many teach a complete and total cessation of any intervention by God.. One might wonder why someone would pray.. unless it’s a way for someone to beat the Tide…and that’s been tried.

  28. Price says:

    At Dwight… Living a life surrounded by Godly people in today’s world might be a miracle indeed.. Many aren’t near as fortunate.. How often have you gone into the mission field ? Not that it’s any of my business whatsoever, just curious if you have engaged much in that area of service.. I know many a person who has been overwhelmed by what they have seen God do in desperate situations.. Besides, I’m quite convinced that gifts and such aren’t meant as a personal skill or ability except in use for someone else in need. Absent being in desperate situations, are you friends with those that regularly engage in them ?

  29. Alabama John says:

    God hears our prayers and does what he wants to. We still cannot see the big picture of his plan for each of us like he does. WE sure do want to though.

    Don’t believe anyone unless they can prove it has caused many throughout time to not totally believe, be a little suspicious in Paul coming on board so late and his earlier life supporting the killing of Christians being such that it sure hurt his believability.

    In Pauls changing to a believer there was sure a respecter of persons by God.

    Any of us would of liked to have that interaction with God, but, we do all we do by faith alone not like many others have.

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