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  • Robert Baty
    ( The statistics show that in the six years between the 2003 directory and the 2009 directory, Churches of Christ have seen the loss of 526 congregations and
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2009
      ("The statistics show that in the six years between the 2003 directory and the 2009 directory, Churches of Christ have seen the loss of 526 congregations and 78,436 members.")

      From: Al Maxey
      Date: Sunday, February 1, 2009

      Subject: Checklist Churchianity

      by Al Maxey

      Issue #384 ------- February 2, 2009



      Checklist Churchianity

      Securing Our Sectarian Separation
      for Future Fratricidal Factionists

      Whenever disciples fail to perceive the critical distinction between Tradition and Truth, Symbol and Substance, elevating the former above the latter, and/or arrogantly proclaiming the former to be the latter, a state of division among the disciples of the Lord is absolutely assured, as well as the inevitable sad decline of a movement into irrelevance and obscurity.

      To put it another way: Christianity devolves into mere Churchianity.

      (T)here are far too many "graceless zealots" within the church who are determined to wage war with their spiritual siblings.

      And most of these skirmishes are simply over silly sectarian shibboleths; matters about which our Lord never spoke a single syllable, but about which mere men have spoken volumes for Him.

      Some have taken their personal preferences and perceptions, and their petty party patterns, and have elevated them to the level of eternal LAW, seeking to bind them upon all the rest of humanity until the end of time, with both fellowship and salvation at stake for those who dare to differ with them.

      The pitiful result, of course, which is abundantly obvious to any who still have the ability to perceive the distinction between faith and form, is that the Body of Christ has been systematically dismembered by these foolish factionists, thus rendering the precious blood-bought Body incapable of functioning as it should, not to mention making it a source of mockery to the malicious minions of darkness.

      Honest, loving, responsible contending for the Faith has thus been forfeited in favor of contentious conflict over Form.

      (T)he Stone-Campbell Movement is not exempt from such woeful splintering.

      Indeed, by some accounts, we have virtually perfected the process!

      Within our movement, or faith-heritage, one may find a wide variety of doctrine and practice. In a word, we're a diverse people, even though, relatively speaking, our movement is of fairly recent origin.

      Nevertheless, we've wasted no time in following the pattern of separating ourselves from one another over every little "issue" that comes along.

      Thus, we find disciples who insist only the King James Version may be used in the worship and teaching of the congregation.

      We have brethren who believe it is a sin to have a Sunday School (the assembly should not be "divided" into "separate" groups for Bible study ... and, ironically, these disciples will not hesitate to "divide" and "separate" from any brethren who feel differently).

      We also have those who believe that only one cup should be employed in the Lord's Supper, and that the use of multiple cups is a sin (a departure from the "pattern").

      There are several factions that have formed around how the bread in the Lord's Supper is to be broken and distributed.

      And it goes on and on!

      There are Non-Institutional congregations, One Cup congregations, and Mutual Edification congregations, as well as many other distinct sub-groups within our movement.

      We've argued and split over whether congregations may cooperate in doing good works, over how to do mission work (may groups larger than the individual congregation be involved), over how to do benevolence, over the Holy Spirit, women's roles, and the acceptability of various aids to our work and worship.

      In directories like Where The Saints Meet, and the more recent version -- Churches of Christ in the United States, the various conservative factions of our faith-heritage have always been included.

      These more conservative groups, however, have produced their very own directories--leaving out every other group within the Churches of Christ that disagrees with them.

      Thus, again, the more conservative one becomes (dare we say "legalistic"), the more exclusive and isolated they tend to become.

      The Non-Institutional wing of our movement has their own directory.

      The One Cup wing has theirs.

      And if you ain't one of them, you ain't in it!! Period!!

      End of story!!

      I have always applauded the editors and compilers of the above mentioned mainstream directory, though, for their spirit of gracious inclusiveness and their willingness to embrace within their directory those disciples of differing theological preferences and practices within Churches of Christ, and for doing so without passing judgment on these differences. In so doing, I truly believe they were evidencing the spirit of Christ Jesus.

      Therefore, I must admit that I was extremely disappointed and saddened when I received my copy of the 2009 edition of Churches of Christ in the United States this past week, and I am not alone in this disappointment.

      The voices of concern are building into a vast chorus.

      This new directory (over 700 pages long, compiled by Carl H. Royster, published by 21st Century Christian) has made a choice that, in the view of a growing number of leaders in our faith-heritage, myself included, has set the cause of Christ, and unity within our movement, back decades.

      They have chosen to begin evidencing a harsh spirit of exclusion with regard to a single practice with which they take personal exception -- the use of instrumental music as an aid or accompaniment to singing within a corporate worship assembly.

      If a congregation DARES to use an instrument in even one of its assemblies (even though it may continue to practice a cappella singing in all its other assemblies), that congregation will be banished from their directory.

      Indeed, twenty-one congregations have been cast from this new directory, including the Richland Hills Church of Christ in Texas, which has an attendance on Sunday mornings of around 4200.

      This past week I have heard from elders, ministers and members throughout the nation who are not happy with the direction taken by those in charge of producing this directory.

      In a troubling article titled Richland Hills Among Churches Removed From Directory, which appeared in the noted brotherhood periodical The Christian Chronicle, the author, Erik Tryggestad, expressed quite well the extent of the frustration and disappointment that is being felt across the brotherhood [date of article: Jan. 22, 2009].

      > "The directory's original compiler,
      > Mac Lynn, ... who turned compilation
      > duties over to Nashville, Tennessee-
      > based 21st Century Christian after
      > the 2003 edition, and is no longer
      > officially involved with the publication, ... > said,

      >> 'The exclusion of instrumental
      >> churches has not been on
      >> theological grounds.'"

      I'm sorry, but (as the old saying goes)

      > "that dog won't hunt."

      Even a child can see through the fallacy of that statement.

      One of the valuable features of this particular directory has always been its various "Character Codes."

      These are codes that designate the character, or the unique makeup, of the congregations within our movement.

      These "designations provide the user with some indication as to the nature of the congregation and its services. ... The character designations are largely self-described by the congregation itself and they carry no negative connotations" [Churches of Christ in the United States, p. xii]. In other words, One Cup (OC) congregations will simply be noted as such without any attempt whatsoever to judge them one way or the other over their specific theological preferences and practices. Non-Class (NC) congregations likewise. Etc.

      Although the theology of these groups may differ from that of the compilers of the directory, these groups will be included with no questions or criticisms cast their way.

      However, NOT SO for those congregations who dare to use an instrument, even if only in one of their many assemblies (with the others remaining a cappella).

      Such wayward congregations will be unceremoniously cast from the directory (as, indeed, twenty-one were).

      The message this sends is abundantly clear to all: These congregations are NOT "one of US."

      It's a not too subtle warning (intimidation) to other congregations who may be considering the use of instrumental accompaniment --

      > "You do, and you'll pay."

      The compilers of the directory were even willing to embrace as brethren (and keep their listing in the directory) those congregations choosing to change their name, or to drop "Church of Christ" altogether (like Oak Tree Church).

      In explaining this, it was stated,

      > "The changes represent a fresh
      > effort to be non-denominational
      > and do not necessarily express a
      > desire to disassociate from the
      > body known as the Churches of
      > Christ" [p. xiii].

      Well, it seems to me that the very same could be said for those who have chosen, after much study of the issue, to add an instrumental service.

      Mike Washburn, one of the ministers at Richland Hills Church of Christ, said that "the Richland Hills' elders have not broken ties with Churches of Christ, nor did they ask to be excluded from the 2009 directory" [The Christian Chronicle]. Washburn went on to observe, "We're a part of a huge movement in our fellowship who do not believe a cappella worship is the sole way of defining who Churches of Christ are" [ibid]. "Washburn said he's concerned that church members will see Richland Hills' exclusion as a sign that the church has broken ties with its fellowship. That's not the case, he said, noting his congregation's involvement with a cappella churches, ministries and schools associated with Churches of Christ. 'We have a great love for the people in our heritage,' he said. 'We want to be a part of this fellowship'" [ibid].

      Well, Richland Hills, that's just too bad, now isn't it?

      Because it has been determined that "One Cuppers" and "No Classers" will enter into the kingdom (or the directory) ahead of you.

      You have committed the unpardonable sin -- you've come down on the wrong side of THE issue that the "powers" who have compiled this directory have determined to be THE issue that defines who is and who isn't a part of the group known as "Church of Christ."

      What arrogance!!

      You can drop "the name," get rid of your paid, located preacher, cancel all Bible classes, tear down your fellowship hall, ban all versions but the KJV from your buildings, and refuse to eat in the building, and you will be listed in the directory with no negative comments.

      But, if you DARE to use an instrument ... God help you!! You are erased from the book of life!!

      Brethren, I'll be very honest with you -- such hypocritical hubris infuriates me!!

      It's no wonder our numbers are declining.

      In fact, the statistics show that in the six years between the 2003 directory and the 2009 directory, Churches of Christ have seen the loss of 526 congregations and 78,436 members.

      This really ought to tell you something!!

      Bobby Ross, Jr. has dealt well with this matter in a very powerful article for The Christian Chronicle titled Church in America Marked by Decline [January 22, 2009].

      I would also urge you to read Danny Dodd's blog about this article -- Anybody Alarmed Yet?

      If you are not yet alarmed, you should be!

      We're like that poor frog who is slowly being boiled to death.

      If we don't wake up, and soon, we're cooked!!


      Readers' Reflections

      From a Reader in Texas:

      Bro. Al,

      After many attempts to be a brother to those men in the Contending for the Faith crowd, and to reach out to them, I have decided to distance myself from them.

      The thing I really don't understand is what they hope to gain by continually vilifying you and others with whom they differ.

      I just don't understand!!

      They are completely unwilling to discuss matters of any real spiritual importance.

      Instead, they are firmly fixed in their trenches, and are absolutely giddy at the prospect of going to war over trivial matters.

      So sad!!


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