As I grow older I realize the truth in this statement more and more.

Steve Jobs died today. Man, if there was ever a person (not divine) who was worthy of being called a visionary it was him. I marvel as I consider where he started, where he has been and what all he accomplished in his brief life. When you’re talking about a man who experienced this level of success, there’s never just one or two things that made it happen. I’m sure he had a tremendous love for what he did, a crazy work ethic, a little luck (right place, right time) and a whole lot of vision. I believe that being able to see a picture of something great and the road map to get there is a God-given gift.

There’s some days when I feel like God has gifted me in that way – especially when it comes to the Church. But you know, even though having a vision is nice and being given the opportunity to implement your vision is a blessing – neither are really worth much unless you choose to find the courage to go after it. Courage is a nice word. We use it a lot to make people look good (or bad). But really, when you peel away the onion, courage is just the application of faith. Now there’s the rub.

This is the point where I go from puffing out my chest (because I am thinking of myself as a visionary) to dropping my head in shame because I don’t have enough faith to go and make the vision happen. This has been me for . . . well, too long. Give me a moment to try and explain why.

When you cast your vision, chart your course and then set out on the journey there’s a really strong possibility that people won’t like it . . . and there’s a few things to choose not to like. It may be kind of simple, some people just may not like you. Others may not agree with the vision. While others may not think the course you’ve charted demonstrated much wisdom. Then of course, there’s likely some who never thought a new vision was needed in the first place. So as a visionary, as a leader, you can imagine where this leaves you. There will always be some folks who simply aren’t happy.

This is part of what impresses me so much about Steve Jobs. Just think about all the innovative products that Apple has produced. Well, actually, there really hasn’t ever been anything produced by Apple that wasn’t innovative. From the outside, all we see is the end result. We see the small personal computer, the iPod, iPhone, iPad (and who knows what else). These are all products that have really molded our culture. But we never heard all the people who said it wouldn’t work. We didn’t really pay attention when his critics were saying how crazy he was for spending so much money on things that wouldn’t sell. All we know is how successful he has been.

The same thing applies to people who have made a big difference in the Lord’s Church – guys who have really cast a vision and had the courage to chase their vision. I think of men like Rick Atchley, Patrick Mead and Terry Rush. I see all that they have accomplished with their own congregations. I hear all the great things about them. I’ve read their books. But what I haven’t realized, until recently, is how much it hurts to be consistently attacked by people who are supposed to be your Christian family. I have never been there when they were corned by an angry Church member who was convinced that they were the Antichrist. And until recently I had never known the pain of seeing your name in print because someone that disagreed with you took it upon themselves to attack you in front of as many people as possible.

For a while now I have tried so hard to not have that kind of experience. I’ve been careful where, when and how I ask difficult questions. I’ve always looked around first before saying something that may seem controversial. In other words, I’ve lacked courage. I’ve lacked faith. I do have a vision and I do have a plan (whether they’re good is another issue). But until recently I hadn’t realized that I lack the amount of faith it takes for a vision and plan to matter. That’s why having a vision is scary. They are such a precious commodity to begin with. So to let one go to waste because it’s not accompanied by faith is . . .

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Okay, here’s one of my questions. What does the phrase salvation issue mean? Often times when we have a scripture or topic come up that we have a disagreement with someone about then we might say that “it’s not a salvation issue so there’s no reason to argue about it.” That’s a tough idea for me to understand. What exactly is and is not a salvation issue? How do we know what is and is not a salvation issue? And just as importantly, why do we feel qualified to say that something is not a salvation issue?

Now let me clarify that I’m guilty of this, very guilty. As a matter of fact, this came up in a conversation I had only two weeks ago. But I’ve got to hold myself accountable and be honest about two real problems I have with this. First, at what point did I accumulate enough wisdom and earn the right to determine what will or will not be a topic for which Heaven’s gates will be opened or closed? Of course my thought here is that I have not and do not. I’m certainly free to develop an opinion or understanding based on the scriptures. But beyond that I am on shaky ground when I begin adjudicating salvation. Jesus Christ died for the right to provide us with salvation. It seems like we have a lot of people running around treating Jesus like the Sheriff with them serving as His deputy. It doesn’t work like that. We don’t know what will be a point of condemnation. So why pretend like we have that knowledge or right (when it comes to ancillary doctrinal issues)?

It seems to me that there is only one definitive issue with which I have been given the knowledge (from the scriptures) and authority (again, from the scriptures) to call a salvation issue – whether or not a person has a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ which can only be initiated by faith through baptism. Now, that’s a definitive statement and I may very well be mistaken. I’m going to continue thinking about it.

The second problem I have is this. If something is wrong, then it’s wrong. For example, if musical instruments is wrong then it’s wrong. If it’s fine, then it’s fine and we need to drop it. Right and wrong, just like truth are not relative concepts. They are definable, distinct and predetermined by God. For me to understand that the scripture identifies that something is wrong and then do it anyway with the understanding that it’s not going to cost me my salvation, well . . . that seems like playing Russian Roulette with all but one chamber loaded.

I do understand the thought behind some people believing or concluding that using musical instruments will not cost another person their salvation (this is assuming that instruments are wrong and the person using them is honest in their belief that its not wrong). For those of us (yes that includes me) who think this way, it seems like that conclusion is based on both the grace and nature of our God. In this example, it’s not a matter of a life lived in willful disobedience to God. So therefore, the thought is that grace would cover such a mistake. Back to the initial point though, I didn’t die for the right to hand out the grace in the first place. So I struggle with saying that some specific decision has removed a person from the covering of that grace.

 

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I often write about questions for which I struggle to find the answer or am rethinking my answers about. I have an inquisitive mind. I like to look at things from as many points of view, perspectives and angles that I possibly can. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. But when it comes to discussing matters of faith, spirituality and religion it can be a scary thing. In my fellowship (Churches of Christ) we have a very bad habit of reacting negatively and even harshly towards people who don’t think like we do. I’m not sure why? I’m not sure where this trend or attitude came from. But I know it’s prevalent, because I have had to deal with it. Perhaps it stems from thinking that “we” are the only group doing Christianity correctly? Well, not perhaps – definitely. Because I was taught to think that. I was shown to think that if there were people who did not think like the group then they had it wrong and needed to be told they had it wrong or else. Well, that just doesn’t work for me anymore.

I have heard and shared this illustration many times – if I was on a deserted island and was just handed a Bible with no other knowledge of Christianity, God, Faith or Religion would I come up with what I believe and practice now? That is an honest and worthwhile question because it points the questioner back to and only to the inspired Word of God. It doesn’t make me a liberal or a false teacher or any other words we carelessly throw around. But because of these words and others like them, that type of a question is a scary one for some people. Because not being accepted by the group or being ostracized by the group is a scary place to be. So, too frequently people continue to live in the fear and darkness of their doubts and questions instead of searching for the light bringing truth found only in God’s Word.

I often flip back and forth between those two worlds. I know that every time I write about a question that I’m working through it troubles people and those people develop opinions about me. Sometimes I hear about them, but I know that usually they prefer to just speak to their friends about me instead. However, there are times like this week when I get notes from people from all over the world. People who I don’t know and have never met that will fight through their tears just enough to write and thank me for my thoughts. And then go on to share their story of living in the dark because they are scared of what stepping out into the light will bring.

Well, this is my line in the sand. I invite you to join me in the Light of God’s Word and not man’s opinion on God’s Word. There are sure to be times when my conclusions are wrong and I need to be shown my error. But I will no longer allow my fear to dictate my pursuit of the Truth of my Savior. His death is worth too much to me to do that anymore. Because you know, the line in the sand for me is this realization: I am so much more afraid of having to stand before God and seeing disappointment in His eyes because I lacked the Courage to stand up for Him and to be an advocate for those are not able to stand up for themselves than I am afraid of some people who hide behind words that have been stripped of the Love of Christ.

So from now on, through God’s grace and mercy, I will live in the light of His Word. I will rest in the Peace found in His care. I will allow His strength to overcome my weaknesses. I will strive to live out the motto that many of us have accepted – to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent. But above all else, I will live each day of my life to do the best I can to fulfill the two laws that my Savior says are the greatest: to love the Lord my God with my Heart, and with all my Soul, and with all my Mind. And to love my neighbor as myself.

There isn’t a scripture that directly commands when and how often we are supposed to take the Lord’s Supper. There are two scriptures that refer to it – one directly and the other indirectly. The first is Acts 20:7. In this scripture Paul was on his way home (Jerusalem) after completing his third missionary journey. He stops off in Troas on the way to Ephesus (where he has the famous talk with the Ephesian Elders). He stays in Troas for seven days and then on the first day of the week it says they got together to break bread. Paul doesn’t use this phrase (breaking bread) much but it is fairly certain that he is talking about the Lord’s Supper. This is the scripture where most Christians find the authority to meet on Sunday. Plus, it was clearly the tradition of the early Church. We have a lot of writings from men who lived in the 2nd – 4th centuries when the Church was really taking hold – and they all refer to it this way.

Now, there is something peculiar about this scripture. Keep in mind this is THE scripture we use for our authority and there is a question about it. Read it for yourself (thru v12) and see if you catch the peculiarity then come back and finish reading what I have written.

Okay, you’re back. Did you notice when they actually took the Lord’s Supper. It says that Paul preached until midnight then the kids fell out of the window and Paul healed him. It wasn’t until AFTER this that they actually broke bread – the next day. Hmm . . . Does this mean that we don’t actually have to take the Lord’s Supper on Sunday? This is where many churches are getting the authority to do it on Saturday nights. Here’s some more info to consider.

A 24 hour day was defined differently during this time period – and actually still is, I think. The Romans were on a “normal” midnight to midnight clock. Just like us, where the day starts over at midnight. The other way to clock a day was based on the sunrise. This was the Jewish way of doing it. So the big question is, “which do we consider”? A little more info: Luke, the writer of Acts was a medical doctor from Philippi. He was a Macedonian, which was under Roman rule and jurisdiction. He was not a Jew. If Luke was writing with Roman time in mind, then they took it late. If he was writing with Jewish time in mind then they were ok.

We might ask why Luke wasn’t more specific? Well, I don’t know. He was writing to Theophilis who does not seem to have been a Jew. Does that matter? Did Luke not get more specific because Theophilis would have understood or because it didn’t matter when that they happened to take it late? I honestly don’t know how to deal with this from the scriptures. There just isn’t enough information and evidence.

The other scripture is an indirect reference (1 Cor 16:2). Here Paul is giving the direction to the Corinthian church to collect and keep together the specific offering that they were going to give the much poorer Jerusalem Christians. He said to do this when they met on the first day of the week. It seems like Paul was saying, “Since you’re meeting anyways, this is a good time for you to do this.” Keep in mind here that he was referring specifically to that particular donation to the Jerusalem Christians who were suffering through a terrible drought. But the point was when it happened – the first day of the week. When we combine this with the comment from Luke in Acts 20:7, it seems like they had a custom of getting together every Sunday to take the Lord’s Supper and fellowship with each other. Now it’s clear from many other scriptures in Acts that this wasn’t the only time the first Christians met to fellowship and worship. They seemed to meet throughout the week – particularly when the Church was just getting started (Acts 2:46). Also, it’s neat to point out that not once does the New Testament ever mention having a worship service on Sundays when they met. Two reasons for that – there is nothing scriptural about a “worship service” (it’s a man-made term, and the idea of five acts of worship is not a scriptural term either). They worshipped God all the time they were together.

What a long, boring answer to a short concise issue. Based off of these two scriptures, which are the only that really deal with the issue, it seems that the normal practice of the first Christians was to meet together on Sunday to share the Communion together, even though they met throughout the week for fellowship and worship. The fact that the Preacher got long-winded on that one Sunday evening and they didn’t share the Communion together until the next day was evidently not a big deal.

Fulford, Hugh. “Why Rebuild What We Have Destroyed?” Gospel Advocate 153 (March 2011) 29-31.

Mr. Hugh Fulford concludes his article by stating, “Let us learn from Paul that even when error has been destroyed we must exercise continued vigilance because there are always those who will rise up and seek to rebuild those unscriptural doctrines and practices.” I believe he is correct. As many have explained, the “Restoration Movement,” also known as the “Stone-Campbell” movement was undertaken as a means to throw off the yoke of denominational ism and seek out primitive Christianity. Not soon after this “movement” began, men have undertaken to tear away at the work of men such as Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone and J.W. McGarvey.

However, there are two problems with Fulford’s argument. First, by ascribing to these men such an iconic status, are we not the culprits who stand accused of undoing their work (which was tearing down denominationalism)?  If one of the foundational errors of denominationalism is that it takes on the name and follows the teaching of a specific man or group of men . . . what are we who call ourselves Church of Christ? But this is for another day. The second problem is that Fulford fails to recognize and deal with all the errors that have come to light. Instead, he highlights only those that are contrary to his opinions and interpretations. It is this discrepancy that I will attempt to address.

Fulford laments that while “faithful congregations have resisted the introduction of musical instruments into worship, along with special singing or the effort to entertain.” At first thought, it seems odd to condemn special singing. Exactly what singing is being called into question? And what is so special about it that it would bring reproach upon the congregation? This leads into the problem that Fulford has ignored – ritualistic, repetitious and tradition-based worship. To turn a blind eye to the sin of not worshipping in “spirit” while condemning others who do not worship in “truth” is hypocritical and serves only to widen the gap that exists in the Lord’s Body. I affirm that the use of musical instruments in worship is not keeping with the teaching of biblical writers. However, I also affirm that worship that is treated like a check list, that becomes routine and where the Holy Spirit is denied access is just as sinful and disappointing in the eyes of our Lord.

The author then criticized those congregations and preachers that in an “effort to be seeker-friendly,” are “catering to the wishes of the culture around them. They are downplaying preaching in the assembly and featuring so-called “holy entertainment” instead.” He then asks the question, “will we allow modern-day enemies of the Lord to occupy the pulpits of the Lord’s congregations?” My first reaction is to say shame on you sir for accusing men (who have made it their life’s work to serve God) of being enemies of the Lord. Who are you to make such a determination? Is it possible that preachers err and are in need of correction? Certainly, that would also include you and I. This type of judgmental attitude is neither helpful to the problem nor Christ-like in nature.

Further, there are two specific problems in this criticism. First, the suggestion is made that we ought to not cater to the culture around us. It would be naive to think we could live without any cultural influence. After all, Jesus lived within the influence of the Hebrew culture. And Paul had to minister within the pervasive Roman culture. Which culture should we then cater to? The culture found in the New Testament? If so, which culture represented in the New Testament? The one found in Judea prior to the fall of Jerusalem; or perhaps the one of Judea after the fall of Jerusalem? Perhaps instead we ought to cater to the culture of Asia Minor which impacted the Christians in Ephesus where Paul labored. Or perhaps the culture of the promiscuous Corinthian church would be more appropriate? Maybe I am wrong and Fulford was referring to the culture of our many brothers and sisters who live in villages scattered throughout Africa. All sarcasm aside, he was most likely referring to the culture that is represented in the deep south of the United States where he lives and is most comfortable. If this is the case, then it would seem that the criticism of cultural-based worship is unfounded and unnecessary.

Secondly, the author referred to “so-called ‘holy-entertainment.” It is the author himself that is labeling such worship as “holy entertainment.” Why then the use of the phrase ‘so-called?’ Furthermore, what exactly is holy entertainment and how are these congregations practicing it? To attack nameless congregations and Christians without citing any evidence or support is a waste of time and does not help anyone else. What then is the reader of this article supposed to conclude and gain?

The author states that “many elders have abdicated their responsibility to the preacher or ministerial staff and are little more than a board of directors who approve or disapprove initiatives brought to them by the staff. The ‘new breed’ of elders in some congregations have little, if any, biblical concept of the true work of elders as set forth in the New Testament. Then they act surprised when faithful brethren oppose their actions or their use of unsound men for various programs they have planned.”

It is an unfortunate reality that many elders do not have a biblical understanding of what it means to be an Elder or Shepherd. It is sad that so many spend their time functioning as a management team running a non-profit organization instead of acting like God-ordained Shepherds who are called to spend their time shepherding the Lord’s flock. As opposed to the “new breed” that Fulford points out, this “old breed” treats the position as a life-long appointment to a supreme court that requires a Top Secret government clearance to join and requires them to either make every decision or micro-manage every decision so as to render the Deacons of the congregation as useless drones. This breed, whether old or new, is neither biblical nor sound in practical leadership. Yet Fulford has ignored this problem and instead focused his attention on attacking more nameless Christians that would support his biased agenda.

This article is indicative of a lack of balance within many churches of Christ. There are errors being taught within congregations. And those errors need to be addressed by those congregations. The Church, after all, is made up of autonomous congregations. God has not ordained hall monitors to make it their business to spend their own time condemning autonomous congregations instead proclaiming the saving Gospel of Christ to a lost world. We must not look past one set of errors in order to see another set. We must seek out the Word of God, only the Word of God and all of the Word of God. It is time to leave behind our cultural interpretations of a movement that has long sense died and once again restore the Church to primitive Christianity which is found not in man’s initiatives and opinions, but only in the Word of God.

This was posted by Royce Ogle of Monroe, LA. This is a terrific read – for preachers and members. It’s practical, but it’s more than that. It’s challenging and convicting. The reality is that, while we’re not all compensated to minister, we’re all Called to minister. Take a look and give it some thought.

I recently read four want ads posted by churches who were trying to find a preacher. The man with the cape could never do all these churches expect. I once wrote a parody of such a want ad. It is astonishingly stupid to ask so much of one man! But that is not the focus of this post.

The ads are dead give-aways of the questions the pulpit search committee will likely ask.

  • Where were you educated and what degree have you earned?
  • How long have you been a minister?
  • What churches have you served and did they grow?
  • Are you married?
  • Have you been divorced?
  • Do you have children?
  • Are your finances in order?
  • What is your vision for a church you serve?
  • Can you live on $***** per month?
  • Etc., etc., etc.

And of course they will want to hear the guy preach, either by a recorded sermon or perhaps in person. The questions above have very little to do with the ministry of leading a church as a preacher, pastor/teacher, or whatever your group calls him.

I have served twice on search committees and both times we hired good, godly men. I have also been used as a reference by ministers seeking a job. One fellow from Arkansas called me to ask about a candidate he and his fellow committee members were considering. He asked “Is he a dynamic pulpit man?” I answered with a question, “Why is that important to you?” My question was met with an uncomfortable silence and then he finally sounded apologetic and unsure saying, “Because we want a very good preacher?”

I explained to this guy that a very good orator, with great credentials, can be a lazy jerk who does all that he does in the energy of the flesh and can not help grow Christians toward maturity and Christ likeness. I suggested that the man go back to his committee and that they should have an extended time of prayer and seeking the mind of the Lord about what their church needed and then interview preachers. Of course he didn’t listen to my advice, and neither did my friend who I tried to talk out of taking the job and it was a disaster! They were the most immature bunch you could imagine. They made the Corinthians look really good!

What churches ought to ask.

  • How do you know you are a Christian? (If he doesn’t answer this one right the interview would be over and I would want to share the gospel with him.)
  • How did you make the decision to become a minister?
  • Tell us about your prayer life? Do you have specific answers to prayer?
  • How much time do you spend in an average week in Bible study?
  • Are you walking in the Spirit?
  • If we hire you will you love our people? (People can tell if you love them or if you are just doing your job.)
  • Is your vision to help us grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, to know him more? (If not what is it?)
  • Do you preach the gospel, regularly and often?
  • How many people have you shared the gospel with in the last 6 months one on one?

There are more, but you get the idea. You see, most churches want a polished preacher who is brilliant and funny in the pulpit, loved and respected by everyone in town, and they want their numbers to increase, both in members and money. And, they often get exactly what they want.

What is your church (or mine) doing for the people of your community that could not be done by a good civic club? The mission of the church is to make men fit for heaven. If lives are not regularly being changed, if spiritual transformation is not changing sinners into saints, if the hungry are not fed, if the mourners have no one to weep with them, if the prisoners have no visitors, if people are not having personal encounters with the living Christ, when your church needs a preacher the first list of questions will do just fine.

If you want a man who is a man of God, who knows God intimately, loves people where they are, like they are, and has no greater passion than to introduce men and women and boys and girls to the living Christ, maybe the first list of questions are not the right ones.

Hughes, Richard T. Reviving the Ancient Faith: The Story of the Churches of Christ in America. Abilene: ACU Press, 2006, 448 pp.

In Reviving the Ancient Faith: The Story of the Churches of Christ in America, Richard Hughes, a talented evangelical scholar, Senior Fellow in the Ernest L. Boyer Center and Distinguished Professor of Religion at Messiah College, has authored perhaps the finest historical-critical review of the Churches of Christ to date. Hughes is a self-professed, life-long member of the Churches of Christ. It is clear that his specific experiences along with fourteen years of dedicated research have enabled him to provide a deeply internal, yet critical insight into the historical framework of this protestant denomination. As well as a thorough review of the inner-workings of the social and moral fabric that has plotted the course for the past two-hundred years. From the outset, it should be noted that, like Hughes, I am a life-long member of the Churches of Christ. Due to an accumulation of experiences within this tradition, I have a deep and sincere appreciation for Hughes’ work.

Within this detailed review and analysis of the events, issues and people that shaped the history of the Churches of Christ, Hughes highlights and centers his text on two specific and conflicting themes that permeate throughout the entire history of the Churches of Christ: the pursuit of non-denominational unity of all Christians and a sectarian belief that the Church of Christ is the true Church that has been restored from the pattern of the New Testament.

The Stone-Campbell Movement began with two distinct points of focus by two equally charismatic leaders—Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell, both of whom trace their history back to Cane Ridge and the Second Great Awakening. Hughes does well in highlighting the dual nature of Campbell as he began and a strict sectarian and transitioned, after a debate with the Arch-Bishop of Cincinnati in 1837, towards a more ecumenical and evangelical perspective. From which he spent his remaining years pushing for unity among all protestant Christians. Hughes also traces the distinct apocalyptic nature and emphasis found with Barton Stone. Because of this apocalyptic focus, Stone was inclined to spurn modern culture and focus almost exclusively on the Kingdom of God. It was from these two men that Stone-Campbell movement is named and it was from their teaching that the Churches of Christ were eventually formed from a split with the Christian Church.

In Part One, “The Making of a Sect,” Hughes takes the reader through the history of Campbell’s hard-lined sectarian influence which was highlighted by his publication of the Christian Baptist. He then highlights the changes in Campbell’s thinking (and theology) that influenced the change towards his ecumenical stance. He also takes this time to trace the influence of Stone’s apocalyptic views to instrumental leaders like David Lipscomb and James Harding. In section two, “The Making of a Denomination,” Hughes leads the reader through the transformation of the Churches of Christ from a sect to a full-blown protestant denomination. He highlights the causes and nature of this transition by specifically pointing out the manner in which the leaders of the movement combined the theology of the two men into what would become the dominant nature of the Churches of Christ for generations to come.

As I mentioned previously, this book has impacted me in a way that may not be relevant (for other readers). Not only am I a life-long member of the Churches of Christ, I spent the majority of my “formative” years being influenced and taught by prominent figures in the radically conservative branch of this tradition. It has only been in the past two years, as I have pursued a graduate level education in New Testament studies and Biblical Hermeneutics, that I have come to challenge many of the assumptions that are often taken for granted among those in my tradition. It is because of this that I have such a profound appreciation for Hughes’ work. In many ways (through his extensive research) I have been able to stand on his shoulders to continue my climb towards a deeper understanding of my faith, a greater appreciation for the Scriptures and a more accurate understanding for how the traditions of the Churches of Christ intersect with them.

That having been said, this book is not only for the Church of Christ member. Though it is true that this work ought to be read by anyone who has been raised among this group, this should not be taken in any way to diminish the value for any student of American religious history. In fact, one of the strengths of this work is the manner in which Hughes incorporates the major themes of religion in America. For example, he does well to explain the idea and concept of Scottish Common Sense Realism, and then draw the readers’ attention back to it at the appropriate times. He also deals repeatedly, and in great detail, with apocalypticism, anti-Catholicism, millennialism and modernism/post-modernism and the influence these provided. Though he treats these topics through a perspective of the Church of Christ, he is not exclusive in this manner. After reading the work, all students will have a greater understanding of the wider religious climate throughout the roughly two hundred year era that is covered.

Hughes should also be commended for the depth of research that he conducted in preparing this work. The text is littered with personal anecdotal information and insight from many of the most influential names in the movement. For example, Hughes cites information gathered through personal correspondence and phone calls, as well as letters in his personal possession written by the likes of David Lipscomb, Tolbert Fanning, et. al. This has only enhanced his research of the more traditional primary and secondary resources and afforded him the ability to provide more thorough and critical conclusions of the information at hand.

With regard to the positive attributes of this work, the objective nature of the research, conclusions and writing style should be noted and commended. Hughes was, for the most part, able to avoid the temptation of allowing his personal opinions and bias to cloud his perspective or taint his objectivity. This is no small feat and should not be over-looked. Because of this accomplishment, the readers who are not familiar with the Churches of Christ or the internal struggles that have plagued it for the past one hundred years are able to read a historical narrative and focus solely on the factual information and insights that Hughes provides. Likewise, this is a great benefit to the Church of Christ reader who picks up the book with prior knowledge and preconceived biases. Because Hughes avoids interjecting his personal opinions this reader is able to engage the facts and information one-on-one without interference.

While this work obviously has much to be said on its behalf, it is not without fault. Particularly, in the second section when he deals with the events and themes from the 20th century, while Hughes deals effectively with the two conflicting extremes that were present. He does so at the expense of leading the reader with the impression that there was no middle ground or group. He only occasionally refers to the centrist group as the “mainline.” Though the inference is clear, the result remains misleading—particularly for the reader that may not otherwise be familiar with the events and people in question. Along these same lines, Hughes fails to interact effectively with the “mainline” response to the growing dichotomy as well as the many social and political events that served to shape the future of the movement.

Finally, this work is well researched, well written and belongs on the bookshelf of every member of the Church of Christ and each serious student of American Religious history.

 

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Is it possible to place too-much value or emphasis on the Church? That’s a tough question. At first thought, it seems like the answer is no. Jesus established the Church through his death and with his blood. The Church is made up of all those who are added to Christ’s body. That feels like the correct answer. But my feelings are not always correct. This following statement is a quote that was posted on Facebook by a ‘Friend’ and it really caught my attention. Take a look.

“Where you live, what you do or how much you get paid are never as important as Staying faithful to the Church Jesus built and going to Heaven in the end . . . that’s all that really matters.”

This statement has some holes in it. Is it possible to stay faithful to the Church? Well, yes and no. What is the Church? That’s easy, it’s Christ’s body – which Ephesians 3:25 indicates is made up of Christians. In that case, is it possible to be faithful to the Church? Sure it is. We can be faithful to one another in many ways. Now notice the statement again. It makes it seem as if faithfulness to the Church provides salvation. That’s not correct. Faithfulness to God and His Son (our Savior) leads to salvation. I’ll get to heaven because Jesus died for me and added me to the Church when I committed myself to him and was immersed for the forgiveness of my sins.

Here’s the root problem or the problematic idea behind this statement. It is based on an institutional framework or understanding of the Church. Isn’t this what the Roman Catholic tradition is based on, faithfulness to the Church? Salvation through the Church? That’s the institutionalizing of the Church and it has a lot of similarities with denominationalism. This is what is so ironic about this statement – because I know the person who made this statement is completely opposed to denominationalism.

One last thing: I’m convinced that this attitude, or mindset, is one the reasons that people are being turned off to institutional or organized religion. They are being told to place their faith in and devote their allegiance to the local Church. But what happens when the Church lets them down . . . their faith is shattered and they are left questioning God.

Instead of teaching people to place their faith in the Church or trying to remain faithful to the Church as my friend suggested, wouldn’t it be more in line with the Scriptures to place our faith in Jesus Christ – who, by the way, has never let anyone down?