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.

 

Thanks so much to the best bounce house rental company in Anaheim for sponsoring my blog!

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?