Micah Redding — humanity, technology & the future

The Church of Christ

Churchofchrist1

Some of you may know that I was raised in the Churches of Christ, a small religious group that emerged from the American Restoration Movement of the early 1800s.

At the time of the Restoration Movement, Christianity was radically divided. Not only were there large-scale barriers between Catholics and Protestants, but seemingly every Protestant church had fractured along many trivial lines, every single division marking a hard and formal barrier to fellowship or relationship with Christians on the other side.

One of the early instigators of the movement had himself come from the Old-Light Anti-Burgher Seceder Presbyterian church, each term in that title designating a historic division, and a group of people that were no longer allowed to participate in the work or fellowship of the community.

Something seemed very wrong about this, and many people were looking for a solution.

The answer that struck the leaders of the Restoration Movement was to pursue a path of theological minimalism. If people were divided over political alliances, they would avoid political entanglements. If people were divided over the nuances of different creeds, they would abandon creeds in favor of the scriptures. If people were split about worship styles, they would pursue the simplest forms of worship possible. If people were divided by labels, they would give up labels in order to be simply Christians.

In every way, they pursued unity by boiling down Christianity to its bare essentials. If they could arrive at the essence of Christianity, with no extra restrictions, no additional requirements, no added barriers, then every Christian would simply be a brother or sister, another child of God. And Jesus’ unity prayer would be fulfilled:

“That they may be one, just as we are one...so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me...” (John 17:22-23)

The result was a string of simple, populist churches springing up across the country. They were organically connected, with no hierarchy or central organization. Every congregation appointed people to serve their community’s needs, and nothing more was necessary.

Some of the early leaders even suggested that a church was simply wherever two or more Christians happened to be gathered together, echoing Jesus’ words: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)

In all kinds of ways, this dynamic young movement was shaping the world around them. They inspired others to work for and realize greater unity, they changed the conversation in the broader religious culture, and they allowed many people to live their faith in greater freedom than they had ever known.

But over time, the emphasis of this young movement began to shift. It’s easy to transition from focusing on simplicity, to demanding simplicity from others. And that’s exactly what happened. Instead of just practicing simple and inexpensive worship styles (that all could join in, rich or poor, skilled or unskilled), they began criticising other people for worship styles that were not simple enough.

Soon, they had created all kinds of new divisions, based around different levels of greater and lesser simplicity. Worse, the arguments over these divisions led people to try to justify their choices by appealing to scripture — almost universally with badly out-of-context and misapplied verses. Instead of just defending their choices as an attempt to fulfill Jesus’ prayer for unity, they developed deep and convoluted arguments to try to demonstrate that their choices were the only ones acceptable to God.

In the end, these churches became weighed down with a complex and speculative theology, grown from the scar tissue of countless battle wounds, as the movement fractured again and again.

Today, the Churches of Christ retain some of that original vitality, a vitality which often pops up in surprising places and in surprising way. But they also retain the scar tissue, the battle wounds, and the baggage of that long history of division.

The movement that started out as the pursuit of Jesus’ unity prayer, ended up as another monument to division. The movement that started out by opposing man-made barriers, created new, unprecedented barriers of their own.

But I don’t write this to condemn. I write this to give hope.

It is not too late for the Churches of Christ to return to their original cry for simplicity and unity. To do so will require sacrifice, humility, and a willingness to be led by God. And it will require elevating the scriptures above our opinions, letting go of what is neither biblical nor sound.

Here are the four things I believe we must do.

1. Abandon unscriptural theology

In the heat of countless religious debates, some Church of Christ preachers came up with arguments and theological frameworks that were neither biblical, nor compatible with the New Testament. Rather than appeal to unity and simplicity as their predecessors had done, they appealed to ideas about religious ethics that appeared nowhere in the scriptures, and strained the credulity of everyone who heard them. And yet generations of preachers clung to these ideas like they were a life raft.

It is time to let go. It is our moral duty to let go. The scriptures want to be read as they are, not through an artificial lens we have created for them.

2. Embrace all Christians

A motto in the early Restoration Movement was “Christians only, not the only Christians”, but the Churches of Christ have sometimes turned this on its head. Rather than accept any obedient and believing Christian as a brother or sister in Christ, they have often required that these Christians be re-baptized by a Church of Christ minister, apparently feeling that belief in and obedience to Christ was not sufficient for salvation.

This is dangerous ground, biblically speaking. Christ and the apostles set out simple instructions, and adding anything to this gospel is not only wrong, it invites some of the worst condemnation in the scriptures.

3. Emphasize Baptism

One of the things that the Churches of Christ have often focused on is baptism. And rightly so — baptism is incredibly significant in the New Testament, precisely because it is the act of giving up our identity.

This is why Paul can say that he was crucified with Christ, and that other Christians were buried in baptism. He isn’t talking about what baptism looks like, or making an abstract metaphysical point — he’s suggesting that it is this act of publicly identifying with Jesus that destroyed an old identity, and allowed a new one to be formed.

We sometimes downplay this by suggesting that in baptism we are “turning our backs on sin”. But for Paul, it was far more significant than that. In publicly identifying as a Christian, he had not only abandoned his old beliefs and ways of living, he had abandoned his entire world, his station in life, everything that had given him meaning or value or significance. He lost it all, and it is precisely through that tremendous loss that he discovered a new and better identity.

In the same way, Christians of the first century abandoned their religious, social, and cultural status, and often their possessions and their lives. Baptism was a moment when, in a very real sense, one person died, and a new person was born.

This is why Paul can say that:

Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:11)

And...

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

In identifying as Christians, all of these racial, social, and cultural identities had been abandoned, and all that was left was the binding love of Christ. If we miss this, we miss the power and significance of the early church.

4. Share Communion

In the New Testament, Christians expressed their newfound identities by gathering to eat together, sharing their food and their compassion over a common table. This was called the “Love Feast” and “The Lord’s Supper”, because in this meal, a new family was being built — a family that in a striking fashion, brought together slaves and slave-owners, rich and poor — living out in a concrete way the peace and the kingdom of God.

This practice was so important to Paul that in 1 Corinthians 11, he takes his readers to task for it. When eating together, many of the wealthy people had begun eating first, leaving the poorer individuals to pick up the scraps. This was repulsive because it went against the whole purpose of the meal, and contradicted everything they were supposed to be doing.

This practice is something we can reclaim and embrace. But we must embrace it with the full meaning and significance that the scriptures give to it — not as one of many rituals, but as an expression of the heart of Christian identity, and the all-embracing love of God.


These four things would mark a return to the Restoration Movement, a return to calling for and creating Christian unity. And they would revive a minimalist theology based around the core elements of New Testament Christianity.

But they require sacrifice. To return to the simplicity of New Testament Christianity, we must abandon the things we have added to it. To return to the power and signficance of the early church, we must re-embrace their spirit and their purpose.

Perhaps then we would have a true Restoration Movement, one that not only brings about Christian unity, but goes on to play a part in the healing of the world.

Erin A.:

Micah--I'm so proud of this article, and you for writing it. It emphasizes the points of my own thinking (which isn't why I like it so much), but it is, itself, a unified, simple approach. What I would recommend having, in case of challenges to these ideas, are some historic examples to go along with your scriptural ones. You begin the second point with "early in the Restoration movement, the motto was..." Cite that. If you can name the person who said it, where, why, etc. it helps understand the historic context you want us to get back to. Also, it reminds people that statements about what the Restoration Movement did or did not stand for can be tested. My go-to example for a lot of things is Tolbert and Charlotte Fanning. When he preached, she led singing, and she was well-known and admired for her ability to lead large congregational singing activities.

Chrissi Steiner:

I like the premise of this article but was hoping for more specifics, especially in your first point about abandoning unscriptural theology. Was it Campbell that said "christians only not the only christians?" Whoever it was, it's true, and I feel strongly that the CoC needs to get back to that. We have lost vision and purpose, and become in some very real ways like any other denomination, rather than rejecting such divisions as we claim. There is a powerful message of unity in the bible as Jesus prayed for in John 17 and many other places... and yet we seem to overlook those verses and instead focus on the trivial details of the law, as the pharisees did instead of the freedom offered by the law of grace. I enjoyed the article and hope to hear more about this topic in the future.

Molly Risley:

Micah, This is exceptionally well done and in an appropriate spirit and tone. I agree with the points you make, and I plan on sharing this with our congregation's leaders.

Jan Reeder:

Thanks for clarifying this problem and giving a solution.

Dale Cox:

enjoyed the article with one addition. Baptism is more than identifying with Christ. Re generational baptism is a divisive, but I believe crucial point.

Linda bird:

Well said!

Dean Bobo:

The church of Christ was established in AD 30 after Jesus death. I am sure you have read Acts 2 and all the prophets telling of its coming in the Old Testament. The Catholic church started afterwards from men wanting to have their own way.

anitacron:

The Lord's Supper was not a "meal".

Darryl:

To answer one of the questions posted in the comments: I believe the quote "We are Christians only, not the only Christians" is an abbreviation of N. B. Hardeman's quote in 1928: "I have never been so egotistic as to say that my brethren with whom I commune on the first day of the week are the only Christians on this earth. I never said that in my life. I do make the claim that we are Christians only. But there is a vast difference between that expression and the one formerly made" (Hardeman Tabernacle Sermons 3:125). I appreciate your blog! Well said. I do hope you follow it up and flesh out your four suggestions.

Jeff Hennen:

Excellent Article. We have gone from a movement that began with a plea to tear down walls of division, to erecting ever more barriers to fellowship, some of which are somewhat silly. I especially agree with Number one. Our unscriptural theology is killing us. Today's congregants are much more skeptical of the practice of stretching, taking out of context, and grossly misapplying scripture in an effort to support traditional quirks and whims that don't hold up under the full weight of the biblical witness.

Susan:

Since you were "raised" in the church of Christ, I am very surprised to read that you believe that the church was formed during the Restoration movement. The New Testament clearly teaches that "The Church of Christ" was the first and only church that was formed following Christ's resurrection. It was foretold in the Old Testament and mentioned thoughout Jesus' ministry as "at hand". Christ died and was resurrected so that the church could be established. The Catholic church was the first church to break away from the original church (which was established in 33 AD). And then there were many more to follow. The Restoration movement tried to re-establish the unity that was taught in the New Testament. A study of the gospels and the book of Acts verifies the establishment of the church, the requirements of salvation, and the unity that Christ, himself spoke about. It was God who set up the simplicity of the church and the worth and equality of all people. But the cost was not cheap. The cost was the harsh and cruel crucifixion of the Son of God, and God's power over death. I agree with your statement that we should elevate the scriptures above our opinions. Point 1 warns against looking at scriptures through a lens. I totally agree. But each person should examine their own heart and be sure that they are not trying to get rid of "outdated" commands and examples that were established by God (ie, your reference to Latin). Our job is not to "catch up with the times" as far as the desire for musical instruments, drama teams, women leaders, etc. Rather our job is to maintain the church that Christ established, IN the way that He established it. It takes more humility and obedience to maintain His church in the way that He established it than it does to change it to conform to the desires of this generation. The Bible clearly explains the importance of baptism. It is much more than being "publicly identified with Jesus" . As a matter of fact, the act of becoming baptized can be very private (Phillip and the Ethiopian eunich), but the result should show daily in our lives as we reach out to teach others and as we live to represent Jesus in our everyday world. Baptism is the point at which our sins are forgiven and we turn from our former life of sin. It is an essential part of our salvation. We must believe in God and Christ, repent of our sins, confess that Jesus is the son of God and is God, and then be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. So many believe that we are saved before we are baptized and that baptism is a symbol of our belief. But the Bible does not teach this (Mark 16:16) Baptism is not something that is mandated by the church leaders or other members, it is mandated by God (Acts 2:38). The Bible is simple to understand if we read it with an open mind and heart, and do not read it with a pre-determined mindset. And lastly, point 4. The Lord's Supper, which Jesus himself established, was not a "meal" of celebration between people who had something in common. While it was common for early Christians to share meals together (this was a time of persecution by the Romans, and some of them did not have enough food to eat), the Lord's Supper was in no way a "love feast". Jesus established the Lord's Supper to be a memorial to Him; a time for Christians to remember His death, burial, and resurrection. He is the One who said the bread represented His broken body and the Cup represented His blood (Matt 26: 26-28, Mark 14:22-24 , Luke 22: 19-20). The early church (after the resurrection) observed the Lord's Supper every first day of the week when they met to worship God. As we all pursue God and try to fulfill our desire to worship Him in a way that pleases Him, let us go back to the beginning of the church, in the New Testament, and read what He left for us as instructions from His inspired word. Let us not judge others for how they worship, but know that God judges us. Therefore, we should worship Him in Spirit and in Truth and in accordance with the commands and examples that He gave to Christians when He established His church in the first century.

Darryl:

Susan, there is so much here. But I will only mention one thing: the Lord's Supper was created in the context of a full meal (Passover). Historically the early church ate what was called a "Love feast" in connection with the Lord's Supper. In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul criticizes the Corinthians for not waiting on the poor to eat their full meal. As a result, the poor were embarrassed and hungry. The context of 1 Corinthians is division and selfishness. The meal is a meal which focuses upon the "body of Christ" (i.e., the church--see 1 Corinthians 10:17 "because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf," and 1 Corinthians 12:27 "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.") It included remembering the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus--but it also focused upon the unity of the church (thus the word "communion" from "community" and "common"). Yes, the Lord's Supper was a memorial--but so was the Passover. A full meal does not exclude the idea of a memorial. (Note this is why two cups are mentioned in Luke--he was recording two of the four cups served in a traditional Passover.) That the Lord's Supper was taken in the first century as part of a full meal is fairly well established among biblical scholars (including among scholars in Churches of Christ). I highly recommend you do some more research on the topic. I think you will find it quite powerful.

Penny costlow:

Susan. Thank you

Patti C:

interesting read. I agree with the commenter that the Church of Christ is not a result of the Restoration movement, nor is the Lord's Supper a meal. Paul was actually telling them how to take the Communion (unleavened bread and fruit of the vine) and not to come together as in having a meal and being gluttonous. I really want to challenge you. Too many times lately I read articles about what is wrong with the church, or problems people are having within the church. I will from now on start challenging those who do this to write an equally positive article. When I read these articles, it strikes me as the complete opposite of the the great commission where we are to go out preaching the gospel. Instead we turn people away with our negativity. If we have a specific problem it should be handled in our congregation. Paul wrote letters to congregations that were in error. He did not have them blasted for everyone to see. I feel this information can be useful, if handled correctly. Anyway, now tell me what the churches of Christ are doing right. Thank you.

micah:

Hi Patti, Thank you for reading, considering, and responding. I really want to challenge you on what you're seeing here. My whole article is positive about the Churches of Christ. My whole point is to call back to their original focus on the scriptures and the simplicity of biblical Christianity. That's the message I was taught growing up, it's the message I heard affirmed at Freed-Hardeman University, and I'm pretty sure it's the message my great-grandfather preached. Any criticism I have is coming from this: over time, people can sometimes lose sight of their first love. When that happens, I can't think of anything more "Church of Christ" than to call them back to it. -Micah

Chrissi Steiner:

Dean Bobo, It seems to me that God's people have never followed him in a straight line, as you suggest from AD 30 to now. Using the people of Israel as an example, they had moments of doubt, slipped, lost their faith and turned their backs on God from time to time, at which point he would send them a messenger be it prophet, judge or eventually his own son. I would submit to you that human nature regarding the people of God has not changed on this point, and that at some points in the last 2000 years Christians have faltered, and become from time to time caught up more in traditions than in Jesus Christ. I resonate with the prayer of Paul in 1 Cor. 2: - For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. If we are busy preaching Jesus Christ we will somehow not find the time for pety disputes over doctrine. Just get back to Christ and let him work in people's hearts.

Darryl:

Hey Micah, I thought the blog was rather positive. I suppose any critique can be considered negative by some. But in your critique you mentioned positive attributes Churches of Christ have held: focus on baptism, the Lord's Supper, and emphasis upon scripture and unity. That we have drifted away from those areas over the last 200 years is merely the truth--not negativity. You also offered constructive steps as an alternative. By definition, this is positive. I find it interesting that some of those who post claim the "Church of Christ" associated with Campbell & Stone began in the first century. Yet they capitalize "Church" in order to "denominate" (lit. "to name") and distinguish between "Church of Christ" and other groups. G. C. Brewer (editor of the Gospel Advocate in the early 1900s) would be turning over in his grave to see the name "church of Christ" so used. I would say the Church of Christ (big "C") started in the late 1700s early 1800s. But the people of God (known as "the way," "churches of Christ", "church of the firstborn ones", and just "church") who follow Jesus have been in existence since the first century. Again, well said. Keep on writing.

Franetta:

Well stated, that's the book. Amen

Doug:

Well written response, Susan. Thank you.

Brad Blackman:

This was a really good post, Micah. I appreciate your taking the time to spell out the situation with CofC and how to remedy it. I've seen a lot more progress over the last 3 or 4 years than in the previous 20 or so. Working in a Baptist environment has done a lot to open my mind from the CofC bubble I grew up in. (I went to Harding.) I like the idea of "theological minimalism" and how you lovingly pointed out that CofC as a whole has gotten away from that, and the solutions you propose. 2 and 3 are the ones that resonate with me the most. Thanks for writing this.

Tim:

I really appreciate this article. It is not perfect, but then neither are any of us. However, the premise of which the author writes is about as biblical and scriptural as it can be. As for the Lord's Supper, it appears that many have been blinded by tradition and think that it must be observed in a stodgy and businesslike manner, rather than the manner in which it was 2000 years ago. Many historians record the "Lord's Supper" being observed during the "Love feast" (not a 1960's phrase, but what we would call a "fellowship meal" or simply sharing a meal with brothers and sisters). I'm curious as to why the comments are made that somewhat adamantly that, "It wasn't a meal." Is it for fear that some will take liberties with it? If so, then we also need to stop preaching grace and mercy, as many have taken many liberties therewith as well. Great article. I began by saying it wasn't perfect, but that is simply an assumption...it may be, who am I to judge?

Josh:

This is an overdue message for the CC/CoC. Many camps in our movement are more focused on kicking people in out of the people than kicking people into the kingdom. I just attended a reformed conference (TGC) where the phrase "Reformed Inclusivism" kept emerging. I'd love to see our movement adopt the mantra of "Restored Inclusivism." Funny enough my church leadership has adopted a policy to no longer send staff to "non-Christian-Church" events. Pretty exclusive, no? I'd like to see more development of your 1st point. What theologies, positions, and practices are you referring to? Our movement needs to answer the call of being Gospel-Centered rather than Doctrine Centered. Its pretty well common practice for our churches today to use the gospel to support our doctrines rather than our doctrines to support the mission of the gospel.

Trae:

Could you please mention some examples of unscriptural theology that we need to abandon? It seems to me that your ideas for a restoration of the restoration are solid, and I appreciate you taking on the effort to lay out a good plan! Thank you.

Luke Dockery:

Hey Darryl, The Lord’s Supper was absolutely instituted in the context of a Passover meal, and early Christians seemed to observe it in a meal context at least some of the time (like in Corinth; also indicated in the Didache). Having said that, it is an oversimplification to make the LS out to be some sort of fellowship potluck (I’m not accusing you of doing that, but your comment seemed to leave open that inference, which is why I decided to respond). From Everett Ferguson, “Early Christians Speak: Faith and Life in the First Three Centuries,” 127: “Even where an ordinary meal provided the setting for the Lord’s supper, there is no reason to think the latter was not distinct in its observance and meaning.” And that makes sense when you consider the original context where Jesus, in the midst of a Passover meal, does something distinct which was not the same as the meal they had been sharing. I think the practice today which would most closely resemble that of the early church would be to have a fellowship potluck where the poor would be given special preference (“Don’t worry if you couldn't afford to make something today; you get to go first in line anyway!”), followed by a distinct time focused on remembering the sacrifice of Christ, discerning the Body, and proclaiming His death until He comes. I think collapsing the two practices into one can lead to the sort of abuses described in 1 Corinthians.

Luke Dockery:

Hey Susan, You seemed to take strong exception to the following statement in the original post: “Some of you may know that I was raised in the Churches of Christ, a small religious group that emerged from the American Restoration Movement of the early 1800s.” Historically, this is an accurate statement. There would not be thousands and thousands of congregations in the US with the name “Church of Christ” on the sign which are under the oversight of a plurality of elders, teach that believers should be immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins, sing in worship without musical accompaniment, etc. without the work and influence accomplished in the American Restoration Movement of the 1800s. That is a fact. That fact does NOT invalidate the claim that the Church of Christ, the Body of Christ, the universal fellowship of those who are in Christ and have been redeemed by Him, was established on the Day of Pentecost following the death and resurrection of Christ (historians now generally place that event around AD 30 because of previous dating errors). Alexander Campell, Barton Stone, Walter Scott, and others did not start the Church of Christ, and I think that was what you were arguing in your post. But what Micah said was accurate.

Luke Dockery:

Hey Micah, I appreciate your post and your heart. A lot of good stuff here. Like some others, I would be interested to hear you flesh out the statement, “they appealed to ideas about religious ethics that appeared nowhere in the scriptures, and strained the credibility of everyone who heard them. And yet generations of preachers clung to these ideas like they were a life raft.” I don’t necessarily disagree with that statement, but would be interested to know, specifically, of some of those unscriptural ideas which you had in mind while writing. Of course, it is a blogger’s prerogative to be as vague as he wants to be. :-)

Lee:

In our attempt to restore the simplicity of our Christian faith may I suggest we start with closing our "Christian" high schools and colleges and selling the property owned by the church. Mega auditoriums,activity centers, etc. You will soon see how entrenched, divisive, and even competitive Christianity has become

Emma B:

Micah, your reply to Patti was what I read in your original post. God Bless you Micah.

Darryl:

Hey Luke, I appreciate your comment. You are correct, I was not suggesting that the Lord's Supper is simply a pot luck. However, it is important to understand that a typical Jewish meal began with breaking of bread and ended with drinking of wine. The meal was eaten in between. I do think there is something of a collapsing (the Quakers have thus made every meal a practice of communion). Yes, this CAN lead to the abuses described in 1 Corinthians 11--isn't that rather the point? The fact that abuses occurred in Corinth indicates the way the supper was understood--as part of the meal. The potential of abuse of a practice doesn't mean one should avoid the practice or that it wasn't the normative practice in the first century. Here is a great quote and I apologize because it is quite lengthy: "We cannot begin to understand the meaning of the Lord's Supper without reckoning with the fact that, before everything else, it is a Jewish meal. John Macquarrie recalls a fond memory from his years of teaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York. He was invited on the eve of Shabbat [Sabbath] to supper at the home of rabbi Abrahm Heschel, the great Jewish theologian. At the beginning of the meal, in the warm light of the Shabbat candles, the host took a loaf of bread in his hands and said the brief prayer, called in Hebrew the berakah, which means blessing, or thanksgiving. 'Blessed are you, Lord God, king of the universe, you bring forth bread from the earth.' The rabbi then broke off a piece for himself and distributed the rest to the guests around the table. Macquarrie recalls that at the end of the meal there were more extended thanksgivings. The host took a cup of wine, known as 'the cup of blessing' (see 1 Corinthains 10:16), and said a similar berakah: 'Blessed are you, Lord God, king of the universe, you create the fruit of the vine.' "Macquarrie says that this scene could hardly fail to remind him of Jesus' last meal with his disciples on the night before he died: 'It is quite possible that he used much the same prayers at the Last Supper as I was now hearing from Abraham Heschel...[I]n Heschel's apartment I had a vivid sense of that Last Supper at which was instituted the Lord's Supper or eucharist, a word which itself means "thanksgiving."'" -Leonard J. Vander Zee, Christ, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, pp 140-141 Again, Luke I appreciate your spirit in your post. Thanks.

Michelle Vicchiarelli:

I was intrigued by your article because I too have grown up in the church. But like Chrissi I felt that it lacked specifics. I have not personally experienced what you've written about. The c of c's I've attended have been loving congregations that meet often to share in meals. We do not re-baptize people if they have been biblically baptized. It's their choice if they choose to be re-baptized. We follow the scriptures and for some folks that's a hard pill to sallow in this day and age because they think we are somehow legalistic. Many want to preach about the love of God only and say nothing about the wrath to come. If we can't talk about God's wrath then who are we as a church? Paul talked about it all the time. The first church was unique and will probably never be duplicated but that doesn't mean that c of c's are not "like" the first church. The c of c's I've attended give to the poor and to the widows, orphans "especially those of the body of Christ" which is what we're commanded. I live in Ohio where c of c's are falling off the platform left and right…but I've managed to find a solid church. Seek them out and you will find them.

jim:

Argument from a legalist... That's the lessons none of us missed. When I ask church goers where they fellowship, and the tell me about thier Preacher, I know it has alot less to do with family. Social paralitics is what the signs show me. I don't believe this is a natural outfall of love for one another or the Fathers love. Y'all need to stop legalizing the crap out of righteousness and LIVE. Haven't the robotic motions stolen enough of your imagined heady 'rightly justified' relationships already. GOD is the creator of LIFE !!! Trust you're Livers, He has given us an internal compass, trust it - seek life! Your author made you that way.... No more legalism for Jesus. Leg, arm and brain braces confirm belief you can't hold up without them, the Creator didn't 'short' you on anything. It is true you will need each other and the Spirit, and the word..... Go ahead... act it out.. Actions of love come from within' ... Not a new and improved 'To Do List' No more division between the holy of holys and the priests or the people- you're free to live. Oh by the way, Don't pattern the jews - bad examples.

Bryan:

Yes Susan, What you said "Our job is not to "catch up with the times" as far as the desire for musical instruments, drama teams, women leaders, etc. Rather our job is to maintain the church that Christ established, IN the way that He established it. It takes more humility and obedience to maintain His church in the way that He established it than it does to change it to conform to the desires of this generation." was ON Point.

ED:

SUSAN'S COMMENT ON THE LEAD ARTICLE IS EXACTLY RIGHT. IT IS BIBLICAL...THE LORD'S SUPPER WAS ""NOT"" A LOVE FEAST...IT WAS IN REMBERANCE OF THE CRUCIFIED CHRIST..WHO DIED TO SAVE US FROM OUR SINS..SUSAN..YOU NAILED THE RESPONSE TO THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE !!

alan:

You're referring to the idea that the CoC today is the exact same as back then? The CoC (and most other sects of Christianity) look nothing like the church did back then. Just because the nomenclature "churches of Christ" appears in the book of Romans doesn't mean it's carried all these centuries. I've heard that goofiness all my life as I grew up in "the faith." "We're the same church of the NT." Baloney. A non-denominational, spirit-filled church comes closer.

alan:

In case he doesn't answer you, my first bet would be the following: 1) Eliminating the patternism-command-inference-example hermeneutic is the first start. 2) Realizing that when the old covenant passed away it didn't eliminate the books of wisdom or prophecy. After all, God himself doesn't change. Just the way to be forgiven of sins by animal sacrifice. 3) Cessationist doctrine 4) Eisegesis of key scriptures that the CoC has built a doctrine around by taking said scriptures out of context. Particular pertaining to worship and the Lord's supper. ...and that's the short list. Everything else pretty much can fall under that.

alan:

"The New Testament clearly teaches that "The Church of Christ" was the first and only church that was formed following Christ's resurrection." And so a man couldn't read that from the Bible and make a church and name it "the church of Christ" and then claim it's the same one? The "church of God" is also mentioned in the NT. I guess if I claim to follow the NT strictly (whether or not I actually do) and name my church the "Church of God" then it's the same church they had in the 1st century, right? Susan, the modern CoC wasn't and currently isn't like the church back then. I think if you attended a service back then you'd think they "fell away from the faith."

Daniel Keeran:

keep writing

Roger Leonard:

The true church of Christ/church of God, et al, did not emerge from some movement in the 19th Century. It is found in four places: 1) In prophecy (both in the O.T. writings and in Jesus' words); 2) In its establishment in the N.T. era, beginning on Pentecost Sunday, A.D. 33 at Jerusalem; 3) In the pattern of doctrine and practice as described by the letters from N.T. writers to the churches of Christ in their various geographical locations; and 4) Wherever people are found today who are following the N.T. pattern for the church.

jim:

Heavens dishwashers.... Can a Pharisee be saved, yes -  but where would they go when they die? Would it be heavenly if there were a bunch of legalists sitting around arguing, thinking, wait... knowing each was right? Oh yeah, I know, the legalists will be the dish washers in heavan. Because when the truth will be revealed.... They won't have anything to argue about, percisely the only thing they ever prepared for while on earth.  As well, they haven't actually practiced DOING ANYTHING with all the talking and thinking that if they were thinking or talking about God, Godliness, or love they must have some wisdom and expertise in the subject. Sadly everyone knows talking and talking isn't actually Doing anything.  Understanding they are durably hard to be around for any extended period of time, with the whole arrogance about nothing with the incessant desire to argue,  they'll have to be given something to do, away from others,  While promoting, here on earth, that talking was Not equal to Doing but superior to doing buy the mere production of one and nary of the other can still have a place in heavan, isn't grace amazing.

Spencer Strickland:

You make the claim that the church of Christ has been guilty of causing division "almost universally with badly out-of-context and misapplied verses" and "convoluted arguments." What Scriptures, exactly, have they been taking out of context? What "convoluted arguments" have they been using. It's one thing to hurl accusations and quite another to prove your case. If you don't prove your case, then you have failed the 1 Peter 3:15 test.

kay:

Susan is exactly right....why do we feel like we have to change to suit the times....Bibical doctrine does not change

micah:

> "...our job is to maintain the church that Christ established, IN the way that He established it. It takes more humility and obedience to maintain His church in the way that He established it than it does to change it to conform to the desires of this generation" I agree. My article was challenging the ways in which the Church of Christ, over the last several generations, has compromised the original message, and therefore needs to return to a focus on the New Testament.

alan:

He probably doesn't have time to write a book to answer your question. I say this with all seriousness: From the hermeneutic of patternism & example/command/inference (which isn't a completely Biblical one); to the very distortion of Romans 16:16 to defend that the modern CoC is equal to the 1st century church. And everywhere in between... There are misapplications, mis-translations of the original scripture, and making more rules and yokes than the Savior intended. Most evident is fruit. "You will know them by their fruit." When most of my CoC friends and family keep the written legalism of the CoC but neglect and forget about God in every other area of their lives. When they go to the "right church (smh)" yet live in fear and unsurety about where they stand with God. When upon leaving the bondage of the CoC for the freedom of Biblical Christianity, my life transformed to the Glory of God.... by these fruits. I'm not against the people who are still very much CoC. I am against the Enemy who lies and deceives ("deceive" means you genuinely think you're right when you're not - A person who's spends their whole life in a prison cell doesn't know what freedom on the outside looks like). I am against people going to church and still being separated from God because of the doctrinal system. He came to set us free, give us life abundantly, heal our disease, and give us a yoke that is light and easy, with no condemnation, and with the comforting knowledge that we are indeed saved from an eternity in Hell even now. Your church membership, where ever it is, should be affirming that.

Ms. Monte Gregg:

Having been associated with CoC from every sect imaginable in my 59 1/2 years on earth, I appreciate this article and the heart of the one who wrote it. Having grown up with grandparents and parents who were CoC but with perspectives that greatly differed, my generation was faced with seeking out God through scriptures and then questioning both camps about their stands. For that I am literally eternally grateful. Why? Because it really helped me to understand that my whole commitment to God and Christ had to come from a knowledge of the Word of God and NOT from men/women who are plagued with the ability to have opinions. I have one brother and one sister. Neither remained in the church at all after graduating high school based on the hypocrisy and the hard line of a people bent on being "righteously" judge and jury. It turned them off and away and I have made it my life's goal to win them back. Everything this young man has written is on point. BUT just like my previous ancestors many will close their minds off to anything that "sounds different" than what they were taught to believe. This is NOT a CoC phenomena. One just needs to look around the religious world to see that I'm right. And closed minds......are a dangerous thing. Because satan has his way with a closed mind. He feeds the notion that to open ones mind and heart to learning and growing is counter to what God designed. But culturally we owe it to our future Kingdom dwellers to truly understand what and to whom they have committed themselves. WE tend to want to follow the cultural examples of the Bible and apply them inconsistently (feet washing). We say why should we change the Bible to appeal to cultural change? Because we must if we are going to reach the world. Cultural change is inevitable. And what's interesting is that not only CoC but all known religions HAVE indeed culturally changed. (One cup to many cups, classes no classes, debates rarely taking place, tent meetings a thing of the past, and much more). And NONE of the practices I've seen in my 59 1/2 years were born from a 33AD practice. None of them. We HAVE adapted culturally. In fact we use technology regularly and unless we are Amish we have no problem using a microphone, a power point, a laptop to create and deliver the lessons, and yes even good ole chalk boards were once a cultural change. The MESSAGE of the Bible is clear. The writer is a very astute in his view to see that IF we do not wish to disappear all together we MUST get to a place where the ONLY thing we deliver is the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. Interestingly enough JESUS was a cultural change agent the likes of which His culture had never seen. And He caused such a stir they murdered Him. How are we like Him? How bold will we be to stand FOR Him and His teachings (none of which have to do with sitting in a church building mind you), and be cultural change agents that wake up a LOST world chained up in infighting, dogmatism, and religious rules and regulations, and become JUST LIKE HIM?

Judy:

This is exactly what I was thinking. You stated it perfectly.

Tiffany:

Thank you Susan! There were many false statements regarding the origin of the Church if Christ in the original post. It was established at the time if Pentecost after the resurrection.

Melanie:

Great read Susan, thank you for this contribution

Julie:

Thank you for your post. I agree with your points whole heartedly.

Daniel Redding:

The "Lord's Supper" was based on the Passover Feast, the feast before the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Passover Feast is one that was celebrated to commemorate the passing over of the angel of death while the Israelites were still in Egypt. Now, during this feast there were four cups of wine that were drunk throughout the meal and there were pieces of bread that were used as symbols of the passover lamb, ect. When Jesus broke the bread, he said "this is my body," as he was breaking the bread that symbolized the passover lamb. He drinks the cup after the "meal," which symbolizes salvation and establishes the new covenant of his blood. The "Lord's Supper" is based directly on everything to do with the Passover meal. What language we attribute to meaning the "Lord's Supper" is actually language used to indicate a meal: the breaking of bread. And you'll find they did this daily. Maybe I'm wrong, but there it is.

Cornel:

Good article as far as it goes. Yes the Lord's Supper was a meal. Yes unity is important to God as Jesus prayed. I believe unless believers go back to gatherings without specific names over the door and the style of worship that buildings dictate-- unity cannot be achieved. The early Christians gave all of their money to each other even other gatherings of believers. Some went to elders, or traveling evangelists like Paul. The system of full time (paid) preachers like today or paying for buildings did not exist. It was all about the needy and spreading the gospel. The style of assembly needs to go back to what Paul encouraged that "everyone has a hymn, or word of instruction, etc." and all participate. Everyone has gifts. Men and women were praying and prophesying in 1 Cor. When Christians can give up the movement, traditions and heritage and just gather like they did in the early ekklesia then unity can began to happen. There is one church but there is not one specific name in scripture. I gather with other Christians in homes or parks. We come together each wanting to share struggles, God's word, prayer, songs, etc. We don't always agree but we are unified and do not separate ourselves from other Christians. The day and evening is always different depending on the needs of the body. Both women and men participate around the table as we remember Christ and eat the love feast in celebration of Him. Pretty simple but we had to give up the barriers that prevented us from just being the one body. A few good books to read that explain when traditions came into the body are--Pagan Christianity and Reimaging church by Frank Viola. Also Come to the Table by John Mark Hicks. Cornel