This was originally written as a response to Dr. Ted Campbell’s blog post. You can view it HERE. I hope you find it encouraging on some level!
As a kid who grew up in the Churches of Christ – I probably have a little different take on this (Dr. Campbell’s view on how Churches of Christ are probably right [CoC’s]) than some, given my background. I grew up in churches that were anti- or non-institutional CoC’s. Long story short; we didn’t believe it was scriptural to support orphans homes from the church treasury (treasury=scriptural?), no fellowship halls, gyms, or kitchens in the building; after all, the gospel wasn’t about being a country-club.
But your article strikes me with a freshness, Dr. Campbell. I have been through a weird metamorphosis, b/c I have gone to a CoC graduate school, served as a deacon in the more mainstream (liberal, from where I grew up) CoC’s, and now am of the position that CoC’s are often just another denominational hierarchy, albeit without a centralized denominational structure. Sure, we don’t have the CoC headquarters per se, but there are plenty of denominational flags and trademarks.
The Stone-Campbell movement to restore NT Christianity was filtered through their OWN traditions; be it Scottish Presbyterian or otherwise Reformation Protestant. Yet there was a freshness to the idea of just doing the Bible’s description of Christianity.
Fast-Forward to today… how would Stone & Campbell view CoC’s? GENERALLY kinfolk. But I think there was a freshness to the idea of being completely non-attached to any headquarters, or any other churches by affiliation. The idea of being completely autonomous and solitary was an exciting idea to these folks. I consider myself a “Stoned-Campbellite” – meaning I grew up with a DAZED & CONFUSED view of hermeneutics, authority, discipleship, and evangelism. Not that I didn’t know about these four things; but to keep them perfectly tied up and consistent left me in a delirium.
But it’s scary. If you don’t believe me, just start practicing TRULY non-denominational Christianity. One where you have your own set of shepherds, a biblical viewpoint, but then again you really couldn’t care less what other churches think of you. Not for the sake of just being different, but for the sake of being completely authentic. Completely free to interpret the scripture with a conscience and a deep spirit of humility.
NOT to mention the Spirit’s work in our daily lives; the empowerment of His love and strength and guidance to those who submit fully to Christ. I still remember when I got up to preach my first Sunday night sermon at the age of 16. One elder said, “You can preach on anything… except the ‘indwelling of the Holy Spirit.’” He actually WASN’T kidding. After all, the Spirit’s work was done long ago, and only in a mystical way now as we read the Scripture, by helping us understand it. Or… so it has been traditionally maintained.
Can a church (a collective group of disciples of Christ) really practice this? Can they really make a powerful statement of the sovereignty of Christ in today’s world? Can we love those who are in sin, but effectively show Christ’s love in a way to penetrate their life and actions? Perhaps they can be brought to Christ in time. An old mentality is still out there that says, “preach the word, and if they don’t accept it, then shake the dust off your feet and move on.” Jesus did tell his disciples that, and there is truth in it. But we can’t be of a spirit that polarizes people, and still bring glory to God. Jesus befriended those who were in sin, and though he didn’t take part in it, something about his love, grace, and genuineness of action brought them to him.
I just find that yours is a unique bird’s eye view, and I appreciate it. It’s easy to get frustrated with what some experience as stifling and laden with un-written creeds.
Father, help me to be real Jesus. Not the 21st century public perception of how people THINK of Jesus, because of our hypocrisy. Help me to always practice the realness and genuineness of faith; loving ALL others, whether in a lifestyle the Bible calls sin, or whether they are traditional, genuine-but-often-lost believers. Help me to be the man I am called to be, and show a balanced, real view to the world, so they will see you. NOT me. Help me to see others how YOU see them, not as I would naturally see them the way I might be tempted to do. Help me to share Christ with others every single day. every. single. day.