Is the Grass Greener?

It happened again. A good friend contacted me recently to share his decision to begin his faith journey with a different church. No- not another Church of Christ in his town- but another faith family altogether. He explained his reasons and I empathized. He is devout man whom I love and respect deeply, but still I felt my heart sink.

Too often his story is repeated.

Many who leave are victims of the damage we have done to ourselves. They have been swept away by the tide of dissension and splintering. Others feel suffocated by inflexible tradition with no outlet to freely express themselves without condemnation. Others feel betrayed because this tradition is no longer honored. Some are just sick of the distracting issues and are simply seeking peace.

While I understand this- it doesn’t lessen the loss. This talent drain only weakens us. With all of my heart I wish there was another way.

I wish there was open dialog among us- from all perspectives- to build bridges and not dead-end roads. I wish we would all lay our differences at the foot of the cross to see how insignificant they often are. I wish the Greatest Commandments truly governed our churches. I wish our pride was swallowed up in humility. I wish our fears would be erased in faith. I wish the church was what it should be to everyone.

But I know it isn’t and I know it can’t be. I know it will disappoint me. I know it will frustrate me. I know it may even hurt me. I know it because I contribute to it. The church is made up of the imperfect, flawed and fallen.

But I love it anyway. I so much want to see it flourish and grow. I want to see the Bride in full adornment shining brightly! I want to see the body healthy and fully functioning. I want to see it a belonging place nurturing and encouraging to everyone.

In no way am I passing judgment on anyone who has left us. Nor do I believe that in order to embrace heaven one must worship in a building with a sign that says, “Church of Christ”. To believe that is to be arrogant and uniformed.

But I have to wonder. Is the grass greener elsewhere?

I have given my life to ministry within the Church of Christ and still even believe in the validity of our early restoration roots. It is the pasture that has nourished me. Is the grass really that much sweeter across the fence?

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36 Responses to Is the Grass Greener?

  1. Gary W. Kirkendall says:

    Danny, the church is what it is — a body of redeemed and flawed people awaiting the full realization of their salvation. That means we carry arond all the garbage of this struggle with us, which tends to show its ugly side from time to time. I get fed up sometimes, but I remember this one thing: the group known as the “Church of Christ” gave me everything I have– my wife, my children, my education, my career, my friends (like you), and my life both here and the life to come. For me, I would feel like an ingrate to abandon the source of so many great gifts. I think many focus on the shortcomings and too quickly forget and appreciate the great things!! The frustrations can be great, but the struggle continues. I plan to keep after it and wish others would too! I beleive we’ll get there some day.

  2. Danny says:

    Amen, bro GWK!

  3. rurscmhcea says:

    The question of which Denomintaion one worships with it one that everyone must answer for their self. I say that to say that in picking a church one should go to the word and look at each church ask the question is this the church that I read of here in this book, The christian world is divided by names on a door. We add to and take away everyday, and in doing so we are wrong. We cannot Judge we can simply read the word, live the word to the best of our human ability. I have had conversations with family members of other demonitaions and I have to wonder how much time is spent in the word studying and how much time is just listing to what the preacher, teacher or author of a christian book says and taking it to heart. I think true earnest time in the word is the best solution to this , that is where the answers are!

  4. Nancy says:

    Hey! Just stumbled upon your blog. I understand your grief over this. I also understand your loyalty to the denomination — oops, I know I know, it’s not a denomination 🙂 — because of history and family.

    Don’t be sad though. The church — globally — is strong. God is working powerfully, justice is being delivered, wounds are being healed. Be of good cheer. God is sovereign and good.

    nancy

  5. Danny says:

    I agree rurscmhcea, the word is were the answers are.

    And thanks Nancy for stopping in and sharing a very positive message. It is appreciated.

  6. JD says:

    Truly, it is much easier to pick this apart than it is to put it back together.

    I agree…why dont we all just lay our differences aside. When you lay yours aside, we’ll agree … good plan!

    It is not simple. Others have their battles … but I see two things pulling us apart. (1) A generation who was taught to read the Bible through a particular lens – and that all other lens were sinful and wrong. (2) A newer generation that gave up a long time ago trying to dialogue because they cannot detect much bending from the other side. Lots of bad stuff springs from those two items.

    We are not following the Scriptures on these matters…and that is at the core what the true problem is.

  7. Stoned-Campbell Disciple says:

    When I graduated from a small Bible College there were to matriculate. Of those 14 there are no more than five that are still preaching. Of that 14 I know five that have left the CofCs altogether.

    I too lament this loss Danny. It is tragic. It is also tragic that many brethren simply have no clue as to “why” they have chosen to do so. Many have left the CofC for the same reasons others have quite preaching … frustration and hurt.

    I have a really good friend (REALLY good) who has just left for the Independent Christian Church. I talked with one this week (one of those 14) who wants to leave . . . he is going to sell real estate instead. I understand his reasons though I feel God is being cheated.

    I love our family. I love God’s family. I do not believe the CofCs are the only part of God’s family but this is where I believe God has placed me. I want us to flourish and be healthy. But I don’t know what to do.

    So I tried to make money by writing a book on Postmodernism, 🙂 (that is for JD and C4, smiles)

    C-u at Pepperdine. I am on my way to the airport.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  8. Danny says:

    Good analysis JD. If we just didn;t give up on each other!

    The good news is that the church belongs to God and that is the reason we should always embrace the future with hope.

    Hey Bobby, I plan to help make a little of that money!

  9. Ben Overby says:

    Danny,

    I found my way to your blog via Gary Kirkendall’s blog. I hope my thoughts will not be too intrusive.

    Maybe the grass is greener, but like the green of artificial turf in comparison to Bermuda grass. We were created to tend the garden, to help the rose become more robust and vibrant, to aid the oak in reaching upward, outward, full of dangling, green leaves, to cultivate the forest’s carpet so that it, too, can spread from one horizon to the next, lush and green. But Eve was convinced that the grass was greener on the other side, that she was missing out, that she could have more if . . .

    We were pushed out of the garden into the wilderness. And it is in the wilderness that the church is called; called to help God restore the beauty of the fallen world one person, one family at a time. The work, for ministers, isn’t going to be more splendid if we hop across the fence. We will find the “greener” grass is just artificial turf. Underneath is the real stuff, and because of sin there’s much deadness, plenty of taupe-colored blades, bent with the sting of death, needing light, cultivation, love. We are called where we are for a reason. The garden we call “churches of Christ” is no better, no worse than the pasture across the fence. In my estimation our greatest difficulty is in accepting the fact that recreation isn’t the result of the shiniest hoe, the strongest tiller, the most refined fertilizer. It is God’s work; He provides the resources to those humble enough to cling to them. There’s a fascinating bit of scripture in Dt. 11:9-12. God has taken us out of Egypt where growing food was difficult, through the arid wilderness where we thought we’d starve to death, into a land that, POTENTIALLY, He will water, where His eyes are always on it, etc. The way to grow green grass on this side of the fence is to trust Him. That means that we might have to give up some or all of our methods of irrigation. And it might be frightening. It might mean that we rip down the arbitrary barbed-wire and realize that we are all part of the same field anyway. And the temptation to both keep up fences and/or jump fence might even increase for those who can’t see the challenge and wonderful opportunity right under their feet. Whatever the case, we can make the grass greener today by seeking and acting in God’s will. If we could put blinders on and just worry about today and the little snippet of God’s creation we have some influence over we might just enjoy the grace of His rain falling down and the satisfaction of knowing that we’ve done all we could to His glory even in the face of the constant lure of the artificial turf that surrounds us.

    Ben

  10. Danny says:

    Thanks for those beautiful thoughts Ben. They were definitly not intrusive- just insightful.

  11. Nancy says:

    The “artificial turf” being the world, and not the church that Danny’s friend is joining, I assume?

    Great thoughts.

  12. Larry says:

    Sometimes the grass IS greener outside our pasture. Often we’re brainwashed to think that if we leave our home pasture we are hell-bound.

    Some legalistic tribes of the Church of Christ perceive their pastures as having not only the greenest pasture, but the only pasture in town. Sheep not grazing in their pasture are feasting on dead grass and eventually will starve to death.

    It’s unfortunate, but occasionally a move is necessary for our spiritual health when we find ourselves mired in a traditional and legalistic quagmire.

  13. Christi says:

    Hope you don’t mind if I add my two cents. 🙂 I respect all of you greatly and your distress over this situation.
    When we moved out here to California, we attended a cofC for a couple of years. We made wonderful friends and it is a church filled with deep grace, compassion and love. We truly did grow there. I appreciate them and contribute some very serious growth to them.
    I don’t feel like we “left the cofC”. Even though I suppose technically we did. Not because we thought the grass was greener though. We attend the military chapel here on post. One of the Chaplains approached us almost 2 years ago and asked if Sunnydale would lead the praise and worship. He confided that the service had dwindled because so many had moved (military does that). He felt that things could build back up again with a lot of help from a lot of people.
    So after much prayer and discussion with the Elders, we did make the decision to go to the Chapel.
    It wasn’t really as much a belief issue, for us, as it was the opportunity to help. As it turned out, we feel blessed. I’m the Director of Religious Ed. at the Chapel and let me tell you…
    The grass is certainly not greener.

    Other “denominations” certainly have things they bicker over as well. I think if you feel smothered by traditions and you leave for another church, you will be sadly disappointed.

    There are several things that I have come to disagree with in the cofC. However, after being out there in “the other world” for almost 2 years, there is just as much if not more that I disagree with. Greener? No. Now, don’t get me started on a military chapel and how much I love it *rolls eyes sarcastically*, however, we have friends here that attend a Christian church in town. They are strong for the Lord, trying their best to teach in truth and in love. I think they are doing a wonderful job.

    So all of that to say that the grass on the other side is most of the time very similar, if not the same, as the grass on our side.
    You trade one problem for another when you leave.

    My theory is that if we could put away the “lofty glances from lofty people” (casting crowns) and TRULY love and worship in love, so many things would change. As it is, unfortunately, too many are afraid. Afraid of what people will think.
    Too bad. I’ve said a million times that I think there are thngs that concern us a whole lot more than they concern God.

  14. CFOURMAY says:

    What a subject! Ben, that is some great writing. People are leaving the “church of Christ.” Do we agree with the congregation that they are going to attend? Sometimes, sometimes not. Is the grass greener over there? Many times the same junk that is going on in one church is going on in all the others. Not 100% of the time, but definately a majority I would say. You might not be able to see it from this side of the fence, but once you are in the group it becomes evident. Now, my experience comes only from churches of Christ, but from friends and others it is obvious all churches have their stereotypes and something agianst their name.
    What makes me more mad than someone switching congregations is when someone just decides that they are not going to go to church at all. Lots of “church of Christ” people have been taught or believe that it is the only schurch that they need to go to and so when they get mad and or have a problem they just quit going to services period. What’s up with that? If your going to quit going to one church at least go somewhere else, don’t just quit going.

  15. Nancy says:

    Well, I guess the grass is not always greener, but it should be said that theology matters.

    If — through leaving the CoC — you get closer to being Biblically correct, then it would be greener. Truth matters, doctrine matters, and beliefs matter. No church is perfect, but you can at least strive to be Biblical.

  16. TCS says:

    Danny, much could be said about the comments, I am a little late getting here but will at first start with the orginal post.

    While on one hand I understand the heart ache on someone leaving. As you have said it is a loss of talent. But whether it is meant or not others often hear this as saying God has no role in this change. That he would not call someone to another fellowship.

    In your paragraphs where you write about “the church” and “the bride” although you may be meaning the holy catholic church it sounds to some as a qualification that we have heard before of “THE” church.

    Now i know this is a blog and not formal writing and not really the point but I felt the need to defend those of us that are sensitive to this.

    To your question. Well that depends. The grass may be greener in some places and not in others. I would suggest that varies from city to city from one side of the road to the other. The Chruches of Christ are not the same level of green from one place to the next. Some are great. Some are awful places. I think we need to ask what does God want for this place we are at. What does God want for me to do? And when he leads someone to something and they say they feel led to it we should bless their journey. If they seek they will find.

    Sorry so long. And great to see my old camp friend Nancy.

  17. Christi says:

    Nancy hit it right on.

    Because theology DOES matter. From what I’ve seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears a lot of people who have “attended” the church of Christ for years and years don’t REALLY know why they believe what they do. And it seems there is only a handful that really wants to ask the person behind the counter if they are saved.
    I will say, that growing up a cofC preachers kid, we’ve been to a lot of churches. All of them cofC. Most of them Dad was the preacher. The cofC does vary greatly in their beliefs and the way they respond to others. I’ve been to some who are very open in accepting other people who have different backgrounds. Then again, I attened one once when a guy came in and raised his hands to the sky during a song, then at the end of the service he got down on his knees and prayed. The Elders “talked” with him. Let’s just say that he left and didn’t come back.
    I know a lot of people, myself included, who should be down on their knees praying.

    My honest opinion?

    Too many members of the cofC are scared of appearing like the Pharisees. Too scared people will think they are putting on a show, rather than praising the Lord.

    But yes, Nancy. Absolutely. If seeking the truth in scripture takes you somewhere else then the grass is greener.

    Healthy grass is green grass.

  18. Danny says:

    Christi, thanks for dropping by and contributing a needed perspective on this topic. Great to hear from you. Please give my regards to Sunnydale.

    Nancy, thanks for keeping us grounded here.

    Tommy and Larry also added good perspectives. I am aware of the sensitivity of this subject and the latter part of Tommy’s post sounded very much like what my friend shared with me.

  19. DJG says:

    I do appreciate that you don’t run from the hard questions….I have been out of pocket the last couple of days and missed the other discussions, but my 2 cents..

    It is not necessarily a matter of greener grass, but a plant cannot thrive and flourish if it is kept in a pot that it has outgrown. I would venture to guess that most people who end up leaving are only looking for a bigger pot. We cannot continue to stagnate and refuse to change our soil from time to time if we do not want to see our plants move to a more fertile enviroment. (for those of you who don’t know me, I live and die by the analogy).

    I think for many of us it is more that the church has left us….left us wanting more, and not more “programs” but more spiritual opportunities to serve and to grow.

    **that may have been 5 cents**

  20. rurscmhcea says:

    I some how got the Message growing up In the CofC to Study the Bible, because that was the only true way to know if we were doing things right which told me that If we did find something we were doing wrong we should change it. I don’t find that you all had the same experiences. My friends that left the church have always told me that they left because they saw no difference between the coc and other churches. Christi It is great to have the opportunity to work with the chappel with the Military those service members and their families during these times need a support base of faith, I don’t know you so I don’t know your background with the Military, but I work with Military families and I can assure you that NOW a foundation in faith it greatly needed so hang in there. There is no easy answer. I think some times though the grass is netiter greener or less green on either side of the fence. I think in the comments of the last post if the desire is for the Churches of Christ to stay around we have to 1st be in the community, acting as we are commanded to do, a kind word a kind deed, the gift of food, water or shelter some times just time. There are grey areas their are grey areas in every aspect of life it’s how we choose to deal with them.

  21. JD says:

    Great comments…much food for thought … Donna’s call for more pot might need to be dealt with. Go ahead and smile. Seriously, when people who study the Bible as they should come to worship and receive pablum from “the person behind the counter” as Christi delightfully put it, they are going to feel empty about the whole thing. The other side of that coin is that there are so many people who never crack a Bible open during the week that a rich sermon sounds to them like apostacy.

    They Hydes and rurscmhcea might want to know that Ben Overby (who posted somewhere up there) works with Ft. Benning soldiers.

    I love all the interaction here.

  22. Danny says:

    I love the interaction too.

    For a little more interaction and cross promotion- on Gary Kirkendall’s blog he is discussing how churches sometimes isolate themselves even from churches in their “fellowship”.

    Has it gotten to the point where we don’t even want to share our little pasture with sheep who smell and look like us?

  23. Nancy says:

    JD,

    You’re exactly right about people not knowing the Bible! One of the greatest legacies the Church of Christ gave me was the mandate to read the Bible and do what it says.

    I kind of grew up with an incredible pride over my knowledge of Scripture — who else knows about Nadab and Abihu but us?

    Then, in 1996, when I began reading the Scripture, I was blown away. Large portions of the Bible (most of the Old Testament, parts of 1 Corinthians, and — ahem — Acts) I realized I’d tucked under my pillow so they wouldn’t touch my life. But, since I was CoC and respected the Word, I delved into it… and it changed me.

    Now, I’m a different person in a different … pasture. I just finished reading the Bible for the third time and it never ceases to embarass, shame, invigorate, and stun me.

    I needed to jump out of my former pasture because the “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” message almost killed me. I ran out of there, jumping over the fence and getting all muddy in my effort to get away. But, in New York, in an unlikely place, I met and fell in love with the Savior.

    I appreciate that some people believe that the CoC gave them everything they had, that they love the institution and want to respect it by staying. However, I hear the same lines from Jews, Mormons, Baptists, Pentecostals, etc. who won’t entertain the idea of leaving their faiths because that’s how they’ve been raised.

    The truth is that God has given us all we have — in spite of ourselves, our incomplete obedience, and our shocking lack of understanding.

    Sometimes — and I’m not talking about you lovely people — it’s easy to get confused about our loyalties, and end up elevating our history/family over truth. Theology matters, and we should strive — in our obvious imperfection — to get it right.

    So really, the question should center on whether the CoC tenets are correct. If they are, then it makes sense to lament the loss of friends as they go down the street to the community church with the guy strumming the guitar at the front in Birkenstocks who conducts holy communion while the overhead projector shows nature scenes. 🙂 I’d be upset too.

  24. Nancy says:

    Danny,

    For the record, I doubt I smell like you — unless you’re wearing Boucheron behind your ear… in which case, we might have bigger problems than we thought.

    🙂
    Nancy

    (Hey TCS!)

  25. Ben Overby says:

    Nancy,

    I agree that theology does matter. And I think we’d agree that we all experience a bit of flaw in our theology. And at the moment, none of us recognizes our particular flaw because we can’t both believe a thing to be true and false all at the same time. We come to grips with the humbling notion that we are sinners, not only morally, but we miss it intellectually too! That’s why Jesus died for us. I have absolutely no problem with the guy strumming the guitar in Birkenstocks, enjoying the Eucharist while nature scenes fade in and out. That’s as theologically correct as standing in a shirt and tie while quoting one of the gospel accounts of Jesus instituting the supper. I simply don’t find the grass under the guy in Birkenstocks to be any more lush necessarily. My lament has to do with our ministers who are leaving admittedly difficult situations for what looks like a better situation. I’m not judging the rightness or wrongness of switching “brands.” I’m just saying that ministers have an incredible amount of influence within congregations, and I just wonder what might happen long-term if we could learn a bit more patience, support each other over the hump, as we seek God’s grace in stripping the body of some of it’s wrong-headed theology (sectarianism, externalism, hermeneutical issues, liturgical problems, and all the rest). If those with influence keep leaving, then we leave a lot of lovely people sitting in the pews to hear one side of the story, a side that often robs people of assurance, grace, and the real joy of living in Christ.

    So, if we can’t poor new wine into old wine skins, then maybe we need to seek Christ and His grace in somehow changing the skin without spilling all that wonderful, old wine. A new generation of preachers, and then perhaps another, could completely change how we see ourselves, as part of God’s rich and diverse family. Then we just might have enough room to squeeze a few fresh grapes, mixing old with new rather than opting for an either/or.

    Ben

  26. Nancy says:

    Hey Ben! Oh, I didn’t realize that we were talking about people of influence leaving the church. I guess you’re saying that ministers are switching brands, which is very different from the guy in the third row deciding to leave, right?

    I was just kidding about the Birkenstocks guy too. If goes to a new church with virtually identical theology, but the packaging is just different — say, for example the nature scenes on the overhead and the song leader in Birkenstocks — then it does seem like people will be disappointed in the “new” experience.

    In other words, do you think people are leaving the CoC because of perceived or real theological problems? Or do you feel that they’re leaving because the atmosphere in a typical CoC? Or, do you think both — that the theology dictates the “ambience” (for lack of better word) of each congregation?

  27. Danny says:

    LOL, Nancy I would assume you smell much better than I do! 🙂

    To answer your question I think many are leaving the CoC for lack of theology. What I mean is that we are in an identity crisis and are struggling for a message right now.

    I really have a lot to say about this but unfortunately do not have the time right now. I will save it for a future blog!

    Ben, I like you thinking and your plea. I wish more would hear it.

  28. Ben Overby says:

    Nancy,

    There’s a big, practical difference between a minister leaving and the guy in third row leaving a church. Ministers, by the nature of their work, have a greater share of influence which accounts for the sobering warnings regarding teachers in scripture.

    We have some real theological problems. I’d like to think that it is the result of a pitiful hermeneutic, but an intellectual mistake cannot account for sort of “gospel” proclaimed among us. Galatians offers strong medicine for what’s afflicting us. Like the Judaizers, we’ve endured an assault on our identity. We’ve tried to reduce, to some recognizable form, a handful of practices that act as a badge of faithfulness. For the Jews the badge consisted of Sabbaths, dietary regulations, circumcision. They accepted that we are saved by grace, but they insisted that a faithful Christian needed not only faith but the Jewish badge without which no one could expect to be justified in the eschaton. Tragically, we make the same mistake. We’ve reduced faithfulness to an external badge that includes acapella music, baptism for one particular reason–remission of sins, 5 step plan of salvation, 5 part worship scheme, and a creedish attitude toward organization of a local church.

    The result from all the above is that we are insulting the gospel of Christ. According to Galatians and Ephesians, Jesus died to recreate humanity, making one man out of two, whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, etc. The primary effect of the gospel in practical terms is human harmony, togetherness, oneness. Paul makes the case that this is possible because we can know who’s in based on faith, not a handful of social identifiers. But our theology constantly forces division over any number of “issues,” leaving people in pain. Repairing the injury is going to take gobs of grace, tons of effort, a lot of persecution, and much, much time. If there are ministers among us who’ve been able to transcend the muck, getting some insight into our reality, and who think the best course of action is to just leave, then I’m sad. I’m sad for the guy in the third row who needs someone to create enough hermeneutical space in his head and heart to permit some new light inside. I’m sad for the masses who are chained to the floor in Plato’s Cave, watching the shadow puppets, while missing out on real life. Plato knew that the messenger who dared attempt to free the captives would be hated and persecuted, but he knew in his gut that it was necessary work–for him it was the essential work of a philosopher. And he saw his friend and teacher die because he (Socrates) was willing to shine light in the world’s darkness. Ministers are called to shine light, not outside where the sun is already doing its job, but deep down in the corner of damp caves, where eyesight has been dimmed, and where the power structures manipulate reality with a play on light and shadow puppets. I just don’t think we can leave our friends in the pale light of a sick theology. Jesus came to be the world’s true light, and now He sends us, all of us, but teaching ministers in a particular sense, to set the captives free. Ministering to freed captives is a luxury, so much so that some are willing to leave their present work among captives in order to shepherd the free. But who’s going to be left to set the captives free among “us?”

    Ben Overby

  29. Nancy says:

    Dear Ben,

    Well said. I get what you’re saying, and appreciated that some are called to leave the CoC and some are not.

    I feel like this is an important time in history — spiritually speaking — and a lot of people who need to hear the real gospel. You know, the people who haven’t heard.

    To me, banging heads theologically with people who would otherwise be left alone is not my idea of fun. 🙂 Been there, done that. (it also strikes a bit of getting the speck out of another’s eye… and I’ve noticed tends to breed a bit of pride… “Oh, we’re not like those OTHER CoCs…”)

    However, there are a lot of people who think Peter, Paul, and Mary are a Biblical sibling group. Those are the people I feel called to — not the ones who hear sermons every week.

    Different callings, different people.

    Blessings on you and your calling!
    Nancy

  30. Ben Overby says:

    Nancy,

    Blessings to you, too! For the record I completely agree. This is an important time. Postmodernism has thoroughly and devastatingly critiqued modernism and all its arrogance, allowing western civ to once again consider the possibility of something more than materialism/empiricism. Right now my primary audience is several hundred 18-22-year-old soldiers in basic training (Ft. Benning, GA). They crave reality (which is sort of weird given PM’s are supposed to reject objective truth). But that reality must be delivered in the mysterious power of the gospel story, sometimes delivered within a discussion of present day stories (e.g., Brave heart, Shawshank, Green mile, even the existentialism of Million Dollar Baby and Matrix, etc.), not spelled out in a flat, modernistic, three point sermon. Most of the guys I talk to each week don’t know Peter, Paul, and Mary of scripture–but they’re open to hearing about them if it matters to a 21st century world. The kingdom message resonates deep inside them, as it should; it is a narrative into which we’ve been born and out of which we were created. Jesus plucks chords deep in our souls which echo all the way back to the garden and send soundings running into the glorious future He’s been preparing for us. I think if we’d learn to appreciate the story, the rich narrative structure from Genesis forward all the way to Revelation, if we’d see ourselves as real life characters in this incredible drama, then maybe we’d get some sense of what really is at stake; maybe we’d wake up and live robust, quiet, yet heroic lives caught in the tension between sin and salvation, experiencing the rugged, ripping, paradoxical pain of the maternity ward in which we happen to find ourselves (Ro. 8.18f). I’m convinced that when we uncork the mighty gospel of the kingdom of God we will see the same sort of results described in Acts. That “we” are declining in influence and size is a sure sign that we’ve traded the breath of the Holy Spirit for the bad breath of the human spirit. But we can repent (i.e., change our strategy for living).

    Ben O.
    http://www.spiritualreformation.org
    http://simplechurch.squarespace.com

  31. Nancy says:

    Hey Ben O!

    I love what you’re doing and saying. Especially the part about bad breath. Ha!

    Yes, people in the CoC can repent, of course. But would it restore itself to it’s original “restorationist” self? would it be a restoration back to the supposed restoration? Or do you mean “repent” more generally?

    I’m asking if you think the basic premiss of the founding of the CoC is where the theology is off. Do you think the CoC is a great denomination (i KNOW, it’s “not”) that just needs to refocus back on it’s roots, or are the roots damaged to begin with?

    Is this a case of “ye shall know the tree by its fruit?”

    I’m just wondering… not arguing!

    You guys are awesome. Why are we the only ones not in Malibu??

  32. Nancy says:

    Danny will return and realize we’ve taken over his comments section.

    🙂

  33. Ben Overby says:

    Nancy,

    If we only manage to restore ourselves to our “restorationists” self, then we’ll be in big trouble. What makes us lovely is our call to unity, a plea that is totally undermined (in my opinion) by our restorationist’s agenda. I wrote a short essay entitled Restoration or New Creation? a couple of years ago. My thesis was, and is, that restoration as a controlling narrative is wrong-headed. It constantly forces us to think backward rather than forward. Paul’s concept of church was eschatologically shaped. His operating system and ours could not be more antithetical. I’d tweak your metaphor by suggesting that the roots are OK, we’ve just found ourselves planted in arid soil. Theologically, we’re dehydrated. We’ve soaked all the nutrition we can from the ground of restorationism. As a result, we’re not only failing to produce fruit, we can’t even squeeze out a blossom. Our leaves are withered and our bark is desiccated. And it would seem that no small number of us thinks the solution is to simply cultivate the dust in which we stand. We can preach the same dried out, cobwebbed-sermons on command, example and necessary inference; we can poke around in the fine powder of 1st century church organization; we can hack away at the baked surface of a lifeless liturgy–none of which will add a single nutrient to this starving oak. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic is always a pointless exercise. We need the fertilizer of the Spirit and the rain of God’s sweet grace. We need to give up the project of duplicating something from the past, and allow God to grow us into something for the present in the eschatological soil of His future/present or present/future. I think we need to recapture the rousing prayer of Jesus . . . “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven . . . YOURS is the KINGDOM, POWER, and GLORY forever, amen!”

    When you’re totally bored out of your skull you can find Restoration or New Creation? at http://spiritualreformation.org/v-web/bulletin/bb/viewtopic.php?t=88

    Yeah, it does appear that everyone headed west except us! Thanks for the provocative questions.

    Ben

  34. Candle (C & L) says:

    Wow! I stumbled into this via Gary Kirkendall via John Dobbs — My mind is swimming – What a great open dialog — For what its worth I have “always” been impressed with seeking truth through God’s word and being a church – a people – Christians without any “adjectives” or qualifiers to separate us from other Christians. After all a Christian is by definition those people who have put on Christ and who God has added to HIS church.

    Having said that – I know I was indoctrinated through my upbringing in a small rural “church of Christ” in Northern Ontario to a more “isolationist” and “we are the onlyones who know the truth” type of thinking. I appreciated so much the comments in this arena that help me on my journey to discard the “tradition” and remain focussed on knowing the word and then living the life that the Word calls us to live. – and doing this by looking forward – not backwards to what “restorationists” have thought was important. By callingeach one to “search the scripturesas the basis for their belief and practice. There is no doubt in my mind that a lot of the debate about “conservative” vs. “liberal” and “leavingfor greener – or NOT –pastures is framed in the language of denominations and the finitelist of those things from the word that we have selected to be a part of our “creed”. (I made a comment in Gary’s blog about this — probably not very clear since I tend to ramble in this type of flow of conciousness writing ..)

    Having said that I choose to remain committed to the basic “theology” of the groups we have “labelled” the “Churches of Christ” because in balance itseems to be where I have come to in my beliefs — I am more interested in “prodding” people within to remember that being born is the start of the journey and if we fail to let the Spirit nourish usanddevelop us so that we are “doing the works of service that we were created in Christ Jesus to do’ (rough quote of Eph. 2:10) then we really don’t have much of a claim to be alive in Christ. I want us as a people to be the “salt, leaven & light that is reaching out to those who denyour Lord – not to be arguing among ourselves as to who has the better “brand” — that said I do think theology is important and we can’t just embrace everyone who says they are a Christian or follow God through some other Way becsides Jesus (who is the Way the truth and the life) or who want to allow for other gods than Jehovah God our creator but let’s only worry about that debate when they come knocking on our door — Maybe I’m naive but I’ve come to the point whereI believe that if we are Christians – if we are salt, leaven & light then we will reach those who are open to seeing Jesus and the light of truth will prevail. And I want to do that fromwithin the “church of christ”

    In Him
    Charlie

  35. Nancy says:

    Dear Charlie,

    Very interesting. And I think that it’s great to do what you’re doing — to reach the world from the CoC. I personally just think it makes it mmore difficult, like fighting with your arms tied behind you back. But, that gets back to theology again. And if you are cool with the CoC theology, Charlie, than I totally understand where you’re coming from.

    Ben,

    The premise of your article sounds awesome. I am with you on the Restorationist aspect of the CoC. Will go check out the article now!

    NJ

  36. Danny says:

    Charlie, your thoughts in your post dovetail perfectly into my current post. Thanks for sharing them.

    I will be very interested in your perspective on this too Nancy.

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