Anybody Alarmed Yet?

Bobby Ross Jr.  recently posted a very informative and alarming article on the Christian Chronicle website concerning the non-growth of Churches of Christ in America. He reports- based on data from the 2009 edition of Churches of Christ in the United States– that our total current membership is at its lowest level since 1980 (the first year efforts were made on a large scale to document total membership).

The article explored several contributing factors to our membership loss, but the discussion about losing our children really caught my attention. The loss in our numbers reflects the “graying of the pew” the article pointed out.

I certainly see that. Churches of Christ are getting older and smaller. Obviously this is not the kind of trend we should want. (I discussed some of these matters in two previous posts.)

But my question is- is anyone alarmed yet? Or are we going to remain content to sit by idly and watch our younger people continue to slip away?

I think this article and the research it is based upon is a major wake-up call. Leaders in our churches should take this information to heart and urgently respond to it.

To me this means:

  • An honest self-evaluation of the vision and direction of our church. What are our goals? Just what are we doing to engage, encourage and equip the faith of our younger generations? Do we actively seek to involve them in all phases of church life? Are we even relevant to them anymore?
  • Dumping whatever is not working. Do I have to remind you of the definition of insanity?
  • Stop fussing and fighting. For a movement born of unity we have set horrible examples to our younger generations. Many have grown up witnessing church splits and ungodly behavior among church leaders mainly over disputable matters and/or personailty conflicts. Little wonder we are having trouble keeping them. We need to put this childish pattern behind us and grow up in the grace of Christ and learn how to love and accept each other- differences and all.
  • Work together. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. We need to stop already with the suspicion and contempt toward each other. Again what message are we sending our younger people when sister churches in the same community ignore or worse, belittle each other?
  • Rediscover a passion for evangelism. We need no special courses. No church-wide program. No Bible degree. Just go and tell what the Lord has done for you. This brings light into darkness to expose, challenge and defeat it. We must learn to be bold again (think Acts here)  in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
  • Trust God. If we plant and water he will give the increase! Too often I fear, we micro-manage God right out of the way. If we are to reverse our erosion then it has to be a movement born of him- not clever church growth or marketing campaigns.

We certainly cannot afford another generation growing up not knowing God (Judges 2:10).

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92 Responses to Anybody Alarmed Yet?

  1. Royce says:

    I agree with your conclusions, especially the second to last. You might have read my post of last May. (http://gracedigest.com/2007/02/05/evangelize-or-die/) The article you referred to is the theory of my post and your conclusions being played out to a tee.

    Grace to you,
    Royce

  2. dannydodd says:

    I just read it Royce. Right on the money.

  3. awgonnerman says:

    My wife, a naturalized American from Brazil, has a missionary heart. Recently she has been tellling be about someone she cleans house for who is “very open” to hearing the Gospel and is looking for a church. She wanted me to look finding a Church of Christ in the area where this person lives. She said if we don’t do something, the woman will go off to a large evangelical church in the area. We had a very frank conversation as a result about how there is NO congregation of our movement in the area that this woman lives that she’d want to be a part of. There is one congregation in Westfield I could suggest, but it is WAY out of this woman’s area.

    Let me be blunt: I only attend a Church of Christ congregation because my wife wouldn’t accept going anywhere else, and I wouldn’t be able to tolerate the silly “faith only” doctrine of evangelical churches. That’s pretty minimal stuff to hang onto a person. I wish I were a part of a fellowship I could feel passionate about, but apparently I’m not.

    Unless, of course, something changes.

  4. Donna says:

    I am both alarmed and convinced that I may yet be part of the exodus…mostly because I don’t see us as a whole thinking either #1 or #2 are important….

  5. awgonnerman says:

    BTW, I realize that it may be argued that what needs to change is me, but let’s be honest about the situation in Churches of Christ.

  6. Bobby Ross says:

    Danny, You are a quick blogger! Thanks for posting the link. I am very interested in this discussion.

    — Bobby

  7. Darin says:

    I like what you have to say.

    Until four years ago my family of five would have been counted in that number.

    I agree strongly with your first point but I’m not sure there is enough institutional loyalty to get that done. Rigid formalism has given way to an eclectic mix and the entire structure and mindset may not be ready to think that way.

    Why fight to get people there when you can move to something without that baggage?

    This strongly connects to your next point. Why worry about dumping what isn’t working if you don’t have institutional loyalty? Just go to where people are trying to work.

    The remaining points are probably valid for more than just the Church of Christ. As I told my teacher in the Christian evangelism course I took at a Church of Christ college after I came to Christ, my friends are lost and what happens for an hour on Sunday doesn’t matter even a little.

    Too many are not prepared to evangelize because they don’t know what to evangelize with or for or to convert to what. Principles or a person? That evangelism class was a great example. A semester spent learning the differences between Methodists and Baptists.

  8. mattdabbs says:

    Danny,

    Thanks for bringing this up and thanks also to Bobby. Let’s be proactive and do some blogging, preaching and teaching on how to reverse this trend. We have all heard the buzz words – missional, post-modern, emerging, contextualizing, etc but how many churches are actually trying to learn this culture and reach them? I guess I have heard Acts 15 taught by so many people on the frontlines that I feel like it is getting worn out but apparently it is not being preached well in churches of Christ and if it is, it is not actually translating into action. I am going to devote some posts to this and I hope others will as well.

  9. xybatt says:

    Why the numbers dropped…..1) we don’t evangelize well to minorities 2) We don’t evangelize to singles (even our singles shun one another!) 3) we don’t pursue the LOST SHEEP among us! We let them go. 4) we won’t tolerate one another so we “church plant” or offer ALTERNATIVES 5) we DON’T INCLUDE churches who do it differently (if music, too many cups, different philosophy- think: Richland Hills (- 12,000 or more), Oak Hills (5,000 or more, etc.)
    What to do???? A phone call is a start. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned. Fellowship deeper than conversations about sports or the weather.

  10. Matt, you mixed up Acts 15 & Acts 17 again

    😉

  11. dannydodd says:

    Philip sounds like he knows you pretty well, Matt! 🙂

    Thanks everyone for your input so far. Your wisdom is showing!

  12. Royce says:

    I just posted a follow up at http://gracedigest.com , at least part of what I said there I have not heard any place else.

    Keep up the fight bro’

    Royce

  13. K. Rex Butts says:

    Danny,

    Great post yourself too! I love your last two points. Boldness… in Acts 4, the church prayed for boldness and then spoke the word of God with boldness. Because they went to prayer first, after being opposed, rather than trying to solve the problem themselves, they knew how to trust God and realized the solution was in God’s hands rather than their “micromanaging.”

    Rex

  14. Jim Sexton says:

    I speak again to the lack of passion… if you want to understand the passion that is missing, look to the passion that will have you stand in cold, pouring rain to watch a 2 hr football game, after driving 2 hours to get there compared to the inability to get up and go to worship God a couple of blocks from the house in a warm, dry setting.

    We are not bold, not convinced, and not inspired… Jesus said that we need to love our creator with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and we have majored on the mind part. Get it right, rightly dividing the word, when it doesn’t come out and say it we seek to infer what it has to say, and it is to the point of where the first century Jewish leaders were stuck… on the law and understanding it.

    We specifically block out anything that the heart and soul are inspired to bring to the surface because then we’d have to realize that the spirit might actually get us all emotional about this thing called Christianity. There is no place for emotion and logic in the same room, many of us have been led to believe. We surely want to understand God, and nobody can tell me that I am wrong in wanting to do that, BUT when I focus on that as my overall, all inclusive, and all exhaustive end to all ends, then I have left out my soul, heart and strength. There is more than just a matter of rote and ritual to this thing, yet that is what the world sees in us.

    Jesus took his father’s words and asked us to see the spiritual meaning in the physical commands EVERY TIME… that was the key to understanding him and his father. Our worship has become so well choreographed (so that everything may be decent and orderly) that it is not much more than a ritual, played out for the people who already believe… we often call it preaching to the choir.

    Did you ever find yourself saying, “I wish so and so could be here to hear this wonderful lesson?” Well, what keeps YOU from taking it to so and so? YOU may find yourself as one of the reasons that so and so isn’t hearing it, because YOU aren’t bold enough to share it with them. Christ spoke to his followers and told them to go into Jerusalem (your neighborhood, Judea (your own city or state), to Samaria (places they didn’t want to go) and to the end of the earth, AND BE MY WITNESSES.

    To be his witness you have to be bold, courageous, passionate, willing to take the message to someone (so and so) who isn’t coming through the doors on their own to get it. We will talk to a perfect stranger about ‘the big game’ and won’t reach out to anyone with the big promise.

    *** No actual YOU was harmed in the making of this statement. Any similarities to YOU however, may be interpreted as an attempt to get YOU to examine the passion that may be missing in the life that God has given YOU.

    We will now have our closing hymn. If YOU a desire to recommit don’t come down front, rather go outside and start fixing the problem. YOU go and ‘be my witnesses’ as Jesus said. And think not (KJV style) that the mission is over across the foam, it is as close to you as the guy next door or across the street.

    Less talk, more walk…
    Jimbo

  15. Dave Brumley says:

    Good suggestions. I read this same article when it was published and felt the same sense of alarm that you seem to have. I agree with your points of solution but would like to add two things. I cringed when I read in your first solution your question “are we even relevant…” to the younger generation. I cringed because the solution to that is to become more relevant. Trust me, the gospel is still as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago. I know we look and see the mega churches (can you call them that?) and wonder what they are doing right but the research shows that average membership time at those churches is 2.5 years with people who leave citing a lack of being fed. Don’t forget that we are part of a restoration movement that was attempting to escape from relevancy to the world and become once again relevant to God. Christ in his original gospel form is still relevant even in this Post-Modern era where relevant means that we no longer remind people that we all are wretched sinners called to repentance and instead teach people how to be better friends, lovers, and “church workers” (meaning ushers, audio visual guys, parking lot attendants, etc…)
    Secondly, my solution to this entire problem is this: Less law, more gospel.

  16. Lance says:

    It comes down to prayer that God will open our eyes on how we can reach this generation and to our willingness to go where he leads us even if it challenges where we have been. This new generation of believers is seeking authenticity in all areas of their life and especially in their church. They want authentic worship that engages the heart, mind and soul and they want authentic mission where they can actually make a difference for Christ. They will no longer tolerate cold, empty worship and an attitude that says “we are the Church of Christ” and if we say it you better believe it! Instead, they are asking why we can’t use instruments and when the answer doesn’t make sense to them they leave. They are asking why women can’t be involved in worship and when the answer doesn’t make sense they leave. They are asking why we are so strict about worship and yet so lax about our love for God and our love for others which is what the Gospel is about in the first place. They ask whey we ignore those caught in the webs of addiction and sin until they get their act together. They simply are asking why can’t we be Jesus to all regardless of their social status, lifestyle, and struggles.

    I don’t have all of the answers, but if we don’t return to God’s word for a fresh study on many of these “issues” and on how we can show Christ we will continue to lose our young people. Just being a member of the Church of Christ no longer is sufficient for them. They would just as soon be a member of a community church or denomination if they feel that the worship and mission is authentic, and that Jesus is there with them. Sorry for the long post, but it’s time to get serious about this issue.

  17. dannydodd says:

    Lance- and Rex, Jim and Dave- thanks for your thoughts- good stuff. I am enjoying this conversation.

    Never apologize for long posts. Sharing our ideas is what blogging is all about.

  18. xybatt says:

    Jimbo hit it! Lack of passion! “I can’t be worried about what other people are doing”.
    My blog is about “blessed are they that mourn and they shall be comforted…..” Really? By who?

  19. dannydodd says:

    Jim Miller- you are something else my bro. That is why I appreciate you!

  20. Darren says:

    I am one of those who left the CoC recently. I was baptised and schooled in the CoC. Some christians there loved the Bible more than they loved people. I do not regret leaving at all.

  21. dannydodd says:

    Darren, would you mind expounding a little more on why you left- if you feel comfortable doing that?

    Unless we hear from voices like yours- we can’t learn.

  22. dave Brumley says:

    I guess I am one of those people who love the Bible more than people. The last time I checked, no person, not even myself, is going to get me to heaven. Quite honestly the only reason I am kind to many people at all is because Christ told us to through God’s word. Sorry, but when I leave the Church of Christ is when we begin changing and interpreting the gospel in order to become “relevant” to a generation of people who have never been told they are wretched sinners because we don’t want to hurt their feelings.

  23. Adam G. says:

    Dave,

    Wow. It wasn’t that many years ago that I thought as you do and considered it perfectly normal. Now it seems so blindingly obvious that it’s wrong that I find myself stunned by your comment.

    If the “only reason” that you are “kind” to people (which is not the same thing as loving them) is that you are obeying a command (as in “command, example and necessary inference”), then you are not saved. No amount of baptism will fix that, only repentance followed by baptism.

    Darren,

    I believe I understand what you are getting at, from hard personal experience. The way I personally would put it is that some Christians love their interpretation of the Bible and their political viewpoints more than Jesus.

    Regards to both and all.

  24. Lance says:

    Dave, I hear what you’re saying about “wretched sinners” because we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. In Christ our salvation is found and this is the message I communicate daily to all generations. However, after a while, people get tired of being told they are sinners and they want to experience something positive. God calls us to an abundant, joyful life as well as to repentance. What this new generation is seeking is the manifestation of the joy in our worship and in our daily ministry to others. We have been so scared of emotion in worship, new ministry ideas that are Biblical but different, and from having those who don’t look like us or have the same experiences come into our churches, that we have lost the joy and passion in worship and ministry for this young generation. This new generation will not settle for a scared spirituality that stands on traditions instead of God’s word. Until a vast amount of churches “awaken” (using your theme Danny) and realize this stark truth, we will continue to “bleed” young people from our fellowship.

  25. dave Brumley says:

    Adam, the reason I am kind to people has nothing to do with law. It has everything to do with love. This love is so deep that even if I have to risk losing a friendship or being rebuked by someone like you, that I will bear that cross and tell you when what you are doing or teaching does not mesh with the gospel. That’s done out of love and a desire for such people to stay out of Hell.

  26. dave Brumley says:

    Lance, please don’t say we’ve all sinned (past tense). Rather say we all sin, everyday, every one of us. Please understand that I do love people and the bond that I have with my Christian brothers and sisters is something I cherish. The youth group at our church is growing as they are being ground in truth and being taught to be true disciples. I believe with my heart that the numbers we see dropping has nothing to do with changes that need to be made but changes that have been made. Please point me to the scripture that says our worship and preaching is supposed to be aimed at pleasing man. I don’t think you can. My final point will be this and I say it out of love. Praise God that when Peter and the first century Christians were falsely accused by Nero of starting fires that burnt Rome that they followed Peter’s advise and stood firm I’m the gospel and Christ’s teachings. They faced much worse than “bleeding young people.”. They were bleeding their actual blood, yet stood firm. What hope does the church in America have if we have already begun to compromise in the name of relevance.

  27. Darren says:

    The Pharisees loved the Bible more than they loved people. John 8 and the woman caught in ry is a good example of this (there are many others). They had the Bible on their side. The Bible said to stone the couple (not sure where the man was) but Jesus showed her mercy. He loved her while violating the command in the Bible to execute her. Who was “more biblical”? The Pharisees, of course.

    Dave,
    Thank you for making my point so well.

    Danny,
    I dont mind at all. As I said, Dave is helping me out here. I found the CoC very intolerant of any deviation from the party line. I found the CoC very intolerant of anything or anyone different. I also got real tired of the exclusive attitude I found (CoC is the only true church, anyone else is hell-bound). I also did not appreciate the attitude by many CoC leaders that the preacher is the hired hand. After 12 years in the CoC, I had enough. More than half of my fellow students at Harding School of Biblical Studies are no longer preaching in the CoC or preaching at all. I am not the only one who has experienced this.
    I know there is no perfect church and I certainly do not claim to have found one.

  28. Darren says:

    Adam,
    Good way of putting it. You are correct.
    Thanks

  29. awgonnerman says:

    Darren,

    What year were you at HSBS? I was in the Omega class (’99). I am probably the only person from the independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ (instrumental) who ever went through that particular program. That, together with misguided attempts to make myself conform to what I thought my fiancee (from the Church of Christ) expected of me (and the way our relationship ended and how I took it) made me hard, narrow and negative. It took my father’s passing and the near-loss of faith after a horrible ministry with a Christian Church in New Mexico to bring me to the bottom, and it took C.S. Lewis and N.T. Wright by the grace of God to bring me through to the other side.

    I’m now on a different career path, but preaching every other Sunday for the Brazilian Church of Christ in NJ that my family attends. There is MUCH I would do more “biblically” if not bound by tradition, and I really only continue where I am because there are no better options readily available.

    God help me to do better with what I have.

  30. Darren says:

    I was CHI (97).

  31. Darren says:

    Do I know you?

  32. Dave Brumley says:

    Darren, I am sorry if my comments offended or hurt you. I would love to see those documents stats that “more than half” of your class from Harding have left the church though. Would you please provide that.
    Regarding your direct comments to me. Jesus was not condemning scripture but he was condemning law. If you will read my first reply to this post you will see my call for “less law, more gospel” so why are you attacking me? Jesus was setting the way for the world to be set free from law and to dwell in Him. He was not condemning the Bible (how could he condemn something that was not there yet) but was condemning law. If we could put the scripture you tried to condemn me and the church with (sorry, but I have to point that out) back into context, you will find Christ saying this; “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” That’s gospel brother. Where do you find that gospel? The Bible. How dare you condemn a group of people for dwelling in the Word. Christ’s word points out sins though and it sounds like you don’t want to go to church where that happens. Sorry brother but if you are teaching and hearing gospel, you aren’t going to church, you are attending group therapy. Does that sound exclusive and close minded to you? If so, I suggest you skip group therapy this Sunday and just reread your gospel more than one verse at a time. I say this in love and in the hope that you return to the church and become part of the solution that plants that Church of Christ back into the gospel.

  33. dannydodd says:

    Let’s be kind to onenother and allow the dialogue to bless us all. Thanks!

  34. J D says:

    Very alarmed that even a discussion of some points that will help bring us back to center have created argumentation.

  35. Darren says:

    Dave,
    Your comments were not offensive at all, they were just typical of the rhetoric I heard in the CoC, and, by the way, I have used myself. As for documents on my class at Harding, there are none. I am aware of this for I keep in touch with most of my class.

    The Bible I was referring to in the context of John 8 is the Hebrew Bible, the only one Jesus read, and the one the Pharisees were following.

    Jesus was not condemning law, he was fulfilling it (Matt 5:17). Jesus would tell those whom he healed to “…go show themselves to the priests” in accordance with the Law (to be pronounced clean). When he was asked by the lawyer what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus replied, “What does the Law of Moses say? How do you read it? (Luke 10:26). So you can see that he does not condemn law at all. It was, rather, their interpretation of it. They loved the Bible (Hebrew Scriptures) more than people.

    I am certainly not condemning a people who dwell in the Word, as you say (that too was typical of the rhetoric. “If one does not agree with the CoC and the CoC dwells/follows the words of Jesus then “you” must not care about the words of Jesus”). Jesus clearly says in his Word that the world ‘…will know you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:35). The CoC does not have a very good reputation in this area. Again, this is from my perspective after preaching in the CoC for 12+ years.

    I know this is not just a CoC problem. The Pentacostals are known for being so divided (look at all the different flavors of Pentacostalism). The Christian church has issues as well. We all are affected when we read of the problems in the Episcopal church

    The Gospel is that God is with us and for us. That certainly is the good news. Christianity, as a whole, has a checkered past with much infighting and division. I was very tired of it all and decided to walk away from the CoC. As of this writing, I am so thankful I did!

  36. Dave Brumley says:

    I am aware of Matt. 5 Darren. Could you please expand on what law it was that Christ was “fulfilling” in John 8 though. As for Luke 10, yes, the thing that God wants from us has not changed from the beginning; love, for Him. Now, jump to the book of Romans and read exactly what God thought of law after sacrificing His son. Jesus abolished the law with his death on the cross. He became the sacrifice of repentance that was so complicated and time consuming in Jewish law prior to His death. Context Darren. The Bible is to be taken as a whole, not verse by verse.
    Again, you and I must have a different definition of “love” Love to me is when I see my children doing something that I know will hurt them, I say or do something to stop them. They may not like it at first but they will understand why someday and will be better for it. The same applies in Christianity. We, as Christians are called upon to teach and preach nothing more than Christ crucified. Should we abandon that then we are abandoning Christ (no offense Darren, but that is a little worse than just abandoning you). But why did Christ commission us to do this? Because he loved us and does not desire that any should perish. How did He do it? By living out the gospel story. Can any of us improve on that?
    Darren, I fear that your definition of gospel is way off. That is no where near what the gospel is. The gospel is that all of us are wretched sinners with hearts so black that we couldn’t stand to look upon them. The gospel is God knowing this from before Creation (I hope saying “creation” isn’t too much Church of Christ rhetoric for you), and being willing to send His beloved Son to die and absorb the sins of all mankind. The gospel is that if you have faith and proclaim Christ crucified that Christ’s death on that cross will allow us to not face the judgment of condemnation that all of us deserve. The gospel is Paul and Peter travelling and preaching Christ crucified to men they were not scared to call “sons of the devil,” reminding men that they and themselves were lowly sinners who must look squarely to Jesus to save them. The gospel is truth, absolute truth. The gospel is Jesus. The gospel is love, God is Love, God With Us gave His life out of love and Love died on that cross until it was risen again three days later with a new covenant that faithful men and women took and used to spread the gospel message far and wide, not fearing those who would look down on them but teaching the truth, the one truth, out of love.
    IF you are a member of the Lord’s church reading this remember my point from the beginning: less law, more gospel.
    Everything that those who have chosen to put the church down upon in this posting is grounded in their own subjective views and I trust comes out of actual experience. They have chosen to abandon the Church of Christ effort (yet still read CofC blogs, can’t figure that out-r u studying your enemy and if so, why r we the enemy-) and speak against it. Let us pray for them. Also, let us listen to what they are saying as well and look to see how we can alter these problems in our own individual churches while remaining firm in God’s word.
    How could we ever argue that what we need to save the church is more Jesus? My head is going to explode even thinking about that.

  37. Adam G. says:

    I keep telling myself that it takes an irritant like sand to make a pearl. Dave’s visit to a blog I maintain reminded me I never had set up comment moderation there. Fortunately, that’t now remedied.

    From the dialogue going on here I think an outside or casual observer should see at least part (I suggest a big part) of what turns young people and visitors and long-time members off on the a cappella churches of Christ. A person cannot express hurt or doubt without being attacked and possibly without having his or her integrity questions. From the folks I may call “conservatives” we get only anger, rejection and a hasty campaign to change our minds or warn others about us.

    Fear. I gave up fear in my faith when it rebooted. I couldn’t live that way any longer. CALM DOWN…yes I “fear God” in the biblical sense. What I gave up was the view that my God needed me to prop Him up, as the idols of the nations do. I gave up fear that someone, somewhere might possibly be attacking my faith. I gave up the fear that someone might think differently from me. The trouble of it is, though, that while I’m perfectly willing to let people continue on with their bitter fear (it’s their choice and I have to respect their free agency), they will not accord me that same right. Rather than civil discussion they load dissenters down with judgment and make ad hominem arguments.

    Perhaps the Churches of Christ need a re-boot. Maybe the only way to do that is to leave the denomination and seek a fresh return to New Testament Christianity elsewhere. We’d still have the baggage of the Protestant variety of Western Christianity that marks the entire a cappella Church of Christ in the United States (and elsewhere, from what I’ve seen and heard), but the slate would be cleaner and more manageable than what we find right now.

    My apologies. I ramble.

    A good Sunday to all.

  38. xybatt says:

    Danny,
    You have hit the jackpot. Wow! Lot’s of fired up people now!!!
    So…..an idealistic voice from the laity:
    *problem “I can’t be worried about church X over there”
    solution-prayer and cooperation as allowed
    *problem- “I’m not comfortable with ________ (example: gulf coast getaway) so I’ll start my own thing the same weekend”
    solution- communication and resolve to NOT cause competition and conflict. We can always do our thing another time!
    *problem-X street ladies day is March 1 and we want ours that day.
    solution- go to theirs and have a stress free day!
    *problem- “I’m not comfortable (don’t care, like, or worry about) with singles and issues (divorce, children, widows) so we don’t send people to singles weekends.
    solution-www.meridianwoods.org – the 2009 LAUNCH singles conference will help you and your singles send them.
    *problem- budget
    solution- funny how people manage to pay for what they really want! Give them something to want, not alot of sniping, arguing and backstabbing.

    Ok, preachers and elders, your problems are solved! Anymore problems, let me know!

  39. dvdbrumley says:

    In my own defense Adam G, I believe it would have been appropriate to let the people know what it was that I posted that obviously offended you on your blog. Was it not anything more than a link to your own words that you posted on this blog. I don’t suppose that I would want the members of a congregation where I preach to read me saying that I was only with them “until something better” came along. Again, your words, not mine. As a matter of fact, I went above and beyond not to offend you but rather to commend you for being willing to work as a bilingual minister. Further, my concern voiced in my post to your blog is based on a real notion that when your heart is not in what you are doing that you are quite probably doing more harm than good and I wished you speed in resolving your conflict.
    If nothing else, your reaction to my comment further proves my point of what is wrong with the church. I pointed out a genuine Biblically based concern and your reaction is to erase my words and attempt to defame me in a different arena rather than address the problem with me. Again, the problem in the Church of Christ now is that we are non-repentant and do not recognize our sins. Further, we have allowed people who become offended and tuck their tails and run to take control of our churches rather than Biblically handle such matters.
    Oh, and while we are adding to the list of things we need to fix to stop our church from slipping away I would like to add one more. Let’s remove hypocrites from our pulpits.

  40. dannydodd says:

    Personal attacks are not welcome on this blog.

    You are welcome to discuss any and all issues openly and freely, but I must ask that you follow the Golden Rule in so doing. Any other approach defeats the purpose of the dialogue.

    I understand how we all can become passionate about some issue, but do not allow your passion to lead to bad judgment on what you inclue in your post.

    So, please refrain from posting comments if they include personal attacks.

    Thank you.

  41. Jim Sexton says:

    “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” John 5:39-40

    When we seek the scriptures in place of, or in front of the one that they were written about, we have put them in a place that God never intended. Is it not the Christ that makes them important? Without Him, without His love, without living as He has shown us to live they become nothing more than words on paper.

    We don’t find eternal life in the Scriptures, we find it in Jesus. When we love Scripture more than the One, we have taken and made something into a God before Him.

  42. Dave Brumley says:

    Yet there is no other way to get to know Christ and learn about His life and His plan for your life but through scripture. Quite the quandry if you’re looking for a good excuse to break free of Biblical truth.

  43. lesjr says:

    No quandry for me–and just because someone sees it different than you does not mean they are seeking to ignore scripture. The scriptures lead me to Jesus and while I love the Word of God in printed form, it is the Word whom I trust for my salvation.

  44. Darren says:

    Well said Jim.

  45. Darren says:

    lesjr,
    Good post. Let us all keep trusting the Word.

  46. Jim Sexton says:

    Oh, I love Scripture. That would be a bit of silliness to say that I don’t.

    My point is what is the word (lower case) without the Word? Without Christ the words are just ink and paper. I love Scripture because it taught me to seek out one of the great truths in the universe, that God loved me so much that he would put His own son to death to wash my sin away.

    Now the ball is in my court, and those same Scriptures help me to understand what He has for me to do… “Oh, the plans I have made for you to do…”

  47. awgonnerman says:

    Jim,

    Good points. I like how George MacDonald (Unspoken Sermons) described the scriptures as the moon to Jesus’ sun. The written word points us to the living Word, but the former should not be confused with the latter.

  48. dannydodd says:

    Nice quote, awgonnerman.

  49. awgonnerman says:

    Danny,

    Thanks. It’s “Gonnerman,” BTW.

    “The one use of the Bible is to make us look at Jesus, that through Him we might know His Father and our Father, His God and our God. Till we thus know Him, let us hold the Bible dear as the moon of our darkness, by which we travel toward the east; not dear as the sun whence her light cometh, and towards which we haste, that, walking in the sun himself, we may no more need the mirror that reflected his absent brightness.” – George MacDonald, “Unspoken Sermons”

  50. SteveLavin says:

    Wow! I sense so much pain, hurt and frustration in this blog. These feelings often lead to unkind remarks and generalizations. But this blog also speaks to the very core of the struggle within the CofC. My desire isn’t to offend but perhaps I might offer a comment or two.

    Jim proposes that our passion is gone. I tend to agree with his assessment. Although this blog clearly demonstrates that some passion still exists. But it is perhaps misdirected? Has the focus of our passion moved toward each other and ‘churchy’ things rather than having a passion for the lost? Perhaps this is the natural process that occurs within all organizations. I see some of the same things occurring in our political system. Defense of party affiliation (Dems or Reps) seems to have become more important than upholding the ideas on which this country was founded. Has the same become true of the church universal? Is it true within the Churches of Christ? Has the CofC reached a natural maturity, with the internal strife, that occurs after a period of time? Has the structure become more important than the mission? Does the amount of time Christ devoted to the mission of reaching the lost, instead of concentrating on church structure, offer a clue?

    Dave Brumley proposes that the message is as relevant as it ever was. I think a more telling response might be to ask, is the CofC, as it is presented, still relevant? Is Christianity, as it is presented to a lost world, still relevant? These are not meant to be rhetorical questions. But, for the answers to have any relevance, they cannot come from us but, instead, must come from those we hope to reach. If they perceive us to be irrelevant … then are we not? Dave says, he is not interested in changing the gospel in order to become relevant. Is that a valid statement of faith? Why are some of us reluctant to become relevant? Perhaps, we should begin by asking if the changes to become relevant, to young people, actually involve any changes to the gospel. Does relevance involve gospel changes or tradition changes?

    Lance proposes that young people have no loyalty to the CofC if they feel that the worship and mission aren’t authentic. Do we agree? If he is correct and our worship and mission are less authentic than what young people are looking for how do we address this? Should we? Do we work to change their opinions or consider changes to our worship and mission that would lead them to change their own minds?

    Darren proposes that the CofC is ‘very intolerant of anything or anyone different’. That seems to be a rather broad brush to paint with. My experience is that I have encountered a huge diversity of churches … all wearing the CofC brand. In fact, the three congregations closest to my home present almost the entire spectrum of churches that would call themselves the CofC. I recognize and accept every member of each of these congregations as brothers and sisters but unfortunately many of their number would not do the same. They range in size from 40 members to over 1000. I believe them all faithful to the gospel but does anyone care to guess which one has more relevance with young people and the lost? Care to guess which church is dying? Has it really become necessary to abandon the CofC to achieve a sense of relevancy in our culture?

    Are we still teaching and preaching a ‘head’ gospel while the world hungers for a ‘heart’ gospel? I am more of a ‘head’ person, both by generation and the fact that I am a man. My wife, however, is a ‘heart’ person. If she has a problem, I can sometimes make the mistake of offering her a quick ‘head’ solution and advising her of quick action. But, more often than not, my wife isn’t looking for a solution. She wants to be heard. She wants to be comforted. She just wants support. I admit this very often baffles me. It takes so much more time and effort rather than just attacking the problem head on. But, at her core, she is a ‘heart’ person … and at mine, I am a ‘head’ person. Is one more correct than the other? Twenty-eight years of marriage has taught me that this is probably not the case. But we are very different, and as such, it is very, very, very important for me to understand the difference. And even if I can never fully appreciate why she can’t convert to being a ‘head’ person, I must work to approach her in a way that she sees as caring and relevant. Does this mean I give her bad advice just so I can tickle here ears? Certainly not! But I fail as a husband every time I come at her with ‘head’ answers to her ‘heart’ concerns. I believe the same is true of our culture today. I believe we can become relevant without changing the gospel. Unfortunately, for this to happen, many of our traditions will have to be abandoned. In my opinion, it is a mistake to believe we must abandon the gospel in order to become relevant! If we are to have any relevance, it is time for a gospel only people to, once again, become a gospel only people!

  51. Dave Brumley says:

    I am shocked at the lack of faith and trust in God underlying so many comments in this discussion. To you who have already forsaken the efforts of our mission, I hope for your repentance and your realization that only in the Scripture as a whole do the answers you are seeking lie. To those of you who are remaining faithful but waivering, is our solution really to move further from Scripture? Please note that my proposal for solution to the declining numbers is not an argument for or against any sort of worship service. Rather, from the beginning, it is an argument regarding what is being taught. We need less law, more gospel. Sadly, if you survey the blogs and podcasts of many Church of Christ ministers now, you hear neither, but rather a transformation that is ongoing to become relevant. Yet, we see our steepest decline in numbers since this transformation has begun.
    The heart of many of your arguments is frightening. Please read this slowly: are you really proposing that we begin judging the worthiness of our teaching by how pleasing it is to man? That’s what I hear. How sad and what blasphemy that truly is. Since when do we judge what God wants by looking at how many people are in our church? Has that really become the standard? Is that taught in the gospel?
    Let’s look to gospel for our answers. Look to Mark 2 where Christ was being challenged by the Pharisees if what he was doing on the Lord’s day (Sabbath) was right or not. What was his response to them? He told the lame man to reach out his hand and Christ showed His mighty power. This so drove the Pharisees to see the err of their way that they wanted to kill Him. Why did Christ do this? To show the law to have nothing to do with Christ’s grace and to drive the Pharisees and those gathered to their knees in repentance. Brothers, we must reach out our hands to Christ in repentance at this point and beg for his healing and renew our true trust and belief in Him. In worrying if we are pleasing man, we are worrying about law.
    God wants nothing more than for us to trust Him to make our paths clear and protect us. I see little faith in many of your writings but rather a total trust in yourselves. Then we have the audacity to wonder why our churches are failing and our members are seeking wolves in sheep’s clothing. Have we not been warned against such things?

    In response to gonnerman: Brother, I am happy to see that your habit of removing text from context to make it fit your view is not solely related to the Bible. Your quote of George Macdonald is a good one and it pleases my soul to know that there are still men out there who read the Chrisitan writing from outside this century. That being said, Macdonald’s quote that you provided does not support your argument not disprove mine. Rather, it props up my argument that a return to gospel is what is needed. In context, Macdonald is discussing the fact that the chruch at the time was getting wrapped up in what the Epistles said about worship and have forgotten about Christ and lost any perceived understanding of the gospel. His call is not one to remove the seal of sacred from the Bible, but rather to study the gospel more clearly in a hope to learn Christ again. If I may provide context surrounding your quote –

    “The Gospels contain what the Apostles preached — the Epistles, what they wrote after the preaching. And until we understand the Gospel, the good news about our brother-king — until we understand Him, until we have His Spirit, promised so freely to them that ask it — all the Epistles, the words of men who were full of Him, and wrote out of that fullness, who loved Him so utterly that by that very love they were lifted into the air of pure reason and right, and would die for Him, without two thoughts about it, in the very simplicity of no choice — the Letters, I say, of such men are to us a sealed book. Until we love the Lord so as to do what He tells us, we have no right to an opinion about what one of those men meant; for all they wrote is about things beyond us. The simplest woman who tries not to judge her neighbor, or not to be anxious for the morrow, will better know what is best to know, than the best-read bishop without that one simple outgoing of his highest nature in the effort to do the will of Him who thus spoke.” —George Macdonald on Christianity

  52. dannydodd says:

    Good thought Steve. Good questions for us all to consider too.

    I especially like your last sentence.

  53. Dave Brumley says:

    Steve, my argument is that we have already begun a migration away from the gospel. My statement of faith is that Jesus can save us but we must return to teaching the pure gospel in an unabashed way.

  54. awgonnerman says:

    Dave,

    I was actually quoting from “Unspoken Sermons.”

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/macdonald/unspoken1.iv.html

    Have a great day!

  55. Dave Brumley says:

    By the way, according to your last sentence Steve, I think we are saying the same thing.

  56. SteveLavin says:

    Dave, I believe many people here are in agreement that we have ‘already begun a migration away from the gospel.’ However, what people choose to put ‘under the tent of the gospel’ can vary dramatically – even within CofC circles. (i.e. One Cup vs Multiple Cups). Some view this as a core ‘gospel’ issue but I can assure you the lost and young people will not.

    What do you mean by an ‘unabashed way’?

    Do you believe that, ‘people don’t care what you know, until they know you care’?

  57. awgonnerman says:

    Hey Dave,

    I was wondering what you meant by “your habit of removing text from context to make it fit your view.” Although I understand you were simply attacking me and making assumptions about me, I actually can’ t see where I quoted any Scripture passages in this chain of comments. Were you referring to something on one of my blogs, or as I have already suggested were making a statement based on who you imagine me to be?

    Unfortunately my work obligations and distance from the Bible Belt restricts my ability to attend brotherhood gatherings outside my area. If that were a possibility it would be nice to meet up with you and chew the fat. Do you ever have occasion to visit the NYC area? I’d be glad to take a day and show you around if you find yourself up here. Just let me know in advance.

  58. Dave Brumley says:

    Yes, you were gonnerman. context = frame of reference. As in the central message and story of the Bible is the story of Christ. It is many different writings, but the message is Christianity. Sorry, I was attempting to give the frame of refrence of Macdonald’s entire view of the Bible. The message behind of all his non-fiction writings was the context to which I referred.
    My point was that you took Macdonald’s discussion of the fact that until we have the mind of Christ, which we will never do, we should always cling to the Bible, and attempted to mold it to your point of view. That’s gross. That being said, I would love to hear your exegesis of the quote you provided and even MacDonald’s entire body of work.
    Steve, again that is the point of my argument. Less law, more gospel. To go back to the MacDonald quote I provided – we have to stop worrying about the epistles (the laws of worship that we pull from them) until we once again can get the gospel right. It’s up to us to do this. To answer your two questions: 1 – unabashed way = picking up your cross – We are worried about what the world thinks of us yet we are called to carry a cross. I would challenge you to spend some personal time studying what the world that Christ lived in (the context in which he spoke) thought of people who were condemned to crucifixion. They were despised. Yet, the solution many are proposing on here is to change the view of the cross to a worldly one in hope that we can become relevant to a world that quite simply hates us because we have true wisdom (any part of Proverbs will back that). I am calling for a generation to rise up and preach the gospel in an unconcealed way and to stop being embarassed to say yes, we are all sinners and none of us have it right. The law is to convict us but Christ has come to save us. Give people enough law to convict their hearts but proclaim Christ from the top of your lungs, consistently, despite the world telling you that you are wrong for believing what you believe. Again, are not warned of such things happening in scripture. 2 – Jesus loved all mankind enough to give His life for each man, even those who personally drove the nails into His hands. Yet, He never changed what he preached despite people hearing what He said and attempting to stone and murder Him. His message stayed on point no matter where He found Himself. Please do not misconstrue my words into stating that we need to reveal ourselves to the world as militant. What I am saying is quite the opposite. We must show people Christ through our lives, actions, and what we preach while at the same time, loving one another and those outside of the church to be able to tell each other that what they/we are doing or preaching lies outside of the Gospel. At that point, should they choose to ignore what you delivered, that is between them and God. Yet, you can walk away in the glory of following Christ, not for your own sake, but for His.
    Perhaps I have not explained this well enough. In his dealings with the Jews, Christ used their own beliefs against them. Christ took the law they adhered to and pointed out how they themselves were breaking it, and later used Paul to make it clear that there is no possibility for man to live life without breaking the laws (sinning). Therefore, we are all condemned by human nature alone. Yet, Christ always proclaimed that should you accept Him and believe in Him that He can save us from this fact and give us hope and our faith will make it impossible for us not to spread this good news. We have allowed ourselves to be sucked into a mire of “Christ commands me to spread the gospel (that sounds like law), rather than asking ourselves what is wrong with my faith that I am not doing it anyway. Good works should flow from faith. The church needs it’s faith jumpstarted and that can only happen by teaching less law and more gospel as Christ intended.

  59. Dave Brumley says:

    Gonnerman, open your eyes brother. I was not attacking you but simply pointing out a trend I have noticed in your posts. Thank you for the offer but I too have many ties (work, family, ministry, schooling) that prevent me from travelling as much as I would like. I have visited NYC and I must say it’s not on my top vacation spots list. Trust me, this is no Bible Belt where I live. Our ministry efforts here are probably met with the same amount of resistence and toil as yours are. I don’t really know if there is a Bible Belt anymore (outside of Nashville : ) ). Regarding us chewing the fat, if you did not like what I had to say to you on your blog and that you so swiftly erased, I doubt that at this point a face-to-face would do much good. Again, my hope for you is simply that you find the peace you are looking for and that you act wisely in your dealings with your congregation up to that point. No more, no less. You know my suggestion and the Biblical reasoning behind it and I understand why you would not take it to heart, we only know each other through our words Yet, I felt compelled to tell you, If it was taken wrong or sounded hateful, please accept my apology. God’s speed!

  60. SteveLavin says:

    Dave, I sense your passion and I am glad it is not a passion born out of a defense of law. Perhaps I am off-base in my thinking but it seems Christ’s troubles came when he preached the gospel to the ‘religious’ people. It was the religious people that crucified him! It seems to me his message to the non-religious was tempered with campassion and in so doing they more easily accepted it as ‘good news’. A fire and brimstone ‘you are all going to hell’ street preacher can certainly not be accused of compromising the gospel but how effective is this type of ministry effort? I agree we must be more deliberate in our mission but I question the wisdom of beating people over the head rather than finding ways to meet their needs (i.e. relevance) so that they will be receptive to the message.

    I don’t believe that reaching out to people in compassion and with relevance, in any way, waters down the gospel. Why do you believe it does? Or why do you believe that those who choose this method are motivated by fear of rejection rather than believing it is the more effective approach? I just don’t believe that becoming ‘relevant’ means a willingness to compromise truth.

  61. dave Brumley says:

    Steve, thanks. At no point have I said that we should not reach out. My point is not one against reaching out and meeting people where they are. My point is that we must not change our message in the name of “numbers.”. We have been trying that (surely you agree) the past 10 years and it has led to an even steeper decline. If relevancy means making our worship and other ministry efforts more man-centered than they already are then they are pointless and will always return fruitless. What good is a full church if no one there realizes why they should be there. When we make our worship man-centered it no longer is worship of God, it is worship of man. That’s idolatry and I believe the Bible is very clear on idolatry.

  62. lesjr says:

    When I hear people talk about not changing our message around here it normally means not changing our methods or worship style–and that is where we often loss our relevance–we become less real if you will…

  63. Royce says:

    Lesjr,

    I am right with them if they mean the very good news that Christ has met every demand of God’s righteousness and took all the fury of God’s wrath against sin so that wicked sinners can now be declared righteous and justified wholly upon Christ’s work and worth.

    If the message is church of Christ at the expense of the Christ of the church I’m against them. It’s pretty simple.

    If we (all coC people) had spent half the time preaching the very good news about Jesus that we have about how right we are and how wrong everyone else is, even our coC brothers, we might not be swirling down the drain as a movement.

    We need a revival of gospel preaching. I refer to the gospel Paul talked about in ! Cor 15. I have listened to and read sermon after sermon, and lesson after lesson, and there wasn’t enough gospel in most of them to wad a shotgun.

    You haven’t preached the gospel unless you preach the gospel. The gospel is the gospel and everything eles is not the gospel. There are many, many other good things that are worth to be talked about but only Christ can save and the gospel is the very good news about Him.

  64. dave Brumley says:

    Amen Royce. Down with group therapy, up with (quite literally)gospel.

  65. lesjr says:

    Yep… methods and gospel do not equate! We get more uptight over something done in the assembly that isn’t the way we prefer or are used to than we do the fact that the lost are still lost and likely to stay that way while we aregue over preferences and idealogy…

  66. K. Rex Butts says:

    I know not of one CoC that is interested in changing the message. Are these congregations interested in changing their methods? Yes! But not the message. God speed to them.

    On occasion I have heard others of accusing those whose worship reflects a more contemporary style and less traditional as turning their worship into a human-centered, human-pleasing endeavor. Perhaps this is the case on occasion. However, some of the complainers who fight tooth and nail to preserve their traditional worship are guilty of the same thing. Why? Because most discussions on worship surround our personal preferances and that makes worship become a human-centered activity.

    The truth about worship, like all other human activities (religious or not), is that worship is always expressed in certain forms. These forms are shaped more by the particular period of history and culture they originated in than from the scriptures (i.e., having a group of men pass communion trays down a collum of ailes, which is neither wrong nor is it “ordained” by scripture). The point is that forms of worship (traditional, contemporary, emmergent, etc…) do not dictate whehter worship is a human-centered or God-centered activity. It is the heart of the worshiper who determines the focus of worship.

    Grace and Peace,

    Rex

  67. lesjr says:

    Thanks Rex. You nailed perfectly what I wanted to communicate. If changing our methods means more effectively communicating the gospel then let’s have at it. All things to all men!

  68. SteveLavin says:

    It is becoming apparent to me with the more post I see in this blog the closer I see our understanding of the obstacles we face. It is good to know that we all appear to be on the same page.

    Dave, I do see some of what you are referring to as ‘man-centered’ worship. If I am understanding you, it is what I refer to as ‘pop-psychology’. I don’t see a lot of this within the churches, where I have attended, but I do admit some of it working its way into the pulpit. I see it on a much more prominent scale being done by televangelists. Where I have attended the past few years I have seen I conscience decision to devote Sunday’s to God-Centered/Christ-Centered sermons and classes. But I also see a willingness to devote Wednesday evenings to more pop-psychology topics. Personally, I see some merit in this approach, but I admit this is just my preference.

    I must confess that I have also visited churches that preached sermons that gave the appearance of being God-Centered worship but in reality it was more of a sermon to tickle the ears of the CofC hard-core defenders. Was everything presented in these sermons biblical? Absolutely! But it was presented in such a way as to give the distinct impression that ‘we are the only ones going to heaven’ and I must say that message was every bit as man-centered as any pop-psychology sermon ever preached. Instead of the audience being convicted of their need for Christ, they almost left the auditorium giving high-fives and saying, ‘Yeah, we got it right baby!’ Of course, I don’t know what sermons you are hearing in your area but I do know that churches tend to develop a culture depending on the region. I am in complete agree that if we allow the church to be reduced to either a ‘Self-Improvement Center’ or a ‘Pep-Rally for the CofC Faithful’, then the church has lost its reason for being.

  69. Dave Brumley says:

    Does everyone notice the comments in here that are concerned primarily with “style of worship.” That is what I refer to as law. That is the problem. The people who complain about style of worship in the name of being more relevant are caught up in law. That’s wrong to do and may lead to a more contemporary style of worship but also leads to losing souls not saving them. Why? When you make changes in the name of law, you aren’t making them in the name of Christ.
    Steve, you hit the nail on the head. It is the pop-psychology that is what is considered relevant now. More and more we hear sermons on “being a better leader,” “God wants you to prosper,” or “having a better sex life.” These sermons normally consist of taking one verse out of context and making it fit the preacher’s idea of what that scripture says to today’s congregation. The truth is, the gospel message does not work that way. It is just as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago and will be 2000 years from now. It needs no twist. No, it has not totally inundated the Church of Christ yet, but that is what is considered “relevant” in this Godless country and time we now find ourselves in. I am saying we must resist doing what the world wants and rather go back to go forward. I am in total agreement with you that the “pep-rally’ sermons also are out of line and have turned people away. Those semons are not in line with the gospel and are law based. The gospel message is that we are all sinners (no matter how we worship 3 hours a week) and that Christ alone can save us. That is what should be preached. No more, no less. Use the law to convict the heart, allow Christ and His message to do the rest.
    Less law, more gospel.

  70. lesjr says:

    U gotta be kidding me? Wanting relevancy in worship or styles of worship means u r caught up in law? Not a chance here brother! last Saturday a woman in her late 50’s who has been a part of the coc for the majority of her life and a big chunk of that as an elder’s wife finally asked what she had been wanting to ask: what does night with ebon pinons mean? Beautiful old song, but it is not very relevant to a lot of people because they haven’t a clue what that means! And we have folks who clamor for that stuff because it is what they sang years ago–I am dealing with scads of folks–lots of new christians with little or no religious background and we had better be relevant or they will go somewhere else. i just finished and had approved an exegetical paper on 1 Corinthians 9 for my thesis–when Paul said all things to all men, he was willing to do or be whatever it took–short of anything that would be of an idolatrous nature–to reach the lost–and if that means I never sing again in a public assembly “Encamped along the hills of light,
    Ye Christian soldiers, rise, And press the battle ere the night” I am more than willing to pay that price.
    That is freedom from law.

  71. Lance says:

    Les, I follow your thinking and it applies to where I’m at. Last Sunday our worship leader had to stop and explain “ether plains” before leading the song. I just see us losing our relevance with this generation because we don’t take the time to see how we can communicate the unchanging Gospel message to a changing culture. I agree with Dave that the Gospel must be preached and that we need to be continually aware that we sin and fall short of the glory of God on a daily basis. That doesn’t need to be watered down. But I also want to emphasize that there is grace and love and we don’t need to be scared of the assurance of our salvation if we are in Christ Jesus.

    As far as the “pop psychology” goes, I think it can be a dangerous thing, but there’s nothing wrong with teaching a series of sermons on God’s plan for marriage and/or the family life or even sharing a sermon of spiritual and financial stewardship or other topic that will make us better disciples while we carry the Gospel message. I think sometimes we tell people to act like Christ but we don’t give the tools or knowledge on how to go about it on a day to day “real life” basis. Sometimes practical, relevant Biblical instruction goes a long way to bringing people closer to the heart of Christ.

  72. SteveLavin says:

    I am in agreement with LesJr if becoming relevant means we have to consider certain changes in worship. I have the luxury of being a member of a church where we hardly ever sing the old hymns that no one understands. (And the friends and relatives that visit our service are blown away with our singing!) Sorry, but the old English language just isn’t relevant to our culture! Songs should glorify God AND edify the body! If the body is not being edified then God will not be glorified! To me, ‘Sing and make music in your heart’ should reflect a joy and appreciation to God. Old hymns do not help young people, and the lost, to attain that goal. Song selection should facilitate our worship … not pose as a stumbling block. To me, it is the same as handing out KJ bibles to our teens. Like most translations, the KJ has its place but not in the hands of the lost, the young or read from the pulpit. Not if your goal is to actually present a relevant message that connects with people.

  73. K. Rex Butts says:

    Changing the forms of worship to reflect the culture we are living in does not mean dumbing down worship, going against the will of God, or anything like that. What it means is that both contemporary non-believers and believers alike are able to see the encounter of God’s abiding presence with his people because the worship that is taking place visually, audiably (sp?), etc… takes place in a cultural language that makes sense to them. The continued preservation of forms that made sense 50, even 100, years ago only means that non-believing English speaking people mines will be witnessing a worship service in done in Chinese language. It is also why the young will leave that church, because nothing in worship ultimately speaks to their heart and mind in their cultural language (not too mention that the church says to the young “it is not your church nor will it ever be so if you want to be here, then you will keep doing what we desire”).

    The contextualization I am speaking of when it comes to worship is not limited to just singing and praying. It can be applied to the means by which we communicate the gospel (preaching, teaching, etc…). It also can be applied to the means by which we practice community/fellowship with each other. I was only using worship as an example because that is what everyone on this post seemed to be using as an example.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  74. SteveLavin says:

    Rex, I agree! Relevance in worship is only a small part of what we need to change if the church is to grow! Unfortunately, worship always occupies a disproportionate amount of our focus.

  75. Dave Brumley says:

    Les, you are still discussing law. Stay on point brother. You are so wrapped up in it that you can’t even see it. You are saying that some songs aren’t relevant while some are (which I love them all). Which ever way, whether you are arguing against old songs for old people or new songs for new people, you are still discussing law and we will get nowhere having these discussions. The core is gospel.
    I fear that you are missing something about 1 Cor. 9 as well. Paul was writing to Christians. Paul was telling his brothers that he would become all things indeed but for them as well. While I hear you saying that you are willing to change for the unsaved and even the saved youth, I don’t hear you saying you are willing to change for the brotherhood that is already in place. Do you forget Paul’s thoughts in Chapter 8 in which he discusses not becoming a stumbling block for his Christian brothers already in place? Also, don’t forget Paul’s reasoning for doing these things. It was not to become relevant, it was for the sake of the what? The gospel (1 cor. 9 v23).
    If we as a church will focus our attention on returning to the gospel (yes, that means admitting we have begun to escape from it) and stop worrying about law, all the rest will take care of itself. I have that faith.

  76. lesjr says:

    Steve & Rex–I should just carry you guys around in my pocket and trot you out to say what i want to say in a conversation like this…

    Dave, thank you for your judgment that I am still discussing law and being off point. You have a right to believe that and even say it. I can and do respect that.

    I believe the gospel is always culturally relevant. I believe we package it at times in ways that are not.

    And no I am not quite as willing to stay unchanged for a group of folks who refuse to acknowledge that there are different ways of communicating the same gospel–I am not quite as willing to be held hostage by those who seem to want to preserve a time and culture that has passed by for many. I am open to melding cultures and acknowledging what is important to all.

    As for 1st Corinthians… paul said all things to all men so that some might saved…all for the sake of the gospel.

    Not your paradigm, but for the salvation of the lost–

  77. dave Brumley says:

    Les, I am not saying don’t change. I am screaming for a change but it is a change back to a gospel centered church that honors God, not man, young or old. As for you exigesis of 1 Cor. 9, I don’t believe you are fully considering who Paul is speaking to. As for who he was speaking of saving, he was considering both Christians and non-Christians. He did not want to become a stumbling block for any of them. Looking at the first sentence of your third paragraph, I think we can assume you don’t minister in that same spirit. Do you forget that Christ died for even those who had corrupted the law of Moses at that time. Your last sentence pretty much sums ip my entire feelings on this matter. Who is the lost? It is all of us and until we realize that baptized or not we still reside in a continual state of wretchedness in need of Christ’s grace we will make no progress no matter how much law we try to save ourselves or others with. I am a sinner and so are you brother. The sooner you remember that and begin reminding our brothers and sisters in the church of that as well as those who don’t know Christ the sooner this crisis will turn around. Why do we do this? For the sake of the gospel.
    I will post no more on this topic as I am repeating myself and feel that those who are willing to fight the good fight understand my point. Our autonomy makes us great and some shall survive this crisis because they will turn to God with sincere trust and he will answer with His will. Sadly, we can all look and pick out who that has posted here is trusting in man. Let us all pray that those young Christians (as I am myself) will look to the gospel for answers rather their apparent idols and laws. Let us not be fooled by man or wolves in sheeps clothing and begin making ourselves and church leaders to focus our teaching on gospel. If you find yourself in such a situation, voice your concern and if you see no improvement, find a gospel focused church.
    Less law – More gospel

  78. dave Brumley says:

    Correction- 4th paragraph les

  79. lesjr says:

    In Casting Crowns latest cd there is song called What this World Needs. In it is a line… the world is not confused by the gospel, the world is confused by us…

    how u percieve my words as trusting man, I have no idea… but i leave u with it…

  80. SteveLavin says:

    LesJr said, “I believe the gospel is always culturally relevant. I believe we package it at times in ways that are not.”

    Amen!

    Dave, all the best to you. I think you just have some of us confused as to how becoming relevant to those we are trying to reach, and keep, is somehow ‘trusting in man.’ What is the old saying? Oh yeah! ‘We can be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly value.’

  81. dannydodd says:

    Interesting discussions! Now some observations from me:

    * When speaking in terms of evangelizing the unchurched- worship styles matter very little. Debating worship styles is most definetly a “church” thing. The lost- when they come into our assembles- are likely not to know any songs- old or new; how often we do or do not commune; or anything else. What matters to them is whether the congregants are participatinig in whatever worship style whole-heartedly and that they see God in them and in the worship and spirit of the church. This is the authentic witness that speaks much louder than any particular style. (1 Cor. 14:22-25)

    * Relevancy has always been important. Don’t forget, Paul became all things to all people in his attempt to win them to Christ. That is a statement of the significance of being relevant. And no one would accuse Paul of any kind of compromise to truth. Again, the lost generally will know little accurately about the gospel or the Law and next-to-nothing about our church traditons and background. Let’s not confuse them, but like Paul, just preach “Christ and him crucified.”

    * The main point of my original post was to stimulate our thinking on how we can reverse the erosion of membership we are dealing with in the Churches of Christ. I appreciate your passion for this topic as evidenced in your posts. Let’s all pray and work together to tackle this challenge!

  82. SteveLavin says:

    Danny, I see your first point but a realistic challenge to continued church growth is our ability to keep our own young people and worship styles do very much matter to them. The teen and young adults just get glassy eyed and stop singing when we crank up some of the old hymns with language they don’t even understand.

    Also, our young people can be one of our greatest tools for growth. What other age group has as much contact with people deciding what path their lives should take? I guess what I am saying is that worship style matters to our young people and our young people are the key to growth! I believe we ignore this dymanic to our peril.

  83. dannydodd says:

    Your point is well made Steve. In this context worship style does matter. But the heart of the worshipper still remains the key- and I think this should be what we teach our young people formost.

    No matter what the worship style is- because of many factors- it will not always be as dynamic or as connecting as we may want it to be. Too often I have seen people walk away from worship grumbling about how terrible it was because of song selection. That attitude makes worship all about them and BTW condemened by Paul (1 Cor. 14:36)

    To counter this- I believe, yes, we must strive to make our worship as relevent as possible without compromising worhip essentials, but I also believe that we should be doing a big dose of teaching to young and old alike about how worship begins in our hearts and our ability to share that spirit with fellow-worshippers should not be hindered because of my worship preferences not being met.

    Not having said that, if a church refuses to try to connect to younger generations by refusing to dialogue with them about thier worship needs and insights- then certainly that church will not retain these young people.

  84. Royce says:

    Dave’s last post, (next to the last) tells a lot about why this debate is happening. Those of us who believe the gospel of the grace of God are polar opposites of the view given by Dave. I don’t remember a saved person ever being called a “sinner” in the New Testament. “Saved”, “child”, “justified”, “saint”, “brother” and the list goes on of the names given to those who have been born again. While it is true that all of us will still fall short of perfection and sin, we are not called sinners any longer. Paul, after giving a list of awful kinds of sinners then said “and such were some of you”. In 1 Corinthians 6:11 Paul set the record straight. In the previous verses Paul discussed sinners such as fornicators, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, covetous, homosexuals, etc. and then said, “And such were some of you”.

    Paul and others are careful to speak of those ugly lifestyles in the past tense when referring to believers. Interestingly, in the following verses he warns with these words. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.”17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

    These truths are clear. We used to be sinners (“And such were some of you”). We have been changed by Christ (But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”) Even though we have been changed, we can still fall into sin. (“Flee sexual immorality”)
    We have been given a new identity. We are not “sinners”, but are now “saints”. Over 50 times in the New Testament, by several different writers, all inspired by the Holy Spirit of God, we who are saved are called “Saints”. I was a sinner, by God’s grace I am now a Saint.

  85. Junky says:

    I have been watching this convo. and waiting for someone to say what my man Royce said there. Royce does not sin anymore. That’s stupid. Royce has lived his life since baptism without thinking one impure thought, covering, gossiping, or being lazy. The last time I was I’m a church of Christ they offered an invitation foe those people who needed to repennt. I guess we see why nobody came forward: they’re all saved saints with no reason to repent. I thought you guys hated Baptists but Rouce sounds like once saved always saved. I am personally being saved, or sanctified as Rouce put it. That’s y I left though. I didn’t like being ’round people who didn’t need Jesus anymore.

  86. K. Rex Butts says:

    Junky,

    I think you completely missed Royce’s point and in doing so, attributed to him things which he is not saying. There is a difference between a “saint” who still sins and a “sinner.” That difference is the blood of Jesus Christ.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  87. Royce says:

    Junky? Is that your name or a label for your theology? I suggest you read again what I said, and then what you wrote, and then rethink your position. Are those you want to go forward at the invitation the ones who “hate” Baptists? Or, is that a mark of maturity in your mind?

    Just to be clear, I sin, you sin every person still wearing flesh some times sins. However, those of us who have been born again do not sin as a lifestyle. I don’t regularly “hate” anyone. Evdently there are some on this thread of comments who don’t understand the most basic Bible teaching about salvation.

    Those who are Christians (I am thinking of the Bible definition of “Christian”, not church member, baptised, confirmed, prayed the sinners prayer, but rather born again from above) are different than the lost or “sinners”.

    1. Were dead spiritually, now made alive
    2.Were condemned, now have no condemnation
    3. Are already saved from the penalty of sin (justification), being saved from the power of sin(sanctification), and will be saved from the presence of sin (glorification)
    4. Have an inheritance reserved in heaven for them.
    5. Have God’s guarentee (the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) of the final or completed purchase of the believer by the Father
    6. Are in Christ and Christ is in them and they are in God
    7. Have been made righteous (Christ’s righteousness imputed to them)
    8. Have been justified (sit right with God)
    9. Past sins, present sin, and future sin all on Christ and continually being cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
    10. Sins not being counted against us
    11. Not appointed to wrath
    12 Out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Light
    13. Baptised by the Holy Spirit into the body (church) of Christ
    14. Partakers of the divine nature
    15. Will be raised from the dead at the coming of Christ
    16 will have a glorified body like Jesus body, fit for earth or heaven
    17 Will never die
    18 Am loved by the Father as much as He loved Jesus
    19 Granted repentance
    20 Given faith
    21 God’s law written on our hearts
    22 Will never perish
    23 Have everlasting life
    24 Have made an overcomer
    25 Were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world

    I could go on but you should get the point. Lost people enjoy none of these things and are already condemned, not because they are not in the right church, not because they have not been scripturally baptised, or done 5 acts of worship, or committed to a gospel system,but because they have not believed on the Son of God. They love their wicked works and deeds done in darkness and refuse to come into the light.

    They are dead in tresspasses and sins, are under the control of the evil one, and can’t receive the things of God for they are foolishness to them, What dead men need is life and Jesus is the way, the truth,and the life. He is the resurrection and the life and no man comes to the Father but by Him. We are saved not by works of righteousness which we have done but by his grace.

    Every person who winds up in hell will be there because they rejected the loving offer of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins based on the work and worth of Jesus. They are known on earth to walk in darkness producing the works of the flesh, living to please themselves at the expense of others and supresssing the truth of God.

    Every person who winds up in heaven will be there solely upon the work and worth of Jesus and not on any merit or good works of their own. God calls, he chooses, he justifies, he sanctifies, and finally he glorifies. God saves those who believe the record He has given of his son and in obedient faith depends on the claims of the gospel.

    Maybe, just maybe, now you understand what I believe. I can provide scripture for every point. I have preached this and taught it and defended it for over 40 years. It is not my truth its God’s truth. Anyone who preaches any other way to the Father is preaching another gospel which is not another.

    I wrote a lot to make an important point that some in this thread don’t seem to get. There is a difference betweed those who have been born again and those who are lost.

    Royce

  88. J D says:

    Junky. Appropriate name.

  89. Tammy says:

    I know I am late to the discussion but from an “outsider” view point (married in the church of Christ from a heathen denomination :o)), I think the point is being missed completely.

    Are we stating that people are leaving all churches in droves, or are we simply stating that people are leaving the church of Christ in droves? I do believe it is the later.

    So, if these Christians are leaving the church of Christ to go to say, the American Baptist Church down the street, are we to say that they have fallen away from God? (several comments imply this) Frankly, I am just glad they are still in church.

    What I am hearing is demoninationalism. One denomination feeling they have the only ticket to heaven. I see it in Baptist, Pentecostal, CoC, CoG, etc. No one denomination has the market on the “One and Only Truth”. We are human and each person interprets things in their own way. (this is true even in face-to-face conversation, why should it be different in print?)

    Maybe if we focus more on actually bringing the unsaved to Christ through our own actions and love, it wouldn’t have to matter what congregation they attend.

    Denominational elitism is what causes the shrinkage of my generation and younger. (34)

    Oh, and just to make my point about it being a denominational preference, I believe no different than my dyed-in-the-wool CoC husband when it comes to salvation: Conviction = Confession = Repentance = Salvation = Baptism. Without the first 3, you just have a wet sinner. It could lead to actual growth in membership if we have less soggy sinners and more humbled believers in the CoC.

  90. Tammy says:

    BTW, I find your writing very though provoking. I enjoy it.

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