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Dr Crump,An apostasy is taking place within the ranks of churches of Christ. Marching under the banner of change, those pursuing this course are determined to change the faith worship and practice of our brethren so they will be acceptable to the denominational bodies of Protestantism. The most noticeable changes include willingness to accept the use of instrumental music in worship, the placing of women in public leadership roles in the church, denying the absolute essentiality of baptism for salvation, teaching that the church of Christ is only one of many denominations that are pleasing to God.
Those who have been members of the church for any length of time stand in amazement as they see brethren turning their backs on the gospel of Christ and the church he purchased with his blood and rushing to embrace the faulty notions of men. They wonder what in the world would cause folks to make such a foolish choice? The points following seem to be common factors found in those who are looking for changes to the ancient gospel of Christ.
The leading preachers in the change movement are men of much education. Many of them have pursued their advanced degrees in either secular or denominational universities. There their faith was undermined and replaced with a denominational point of view. They have brought that home and are trying to impose it on our people.
The churches that have embraced the change agenda and those currently sampling it are generally our large, wealthy congregations. Jesus observed, "It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:23). Some seem to think that the practice of simple New Testament Christianity is all right for rural folks and the middle and lower classes, but folks of wealth and refinement need something more suitable to their tastes.
Many of those who have opted for change imagine themselves to be quite sophisticated. This flows out of their worldly educational attainments and their wealth. They are embarrassed by our simple meeting houses, a cappella congregational singing, and Bible preaching. They need something new and more challenging for folks of their station.
The major driving force in this movement has been and continues to be some of our Christian Universities. Some of these schools have grown large, wealthy and influential both in the church and in the world. In their early years their leaders saw their role as servants of the church. Today they fancy themselves spokesmen for the church. In their quest for acceptance and recognition in the world of academia they have embraced the current thinking of the worldly denominations and are trying to impose it on the church of Christ. Young preachers coming from those schools are often infected with the virus of change.
Those pushing for change in our churches seem to have concluded that the church is going to die if it continues to follow the ancient paths of the Bible. In their misguided judgment they have concluded that prosperity and survival justify replacing the old faith and worship with a new version.
Evident in the promoters of change is a dearth of Bible knowledge (Hos. 4:6). Even after 4-6 years of study in our universities many of the students know precious little of God's Word. They have studied much about church growth, contemporary religion, ministry, and theology but their accumulation of Bible knowledge has been minimal. Ignorance of the fundamentals of the faith has made them vulnerable to Satan's lies.
Along with the lack of knowledge, we see an evident lack of respect for Bible authority in the champions of change (Matt. 28:20). The demands of society, the will of the people, the theories of the scholars, the pragmatic approach, all take precedence over the ancient teaching of Scripture.
Those pushing for change exhibit a lack of respect and reverence for the church Jesus established. That she cost Christ his life on Calvary, that she was planned from eternity by God himself, that she is his beloved bride, that she is the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 3:16-17) means little to those determined to redesign her. Without blush or shame they lay profane hands on the sacred body of Christ and change her into their own image.
A major factor driving the change movement is the desire to be accepted and admired by worldly neighbors, whether religious or secular (I John 2:15). They frequently write about what our neighbors think of us. They compare us with our denominational neighbors. They bemoan the fact that we are not counted as members of the Evangelical family of churches. They are embarrassed that we insist on immersion as essential to salvation; that we teach that Christ has only one church; that we refuse to interact with denomination bodies. They are willing to sacrifice those distinctive factors that result from taking the Will of Christ seriously...to gain standing with the world.
Those who are rushing to embrace a new kind of faith and worship evidently have little or no understanding of our history as a people. They have lost, or perhaps never had, any sense of identity with those who went before us, who blazed the trail they now travel, who planted the churches and established the schools; who spread the concept of New Testament Christianity around the world. Without that tie to our history, it pains them not to cast away all that was won at so great a cost.
May God deliver us from those who would destroy the church for which his Son died.
I really want to encourage and affirm your passion. You heart for the truth is so good. I have to echo the same thoughts about Bro Waddley. I love the deep longing of your good spirit.
Bro Waddley's essay on LOST MUST BE FOUND is so encouraging and right on.
If I may offer some redirection, please thoughtfully consider three points. If not, stop and be encouraged in my appreciation of your study and passion.
1. The call for "lost must be found" is nothing short of a call for change. I believe you are right on in seeking a constant renewal/sifting/purification/return. We as humans in fellowship are a work in progress. So, both of you should enjoy your role as change agents. Christ is the great change agent.
2. I would put forth that your enemy is incorrect. You single out these change agents. Most of those I know that I assume (hate to do that) you would include in your catigorization would full heartedly agree with most of the points you made in LOST MUST BE FOUND. We can not align against any that are calling on Jesus's name. We must be honest and share where we disagree and study with gthe greatest fervor and always pray for insight/wisdom/discernment. We must open the Word and our lives to them. Remember Satan is the enemy.
a. You are allowing assumption to splinter your unity with others. I would suggest that assuming things that other intend/think/feel is always a great allowance to Satan. Most of your frustration and angst is built on asumption of thought and motive and not the result of intimate, Christ-centered relationship gone wrong with other Christians.
b. I whole heartedly agree that many who are immature but very passionate about the church are doing very clumsy and destructive things. It is then imperative that those of us who are gracefully blessed with insight on one issue invest our lives with those who may not be aware of the dangers they are allowing to be present by their action.
c. This means we have to cling to our "no-out" agreement with Christ when we took him on in Bpatism. Their is no "divorce" from our Christian brothers. Christ has not given up so neither can we. God has placed each of us in our specific situations because that is His plan. We are here to sacrifice our position in the church, our control over the congregation, our respect by the conregation and whatever might be asked. We have to know with out a doubt that we are right with God and no one can take that from us. And, this should be eternal joy to us.
No one is going to be open to biblical teaching if we are screaming it at them with one breath and then praying for their destruction with the second breath. Prayers that were voiced earlier in this thread. Our job is to to glorify God, live completely for Him, love to the point of our own death all He puts in our lives - even the know it all/spiritually enlightened/30-something worship leader.
d. Always remember that God's grace covers doctrinal error. If it doesn't we are all damned.
3. There is no place for fear. I say this with all love for you because the next sentence is important. Christ will take all your fear if you will let Him. The most frequent command made by Christ: Do not fear. I feel fear is keeping you from seeing so much of God's truth. It definately clouds areas of your study, doctrinal stance and writing that I have observed in our short relationship.
Again, I am warmed to my core because of your passion for Christ, His sacrifice, His church and His truth. Keep running the race because you are on the right track.
I received an interesting news clipping about a church in Addison, IL. The congregation had its beginning in 1953. At one time it was a flourishing congregation with plans for growth and expansion. Then came a new preacher with dreams of greatness in his heart. But to achieve his goals, changes would have to be made.Thanks for your interesting points and I don't mind the flowery language at all in the original post. In fact it did not seem flowery to me which may say something about me! Anyway, what do you think about the section of Acts where the early church decided not to bring many burdens on new believers. I think they say that if they just follow a couple of "rules" and not get confused by divisive language they will do well. I think it says, as you did, that if we help people get closer to God through the scripture and prayer that the Holy Spirit will convict them of their sin as opposed to us just telling them not to do certain things. You said these changes would be good. The defensiveness you feel from the others is because when we speak of "changes" they are the specific changes that come from the Purpose Driven Movement. This is a very specific program of change which may have been well meaning on Rick Warren's part but when put in practice has caused all sorts of difficulties. Those involved in these changes justify all sorts of sin by the fact that growth almost certainly occurs as the changes take place (even cancers grow however--growth alone does not mean it is from the Lord). I would encourage you to read Paul Proctors "The People's Church--A Wayward Vessel" which mirrors my own situation exactly. I think it will let you know if your church is instituting these particular changes so you can be prepared. If they are changing in the way that you said--no problem , but if you see some of the things he mentions then beware. Kansas Christian
I would like some clarification on the following statement that you made above: "d. Always remember that God's grace covers doctrinal error. If it doesn't we are all damned." Specifically, what doctrinal error does grace "cover"? While I am in no way saying that one must 100% correct on every point of doctrine, I often hear this statement being used by those advocating various false doctrines - which, by the way, cannot be "covered" by grace. Since virtually every epistle discusses false doctrine/false teachers/deceivers/ etc. it seems to me that one must use God's word to identify what is false and what is not.
After sifting through most of the above I thank God for His promise: "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord are God shall call."Did you know that the change movement of which we continually warn is not unique to churches of Christ? Since we launched our response to the promoters of change I have heard from members of the Southern Baptist Church, Bible Baptist Churches, Independent Bible Churches and Independent Christian Churches who are also concerned about the same kind of movement within their denominational bodies. A small industry of Internet bloggers has blossomed as knowledgeable people share their experiences with and information concerning the change movement. In all these cases the stream flows back to two principal sources: Bill Hybels and his Willow Creek Church Association (Methodist) of Illinois and Rick Warren's Saddleback Community (Southern Baptist) Church of Orange County California. Both of these men and their mega churches found their inspiration in Robert Shuller and his Crystal Cathedral Community (Reformed) Church of California.
Precursors to our current change movement can be traced to the progressive movement that swept through our Restoration brotherhood following the Civil War. The issues today are essentially the same as then: lack of respect for Bible authority, instrumental music in worship, special musical programs such as choirs, singing groups and soloists, open membership, denominationalism, women given leadership roles in the public assemblies of the church, rejection of our back-to-the-Bible platform. Division of our brotherhood was the fruit of that movement. It culminated in 1906. Such will be the certain result of our current change movement. The progressives of last century evolved into the very liberal Disciples of Christ denomination. The same will almost certainly be the sad end of our contemporary promoters of change.
After some 50 years, W. Carl Ketcherside and Leroy Garrett, former champions of the anti-located preacher splinter group underwent a change of conviction and resurrected the progressive agenda of the Disciples of Christ. They devoted the rest of their careers to trying to sell that liberal program to the young preachers of the mainstream of the brotherhood. To the uncritical eye it looked as if they had failed, but after fifty years, it is evident that they in fact succeeded in corrupting the faith of a multitude, especially of young intellectuals associated with our Christian Schools. By the turn of the 21st century, a new progressive movement for change was in full blossom.
Prominent among the current leaders of this movement are Ruble Shelly of Nashville, Max Lucado of San Antonio, Rick Atchley of Ft. Worth, Thomas Olbrecht of New England, Richard Hughes of Pepperdine University, Randy Harris, Carroll Osburn and Douglas Foster of Abilene Christian University, John Mark Hicks and John York of David Lipscomb University, Leonard Allen, Lynn Anderson, Jim Woodroof, Mike Cope and others.
Pockets of change agents are now securely ensconced in several of our brotherhood schools, diligently working to promote their new agenda among their fellow-teachers and students. It is yet to be revealed how many of these schools will be lost but the prospects are not encouraging. Already Abilene Christian, Pepperdine, David Lipscomb and Rochester College are under their control. They were surrendered without a struggle. The annual Lectureships of the Schools mentioned above and their preacher's forums have been primary platforms for promoting their agenda.
The chief organs of communication for the change movement have been Ruel Lemmons' Image magazine, The Wine Skins magazine, and the Christian Chronicle. Of the publishers producing books advocating changes we have the Howard Publishing Company of West Monroe, Louisana, Oak Leaf Press of Arkansas and the Abilene Christian University Press.
At this point (June 2005), several dozen of our largest churches have already been captured and many other congregations are teetering on the brink. Most notable of them are the Madison Church in Madison, Tennessee, the Richland Hills Church of Ft. Worth and the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio. Already promoters of change have penetrated our foreign mission fields and planted their seeds of unrest and desire for change. Now, as 50 years ago, conservative brethren have been slow to recognize the problem, slow to rally their troops for defense and slow to respond in a decisive way. This tardiness does not bode well for our future.
Among those responding to the challenge of the change movement have been:
The Church of Christ in Duluth, Georgia with a widely circulated video presentation entitled What Is Happening to the Church?
Darryl Pringle of The Northeast Tarrant County Church of Christ in Ft. Worth who sends out a weekly Newsletter with valuable lessons addressing the change movement.
Bro. Donnie Cruz of Nashville edits the Concerned Members website.
Jimmy Jividen of Abilene has written a number of valuable books setting forth the Biblical basis for several vital and distinctive beliefs and practices of the Lord's church.
Buster Dobbs, editor of the Firm Foundation, Neil Anderson, editor of the Gospel Advocate and Alan Highers, editor of the Spiritual Sword, have given continuous attention to the fundamentals of the faith and the dangers of unscriptural change.
Alvin Jennings of Star Bible Publications has taken a strong stand and written some fine materials addressing the problems of Rick Atchely and the Richland Hills Church in Ft. Worth.
A number of sound men of Oklahoma and border areas of Missouri and Arkansas who have organized and conducted several regional seminars to acquaint brethren with the dangers of the promoters of change.
Dave Miller whose book Piloting the Straits was one of the first to give us a detailed analysis of the change movement.
William Woodson who gave us the excellent Change Agents and Churches of Christ.
Jim Sheerer and Charles Williams who gave us Directions for the Road Ahead.
Russell Dyer, Tommy Haynes and Jeff Jenkins who gave us Redeeming the Times.
David Tarbet and the White Rock Church in Dallas who have hosted several one-day seminars that addressed aspects of the change agenda.
Raymond Bailey and the Ogden Ave. Church in Chicago who have organized an area-wide lecture to address the issues.
The West Bell Road Church of Christ in Surprise, AZ which has been active in publishing the Christianity: Then & Now journal and hosting a website by the same name.
Others have been faithful in defense of the faith in both large and small ways. For all of these we should be thankful.
Major, brotherhood-wide conflicts, such as this are decades in the making. The end will depend on the aggressiveness of the contending elements. A century ago the progressives were victorious, taking 85 percent of our members and churches, all our Christian Schools and virtually all our mission outposts. Contemporary Churches of Christ are the children of that small, surviving remnant.
Some wise sage noted that knowledge is power. Another advised, Know thine Enemy. May this information empower readers to resist the destructive push for change.
John H. Waddey