HOW NOT TO ADVANCE NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANITY
(The following is a true personal story, except for the pronounced use of the expression “church of Christ” in a decidedly denominational sense. The story is told in an effort to show how the Lord’s church should not be viewed, how it should not be spoken of, and how utterly unsuccessful one who resorts to this kind of language will be in promoting New Testament Christianity.)
My paternal grandparents were nominal Methodists. My father was sprinkled a Methodist when he was nine years old. One of his brothers became a Methodist preacher.
My maternal grandmother was a Baptist. I do not know what my maternal grandfather was in his early life, but in his thirties or forties he heard a Church of Christ preacher from Texas, was baptized by that preacher, and became a Church of Christ. At the same time, my grandmother left the Baptist Church, was immersed for the remission of her sins, and also became a Church of Christ. My mother (then a teenager), along with her sister and one or two of her brothers, also were baptized and became Church of Christ in their religious affiliation.
For a number of years, my mother did not attend church because there was no Church of Christ congregation where she lived, or else she made no effort to locate one. When she and my father married they were married by a Methodist preacher, but they did not go to church anywhere regularly.
I was born in 1937, and for the first several years of my life I had no religious training, though my parents were good moral people and taught me the child’s prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,” which I faithfully repeated every night. But church attendance was not a part of our weekly routine.
In about 1947 or 1948, my mother and father began attending the Sunday afternoon services conducted by a Church of Christ preacher in a schoolhouse in a nearby rural community where by maternal grandparents lived. My father disagreed with some of the things the preacher said, and began to read and study his Bible. He initially opposed the Church of Christ viewpoint and the Church of Christ way.
But in 1948 my father confessed his faith in Christ and was immersed for the remission of his sins by Paul Simon, a well-known Church of Christ preacher in the area where we lived. From that time forward the church became the center of our lives. At about the age of thirteen or fourteen I determined that I wanted to be a Church of Christ preacher.
In 1953 we moved to Florence, Alabama and I (along with my sister and brother) enrolled in Mars Hill Bible School, a Church of Christ elementary and high school. When I graduated from Mars Hill, I went to Freed-Hardeman College, a Church of Christ college. All of my teachers, both at Mars Hill and at Freed-Hardeman, were Church of Christ.
When I completed my work at Freed-Hardeman I moved to Louisville, Kentucky to preach for a congregation of the Church of Christ persuasion. Over the years I have served as the full-time preacher for nine Church of Christ churches and held many meetings at congregations of the Church of Christ. I have spoken on various lectureships of Church of Christ institutions. I have written rather extensively for Church of Christ publications. My best friends are Church of Christ preachers, Church of Christ elders, and Church of Christ members.
My wife, son, daughter-in-law, and grandson are all Church of Christ in their religious affiliation, and I fully expect my granddaughter to become a Church of Christ. My son is an elder in a Church of Christ church, and my grandson is now a fifth generation Church of Christ. To put it succinctly, “I AM CHURCH OF CHRIST ALL THE WAY!”
Let me repeat: The above is NOT the way to advance apostolic Christianity! It reflects a denominational view of the church from start to finish. But, sadly, many Christians have never had a clear, biblical concept of the church, and the only way they know how to speak of it is in the language of their denominational friends and peers. (Examples: “I’m Baptist.” “I’m Methodist.” “I’m Catholic.” “I’m Church of Christ.”) Sadly, some professed gospel preachers and not a few Bible professors in Christian colleges and universities, as well as some who tout themselves as Bible scholars and restoration movement historians, use the above kind of denominational terminology when they speak of the church.
May we all be challenged to go back to the New Testament and allow it to shape our view of the church and the way we speak of it. Let us learn to speak “as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11), not with the Ashdodic language of the denominational bodies around us (see Nehemiah 13:23-24).
October 6, 2015