Hugh’s News & Views (Suggestion To Progressives)



In most religious bodies, times of tension and turmoil come. Differences, discontent, and dissatisfaction arise within the ranks. A new, more “progressive” spirit emerges and the clamor goes up for change.

Churches of Christ are not exempt from this phenomenon. Being Christians only without any denominational affiliation, constituted into independent autonomous congregations with the Bible alone as our standard of authority, we are committed to being simply the church of the New Testament, the church that Christ Himself established (Matthew 16:18), nothing more, nothing less. But in time, this vision is lost by some and the desire becomes overwhelming to “have a king . . . that we also may be like all the nations.” (For those unfamiliar with this allusion, I ask them to read the tragic request that ancient Israel made of Samuel the prophet of God recorded in I Samuel 8.)

For those among us who have reached this point, I would make the following suggestion: Go ahead and separate from the rest of us and create the denomination that for decades you have wanted the church to become.

Choose for yourselves whatever name you desire. While the rest of us might wish you would choose a name that would not confuse us with you, we do not have a patent on the descriptor “church of Christ,” and very well understand that the Lord’s blood-purchased people are described in a variety of ways in the New Testament. In your own best interests and to keep yourselves from being aligned with the rest of us, at the very least you might want to consider “The Progressive Church of Christ” as your official denominational name.

Choose a city for your denominational headquarters. (Indianapolis is already taken by the Disciples of Christ denomination, a people who once stood where we stand religiously but eventually found us to be too conservative to suit their tastes.) Nashville, Abilene (TX), Dallas, or Houston might be viable options as headquarters for the new PCOC denomination.

Develop your own denominational structure, with a full slate of international, national, state, and local officers over all kinds of boards, committees, conferences, conventions, societies, and various other endeavors both social and political. Formulate a creed that will be fluid and that can change with the times. Stay loose and flexible.

From time to time, convene your own version of Vatican II to make sure you are keeping in step with the ever changing world. After all, you do not want to become “locked in” to any particular viewpoint, or caught in the trap that you see the rest of us being in. Exchange pulpits with the preachers of the other denominations and let your members know that it is perfectly alright to switch membership from one denomination to another whenever they think it in their best interest to do so. (Many who have always viewed the church as a denomination are already doing this.)

Make your conditions of membership “open”—any “mode” of baptism or no baptism at all if the person shows himself or herself to be worthy of acceptance. Don’t concern yourself with the biblical conditions for being saved and added to the body of Christ such as set forth in the Book of Acts. After all, you can’t be sure that the Bible is really infallible and inerrant in all that it says, that the books of the Bible were really written by whom they claim to have been written, or that Jesus really said everything that is attributed to Him in the gospel records. In your view, the Bible passed through the hands of various editors and we have no way of knowing how accurately it represents what God originally said, or even if God was really speaking through the writers of the Bible at all.

As per your thinking, the Bible contains few if any absolutes and is primarily a book that spoke to the people of an earlier time but is only of general value to our progressive and scientifically-enlightened age. At best, the New Testament is a record of how people “did church” in the first century, but it certainly is not a binding pattern of how we must “do church” today.

Go full-steam ahead in adopting instrumental music in all of your worship services. (No need to go just part of the way by having the instrument in only some of your services.) Give your women a free rein to serve in whatever capacity they desire and consider themselves to be gifted: preacher, elder, deacon, worship leader, etc., etc. Serve the Lord’s Supper any day of the week you choose to do so. Make it available for weddings, funerals, and any other occasion where one requests it.

Be adaptable and open minded when it comes to defining or identifying what is sinful or not sinful. Say little if anything about the old-fogy concept of worldliness: drinking, gambling, dancing, night clubbing, immodesty, vulgarity, profanity, etc. Never say anything about marriage, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, or same-sex marriage. Remember, we now live in an enlightened age, so please do not be concerned with any out-dated biblical restrictions regarding any of the above matters.

Let people decide for themselves what they want to believe and practice about these matters. And by all means, don’t ever say anything about everlasting punishment in hell! (How barbaric can one be?!) Stress the goodness and grace of God and never say anything about His severity and wrath.

Now in truth, rather than the above, I would earnestly plead with the progressives among us to lay aside their liberal agenda, return to “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), and be content to serve the Lord in His divinely appointed way. But if that is too restrictive for you, then do the rest of us a favor and quietly go your separate way.

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, “We will not walk in it” ‘ ” (Jeremiah 6:16). That same choice is before all of us today.

Note: Over the next three Sunday mornings (D.V.) at the Mitchellville (TN) Church of Christ, I will be addressing the following subjects: November 3: “The Setting Up of the Kingdom of God” (the establishment of the church); November 10: “An Overview of Church History” (New Testament times, falling away, reformation, and restoration); November 17: “Why I Am a Member of the Church, the Body of Christ.” I encourage all gospel preachers to address these topics in the near future if they have not recently done so. If you are in our area you are cordially invited to join us at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.

Hugh Fulford

October 29, 2013

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