Why Are You In A Church That’s Not In The Bible?

The title of this post is a question that hyperconservative churches of Christ (like the 3 TV hosts) love to ask.  The implication to their question is that they (the hypercons) are not just in a church that is in the Bible, but that they are in the only modern church that is in the Bible.  In other words, they are the only ones who are theologically correct (TC).  They are the only ones who are really Christians.  

Of all the arguments for tearing down the walls of denominationalism I’ve heard (and I’ve heard some good ones), this idea is to the Christian faith what New Coke was to soft drinks.

or the Yugo was to automaking.  

In other words, it’s a load of complete rubbish that deserves to become a distant memory in the minds of those who have heard of it.

Unity = Good

Understand that I am not arguing against unity.  Even a casual reading of the New Testament will yield to the reader that God desires for His children to be unified.  Here are just a couple of examples:

Jesus said, 

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20, 21, 23). 

Paul said,

“We were all baptised by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13)

Unity is a good thing.  But the proponents of the “where’s your church?” idea aren’t interested in unity.  They are interested in conformity – to their limited interpretations of Scripture.   

Conviction = Good

Understand, also, that I’m not arguing against having convictions.  I agree completely with the old expression that goes, “you have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything”.  Or, as Scripture says, “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” (1 Corinthians 2:15)   

The problem I have is this idea that the name of your church is enough to condemn or save you.  “Why are you in a church that’s not in the Bible?”  The hyperconservative asks.  Well, why are they in a church that’s not in the Bible?

Churches That Are In The Bible

The churches in the Bible were located in the modern countries of Israel, Turkey, Italy, etc – in other words, in countries that are near and around the Mediterranean Sea.  Did the person who asked this question pack up his or her things and move to this region?  No?  Then guess what – they aren’t in a church that is found in the New Testament.

In fact, you won’t even find the exact phrase “church of Christ” in the Bible at all!  I’m still waiting for someone to answer the challenge to find “church of Christ” in the Bible.  If they find it, I’ve got $1000 that I will give them.

But That’s Not What We Mean…

“But we mean why are you in a church that doesn’t act like the church in the Bible,” they might respond.

First, if you mean that, then why don’t you say that?

Second, my hypercon friends, I hate to tell you this, but you are also not in a church that acts like the church in the Bible.  Let’s look at three basic ways in which you join the rest of us by not acting like the church we find in the New Testament:

1.  The infamous holy kiss.  

Hyperconservative churches of Christ don’t do this.  Check here for more explanation.

2.  Women and Head Coverings.

1 Corinthians 11:5-6 says:

“But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.  For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.”  

Hyperconservative churches of Christ don’t follow this.  At least not the ones in our area.

3.  Tongues and Prophecies.

Sorry, I couldn’t find a good picture.  We’ll just let Scripture speak for itself.

“Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues.” (1 Corinthians 14:39)

Hyperconservative churches of Christ forbid people from speaking in tongues.

So, gentlemen, I ask you… why are you in a church that is not in the Bible?

Wait!  Stop!  Let me give you the answer to that question.

The Answer 

It doesn’t matter whether or not you are in a denomination.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you can “find your church in the Bible”.  All followers of Christ are in Christ’s church and we are all called to be a part of something that transcends differences – that transcends denominations.  

The churches that existed in the first century, that Paul and the other NT writers were addressing, were all different.  They were dealing with different issues.  They lived in different cities with different cultures and values.  

Where did they find their unity?  In the words of the New Testament?  No, because they didn’t have the New Testament.  They had the words of the ones who taught them, the letters from various NT writers, what we call the Old Testament (if they were Jewish), and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Their unity was in the Gospel of Christ.

“…[S]tanding firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”  (Philippians 1:27)

This is at the heart of the New Testament – the Gospel of Christ.  What is the Gospel of Christ?  The hypercons would, by necessity, link baptism to the Gospel.  And while Baptism plays a part in the life of a Christian, baptism is not the Gospel (1 Cor 1:17).  

So, what is the Gospel? 

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”  Romans 5:8-10

Like the church of the first century, this is where we find unity.  We don’t conform to the teachings of a few hyperconservative church of Christ TV host/pastors, or Baptist pastors, or Lutheran pastors, or [fill in the blank] pastors… we conform to Jesus, and Jesus alone.  

And there – in that conformity and only in that conformity – will we be a part of the Lord’s church – a part of the worldwide churches of Christ as found in Scripture and through the last two thousand years.

No matter what the sign outside reads, or whether or not we are in a church that’s “not in the Bible”.

For those who didn’t grow up in a church named “church of Christ”…

If you are trying to understand where these folks are coming from, I would highly recommend spending some time on the ex-church of Christ website – especially in the “Church of Christ: Doctrine & Culture” board.  There are some insight into this culture for those of us who weren’t raised in it.  

It’s really interesting to me as a person who was raised in a different faith tradition, and you might find it to be so as well.  At the least, it is informative to understanding any hyperconservative churches of Christ that might be in your community.

A Knight’s Tale – Chris Knight Engages JR

After a few days of Johnny Robertson badgering Chris Knight on this blog regarding this post on Chris’s blog, Chris decided to take Johnny at his word and debate.  He loaded up his video camera and drove down to the TV studio where “What Does the Bible Say?” is broadcast, and issued Johnny an impromptu challenge.  You can read more about that incident here.  Chris is going to post excerpts from that encounter on youtube.

I have to say, I am really surprised.  I had pictured Johnny to be the living embodiment of 1 Peter 3:15, but it seems that he wasn’t ready to engage Chris – claiming that it was because his program already had an agenda from which he didn’t want to deviate. 

This is exactly the thing we’ve discussed here before, that JR seems to have this interesting need for control, and if a situation presents itself out of his control, he’s apparently not interested.  That’s one of the reasons I’ve been so surprised that he had actually been commenting on this blog, although every time he comes he tries to take control and lead the conversation where he wants it to go.

Well, I must say that Chris has impressed me mightily with his chutzpa, and we cheer him on for his not letting himself be bullied by JR.  Bravo, Chris!

 

Sunday, June 1 – Prayer Day for Johnny, Norm and James

I’ve been feeling convicted recently about this blog, and what it could become.  And what I don’t want it to become.

When the subjects of the blog are people who seem to revel in stirring things up and getting people riled up (regardless of what is motivating them to do this), then it is easy to find ourselves getting comfortably in a permanent defensive posture.  Johnny Robertson’s visit this week just underlines how easily that can happen.

I don’t want this blog to be a place that Johnny, Norm and/or James can give to their supporters and say, “Look at how I am being treated!  I must be doing something right if they are so upset at me!”  Rather, I want it to be a place where the three men would see the love of Christ exhibited.

I would ask my regular commenters to consider the following Scripture passages:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34).

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-28).

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse (Romans 12:14).

We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it (1 Corinthians 4:12).

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21).

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble (1 John 2:9-10).

Now, I am not saying that any of the people who have been posting here about the three TV hosts have been acting improperly.  However, I want this to be a place where Jesus’ name is honored, and I think one important way we honor Him is when we act like Him.

So, I invite you all to join me on Sunday, June 1 as I pray for Johnny Robertson, Norm Fields and James Oldfield.  Some suggested things we can pray for them:

1.  For the well-being of their families

2.  For their health  

3.  For Godly wisdom as they attempt to lead the churches where they teach and preach

4.  That Christ would dwell in their (and our) hearts through faith.  And that they (and we), “being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that [they] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:17-19

Won’t you join me in praying for these men this Sunday?

Thanks,

Nathan

 

An interesting video from a former CofC person

Thanks to Katherine for the heads up on this video. Thoughts?