John M. Brown
When studying religious ideas, theories, philosophies, and concepts, we all seek, or certainly we ought, to be as objective as possible. We recognize that prejudices, preconceptions, and personal feelings can sometimes cloud our view and make it more difficult to assess accurately; hence we seek an impersonal and unprejudiced determination regarding the matters at hand.
However, when it comes to the liberal rantings and ravings among us today, I frankly admit I take it personally. I do try to be objective in appraisal. But personal feelings lie just below the surface, and often force me to confront matters I would rather not. Truly, I find no pleasure at all in confronting liberalism. I would much rather NOT have to deal with it, in that I would rather it didn't exist among us, and thus be of no threat. Howbeit, unfortunately, liberalism among us exists, reality confronts us, truth beckons, and so we must speak.
Let me explain why, to me, personal feelings get involved in these matters. My grandfather, my great-grandfather, and my great-great-grandfather, were all Baptist preachers. It is ingrained in our family many generations deep. When I was in high school, I met a preacher from the church of Christ. I know what I came out of, and what I went into. I know about severing family roots, to forsake the religious sentiments of my ancestors and enter into the one true church of Jesus Christ. In the course of our home Bible studies, as I learned God's Word, I was at times disturbed, often corrected, gratefully enlightened, and thankfully converted! That's awfully personal, wouldn't you agree?
Had the preacher who taught me NOT shown me the difference between the Lord's church and denominationalism, had he NOT taught me the difference between God's plan of salvation and what I had heard all my life growing up, and had he NOT taught me about faithful Christian service in life and worship comparing the New Testament pattern with the creeds and theories of men, I say had he NOT done these things, I would today NOT be a Christian. I would NOT be a member of Christ's church. I would be LOST and WITHOUT HOPE. And, I would be on my way to eternal HELL. YOU BETTER BELIEVE I TAKE IT PERSONALLY!! I have sincerely thanked God many times that my introduction to churches of Christ did not come from a person who didn't know the difference between the church of the Lord ad the churches of men.
I can easily take criticism of the church from without. I expected it and I have not been disappointed. But when I hear unjust and wrong criticism of the church from WITHIN, from those who ought to know better, then I am greatly disturbed and personally disgusted. I know what I forsook, and I know what I gained. I know where I was, and I know where I am. If you don't know the difference between the one church founded by Christ himself, and the churches of men, please write me. Just as I was shown by a brother several years ago, so I'll be glad to explain it to you.
I was sixteen years old when I began a study of the Bible. Some seventeen years have passed since. I learned a few things along the way. I can tell you exactly what you must do to be saved from past sins, to enter Christ's church, to worship according to the New Testament pattern, to serve God faithfully, and to go to heaven when you die. If you don't know, I DO. I say this not arrogantly or presumptuously. These are things I KNOW, and you can know them too! I know, because I have a Book -- THE BOOK -- God's Book, the Bible! It tells me these things and more. And it will tell you if you will listen. It is not a Book that is secret, mysterious, closed, locked and incomprehensible. It reveals God's will. GOD WANTS YOU TO KNOW HIS BOOK! I learned the truth because I learned the Bible. You can learn the truth because you can learn the Bible. We oppose liberals and liberalism, because it is advocacy of things contrary to the Book of God!
While liberals speak of "our fellowship" or "our movement," I speak of CHRIST'S CHURCH, the spotless bride for which our Savior died -- the one church, bought with the precious blood of the spotless Lamb. Now, that's personal with me, friend. For that's the blood, and the purchased church, of MY SAVIOR, MY LORD, and MY REDEEMER.
When liberals speak of "our traditions," I speak of GOD'S PATTERN. If there is no pattern to New Testament Christianity, then no one knows what's right, we are all hopelessly confused and blind, groping in the dark for nothing. But that's not the way it is -- you don't have to be confused, your Christianity doesn't have to be a guessing game. You can, personally, be lifted from the miry pit of sin, doubt, and confusion, and be put on the narrow way of light, hope and salvation.
When liberals speak of "change," I am reminded of the GOD WHO DOES NOT CHANGE, the Savior who is the SAME yesterday, today, forever, the WORD which forbids addition or subtraction, the GOSPEL whose warning echo is cursedness upon any who preach otherwise. When liberals speak of changing that by which I found salvation, you're right, I take it personally.
When liberals condemn "our arrogance" or "our sectarian spirit," I think of my BRETHREN, for whom Christ died, and who I must love even as I love God. I cannot extend my love impersonally. I think of brethren, not filled with pride, conceit, nor arrogance, but with conviction about truth! God bless those men and women of both former and present times who often, at great personal hardship, sacrificed for the truth of Christianity! Their toil, their labor, their conviction, their determination, made possible the easier road many of us can today traverse.
When liberal advocate fellowship with denominations, I think of FAMILY TIES I SEVERED, even as the Savior said I would, to take my stand with Him and with His people and with His truth. That gets mighty personal, now doesn't it?
In short, when liberals castigate and ridicule my SAVIOR, HIS CHURCH, and my HOPE, I can't for the life of me figure out any other way to take that, than personally. Can you?
WHERE ARE ALL THE TEACHERS?
Roger D. Campbell
Those Christians that taught the word of God in the first century played an important role in the work of the church. Some may have taught in one location while others taught as they traveled from place to place. Some, no doubt, taught constantly week after week and year after year, while perhaps others taught with less frequency.
In the 21st century, the church still needs its members to teach the word! We need to go out and take God’s word “into the streets and lanes of the city...into the highways and hedges, and compel” folks to repent and accept the Lord’s invitation (Luke 14:21,23). We need saints of God to teach their family members about the Christ as Andrew did (John 1:40-42). We need dads and moms teaching in the home, instructing their precious kids in the ways of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
There is also a great need today, as in every generation, for Bible class teachers. Inasmuch as the Holy Spirit has not designated in the Bible how often, where, and in what manner the saints of God must be together in Bible class arrangements, those questions all fall into the realm of judgment, with the leadership of each congregation determining what it deems will work most effectively for the local flock on the first day of the week or at any other time.
In order to have Bible classes, you must have students. Without students, there are no classes. In the same way, Bible classes also stand in need of someone to teach them. We need teachers in the classroom that faithfully teach and live the message of the Bible (1 Tim. 4:16). Some of the church’s most capable folks do not do much teaching. Thus, I ask, “Where are all the teachers?” Where are those faithful saints that are needed to teach new converts, young married couples, college-aged saints, teenagers, and kids all the way down to the infants? I recognize that not every member of the church is cut out to teach a class, and I also understand that some members are not yet spiritually mature enough to be given the responsibility to teach, but in many local churches, that still leaves several qualified people to teach. Where are they? Why is it that they do not teach?
There are too many who make excuses for not teaching.
“I’ve done my share of teaching. It’s time to let somebody else do it.” There is such a thing as “teacher burnout.” Sometimes folks just need a break from teaching. There are some great workers that have been in the classroom for decades. Their influence on the Kingdom and the population of heaven will not be fully known or appreciated until we meet on that other shore. But, at the same time, what if every person took the approach of “Let somebody else do it?” Not much would be done, would it? Besides, in our congregation’s directory, there is no brother or sister with the name “Somebody Else.”
“I would volunteer to teach, but I know how that works around here. Once you start teaching, you will never get anybody to take your place, so you are stuck with the teaching job for life.” Consider this possibility: approach the deacon or shepherd that works with the Bible class/educational program and volunteer to teach for a specified period of time, say three or six months, with the understanding that you are doing this only on a temporary basis. If you fear there might be a misunderstanding, write out your offer/proposal and sign your name. At the same time, especially where young children are involved, it often makes for a more stable classroom setting when a teacher can work with the same group for a bit longer period of time. Surely there are some arrangements we can come up with that get effective teachers into the classroom and at the same time keep them from getting burned out.
“I am just too busy right now to take on a teaching responsibility.” Without doubt, some circumstances at home or at work, or both, make it taxing to teach a weekly class. Yet, at the same time, how long have you been saying you are too busy to teach? Has it been six months? Three years? Seven years? Brothers and sisters, our Lord expects us to use our talents, and He can only increase our abilities when we use them! Some have the reputation of being good teachers, but they must have gained such years ago because they sure do not do any teaching these days. For some, the time factor may be a legitimate cause for not teaching on a temporary basis, but for others there is a good chance it is a sorry excuse for failing to do what they ought to do (James 4:17). While we use our excuse of “I’m just too busy,” humanistic teachers have plenty of time to pound evolution into the brains of our kids, TV producers have oodles of time to portray violence and nakedness as “normal,” and denominational zealots make ample time to spread the devil’s falsehoods. But, hey, it’s just our young people and the souls of God’s people that we do not have enough time for. How serious could that be?!
There is no biblical demand that says a congregation must divide into Bible classes by age groups. That decision, by the authority of the Lord (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Peter 3:18), is left to each local congregation. However, we see the advantage in many cases of doing so, but it would be just as scriptural to have everyone study in one room. Yet, would it not be sad if the leaders of a local church were forced to make such a decision because no one was willing to teach separate classes?
Bible classes play a huge role in determining where a congregation will be five or even twenty-five years down the road. You believe that, too, don’t you? Where are all the teachers?
According to an announcement dated January 10, 2005, the Farmers Branch Church of Christ (Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex) has launched a new “children’s ministry” called “Big Time.” “Big Time” is a program that “uses leading-edge Christian music, drama, and video linked to Bible principles.” It is designed for parents and children to experience together, and its proponents hope to use it to bring in “unchurched” people.
“Big Time” consists of 15 segments packed into 45 minutes, and is sure to appeal to our modern society with its attention deficit. Eddie Plemmons is the “Children’s Minister” at Farmers Branch. He claims that “Big Time” is unique because “we are the only local church that provides a ministry which targets both children and parents in the same setting.”
A BIG MISTAKE IN DEPARTING FROM GOD'S PATTERN
The idea that the Farmer’s Branch church is unique in offering a religious experience that targets both children and parents is mistaken. The Bible commands a general assembly of the saints in which a congregation meets together every first day of the week (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 11:17--16:2). The Farmer’s Branch Church doesn’t believe in this Bible pattern, instead, they offer a “contemporary” worship service on Saturday nights and two “traditional” services on Sunday morning. If they followed the Bible pattern, all of the families involved would come together for worship and experience the same things together.
Every church that is faithful to the pattern has a religious experience for all ages together. And truly spiritual men and women have long recognized the great value in this general assembly of adults and children for orderly, formal worship of the God of heaven.
NOT A NEW MISTAKE, AN OLD ONE
Like Jereboam the son of Nebat, the perpetrators of “Big Time” are encouraging Israel to worship idols (I Kings 12:26-33). When people come together for a sporting-event, concert atmosphere, it is not worship to Almighty God. Almighty God demands to be worshiped in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), and decently and in order (I Cor. 14:40).
When men use sensationalism to draw a crowd they are bowing at the feet of the entertainment god. And, just like Jereboam, they are doing so in a way that they devised out of their own hearts (I Kings 12:33). It is an age-old problem that began with Cain (Gen. 4:1-7; Heb. 11:4; I John 3:12). And, it is a problem that makes worship vain and empty (Matt. 15:9).
A BIG MISTAKE THAT COMES FROM A LACK OF FAITH
So what’s wrong with the old Bible pattern? It simply isn’t exciting enough. It is not fast paced, not dramatic, and not sensational enough. Those who create such things declare plainly their lack of faith in the Gospel, God’s saving power (Rom. 1:16).
It doesn’t matter if they deny it or not, those who feel the need to dress the Gospel up in drama and excitement do not believe that the message of God is the power of God unto salvation.
The simple Gospel was good enough for Paul to take to sinful Ephesus and it was good enough for Peter to take to Cornelius, but somehow modern religious leaders are convinced it isn’t good enough for today’s unchurched masses. They seek drama and sensationalism. Forgetting the substance, they cry out for a new, exciting form!
Such arrogant, blind unbelief is surely a big mistake -- one with eternal consequences.
WHAT COULD DENOMINATIONALISM NEVER DO?
Roger D. Campbell
Few devices of the devil have been as successful in blinding the eyes of men and women as denominationalism has.
Denominationalism, as it is generally presented in our society, is the concept that the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus is made up of a number of different religious groups/churches, with those different groups having different identities and different organizational structures, believing different and contradictory doctrines, teaching different and contradictory doctrines, following different and contradictory doctrines, and worshipping in different ways. Each denominational group is counted as one slice of the whole "pie," with the general agreement being that no denomination has the right to count itself as the exclusive church of the Bible. This divide-em-up slicing of the "pie" into distinct, no-two-alike pieces, is supposed to constitute God’s church and be His idea of unity in Jesus.
Denominationalism has been a part of the United States of America since our nation’s official inception in 1776. Denominationalism’s history in Europe goes back hundreds of years before that, with Roman Catholicism having its beginning in the early part of the 7th century A.D. Some would suggest that it started much earlier.
All Americans grow up hearing about and observing denominationalism in action. I was raised in a denominational environment. I observed it, endorsed it, and was sprinkled into it. As far as religion was concerned, it was all that I knew at the time. Later, like many of you, I was blessed to have people teach me what the Bible says about the church of the living God and His way of salvation. The New Testament’s teaching about His church is as far removed from modern denominationalism as night is from day.
There are some things that denominationalism could never do.
ONE, denominationalism could never find Bible authority for its existence. There is no denying the fact that denominationalism exists. The question that must be faced honestly is this one: Is denominationalism “from heaven, or of men” (Matt. 21:25)? If it truly is from heaven, then it is from God. If it is from God, you know what that means, right? It means we can read about it in the Bible. The truth is, the Bible knows no such thing as denominationalism! There is no Bible verse that commands it, gives an example of it, or implies that it is part of God’s will. Friends, there is no Bible authority for denominationalism to exist. It is a man-made arrangement — always has been and always will be. Denominations exist because men want them to exist! In contrast to that, the Bible teaches that God’s Son has all authority, and He charges us to do all things by His commands (Matt. 28:18,20).
TWO, denominationalism could never trace its existence back to the first century. The Lord Jesus promised to build His church (Matt. 16:18). He bought that church with His blood (Acts 20:28), and it was founded in the first century with Him as its Head (Eph. 5:23). In the Book of Acts, we read about the beginning of Jesus’ church in the first half of the first century. In contrast to the Lord’s church, denominationalism was never promised by Jesus, He did not pay for it with His blood, He did not have one iota to do with its establishment, He is not its Head, and we do not read about it anywhere in the New Testament. Yes, as we have already noted, denominationalism has been on the scene for a long time — but not long enough, since it was not around when the church of the Christ began way back in the first century.
THREE, denominationalism could never prove that it is the body of the Christ about which we read in the New Testament. “But I have always heard that the one universal body of Christ is made up of all the different denominations, with each different denomination being a member of that body, like 1 Corinthians 12 says.” In 1 Corinthians 12:20 it is written, “But now are they many members, yet but one body.” Who or what are the “members” about which Paul wrote? Was he speaking about denominations or disciples? He could not have been saying that the first-century body of the Christ was made up of different denominations, because there were none that existed then! In verse 27 we read, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (NKJV). By the Spirit, Paul told some people that they were “members” of the body. To whom was the Book of First Corinthians originally addressed? Answer: “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth” (I Cor. 1:2). So, not different denominations, but the individual members of God’s church, they are the ones that made up the Lord’s body.
What do we expect to see in a human? Is it not one head with one body, and one body with one head? Remember, the Lord’s body is His church (Eph. 1:22,23). God’s arrangement is for Jesus to serve as the one Head of His one church/body (Eph. 5:23). Denominationalism may try to claim Jesus as its head, but no human being from the past, present, or future could ever prove from the New Testament that Jesus has any connection to the man-made and divisive setup known as denominationalism.
FOUR, denominationalism could never rightfully claim that it helps people become saved and get prepared for heaven. Denominations are active. Through their teaching and benevolent programs, they influence multitudes. Some of them raise large sums of money and draw huge crowds. We believe that the Bible teaches that the Lord wants His people to be active, teaching, and benevolent. He does not mind His church raising big amounts of money and having large crowds, as long as it is all done in a scriptural fashion.
But, it is God’s truth that can set men free from sin (John 8:32), not the commandments of men that turn people from the truth (Titus 1:14). In order to be saved from past sins, a lost person must believe in Jesus as the Son of God, repent of his sins, confess faith in Jesus, and be baptized for the remission of sins. That is a far cry from “pray the Sinner’s Prayer,” which is the traditional denominational answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” Advocates of denominationalism encourage people to “Join the church of your choice.” The Bible teaches no such thing. The Bible’s message is that God has made His choice: salvation is available in the blood-purchased church of His Son (Col. 1:13,14).
Denominationalism propagates and supports man-made messages, none of which are of eternal spiritual benefit to any human being. Hearing, accepting, and obeying the teaching of brand X denomination will make a person a member of brand X denomination. On the other hand, when one hears, believes, and “obeys the gospel” unto the salvation of his/her soul (II Thess. 1:7-9), God adds such a saved person to His church (Acts 2:47), of which Jesus is the Savior (Eph. 5:23).
Few devices of the devil have been as successful in blinding the eyes of men and women as denominationalism has. I hate abortion. I abhor the ideas of homosexuality and same-sex marriages. In the same way and at least to the same degree, though I love the precious people that are caught up in its error, I detest denominationalism and all of its evil consequences.
Biblically speaking, there are many things that denominationalism could never do. We have observed a few of them in this article. Denominationalism, because it is not of God, is from Satan. It is appropriate to point out the pitfalls of all forms of spiritual darkness, including denominationalism. However, in addition to showing from the Bible what is amiss in the religious world, we must also make a diligent effort to present positively the Light of the world and His gospel of light (II Cor. 4:4).
The apostle Paul was prepared to teach God’s soul-saving Gospel (Rom. 1:15,16). Are we ready to do the same?
The Late Mr. Common Sense
There’s a trend found not only in the secular world, but in the Lord’s church as well regarding the lack of good old common horse sense. Many of the problems found in the church today would simply disappear if we would properly use the intellect and reasoning capabilities that God has given each one of us (Isaiah 1:18; cf. Acts 17:2; Acts 17:17; Acts 18:4; Acts 18:19; Acts 24:25).
With the above thoughts in mind, the following selected article from a recent issue of The Sword and Staffpublication is provided for our consideration:
Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.
He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
- Why the early bird gets the worm;
- Life isn’t always fair;
- Maybe it was myfault.
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies:
- Don’t spend more than you can earn.
And reliable strategies:
- Adults, not children, are in charge.
His health began to deteriorate when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer Tylenol, sun lotion or a band-aid to a student, but could not inform parents if a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments become contraband, churches became businesses and criminals received better treatment than their victims. He began to lose ground rapidly when well-intentioned, but overbearing regulations were set in place — reports of a 6-year old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash (alcohol) after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, just to name a few.
His condition only worsened when it became not only punishable for you to defend yourself from a burglar in your own home, but opening the door for the burglar to sue you for assault.
Finally, there was no hope for Common Sense, after a woman failed to realize that steaming cup of coffee was actually hot. After spilling a little in her lap, she was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion and his children, Responsibility and Reason.
He is survived by his 3 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, Someone Else Is To Blame, and I’m a Victim.
Not many attended the funeral because so few realized he was gone.