Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Unity for Which Christ Prayed

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).

The Lord Jesus prayed for unity among His people. The kind of unity Jesus desires for us is the kind of unity that He had with His Father. Such unity is necessary to persuade a lost and dying world that Jesus is sent from the Father.
When Christians divide over doctrine, they reveal to the world they are not one with the Father and Son. It is difficult to appeal to the world, when brethren cannot agree with each other. When the world outside of Christ sees 600 major denominations and thousands of independent community churches, it must be a stumbling block to their faith. They don’t know what to believe.
Jesus, however, did not pray for unity in spite of a diversity of doctrine, because of two things. First, before Jesus prayed for unity, he prayed that his disciples would be “sanctified in the truth” (John 17:17). Being set apart in the truth is what unites us; it is essential. The Lord Jesus has always wanted His people to agree, to be of the same mind and the same judgment (1 Cor. 1:10-13). When people began departing from the truth, they were to be marked and avoided (Rom. 16:17-18) so they would not cause further division.
Second, the unity which Jesus desires for us is the same unity which He had with the Father. Jesus remained unified with the will of the Father throughout his ministry, even to the point of death on a cross. He sought always to do the will of the Father (John 4:34; 5:30; 8:28-32; 14:31). We too must yield our souls to the Father and say, “Not my will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). To suggest that Jesus believed in a diverse doctrine from the Father is to distort the truth. Jesus said, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me” (John 12:49-50).
When people today pray for unity with others who hold doctrines that are “outside the truth,” they are actually praying something very different from Jesus’ prayer. Jesus would never pray for unity without truth, because Jesus came to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37) and identifies Himself as the truth (14:6). To unite the truth with a lie is to deceive not harmonize. May God help us to find unity within the truth, not in spite of it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Some style themselves as "progressive." I must ask,
"When you get to where you're going to,
just where then will you be?"

There are some among us who style themselves as progressive. They believe they have something better to offer than the "traditional" churches of Christ they criticize. They have often suggested that traditional churches cannot grow and are "graveyard" churches. They have used the old you-will-die-if-you-don't-change argument to justify doing whatever it is they want to see happen.

Adolph Hitler said, "If you tell a lie long enough, loud enough, and often enough, the people will believe it. The secret to get someone to believe a lie is constant repetition. Just tell it over, and over, and over again."

In the nineteenth century, in the midst of the industrial revolution, some self-styled progressives thought that that since progress was being made in education, in science, in daily life, then the church is going to have to keep up or perish. They believed we were going to have to keep up with the times in our musical worship or we'll lose all our young people. More than eighty percent of our churches bought into that notion, but some didn't.

More recently we heard that if we don't give our young ladies a more vital role in the church, we will lose them to churches that will. Yes, we will and have lost some. Bored with the system as it is, they believe that the traditional churches somehow shortchanged us by not letting us use instruments, by not letting our women lead us in worship, and by not preaching enough grace.

Some didn't change with the times; and, interestingly, their churches didn't die. In fact, those who stuck by their convictions grew much faster and multiplied much more than those who "progressively" practiced accommodation to the times. The conviction of those who held fast led them to work hard for the Lord, and the Lord gave the increase. Those who accommodated sought for religious acceptability. When they finally found it, they looked so much like everyone else that they found little reason for existence. The very thing they feared (dying) they brought upon themselves by weakening with accommodation rather than by strengthening with conviction.

In more recent days we have seen some progressives who were so convinced that the traditional churches of Christ were so narrow they couldn't grow keep moving past the progressive congregations to the community churches. If the truth be known, many of our most "progressive" preachers have now poisoned their own children to the truth and led them to leave churches of Christ altogether for a denominational or community church home. Such men did not bring about the change in churches of Christ they sought. What they did was shipwreck the faith of those whom they taugtht.

When I think of the agenda of many progressives today, I wonder what is really new about what they are offering.

Instrumental music? No, it has been around for centuries (and some who have it found it wasn't all that great and are longing for a simpler, more reverent, way to express their hearts).

Choirs? Those started more than a thousand years ago. Many churches who have them have people in the pews who don't sing much, and the people up in the choir constantly seem to compete to be noticed. Choirs have caused a lot of friction. When churches have choirs, folks get far more concerned with the quality of the music than the quality of the worship. The focus settles more on how good "we" sound than how great God is.

Grace? Many progressives flirt with an ill-defined grace that has little need for repentance or for obedience to the will of God. What they offer is little different than the hard-core Calvinist that removes any responsibility for righteousness from men and puts it all upon God. God will save you in your ignorance, so there is no need to listen and obey. And if you made a mistake, just pray up; God will excuse your disobedience. This too is not a new notion. It is as old as time and just as foolish as it ever was. Progressive grace is grace without repentance--it is an old lie that we can presume upon the grace of God.

When progressives get to where they are going to, where will they be? They will have created a bad imitation of a tired denomination.

The restoration leaders sought to lead us out of the digression of man-made religion. There is no real progress in returning to the very things our fathers left. It is delusional to repaint old error with new names and think we have somehow "progressed."

One last note: people can progress too much. They can progress to the point that they lose their identity and the blessing of God. The gnostic anti-christs of old did just that; and people who want to remake Christianity in their own image today can make the same mistake.

John said, "Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9). The word "goes on ahead" is "proagon," and is much akin to our word 'progress.' While the specific reference in 2 John is to a first century heresy, we must realize that the principle of going beyond the will of God holds little hope in any area of doctrine or practice.

Let us hold fast and not be moved from the truth of God's word.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Seeking True Unity

Dear Readers,

Tomorrow morning Dale Jenkins and I will put the last touches on a new class book designed for teens or adults. We are having 5,000 of these 64-page books printed. Seven preachers (Dale Jenkins, Jeff Jenkins, Mike Baker, Steve Higginbotham, Mike Greene, Wayne Hatcher and I) have been working on this project for months. Due to the kindness of the Horse Cave, KY, congregation, we will be able to get this book out within the next few weeks.

Every church, every elder, every class, and every group should consider the message presented in this book. It reveals the will of God and the path to true, Biblical unity.

The church was torn to shreds from 1860-1900 over the issue of instrumental music. You'll recall that the federal government's census bureau recognized the division between churches of Christ and the Disciples of Christ/Christian Church in that year. This book deals with the problems associated with that division and the current threats to Biblical unity today.

We believe that going back to the Bible and refusing to give in to the innovation and presumption of our day is the only course for the unity for which Jesus prayed in John 17. It is man-made religion that divides, and we believe the only way to find unity is to divest ourselves of any and all man-made religion.

The book will be very reasonably priced, and I will keep you informed about where they are available in coming days!

God bless,

Steve Higginbotham of Glasgow, KY, will be the contact person to buy copies of this important book.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Letter from Jeff Dahmer

While going through my files, I found a copy of this letter my uncle Curt Booth sent to me. It is postmarked April 4, 1994 from Madison, Wisconsin. I remember how excited and joyful Curt was when he called me the day he got the letter!

"Dear Mr. Booth,
Hello, how are you today; fine I hope! Thank you very much for sending me the 'WBS' introductory lesson and Bible; that was very kind of you! I mailed the completed lesson to Mrs. Stafford, so she should have it by now. Also, about a week after I received your package, a 'Mrs. Mott' from Arlington, VA. sent me the WBS 'correspondence course,' and the 'advanced course' booklets. I filled out both of them, and mailed them off to her to be graded. So, I've now take the complete course, but I still have one problem. This prison does not have a baptismal tank, and Mr. Burkum; the prison chaplain, isnot sure if he can find someone to bring a tank in and baptize me. This has me very concerned! Would you be willing to help find someone to baptize me? I've taken all of the other steps; now I need and want to be baptized.

Well, I hope that this letter find's you well and in good health. God Bless You!

Jeff Dahmer
Columbia Corr. Inst.
2925 Columbia Dr.
Portage, WI. 53901-0900"

What a recommendation for the gospel and for WBS. So far as I know, brother Dahmer was baptized and remained faithful until his death later that year.

Phil Sanders

On being written up....

A dear friend of mine recently alerted me of an article in a brotherhood periodical, which carried my name. The author, whom I do not know, apparently had done a lot of research on me in order to criticize the Spiritual Sword and Alan Highers for allowing me to write. I was placed in his company and Dan Winkler's (my dear brother since our days at OCC in the early 70s). If this is a reason for guilt, then I gladly give my allegiance to both.

As I mentioned, I do not know the author of the article. He certainly did not honor me with a phone call to make sure that his facts were correct. He did not love me enough to rebuke me privately first for my error. He did not care enough for my soul, Alan's soul, or Dan's soul to speak to any of us before he wrote an article that went nationwide.

As to his charges against me over the Christian Chronicle article, I have answered them in earlier posts to this blog. He does not seem to realize that I don't fellowship these brethren. You'd think by my calling them brothers that I endorsed their use of the instrument! This is not judging with righteous judgment.

I was criticized for endorsing false teachers because the website ( had a link to a site where false teachers sometimes write. My critic did not bother to note the obvious disclaimer evident on the link. Such criticism is either out of ignorance or out of careless research. In either case the criticism was patently false.

When people write others up unfairly, they speak more about the character of their own heart than the people they criticize. When the Pharisees condemned Jesus for not washing his hands (according to their man-made traditions), He spoke of the mouth revealing what was in the heart (Matt. 15:1-20).

When tempted to speak negatively of another, let us ask:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it fair?
  • Is it how I'd want to be treated?
  • Is it kind?
  • Will it help him/her go to heaven?

If we cannot answer yes to all of these, then perhaps it's best we keep our mouths shut.


Monday, September 04, 2006

We Need Sound and Faithful Preachers

There are about 13,000 congregations of the churches of Christ in the United States. The many colleges, universities, and schools of preaching among us are graduating about 300 or so preachers per year, but the sad reality is that we are losing about 600 preachers per year. These come from some surveys taken about six years ago, but I don't know that things have changed much since then.

Why are we losing preachers? Some die, some retire, some leave the ministry, and some fall away. Whatever the reason, the service these men rendered is no longer available.

If we lose 300 preachers per year, we will lose 600 in two years, and 3,000 in a decade. The smaller churches who can hardly afford ministers will likely suffer the most. Churches in the areas where New Testament Christians are scarce have been crying for preachers for some time.

Add to this the problem that many of the preachers trained in some of our universities, frankly, do not believe what the congregation believes about many fundamental doctrines. Much of this disagreement arises from a lack of belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. This shred of doubt leaves such questions in the mind of those who serve that they are willing to compromise even the most clear teaching of Scripture. Some examples:
  • some are saying that people sprinkled as infants are nonetheless baptized Scripturally, because God's grace covers our ignorance.
  • the use of instrumental music in Christian worship is a non-issue
  • the Lord's supper should not be reserved for the Lord's Day but may be partaken at any time
  • the Lord's church is not distinctive but should be considered as a denomination--just one among many
  • the Lord's order of male leadership in worship should be abandoned so as to have gender equity

I have heard all these things from the lips of men who serve as preachers and who have been educated by our universities. Whatever they believe, they do not believe that the patterns taught in Scripture are worthy of our adherence. They oppose rigid patternism as if it were Pharisaism rather than faithful obedience to the text itself. They have not yet replaced the patterns with their own hermeneutic but have launched themselves into a sea of pluralism, where the truth of Scripture falls to desires of the masses.

So when we speak of needing preachers, we mean "faithful" preachers who will preach the Word without compromise and doubt. We need men who will not leave the people whom they serve ignorant about the truth of the gospel. We need men who will stand tall for what they believe and will not back down.

Jesus did not take it back when the people left him (John 6:66-69). We must not listen to the "church growth" experts who deceive us when they say that we must "change" (to suit them) or "die." We will die only if we prove faithless to the truth and to the Lord. We can deceive ourselves into thinking that the crowds we have amassed show that we are doing something "right." But numbers do not prove faithfulness or that one is "right." Faithfulness is more treasured in God's eyes. If you do not believe this, ask these ten men:

Shammua the son of Zaccur; Shaphat the son of Hori; Igal the son of Joseph; Palti the son of Raphu; Gaddiel the son of Sodi; Gaddi the son of Susi; Ammiel the son of Gemalli; Sethur the son of Michael; Nahbi the son of Vophsi; Geuel the son of Machi. These were the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land. They brought back the popular but bad report about the land of Israel. We don't know anything else about them.

But the faithful Joshua and Caleb, we remember. Faithful men who will not flinch in the face of the enemy--that is what we need, and the Lord will be with us.

for the cause of Christ,