Bobby Ross of the Christian Chronicle recently asked me to speak about the status of Churches of Christ today. Here is my opinion.
Churches of Christ today are a mixed bag, and I frequently hear stories of people who travel wanting to know what kind of congregation they will find at their destination. We should not be surprised that churches today differ, since they differed greatly even among the seven in Asia Minor in Revelation 2-3.
Some churches are growing well, and others are declining. Some have strong leaderships, and others are weak. Some are set in their ways, and others try every new thing that arises. Several people like to lump all churches of Christ in the same group and stereotype them; this is both dishonest and unfair. Some years ago I heard several make outlandish charges against the church. I realized there was probably a congregation somewhere like that; but you could drive down the road and find a congregation that wasn’t like that at all. Jesus did not lump the seven churches of Asia; He spoke to them individually. Some were good with open doors, some were lukewarm, and some were downright displeasing.
There are some predominant mindsets creating a wedge within churches of Christ, and fellowship is already limited if not completely disrupted. The postmodern, “progressive inclusivists” seem to me more interested in placating the public than pleasing the Lord. Far more than the instrument is involved; these churches are embracing a gospel without doctrine and a grace with no need for repentance. They are angry at and embarrassed with traditional churches of Christ. In their disdain, they highlight the abuses of traditionalists to justify their progressive agenda. They deny there are any rigid patterns in Scripture and so feel free to design their own Christianity, usually copied after the denominational groups around them. While a few of these churches seem to succeed, many of them have badly fallen in attendance.
There are others, over-scrupulous in their zeal, which thrive on the controversy that condemns others. They tend to bite and devour, sometimes each other. They have a tendency to make traditions into laws and judge others for not keeping their traditions. The harsh attitude within these churches often keep them small.
These two extremes among us love beating up on the mainstream, that group which is neither progressive nor over-scrupulous. The churches in the mainstream that love the truth, love people, and work hard are almost without exception growing. One church like this in Meridian, Idaho, has tripled in recent years. Churches like this in Dickson, Mount Juliet, and Woodbury, Tennessee, have been building larger auditoriums to hold everyone. I am not convinced that these brethren, who believe in the Restoration principle and teach with love, are going to vanish away in coming years. Many of them are filled with young people who know and love the truth. Many of them are quite involved in training preachers and in spiritually training their children. They believe the Word of God will produce what it has always produced—Christians. Many of these congregations are more interested in doing the Lord’s work than in the compromises of others. They are committed to New Testament Christianity. While no church is perfect, they still strive for it.
These are the churches that gave more than $30 million to Disaster Relief in Nashville, that train with Fishers of Men, and send their children to Bible Bowls. These are the churches that receive and answer calls from the mission fields and from the poor. These are the churches that haven’t thrown away their Bibles to listen to fluffy sermons; they do not have itching ears. They realized the Lord expects them to produce, and they are producing. May their number increase.