Saturday, February 10, 2007

Don't Be Ashamed to Be a Christian

We have been told there is too much baggage with the name "church of Christ," so we need to change our name to something with less baggage. The assumption is that if we change the name of the congregation, then we can avoid having that baggage. It does not seem to occur to those seeking such change that the names they come up with appears to have the baggage of a start-up, community church, more tied to the personality of the preacher than with some belief. Hmmm.

If I went to a Catholic church, I would expect Catholics to worship like Catholics. If I went into a synagogue, I would expect to see Jews worshiping like Jews. If I went to a Mormon tabernacle, I would expect to see Mormons singing their songs in the style in which they have become accustomed. Why then is it some are ashamed that we are a cappella? Why do some feel that we are odd to worship without accompaniment? Can we not simply be who we are without apology or strategizing that if we don't change, we'll be left behind?

The reasoning of the church in the 1870s was that if we don't upgrade and progress in religion like the denominations around us, we'll not be able to appeal to the community around us. Many of our brethren did "progress" beyond the common practice of a cappella music to be like the religionists (nations) around them and put in a melodeon or organ. They sacrificed the sacred way to appeal to the common. The constant drumbeat of "we must change to grow" fills the progressive media today--as if no one had ever heard that before. (This generation--unfamiliar with our history--hasn't heard it, and the gullible clamor for change.)

They sell the nonsensical notion that the restoration plea divides, so we must change and be like everyone around us. We must jettison the truth to continue on our journey of growth.

But those who did not jettison the truth or embrace the instrument back when it seemed change was the answer for everything stayed the course; and a century later we are nearly eight times larger. Others who followed path of compromise ended up a century later affirming almost nothing. They could not even say that Jesus was the only way to heaven in 1989, lest they hurt their interfaith talks (the vote in Cincinnati showed a very divided group). They thought, "Let's be open, and the world will beat a path to our door." They ended up looking wimpy and losing members rapidly.

Who wants to unite with a people who are ashamed of who they are and what they believe?

Let us stop apologizing for believing the truth! for obeying the Lord! We need some Shadrachs, Meshachs, and Abednegos today who will do what is right whatever the cost! Instead our self-proclaimed church growth "experts" continue to beat a drum of compromise and confusion. Christianity does not call us to be wimps or to "take back what we believe" simply because others don't agree.

Identity crisis?

Do we have an identity crisis in churches of Christ? Some do. Elijah knew who he was, because he believed in God. Those Israelites at Carmel who hesitated between two opinions either did not know who they were or were afraid to admit it. Their fear created the crisis. They were the ones who kept their mouths shut until the fire came down. Would to God some fire would come down today to wake up our brethren!

Why an identity crisis? Because shallow preachers of compromise have been allowed to usurp elders and churches and create doubt in the truth of the gospel and replace it with their imitation of evangelicalism. They have laughed at us and mocked us ceaselessly, and we kept silent. It did not matter that what they said was false and showed their own confusion and shame. We not only kept silent, we invited them to speak again and again to our kids and infect them with their compromise. When godly men and women did speak up, they were called legalistic and dismissed as troublemakers. Elijah the troublemaker?

They were ashamed before their denominational friends, ashamed of our doctrines and practices, and ashamed to speak the truth. We let their insecurity and shame become ours, when we kept silent. We let the wolves speak to our children and desensitize them to what is true and right, just as they did over a century ago. We found it fashionable to be casual (rather than holy) with our faith and presume upon the grace of God with our morals and doctrine. In our insipid and compromised state, we lacked the ability to make an impact on the communities around us. The very things these wolves told us we "must do to grow" robbed us of the power of our message.

There is no identity crisis with those who believe the truth of the gospel. There is an identity crisis with those who hearts long to be what they are not. When they long to be like the religions around them and to remake churches of Christ in their own desires, they create confusion and insecurity.

Part of maturing is learning to accept who you are, Whose you are, and what you are. Do we really need permission to be the people of God? Jesus is crying out for His people to stand up and be who they are. Let's quit listening to a bunch of compromising wimps (religious fashion experts) and start listening to the Lord. Instead of wearing what they call the fashion of the year, let's put back on the armor of God.



Daniel S said...

Great thoughts!

Can you imagine your wife coming home and saying, "honey, I am changing my last name to get rid of some of the familial baggage I've carried for so long." "Honey, I will be more appealing to others if I don't have your name." To some small extent, I know how the Lord feels when members in his bride start doing the same.

Good thoughts!


john dobbs said...

Some good thoughts here, Phil.

On the name of the church, though, isn't it true that the church has no 'official' name? And if there have been - in one location or another - people who have been so sarcastic, mean, and demeaning in a community in such a way that the name "church of Christ" is equated with that spirit ... would a name change be unscriptural? I've certainly been embarassed when someone assumed I was like other Church of Christ people they have met. Not ashamed of our Lord, but ashamed of how my brothers have acted toward people.

Or if a body of believers simply wanted to use one of the other monikers found in the New Testament ... would that be unscriptural? And if they decided to change that name to another ... do you think they would be disappointing God or just some brothers who like that name 'church of Christ'?

Our identity crisis is not related to the truth of the Gospel, but to the exaltation of opinion and inferences into eternal truths. And, as you observed, also because some have tossed out all truth in their search for ecumenity.

Certainly lots here to chew on.

Phil Sanders said...

All names have baggage, some we are happy about and some filled with regret. There is no doubt that some brethren by attitude and action have shamed the name by which we are called. God forgive them.

I have no desire to change my last name simply because somebody named Sanders has committed a crime or showed a bad attitude. I feel sure that people named Sanders have acquired all the weaknesses of humanity, but that is still who I am.

I do not know of any scriptural "title" of the church Jesus built. Scripture, of course, describes the church with several terms. I have no beef with anyone who wants to use another.

My beef is with those who jettison the name of the Lord altogether to put forward some aspect of the community. Since all we do is "in the name of the Lord," it seems to me that to wear his name in how we refer to ourselves is not some small thing.

Like you, I deeply regret the bad attitudes, overly zealous judgmentalism, pressed opinions, and sectarian way some brethren have acted. On the other hand, I have no desire to quit on my brethren, because I am ashamed of them. Even brethren with bad attitudes have a soul. On the other hand, I don't have to slander the name of the Lord by refusing to wear the name.


Nick Secula said...

Hey Phil,
Just found your blog and have enjoyed reading your posts.

The changing of the name is an odd thing. If one were to change the name of the church the last thing you would thing someone would change or better yet drop is Christ. Kinda odd that when most want to leave behind baggage what they drop is "Christ" from the name. Life is not without it's symbolic overtures.

The "church of Christ" title to me is not a real name but rather a statement of association. It would be like saying my wife's name is "wife of Nick." That's not her name. Her name's Tiffany. When you say wife of Nick or husband of Tiffany you are making an association not simply putting a proper title on someone. So it is with the church. Church of Christ convey's the idea or should convey the idea of association to Christ.

My prayer is that teh Lord will raise up a generation that will once again desire the straight paths of the Lord and not the approval of the world. A generation that is humble in character and realizes the Lord is still Sovereign.