Monday, April 16, 2007

Anonymous post to me

I received this anonymous post over the weekend:

Christ actually exists outside our little world of the Church of Christ. Do you believe that? We must make a decision as Christ Himself did that a sign on the door means nothing as it relates to our salvation.I would ask you to search your soul over this matter. The mere fact that in your "Interests" section of your bio you list "Church of Christ" is amazing to me. That is your interest? What about Christ, or the Church. But, to put your brand of church as your interest tells me that you desperately need to look outward.Please, let's prove Barna
wrong. Let's take actions that will ensure the Church of Christ will exist after the next 30 years. If we continue to be so inward focused, I too agree with Barna that the Church of Christ will be extinct after that time.

Anonymous comments are usually omitted; but this one needed a response.

I am a member of the "church of Christ," the church that belongs to Jesus and for which He shed His precious blood. I proudly note that it belongs to Him, since there are so many man-made churches and "designer" churches in our culture today. I do not regard the name "church of Christ" as denominational or a title. I regard it as descriptive of who we are as members of the body of Christ.

I do not find any Scriptural promise of blessing or salvation for those who are outside the body of Christ. They are strangers to the covenant (Eph. 2:11-12). The body of Christ as it appeared in the New Testament always manifested itself in discernible, organized, local congregations. The church Jesus built had one Lord, one gospel, one faith, and one baptism. It was pre-denominational and knew nothing of the human divisions created by denominationalism.

There is nothing outside the New Testament church, which holds any promise of salvation or the approval of God (Matt. 15:13).

As for Barna, I do not know what study you are citing where he predicts the extinction of the church of Christ. I, for one, don't buy his conclusion, if he indeed did say such a thing. The Lord's church is not going to be extinct, thank you very much.

As for what we are doing, please let me be a little foolish (as Paul was in 2 Corinthians). While there are struggles among us, I can point to numerous congregations of churches of Christ in several states that are faithful to the Lord and growing quite well. Programs such as World Bible School, Fishers of Men, Disaster Relief, DigitalBibleStudy.com, In Search of the Lord's Way (which is one of the top 3 religious programs on television in America), Focus Press, Apologetics Press, and many others, assure me that we aren't going to dry up and blow away (even though some wish we would).

As for me personally, I teach at Nashville School of preaching and at Regions University, because I believe in training preachers. I preach on television to a potential audience of 2.5. million twice weekly because I believe in evangelism. Our website at Concord Rd (http://www.God-answers.org ) had over 1.4 million hits from nearly 100 countries in the last year. Many of them downloaded the Evangelism Handbook of New Testament Christianity and many other free materials available there. Each month I write for Think magazine (http://focuspress.org) a magazine professionally done and reaching out to members of the church and beyond. I enjoy the privilege of writing for the Spiritual Sword quite often.

Concord Rd., the congregation where I serve, supports several missionaries in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe. We are heavily involved in training preachers and students in three countries. It might interest folks to know that there are now as many churches of Christ in Sub-Sahara Africa as there are in the USA; and Rick Shur of WBS, who is a dear friend, tells me that India now has about as many churches of Christ as there are in the USA.

Just a month ago, I was with Augustine Tawiah and Gabriel Oppong in the Western Region of Ghana, where we visited several congregations of the Lord's church--most of which have not been in existence even ten years! We did not have time in three days to get around to all the churches. The congregations ranged in size from 30-120. Extinct? Nonsense!

Anyone who thinks I don't love the Lord Jesus doesn't know me. I love the church, because it is the bride of Christ, my Lord.

Phil

6 comments:

john dobbs said...

"Anonymous comments are usually omitted; but this one needed a response."

I do not know how many comments you get daily, Phil. But I know most of them never see the light of day. So an anonymous comment should not receive too much criticism since you do not publish many comments anyway.

There is the Church of Christ and there is the larger church of Christ. In your post you equate the two, and thus prove your critic correct.

No doubt you love the Lord. And his church. And His Church.

blessings,
john

Phil Sanders said...

This is interesting that you would say that, John, since I have often permitted your negative posts, as well as positive comments.

I believe the church of Christ always manifested itself in discernible, local congregations. I have never insisted that the words "Church of Christ" be on the door (I did not speak to that issue).

But it seems to me that someone who wishes to be a Christian and yet is ashamed of the name "of Christ" lacks faith and commitment.

It seems to me those folks who are so involved with "Church of Christ" are often the "Church of Christers" who have denominated the Lord's church. Frankly, some churches of Christ are simply bad imitations of a denomination. They have so compromised their faith that they have lost sight of what New Testament Christianity is all about.

Do not accuse me of such folly, John.

I do screen comments heavily, because I frankly don't want to give a voice to everyone. If they want to speak, let them get a free blog and blog away.

phil

Matthew Dowling said...

Dear Phil,

Once again, I've enjoyed your post and appreciate your solid defense of our church and its Lord. It always pains me to see the ever-widening trend of criticizing the fellowship. Has it come to the point that many are ready to do away with the earnest search for correct worship as demonstrated in scripture? I think so---there is overwhelming evidence for just such an attitude in the world today. But I'm convinced that once a person stops asking what God wants and begins looking to what they want personally (whether in worship, a perverted hermenuetic, etc.), then they have placed themselves on a path that, taken to its logical end, can lead to a loss of fellowship with God. I can't think of a worse situation in life. Thanks again for your thoughts in this post.

Best,

Matt Dowling

Best,
Matthew

JD said...

Phil, I do thank you for allowing my comments. And I always appreciate your response ... agree or disagree, you are plain spoken and I am grateful for that.

And thanks for explaining why you do not allow many comments.

blessings,
john

Scott Taft said...

Brother Phil, that was an outstanding defense of the church and what it is; the body of Christ, and only that. Seeing how the church (Christ's Body!) is under attack from within from so many directions, it is refreshing to see good apologetics in action. What amazes me is this reference to this "study" done by Barna (whoever that is)... predicting the church will be gone in 30 years. Frankly, we know it is always one generation away from apostasy, and that is why good apologists like you have a great role to play. If you think about it, it may actually be here in the States where we may see our numbers decline due to the religious confusion that seems to grip more and more of us everyday... it is the third world (those with less material blessings from God ironically) that may evenutally outshine us in the faith, and maybe already are doing so. Here we have overintellectualized something that is quite simple (the gospel is a simple concept to the open minded) and to open minded people, those with no religious biases out there in the world, it is simple to understand, simple to obey, simple to know how to continue in it. Those who would make it so hard have no idea that they are over-complicating themselves out of salvation. They need to re-read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. BTW, I love your book "Adrift"; it fits the age we are in very well. Post modernism has enabled the rise of so may false teachers like Al Maxey, Max Lucado and others, I was glad to find a book such as yours that deals with the subject.

Phil Sanders said...

Scott,
Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you like my book, Adrift. It is now in its second printing and seems more relevant today than when it came out (2000).

The church is growing so fast in Sub-Sahara Africa, where I traveled in March. I went to numerous churches in the bush, congregations not in existence in 2000.

There is so much to be done. We need everyone evangelizing and working hard.

Phil