By Steve Wolfgang
Footnote: Tom Alexander, “And this is a church of Christ,” Image 8, No. I (January/February 1992): 20-21,31.
Despite the “revelations” which emerged at the Nashville Meeting in December 1988 regarding the extent to which increasingly liberal brethren have strayed from New Testament practices, there seem to be some who cannot admit how far “we are drifting,” as J.D. Tant was known to say.
The following sections from an article in Image magazine should remove all doubt about the present or future course of such brethren and the churches which tolerate and encourage them. Consider the author’s description of three young preachers among “mainline Churches of Christ.”
They are all in their thirties.
They were all raised in very conservative and very active church of Christ families.
They are all graduates of Christian universities that are operated by members of the churches of Christ.
Their fathers are either elders or full-time ministers, faithfully serving in churches of Christ today.
But as you might have ascertained, these three men are obviously much more progressive than their forbearers, both in their attitudes and their demonstration of what it means for them to be followers of Jesus in the church of Christ of today – especially when you consider the kind of religious climate they grew up in.
And if I had to describe them theologically, in terms and practices we all could relate to (although these are just the tip of the iceberg), I would have you note some common beliefs they each hold strongly to, after much study and prayer:
1. All three ministers advocate and are aggressively implementing a much more active and visible role for women in their congregations by: increasing their teaching role beyond that of children, including them in leadership roles such as deaconnesses or servant-leaders in various ministries, permitting them to pray and start songs in mixed groups, and as a church, listening while a woman shares her faith with the church family.
And let me re-emphasize – they didn’t just start doing this on a whim or because it’s trendy – no way! As a church, they have spent months and months studying the enhancement of women’s roles in their congregation, and they are still studying today.
2. They are each aggressively pursuing Christian fellowship with others who are outside the traditional boundaries of the brotherhood of Churches of Christ, who they believe and perceive have also yielded their lives in submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ; and they are treating them as brothers and sisters in the Lord.
3. They each believe strongly, strongly that baptism is fundamentally part of the plan of God, and they preach it as such; but they refuse to tell God he cannot work in the lives of people before they are baptized.
And their plea is this: “The churches of Christ are not the only ones who follow Christ in this world; but we sure want to be some of the ones and to do everything we can to reach people who don’t know the Lord with the gospel.”
4. These three ministers, again whom many of you know and appreciate, believe instrumental music to be a nonissue; and though none of the three are actively pressing for it in their Sunday assemblies, they have not found those classic passages in Ephesians and Colossians to be prohibitive of such, and so they have no scriptural problem with it, nor is it a conscience barrier for them.
Now here, some of you may be saying “Uh-ho.” But please hear me out.
One of these three was the final choice of the selection committee to be the youth minister for one of the largest churches of Christ in the country, yet when he went through one final interview with the elders, he was asked by one particular elder if he thought instrumental music was wrong. He said that where he currently was, they did not use it. (They were well-known for having a tremendously enthusiastic singing church.)
But again, he was asked, “Do you think it’s wrong?”
This time he replied, “By ‘wrong,’ do you mean that a baptized believer will go to hell forever because he used an instrument in his devotion to God?” And that same elder stood up from his chair and said, “That’s exactly what I mearil” And this minister, who was incredibly devoted to Jesus, could not swallow his integrity, even for such a tremendous opportunity, and he replied, “No, I do not.” Needless to say, he didn’t get the job.
And I’m just amazed and shocked that that was the bottom line.
Now, why am I sharing with you these few observations that I have seen in the lives and ministries of these three young, dynamic preachers of churches of Christ, from three very different parts of the country?
Because change is taking place all around us, and more is coming!
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 10, p. 298
May 21, 1992