How Far Have They Gone?

By Phil T. Arnold

Shortly after moving to Oklahoma City in the mid 80s, I made an opportunity to pay a visit to the meeting place of the Oakcrest Church of Christ which is a stone’s throw from our building. One of the preachers there took me on a tour of their then recently completed complex. He showed me their offices, the large auditorium, the extensive classrooms, and teaching resource room. When we came to their kitchen and “fellowship hall,” he was almost apologetic and attempted to justify such an elaborate facility for dining as containing only those things donated by members with nothing coming out of the general treasury of the congregation.

You see, he knew that I had come not for a tour of their facility but to attempt to arrange an opportunity to discuss some of the differences that existed between us. One of which being the involvement of the church unauthorized social matters, including church sponsored social meals. He had declined the invitation assuring me that he was aware of and had previously thoroughly studied our differences and felt that a discussion would prove unproductive. He also assured me that Oakcrest would never become “one of those liberal churches like Quail Springs and Mayfair” (his words not mine). As proof of this he said, “There’ll never be one of those family life centers at Oakcrest. The elders here would never stand for it.”

Well, fifteen years have now come and gone. The preacher I visited with has long since moved on and there have been at least some changes in the eldership that I am aware of. In addition, there is now a large building on the north side of their complex — a “family life center” or, perhaps more accurately, a gymnasium — the previously dreaded indication of a “liberal” church according to the previous preacher.

Such a progression is no surprise to those who have watched the departure of the so-called “mainstream” churches of Christ in their march toward apostasy. Brethren have moved from meals in the “meeting house,” to elaborate facilities to better accommodate such, to the “church gym” and full involvement in the social realm as the work of the church. The Bible authority to justify (?) one, justifies all the rest. “And whatever you do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).

From around the country comes disturbing news of the continued apostasy of churches of Christ through unscriptural departures and denominational imitation.

For example the Woodmont Hills church of Christ in Nashville made the news once more with their official invitation to Billy Graham of “Crusades for Christ fame” to encourage him to come to Nashville. At least three other churches of Christ in the Nashville area have also publicly committed themselves to work with the Graham Crusade. And no, Billy Graham has not changed his teaching. He still denies that baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), believes in the doctrine of original, inherited Adamic sin (Ezek. 18:20), the impossibility of falling from grace (Gal. 5:4), and that Jesus does not now reign over his kingdom but must return to the earth and reign in Jerusalem for 1,000 years (Col. 1:13). He uses mechanical instruments of music in worship (Eph. 5:19), and continues to invite people to be saved by “faith only” (Jas. 2:24; Mark 16:16) and then join the church of their choice, thus denying the Bible teaching concerning the one church (Eph. 4:4; 1:22, 23). Yet, this false teacher is being set forth as a teacher with “a reputation of honesty, accountability and moral uprightness” (see Matt. 7:15 and 2 John 9-11). How far they have gone! (Quotations concerning Billy Graham are from Reubel Shelly, preacher for the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ.)

As another example of where some “churches of Christ” are headed, note the following letter from the Monterey Church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas concerning a “pastor” of the Monterey congregation baptizing an infant in the building of a United Methodist Church:

To Our Brothers and Sisters at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church,
Thank you for allowing us to use your building on November 18. The families involved were from two different backgrounds and saw a need to unite their faith and family through the sacrament of baptism. Because of your generous spirit, a household has been encouraged to continue their faith tradition. We of the Monterey Church of Christ are grateful to have you as our partners in spreading the good news of Jesus in our community and the world. May God bless your ministry richly.

Baptizing infants! Brothers and sisters at a denomination! “Partners” with a denomination! Encouraging people “to continue their faith tradition”! Acting like Christ? When did Christ ever encourage people to continue in human tradition (Matt. 15:8-9)? When did he ever join them in unauthorized religious activity (Matt. 15:13-14)? When did Christ ever . . .? How far they have gone!

Yes, there are those among “mainstream” churches of Christ who are voicing opposition to such blatant departures from the word and compromises with denominationalism. But their cries are falling on a lot of deaf ears attached to heads that have not been filled with the word of God, an understanding of what the church of the Bible is all about, and the need for Bible authority for all that we practice. Is it any wonder they have gone so far and more and more are going that same way.

Let us not be smug or resort to “I told you so.” Let us lament any departure from the truth. Let us take warning (1 Cor. 10:12). Let us be ever diligent to be the church we read about in the New Testament that truly does belong to Christ because we follow his teaching (Col. 3:17). Let this also be a warning to us about worshiping with a congregation that merely wears the name “church of Christ” without any further investigation.    

From the Evangelizer, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Truth Magazine Vol. XLIV: 22  p22  November 16, 2000