Restoration and Unity – Let’s Get To It!

While it is true that brethren do not always agree… it is a fact as well that we can still love each other and still be unified in Jesus. It has long been difficult to have an open and unafraid discussion of “disputed matters,” and discover how to deal with these things while KEEPING THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT IN THE BOND OF PEACE.

What would Jesus say/do? What would the Apostle Paul write and instruct us to do? These are truly difficult times and questions, while we strive to “walk in the old paths” of truth, we seek wisdom to be clear on what are matters of salvation (essentials) and what things are not matters of salvation (non-essentials.) Some seem willing to sacrifice UNITY for DOCTRINE (i.e. DOCTRINE AT ANY COST.) Others are eager to sacrifice DOCTRINE for UNITY (i.e. UNITY AT ANY COST.) This summit is about trying to FIND BALANCE through God’s GRACE, avoiding EXTREMES, restoring and maintaining the UNITY of the Spirit.

* I understand that some will not WANT to make the effort to find balance needed… or go the distance needed in restoring NT Christianity and seeking unity. Nor do some want to even consider the matter… This is sad indeed.
* I understand that others will be getting out their “big black markers,” and are ready to label as “unfit” or “heretical,” any who would question or challenge the status-quot. This too is sad, because it is a sign of “institutionalism.”
* However it is this scribe’s opinion and hope… that there are many other brethren who are tired of the in-fighting, and “naval-gazing” as well as the dividing to the point where many congregations CANNOT EVEN AFFORD TO KEEP THEIR DOORS OPEN while the lost world “goes to hell in a hand-basket!”

To illustrate the need for such a summit I site the following:
1. One congregation recently has had a problem with MODESTY, and in order to fix the situation, sample clothing was placed on the bulletin board. Clothing ACCEPTABLE and clothing UNACCEPTABLE. Needless to say, this has created a stir. Unless calmer, wiser minds prevail, the result may well be disastrous, with Christians being lost to the world, and the church defamed in that community.

2. Another congregation decided to introduce musical instruments in one service and have singing without instruments in another service and thus accommodating those who did and did not want instruments. Another congregation condemned that congregation in their town local newspaper for all to see proclaiming that they considered this congregation to be apostate, listing verses supporting their points. Now whether or not you agree with the use of instruments, this scribe’s question is WHAT GOOD WAS ACCOMPLISHED by the action taken?

I understand the “explosiveness” of this and many of the “hot buttons,” but until and unless we find a way to properly handle things of this nature, the church will continue dividing until it is gone or of little effect in this world.

Our problem has been and probably always will be in over-reacting and going to  EXTREMES.

* Brethren, we propose nothing new. We suggest a basic principle many have missed… and that is to understand GOD’S GRACE more and learn to APPLY it Biblically. IT IS TIME to earnestly seek to not only RESTORE NTC, but also “MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO KEEP THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT THROUGH THE BOND OF PEACE.”

* It is my judgment that until we learn to let God be the Judge and the “weed Puller” in disputable matters and opinions, and learn how to deal not only with the “weak brother with love,” but also the “contentious, and argumentative brother with united front,” we will not be about the Father’s business nor the Son’s great mission and will continue to be distracted…

While UNITY is not a command (as far as I can tell), it surely was a desire and prayer of our Lord.

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Restoration Movement And The Yellow Pages

Restoring New Testament Christianity has never been an easy thing. Sometimes we have to take an honest look at where we are, to see where we need to go….

Dad was resting in a Motel in a Metropolitan city where he was holding a meeting and was looking through the Yellow Pages for “Churches of Christ.” He was just wondering I guess, how many were there etc… He also noticed how several indicated what made them different from other “Churches of Christ.”
I guess it was interesting to him to find that there were those that indicated they were Anti-Kitchens, One Cup, Instrumental, Non-Instrumental, etc… In his lesson on UNITY I found some notes he wrote entitled “Yellow Pages.” His idea was what if we put the following in the YP for everyone to see.

1. No located preacher
2. We use buses
3. We have Bible classes
4. No kitchens here
5. We support (Christian) orphan’s homes
6. “Singles” welcome
7. “Divorced” not welcome
8. We eat in the building
9. We use ONE CUP
10. No Sunday School here
11. We send missionary support directly to missionaries
12. We do not believe in church co-operation
13. We don’t co-operate with other congregations.
14. “Whites Only”
15. We support Herald of Truth”
16. All races welcome
17. No money given to non-members
18. We are anti-bussing
19. We have a located preacher
20. We sign pledge cards
21. We are against Crossroads
22. We have a church softball team
23. We use instruments (Instrumental)
24. We don’t use instruments (Non-Instrumental)

To be honest with you, if I found a list of Churches with things like this in the Y.P., I would be pretty embarrassed, but then I am not the One we serve or seek to please. Actually, there are some congregations with a few items listed above.

WHAT IF each congregation (part of the blood bought body of Jesus Christ), listed what they are FOR or AGAINST in the yellow pages, or put them on their signs? The important question is WHAT DOES THE WORLD THINK? The critical question is WHAT DOES JESUS THINK?

JESUS prayed, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20-23).

I think Charles Hodge put it best, in a short letter he wrote me, where he responded to my inquiry on how to deal with “Church issues.” Of course it doesn’t take him long to say what’s on his mind… He said,

“My most often piece of advice is GROW UP!”.

His advice sounds a bit hard, but then Charles is in his 80’s and has seen a lot and counseled many brethren. Honestly, we need his advice. My thoughts are that if the body of Christ on earth (all baptized believers irregardless of the list above) is ever to find UNITY, we have a lot of “growing up in Christ” to do. Being a Christ-like-one means growing in grace… Growing in grace means we will learn how to deal with differences, let God be the Judge on many things instead of dividing over everything, and present to the world, we ARE ONE IN THE SPIRIT AND LOVE EACH OTHER DEEPLY.

Preacher: When you get up to speak before the people of God, and you are offering your opinion on something, why not just say, “This is my opinion.” “You don’t have to agree with me on this.” It may just be refreshing.
Also, when teaching a class, have the class (or congregation) repeat this phrase
“I just don’t agree with you on that.” Of course you may have to repeat this to get participation. Then you may say (if there are late-comers), that they may be tempted to go look at the sign outside, because we just don’t allow disagreements do we?

Grow in grace!

(This was first issued in “Restoration Summit 2015” a discussion now going on at (Groups).

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Restoration Summit 2015 – NT Christianity “Traditions,” and “Change”

* Some do not like the word “tradition” or “traditional” because they are wanting to just get rid of all the “old ways” of doing things. This is extreme thinking, and is not helpful to the idea of RESTORING New Testament Christianity.
* Some TOTALLY OPPOSE any and all change of anything whatsoever… whether it is Bible based or not… This is also an extreme and not helpful in restoring New Testament Christianity.

To this scribe, “traditions” are simply things done which may or may not be helpful, over a long period of time. In other words, things passed down from one generation to another. For example: Growing up, we often received “hand-me-down” clothing. Frankly I did not want to wear some of the “second hand” or “hand-me-downs, while others were not so bad. Some “hand-me-downs” we HAD A CHOICE in wearing, while others, Mom or Dad said, “Wear it!” There was NO CHOICE IN THE MATTER. Some “traditions” are optional, while others carry the weight of being commands which have been passed down. Restoring New Testament Christianity should never be a “trow out all traditions” proposition…

Scriptures on “traditions.” 1 Corinthians 11:2 “Now here he says, “I praise you that ye remember me in all things, and hold fast the TRADITIONS, even as I delivered them to you.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15 “So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the TRADITIONS which ye were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours.” Galatians 1:14 “and I advanced in the Jews’ religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the TRADITIONS of my fathers.”

There is a big difference between TRADITIONS, COMMANDS, AND EXAMPLES… Consider 1. Lifting up holy hands in prayer, (I Timothy 2:8). 2. Calling the elders to anoint and pray for the sick, (James 5:13). 3. Washing feet, (John 13:12). 4. Greeting each other with a holy kiss, (Romans 16:16). 5. Sell everything and give to the poor, (Mark 10:21). 6. Invite friends to our ‘feasts,’ (Matthew 19:21). 7. Desire to prophesy, (I Corinthians 14:1). 8. Pray the “Lord’s prayer,” (Matthew 6:9). 9. Give to any who begs, (Luke 6:30). 10. Judge not – Condemn not, (Luke 6:37). 11. Share all good things, (Galatians 6:6). 12. Women be silent in assemblies (I Corinthians 14:34) 13. Women may not teach or have authority over men (1 Timothy 2:12). 14. Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins… (Acts 2:38-39) 15. Lord’s Supper observed when they assembled (Acts 20:7). 16. Meeting in houses and eating together (Acts 2:41-46). Yes there are many more things….
* Some traditions are just that, but they may outlive their need and can (should) be changed. (Much has changed since 1940 and 2015 in things we “do in church.”)
* Some traditions are not bad and should be kept, (maybe adjusted or updated).
* Some traditions are actually commands and are not optional.
* Some traditions are just for local cultures, and not for others.
* Some traditions are cross-cultural and applicable to all (commands). * Some traditions are gender based. On and on we could go, but it is so important to remember something…Man made traditions, should always be understood as MAN MADE and not elevated to the position of Bible. More to come… Grow in grace!

Notes from Dad:
1944 we attended the Old Bowling Green Church. It was the advent of paved roads and Autos, lighting, Sunday PM services, Sunday school classes. A partition was used for classes, and uninspired literature was used in Bible studies (Gospel Advocate), printed on a single card with a lesson, picture and prayer. We took turns with who would take the class. We built class rooms, and started Wednesday PM class (formerly dedicated to prayer).
For the communion we used two glasses. Contributions were individually brought to the communion table (without a prayer). Servers were called from the floor. Memorized prayers were offered, with little variation. Women had long hair and wore hats. Song leaders began waving their hands while leading songs, (we thought they were showing off). Most song leaders just kept beat by tapping their feet.
(It’s amazing how quickly, each modified pattern (tradition) quickly became an obligation on everyone on threat of HELL or the loss of some “stars” in our crowns.)
Our meeting house had no sign. We had an inflexible pattern of procedure. (Three songs – prayer – song – sermon – invitation – communion – collection – song – dismissal – covering of communion emblems.) The song leader never offered any comments. There were no scripture readings or communion comments made.
There was no “placing membership (letter)” We had an outdoor “outhouse.” Baptisms were in a lake. Then we moved everything indoors (for convenience, and to keep up with the times) and we also added a water fountain and a kitchen. (Kitchen’s were considered a mark of being liberal or promoting a “social gospel.”) Frequently we used chalk boards and charts. Every Fifth Sunday, we had an offering for Orphan Homes. Once a year we loaded a truck with canned goods for the Orphan’s Home.
Back in those days, we had not yet picked up on the Roman Catholic concept of “Church weddings,” and thus under the responsibility of “the church” to determine who was and who was not eligible to be married.
There were no funeral homes. The body of the deceased was prepared for burial in the home. Some sat with the body. There was singing at the graveside. All singing at the funeral was congregational.
Brethren… The reason for jeans being altered, new shoes being bought is because the physical body is a living, growing body.
EACH CHANGE WAS MET WITH CRITICISM AND DEBATE… and resulted in brethren who identified themselves as:
1.) Non-Bible School, 2.) Non-Building, 3.) One Cup, 4.) Non-women teaching, 5.) Non-kitchen, 6.) Non-Orphan Home, 7.) Non-Located preachers,

Today we find CHURCH STAFFS composed of Senior ministers, Pulpit Ministers, Educational Ministers, Counselors, Secretaries, Custodians, Full time elders, Preacher schools.
Other changes: Overhead projectors, bulletins (mailed or emailed to everyone), Literature (by men and women), Worship teams, Raising hands in praise, contemporary songs, dramas, some have instruments or use online videos, dramas, and puppets, Radio, TV, Internet being used, Applause, etc… Here are some PILLARS (Principles) Dad mentions….
* “Methods are many – Principles are few – Methods often change, but principles never do!”
1. “We have the freedom to give up our rights. We do not have the right to give up our freedom (in Christ).
2. Everyman can have his say, but everyman does not get to have his way.
3. A strong man can become weak, but it takes time for a weak man to become strong.
4. “Traditions are the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”
5. Brethren can differ! Romans 14.
6. Personal convictions and opinions CAN NEVER BE ALLOWED TO BE CONGREGATIONAL LAW.
7. Stumbling blocks are not grumbling blocks
8. Respect each others convictions.
9. Understand the difference between the WEAK CHRISTIAN and the HARD HEADED CHRISTIAN.
I encourage all to come and join the RESTORATION SUMMIT 2015 – ON LINKEDIN.COM.

Grow in grace!

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