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Two Great Programs - Two Areas Of Great Need

Two Great Programs - Two Areas Of Great Need

            The Liberty, Texas Church of Christ is blessed with two great "signature" programs. Our contributions of money and volunteer effort supports (i) our Food Bank, and (ii) our Best Friends in Faith special-needs program. This article is written to remind you of these efforts and to encourage you to take an active part.

Our Food Bank

            Begun in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane, the Liberty Church of Christ Food Bank continues to provide nutritious food to qualified people in the Liberty area. Working in cooperation with the Houston-Area Food Bank, the Liberty Church of Christ Food Bank is open on the first Tuesdays and third Thursdays of every month.

            Food trucks arrive between 8:00 A.M. and noon on those days. Food is provided on a "first come; first served" basis. During 2016, our Food Bank has served an average of 499 people per month.

            Wayne Noonkester currently directs our Food Bank. Along with 12-15 other members of the Liberty Church of Christ who volunteer their time, Wayne does an outstanding job of ordering food, managing the budget, receiving the food, registering patrons, controlling crowds, and keeping the FLC spotless.

            One of the biggest advantages of our Food Bank is subtle. The charitable spirit is sometimes quenched by the nagging fear that a charitable work is somehow not really doing its job. Our Food Bank is doing its job, and we can be confident that our charitable giving toward it is money well contributed.

Best Friend In Faith

            Our Best Friends in Faith (BFF) program will soon be two years old. Started with the belief that many people with special needs and their families do not attend worship services because they do not feel welcome by churches, our BFF regularly welcomes 6-8 special-needs kids and about that many of their family members every Sunday for Bible classes and worship. Once a month, our BFF "Activity Day" includes up to 30 BFF kids, family members, and members of the Liberty Church of Christ in a special afternoon activity that has quickly become a congregational tradition.

            Two factors have secured the success of BFF: Janie Prather and Laurie David. Preparing for BFF, we learned that these programs either succeed or fail based on the presence of trained and experienced personnel. Churches that attempt special-needs ministries without having trained and experienced people fail. We are highly fortunate to have two highly-regarded professionals who have ensured our success.

            Evidence of our success has come in the form of full integration of the BFF kids into our hearts. We welcome the BFF kids into our services and into our hearts. We do not fuss and fidget when they occasionally act out. Instead, we take in stride their uniquenesses and love them because and not in spite of.    

What can You Do?

  1. Programs cost money. Wayne has distinguished himself by remaining within his budget ($650/month); the BFF budget is negligible ($100/month for the Activity Day). Your giving to the Liberty Church of Christ supports these programs. Keep giving if you want these programs to continue. Increase your giving if you want these programs to increase.
  1. In addition to its monthly budget, our Food Bank requires volunteer labor. It is a labor of love - our Food Bank volunteers are amazed at the efficiency and effectiveness of the program. Volunteers are needed every second Tuesday and third Thursday of the month. Some Food Bank volunteers lift and haul, some corral and herd patrons, and some shuffle paperwork.
  1. There is a very specific need associated with BFF. Every Sunday morning, Janie leaves home an hour earlier than normal to pick up kids; then she returns them home after services - and she literally picks kids up. She needs either for someone to pick some of the kids up for her and take them home (in their car) or for someone to ride along with her and pick kids up for her (in their arms). It is not feasible for Janie to continue to physically lift kids.

  

Shrinking Christianity

Shrinking Christianity

            Like The Incredible Shrinking Man, a 1957 science-fiction movie about a man who mysteriously began to shrink in size, Christianity is begin forced into smaller and smaller space. Once, Christianity enjoyed a very large space in the public forum. Now, Christianity is being forced to shrink. This article is written to explain how.

Legal/Constitutional Shrinkage

            In the United States, freedom of religion is a constitutionally protected right guaranteed in the religion clauses of the First Amendment. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids the government from both promoting one religion over others, and also fromrestricting religious practices.  Other rights, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and the rights of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government, are also affirmed.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

           

            Freedom of religion is now being attacked in two ways. First, there is the overt "Freedom From Religion" movement. Based in Madison, Wisconsin, this is a formal organization that has sunk huge sums of money into anti-Christian lawsuits. Describing themselves as a "watchdog organization" and often allied with the American Civil Liberties Union, Freedom From Religion is behind the many legal challenges to nativity scenes, the posting of the Ten Commandments, and etc. They have been so successful that many organizations break and run at the mere threat of a Freedom From Religion lawsuit. An example of this was when Kountze ISD prohibited their cheerleaders from posting Bible-themed signs after receiving a complaint from Freedom From Religion.

            Second, there is the slightly more subtle change from "freedom of religion" to "freedom of worship." Although the First Amendment guarantees "freedom of religion," many Left-leaning politicians often use the phrase "freedom of worship." The Obama administration has been particularly inclined to displace "freedom of religion" in this way. The import of these new words is to suggest that the only religious freedoms that are constitutionally guaranteed are those that take place in places of worship. The effect is to suggest that religious practices and beliefs that are public (as opposed to those in church houses) are not protected. The rollback of protected religion into purely private ceremonies has already begun. Examples include the various lawsuits and penalties that have forced Christian cake shop owners to bake cakes for same-sex weddings.

The Shrinkage Of Social Pressures

            Social pressure is the force individuals feel to conform to society's expectations. Now society's force is directed against "religious extremism." The effect of the force is both subtle and powerful. Nobody wants to be viewed as an extremist.  

            But what is the current definition of "religious extremism?" You will be surprised. Examples include the following:

  • Opposition to Islam
  • Opposition to same-sex marriage
  • Opposition to abortion
  • The Atlantic (March 10, 2016) reports that "New data show that most Americans consider the beliefs and practices of traditional Christians to be ‘extreme.’

  • The same article reported that "if you 'attempt to convert others” to your faith, 60 percent of Americans now believe you are extreme." Thus, evangelism and conversion is on the outs.

  • The Atlantic also reports that "if your teenage daughter commits to abstain from sex until marriage, a quarter of Americans say she’s an extremist too." "This means that many Americans now believe that Christians who advocate for sexual abstinence (are), in some way, a social threat."   

Conclusion

            From great big legal challenges to smaller social pressures, "this present evil word" is doing its best to either force Christians into a very small or corner, or - this is their preference - to force Christians to so thoroughly alter their beliefs and practices so as to be indistinguishable from the world. Be very cautious about the influence of the world. Be especially cautious about the influence of worldly "Christians" who have already given in, and who would like for you to join them in Incredible Shrinking Christianity.

           

Celebrating Christmas and Easter - as Religious Holidays

Celebrating Christmas and Easter - as Religious Holidays

            Just as tensions can arise within Christians, pulling their hearts this way and that (see Rom. 7:19+), tensions can also arise among Christians. Recently, Christmas and Easter have brought these out. This article is written to explain.

What The Issue Is, And Is Not

            No members of the Churches of Christ doubt that Christ was born. None of us harbors uncertainty about the significance of Christ's crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. No one questions the propriety of individual Christians either making a big deal out of Christmas and Easter for themselves and with their families, or of ignoring Christmas and Easter altogether.

            The important question is elsewhere, and has to do with whether we should turn some Sunday worship services into special religious celebrations of these days. This is done among Catholic Churches and some Protestant groups, as the advertisement below illustrates (some - not all - the celebration of Christmas and Easter is not without controversy among Protestants, with many early Protestant leaders rejecting both - www.phcmontreat.org/Exhibit-Christmas).

Come experience the wonder of Christmas with two of Christian music’s powerhouse vocalists. Natalie Grant and Danny Gokey will ring in this year’s holiday season on the Celebrate Christmas Tour...Experience the magic of Christmas right here at Central.

            A few Churches of Christ have followed this trend, as in the following.

Join one of our three campuses on Christmas Sunday to experience a time of Christmas reflection through a specially prepared video. A special Christmas service will take place at 11:00 A.M.

The Issue Beneath The Issue

            The tension beneath the tension has to do with two very different and contrasting approaches to the Bible. These different and contrasting views remain at the heart of our tensions. The view that has dominated, and that should dominate, is summarized in a question asked by Jesus: By what authority do you do this (Mk. 11:28)? This question emphasizes the need to have Bible authority for what we do (see Deut. 12:32, Jn. 4:24, Col. 3:17, I Thess. 2:13, Rev. 22:18-19, and etc.).

            The alternate view is that the Bible is just a jumping off point, and that we can add, subtract, multiply or divide as we see fit. According to this view, having Bible authority is not necessary. In fact, many who hold this view think that seeking Bible authority for what we do is an impediment to following whatever additions, subtractions, multiplications and divisions that pop into their mind.

            These two very different views can be summarized as follows:

By what authority do you do this?
(i) We must have book, chapter   and verse authority for all that we do.

(ii) Having book, chapter and verse   authority is unnecessary,

and is even an impediment.

            These two views and the tension between them are nothing new. In fact, they have been around for so long that they have had official names since the time of the Protestant Reformation.

  • "The (i)regulative principle is a teaching...that only those elements that are instituted or appointed...are permissible...and that whatever is not commanded...from Scripture is prohibited."

  • "The (ii) normative principle...teaches that whatever is not prohibited in Scripture is permitted."

            Buying backpacking equipment illustrates the meaning of these two principles, illustrates that these two principles are based in common sense, and illustrates that following different principles leads people in very different directions. Operating on one principle, Janie limits my equipment purchases with a "regulative" budget. Wishing to operate on the "normative" principle and without a budget, I would like the buy all kinds of ultralight tents, GPS PLBs, titanium sporks, and GORE TEX. We can easily see how husbands and wives operating on contrasting principles would reach different conclusions about backpacking, and other, purchases.

            As distinct as the regulative and normative principles are by definition, they typically do not show up so distinctly in everyday discussions. The normative principle often shows up as the question "What's wrong with it?" The regulative principle sometimes shows up as the question "What's right with it?"

            Just like husbands and wives, we can just as easily see how that congregations operating on the regulative principle and congregations operating on the normative principle would go in different directions. The pull between "What's wrong with it?" and "What's right with it?" is the tension being felt among and within Churches of Christ today. That tension has recently bubbled to the surface about Christmas and at Easter.    

Regulative Or Normative Christmas And Easter

            Allowing our thinking to be framed by the difference between (i) requiring book, chapter and verse authority for all that we do, and (ii) ignoring book, chapter and verse authority as unnecessary suggests a question of critical importance: are there any books, chapters, and verses that would cause us to celebrate Christmas and Easter as religious holidays?

            The answer is emphatically no. Again, no one doubts that Christ was born. No one doubts that Christ was crucified, buried, and resurrected. No one questions when individual Christians make a big deal out of Christmas and Easter for themselves and for their families. The question is whether we need to alter our worship services to incorporate Christmas and Easter into holy-day celebrations.

            Four other concerns enter the discussion:

  1. We already have Sunday set aside to focus on Christ, and especially on His death, burial and resurrection. Let no one suggest that we do not sufficiently honor Christ in our worship.

  1. New Testament writers discouraged the identification of holy days (Gal. 4:10, Col. 2:16-17).

  1. At a time when 70% of church-going people seldom or never study the Bible, we must be extra cautious about being overly influenced by the 70% who do not study, or by those who want us to become just another Evangelical denomination. Who is leading the fight to worshipfully celebrate Christmas and Easter, those who study their Bibles and who look for Bible authority, or those who look for reasons to ignore Bible authority?

 

  1. Are we prepared to turn ourselves over to all of the excesses of contemporary Christmas and Easter religious festivals? Example: in their 2014 Christmas celebration, a Woodlands megachurch rented zoo animals, including elephants, to parade their aisles in honor of baby Jesus' birthday.  

Conclusion: The Genius Of History

            George Santayana (1863-1952) was the influential philosopher who said, "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it." Santayana's saying emphasizes the importance of allowing the trials and errors of the past to keep us from trials and errors in the present. The application is that people, or groups of people, who do not learn from their mistakes, and also from their successes, will not make a lot of progress.

            Christmas and Easter are not new. The first "Christ Mass" was celebrated on December 25, 336 A.D. (christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/301-600/the-1st-recorded-celebration-of-christmas-). The First Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) declared that Easter was always to be held on a Sunday (wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_controversy). Since those times, questions about when, how much, and etc. have been debated.

            Slowing to avoid all of these tensions, our brethren have typically tapped the breaks to distinguish between the personal and the social on one hand, and the congregational and the worshipful on the other hand. We have seen a difference between the decisions of individuals as they effect only themselves and the decisions about worship that effect entire congregations and said:

  1. When it comes to the personal and social celebrations of Christmas and Easter, knock yourself out. What you decide for yourself is for you to decide. Our brethren have typically celebrated a low-key Christmas and Easter, as part of our larger culture, and not as purely religious holidays.

  1. When it comes to congregational worship, let's leave Christmas and Easter to the personal and the social. What we decide congregationally in regard to our worship is not a personal decision. Leaving the celebrations of Christmas and Easter to individuals, our worship services on these days have looked exactly like our worship services on other Sundays.

            In addition to building our doctrine and practice on Bible authority, there is a lot more to be said about what we have said about Christmas and Easter. Maximum individual liberty and minimum congregational turmoil have been the result of an emphasis on book chapter and verse authority. Our brethren have maintained a remarkable level of unity and peace by asking "What's right with it?" That is, until recently.  

            As our Progressives continue to ignore Bible authority an add ceremonies to christen babies, other holy-day celebrations like Lent and Good Friday, women preachers, praise teams, and other practices that ignore Bible authority, we would do well to remember the unity that once prevailed and the reason for it.

           

            Just as tensions can arise within Christians, pulling their hearts this way and that (see Rom. 7:19+), tensions can also arise among Christians. Recently, Christmas and Easter have brought these out. This article is written to explain.

What The Issue Is, And Is Not

            No members of the Churches of Christ doubt that Christ was born. None of us harbors uncertainty about the significance of Christ's crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. No one questions the propriety of individual Christians either making a big deal out of Christmas and Easter for themselves and with their families, or of ignoring Christmas and Easter altogether.

            The important question is elsewhere, and has to do with whether we should turn some Sunday worship services into special religious celebrations of these days. This is done among Catholic Churches and some Protestant groups, as the advertisement below illustrates (some - not all - the celebration of Christmas and Easter is not without controversy among Protestants, with many early Protestant leaders rejecting both - www.phcmontreat.org/Exhibit-Christmas).

Come experience the wonder of Christmas with two of Christian music’s powerhouse vocalists. Natalie Grant and Danny Gokey will ring in this year’s holiday season on the Celebrate Christmas Tour...Experience the magic of Christmas right here at Central.

            A few Churches of Christ have followed this trend, as in the following.

Join one of our three campuses on Christmas Sunday to experience a time of Christmas reflection through a specially prepared video. A special Christmas service will take place at 11:00 A.M.

The Issue Beneath The Issue

            The tension beneath the tension has to do with two very different and contrasting approaches to the Bible. These different and contrasting views remain at the heart of our tensions. The view that has dominated, and that should dominate, is summarized in a question asked by Jesus: By what authority do you do this (Mk. 11:28)? This question emphasizes the need to have Bible authority for what we do (see Deut. 12:32, Jn. 4:24, Col. 3:17, I Thess. 2:13, Rev. 22:18-19, and etc.).

            The alternate view is that the Bible is just a jumping off point, and that we can add, subtract, multiply or divide as we see fit. According to this view, having Bible authority is not necessary. In fact, many who hold this view think that seeking Bible authority for what we do is an impediment to following whatever additions, subtractions, multiplications and divisions that pop into their mind.

            These two very different views can be summarized as follows:

By what authority do you do this?
(i) We must have book, chapter   and verse authority for all that we do.

(ii) Having book, chapter and verse   authority is unnecessary,

and is even an impediment.

            These two views and the tension between them are nothing new. In fact, they have been around for so long that they have had official names since the time of the Protestant Reformation.

  • "The (i)regulative principle is a teaching...that only those elements that are instituted or appointed...are permissible...and that whatever is not commanded...from Scripture is prohibited."

  • "The (ii) normative principle...teaches that whatever is not prohibited in Scripture is permitted."

            Buying backpacking equipment illustrates the meaning of these two principles, illustrates that these two principles are based in common sense, and illustrates that following different principles leads people in very different directions. Operating on one principle, Janie limits my equipment purchases with a "regulative" budget. Wishing to operate on the "normative" principle and without a budget, I would like the buy all kinds of ultralight tents, GPS PLBs, titanium sporks, and GORE TEX. We can easily see how husbands and wives operating on contrasting principles would reach different conclusions about backpacking, and other, purchases.

            As distinct as the regulative and normative principles are by definition, they typically do not show up so distinctly in everyday discussions. The normative principle often shows up as the question "What's wrong with it?" The regulative principle sometimes shows up as the question "What's right with it?"

            Just like husbands and wives, we can just as easily see how that congregations operating on the regulative principle and congregations operating on the normative principle would go in different directions. The pull between "What's wrong with it?" and "What's right with it?" is the tension being felt among and within Churches of Christ today. That tension has recently bubbled to the surface about Christmas and at Easter.    

Regulative Or Normative Christmas And Easter

            Allowing our thinking to be framed by the difference between (i) requiring book, chapter and verse authority for all that we do, and (ii) ignoring book, chapter and verse authority as unnecessary suggests a question of critical importance: are there any books, chapters, and verses that would cause us to celebrate Christmas and Easter as religious holidays?

            The answer is emphatically no. Again, no one doubts that Christ was born. No one doubts that Christ was crucified, buried, and resurrected. No one questions when individual Christians make a big deal out of Christmas and Easter for themselves and for their families. The question is whether we need to alter our worship services to incorporate Christmas and Easter into holy-day celebrations.

            Four other concerns enter the discussion:

  1. We already have Sunday set aside to focus on Christ, and especially on His death, burial and resurrection. Let no one suggest that we do not sufficiently honor Christ in our worship.

  1. New Testament writers discouraged the identification of holy days (Gal. 4:10, Col. 2:16-17).

  1. At a time when 70% of church-going people seldom or never study the Bible, we must be extra cautious about being overly influenced by the 70% who do not study, or by those who want us to become just another Evangelical denomination. Who is leading the fight to worshipfully celebrate Christmas and Easter, those who study their Bibles and who look for Bible authority, or those who look for reasons to ignore Bible authority?
  1. Are we prepared to turn ourselves over to all of the excesses of contemporary Christmas and Easter religious festivals? Example: in their 2014 Christmas celebration, a Woodlands megachurch rented zoo animals, including elephants, to parade their aisles in honor of baby Jesus' birthday.  

Conclusion: The Genius Of History

            George Santayana (1863-1952) was the influential philosopher who said, "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it." Santayana's saying emphasizes the importance of allowing the trials and errors of the past to keep us from trials and errors in the present. The application is that people, or groups of people, who do not learn from their mistakes, and also from their successes, will not make a lot of progress.

            Christmas and Easter are not new. The first "Christ Mass" was celebrated on December 25, 336 A.D. (christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/301-600/the-1st-recorded-celebration-of-christmas-). The First Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) declared that Easter was always to be held on a Sunday (wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_controversy). Since those times, questions about when, how much, and etc. have been debated.

            Slowing to avoid all of these tensions, our brethren have typically tapped the breaks to distinguish between the personal and the social on one hand, and the congregational and the worshipful on the other hand. We have seen a difference between the decisions of individuals as they effect only themselves and the decisions about worship that effect entire congregations and said:

  1. When it comes to the personal and social celebrations of Christmas and Easter, knock yourself out. What you decide for yourself is for you to decide. Our brethren have typically celebrated a low-key Christmas and Easter, as part of our larger culture, and not as purely religious holidays.

  1. When it comes to congregational worship, let's leave Christmas and Easter to the personal and the social. What we decide congregationally in regard to our worship is not a personal decision. Leaving the celebrations of Christmas and Easter to individuals, our worship services on these days have looked exactly like our worship services on other Sundays.

            In addition to building our doctrine and practice on Bible authority, there is a lot more to be said about what we have said about Christmas and Easter. Maximum individual liberty and minimum congregational turmoil have been the result of an emphasis on book chapter and verse authority. Our brethren have maintained a remarkable level of unity and peace by asking "What's right with it?" That is, until recently.  

            As our Progressives continue to ignore Bible authority an add ceremonies to christen babies, other holy-day celebrations like Lent and Good Friday, women preachers, praise teams, and other practices that ignore Bible authority, we would do well to remember the unity that once prevailed and the reason for it.

           

Food Bank Update

Food Bank Update

            On Thursday, November 17, we received an unannounced and unexpected inspection of our Food Bank ministry.  We have received a written review of that inspection.  The results were overwhelmingly positive.  This surprise inspection again proves that it is no surprise that our Food Bank is exceptional.

What We Knew

            We knew that our Food Bank ministry was something special.  For 2016, we have served an average of 499 people per month.  In addition to the people we serve, we also engage the high-quality volunteer efforts of 12-to-15 of our members.  The result of these efforts is priceless "best foot forward" public relations.  The Liberty Church of Christ is well known and well respected for our Food Bank.   

What We Didn't Know

            We did not know that we were subject to inspection by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  In fact, USDA has only recently started inspecting "food pantries" (their term for operations such as ours; they use the term "food bank" to describe much larger operations like the Houston Food Bank).  We are in the USDA loop of inspections due to the fact that we "distribute" food.

            Not only did we not know that we were subject to USDA inspections, but we also had no idea about the kinds of things that the USDA would be inspecting (nothing like a surprise inspection covering surprises!).  We only learned about their checklist as the inspector went down the list.

            In brief, the checklist focused on policies and procedures, security, and record keeping necessary to make sure that the food we distribute is safe and fit for consumption.  We received "checks" for all items except one.  We do not have (yet - we're working on it) a written summary of our policies and procedures.  We can't feel too bad about missing this one mark - recall that we did not know we were subject to USDA inspection and did not know what items would be inspected.

How We Passed With Flying Colors

            Three things ensured the success of our USDA inspection.

1.      First, on the day that inspector came, we had a huge crowd.  Even so, the distribution was very organized and "tame" (the inspector's words).  Evidence of good procedures were visible in what was happening.

2.      Second, Wayne did an outstanding job working with the inspector.  Good inspectors can "smell" effective coordinators, and Wayne didn't smell bad at all.

3.      Third, good inspectors can also smell bad record keeping.  When Barb was able to immediately hand the inspector every piece of paper he asked for, he was obviously very pleased.    

Three Other Things

            Three other factors greatly pleased the inspector.

1.      The inspector told us that what he fears the most is a food pantry that is disheveled and dirty.  Wayne and his crew deserve all the credit in the world for keeping our FLC tidy and clean.

2.      The inspector also told us that he distrusts food pantries that lack oversight.  He spoke negatively of small, independent religious groups in which the director of the food panty is also the one and only leader (pastor) of the church.  He was pleased that we have a "board" of elders who oversee our Food Bank.

3.      The inspector told us that we save ourselves a lot of trouble by receiving a food truck, emptying it, storing very little food, and not having refrigerated storage.  Failure to maintain proper temperatures in refrigerated storage is one of the most common "dings" received by food pantries.  The inspector wondered why all food pantries do not operate like we do.

Conclusion

            The positive conclusion of this inspection will likely be the conclusion of all USDA inspections.  The inspector told us that the USDA employs only 150 inspectors nation wide and that they are to spend on 15% of their time of food pantries.  He told us that due to USDA's limited personnel, and due to our excellent inspection, we will probably not soon see another inspector.   

The New Heroes

The New Heroes

            Identifying heroes is good business for any organization. Heroes are those who live the virtues and values of an organization with drive and dedication. Hard-core, full-metal-jacket riflemen in the Marine Corps are an example. Selfless, caring nurses at a hospital are another. By identifying and praising heroes, organizations give an "attaboy" of encouragement to workers, and, at the same time, identify the highest and best traits expected of employees.

Heroes are people who act as prototypes, or examples, by which others learn the correct or 'perfect' behavior...Heroes may be the janitor who tackled a burglar or a customer-service agent who went out of their way to delight a customer. In such stories they symbolize and teach the ideal behaviors of an organization.

            This article is written about changes being suffered by Churches of Christ, changes reflected in difference between the heroes we once honored and the heroes we now honor. Who are our new heroes? What impact are they having on us?

The Old Heroes

           

            Our heroes have been historically defined by practical and everyday characteristics that are closely associated with our work and worship. Not imaginary ideals, this list describes many real Christians.

  • Attends services on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night; rarely misses; sacrifices other priorities to worship.
  • Teaches at least one Bible class per week (and treats the kids to an occasional outing).
  • A "cheerful giver."
  • Often engages in personal evangelism; often builds up discouraged members.
  • Is known to frequently visit members who are ill or in the hospital.
  • Regularly engages in personal Bible study; firmly grasps "the truth of the Gospel."
  • Can be depended on to show up for work days, or even to show up on their own to take care of things that need to be done around the building.

The New Heroes

            Undergoing wrenching changes like almost every other institution in our society, The Churches of Christ have been battered by change. Some see these changes as positive and productive. Others see these changes as damaging and destructive.

            These changes have been accompanied by entirely new descriptions of our heroes. Our new heroes possess such a "get it" sense of "grace" that they:

  • Skips lots of services and feel pretty good about it (because all forms of guilt and shame are really, really bad).
  • Eschew Bible teaching and Bible learning (because they do not consider doctrine to be important).
  • Cheerfully avoid giving very much at all.
  • Replace evangelism with the pleasure of their company.
  • Visit members who are ill or in the hospital (if it can take them away from services).
  • Disregard Bible study (because most conclusions reached from Bible study are "Legalistic").
  • Depend on others to take care of the work (because those who really "get it" about "grace" have better things to do).

The Impact of Different Heroes

            As long as there are hard-core, full-metal-jacket riflemen, the Marines are in good hands. As long as there are selfless, caring nurses, patients in hospitals are in good hands. As long as the old heroes dominated Churches of Christ, we were in good hands.

            But what will come of us if the new heroes come to dominate? When attendance and giving are no longer priorities, when Bible teaching and Bible-bases conversions are not longer considered important, and when workers are replaced by feelers, what will come of us?