In 1 Samuel 8, the Holy Spirit preserved for us a lesson about the tendencies of man -- that most folks want to be like the majority. The context of the passage is that Samuel had become an old man and his ungodly sons were Judges in Israel. The reaction to Samuel's sons was that the people desired a king to rule over them “like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:4). This was a rejection of God's plan and a rejection of God (1 Samuel 8:6). Sadly, like Israel of old, some churches of Christ want to be like those (denominations) around them.
Tendency to Reject God's Plan
Man has been rejecting God's plan since the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve rejected God's law to not eat of or touch the tree in the middle of the garden. The penalty for doing so was death. However, Eve believed Satan, and violated the law of God, and her husband participated in this sin with her.
God's plan is rejected by many today. Many reject God's plan of wholesome speech, violating the third commandment by taking “the name of God in vain” (Exodus 2:7). I cringe when I hear people use the popular abbreviation “OMG!” They will not be guiltless before God for their language. Paul tells us to put off “filthy language” (Colossians 3:8); and Peter says that man is to “refrain his tongue from evil” (1 Peter 3:10).
Many today are more concerned with being fashionably dressed (or undressed) than they are about dressing in a godly manner. The Bible speaks of “modest apparel, with propriety and moderation” (1 Timothy 2:9). Yet many religious people today see this as old fashioned and socially unacceptable.
When it comes to recreation, many who claim Christ as their Savior, want to go to the same places the world goes and do the same things the world does. The world goes dancing and Christians want to go dancing. The world goes drinking and the Christian goes drinking. The world goes to filthy movies and the Christian goes to filthy movies. The world engages is sexual sin and Christians engage in sexual sin.
Our pattern of life must be different. We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1-2). We cannot walk the path of worldliness and expect it to lead to heaven. God said, “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil” (Exodus 23:2). We are not to “love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15). We are to set our minds “on things above, not on things of the earth” (Colossians 3:2).
God's Plan of Salvation vs. Man's Plan of Salvation
God has clearly told man what he must do to be saved. Man is told to believe in Christ as the Son of God (John 3:16), repent of ones sins (Luke 13:3, 5), confess ones acceptance of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:10); and then be baptized for remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21). However, man has rejected this plan of God and inserted his own plan-a plan that usually only includes the “Sinner's Prayer,” where one simply asks Jesus to come into their heart and save them from their sins. However, the “Sinner's Prayer” is not found anywhere in the inspired word of God. Just like Adam and Eve, man today has come up with his own plan of salvation and rejected God's plan in the process. Man has become so good at changing God's plan that many today in churches of Christ have accepted and now practice plans of their own making that have no foundation in the Holy Bible. It seems that for many, “scriptural authority” is no longer required for the things they do.
In the October 2009 “What Does the Bible Say?” I wrote that some churches of Christ are teaching false doctrine from the pulpits, and some have decided that baptism is no longer necessary for remission of sins and admittance to the Lord's church. An example of this is one of the churches in Franklin, Tennessee. After hearing a sermon online by their preacher, I emailed the minister saying: You stated, “if they choose not to be immersed, we welcome them on the journey as part of this family.” My question is this: 'These people that you have accepted on the basis of infant baptism, Baptist baptism, no baptism, etc., are they saved?'“ The preacher's reply was, “Frank, as you know it is God who decides who is and is not saved. Thankfully, I do not have to make that call, but we do believe that it is the grace of God that saves us.”
Now it is sad indeed that a church of Christ would have a minister that would deny the necessity of baptism for salvation. This man is also a professor at Lipscomb University. This speaks volumes as to how far many of the so called “Christian Colleges” have digressed.
Tendencies in Some Churches of Christ to Be Like Denominational Churches
The word “tendency” is defined as “a general inclination: a way in which somebody or something typically behaves or happens, or is likely to react, behave, or happen. A movement toward something. A gradual, but steady progress, development, or shift of opinion in a particular direction.” Over the years I have observed that many churches of Christ have abandoned the concept of “scriptural authority” and of “primitivism,” that is, the example of the primitive or original church plan as revealed in scripture.
If one doubts that churches of Christ have changed in the past half century, I direct you to a tract written by Floyd Decker in 1944. Decker, a minister of the Christian Church, left that church to become a minister in churches of Christ. In his tract, “Why I Left the Christian Church,” Decker listed several unscriptural practices of the Christian Church not practiced in churches of Christ. However, since the 1940s, all of the things mentioned by Decker as not being practiced by churches of Christ are now common place in most churches of Christ. Among the things Decker listed as not being practiced in churches of Christ were: women counselors, directors, and lecturers; educational directors, associate ministers, and youth directors; missionary, benevolent, and educational organizations; celebration of Easter, Mother's Day, and Christmas; fellowship with various denominations; Campaigns for Christ, rallies, drives, and promotions; elevation of preachers; taking up collections at services other than the first day of the week; operating and owning radio stations, hospitals, and other benevolent societies; and church support of colleges and schools.
All of the things listed by Decker as not being practiced by churches of Christ in 1944 are common practices of mainstream churches of Christ today. This leaves no doubt that churches of Christ have changed. Churches of Christ are looking more and more like the denominations they have opposed for years. Perhaps the “give us a king” tendency is taking root in some churches of Christ and will blossom into a new denomination filled with members that want to be like those around them.
Many do not look for scriptural authority for their practices
Many in churches of Christ today have no understanding of scriptural authority. Authority is defined as: right, power, jurisdiction. Peter said, “if any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God...” (1 Peter 4:11). Paul said, “... that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6-RSV). Yet many do not “search the scriptures” to determine whether they have the authority to practice many of the things that are now, after many years, ingrained in some churches of Christ.
Gone in many churches is the teaching of establishing biblical authority by command or precept, biblical examples, and necessary inference (forced conclusions). Many are turning to a “new hermeneutic,” believing that most of the New Testament is just “Love Letters” and that their message is simply suggestions rather than divine principles. Accepting this teaching will allow them to follow the “give us a king” tendency.
Worship services in many churches of Christ have changed and are changing
In an article published September 4, 2013, the Highland church of Christ in Abilene, Texas joined the ever increasing number of churches of Christ to add instrumental music to their worship services. As more and more of these larger churches add instrumental worship, other churches will continue to follow their lead and will fall like dominos.
Other changes in worship include making the Lord's Supper a common meal instead of a spiritual meal. During these services, members gather around large tables with gallons of grape juice and loaves of bread for an extended period of time. They criticize and vilify their brethren who disagree with them as the “pinch and sip” brethren.
Paul condemned the Corinthian church for making the Lord's Supper a common meal and said, “And if any man hunger, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment” (1 Corinthians 11:34).
Fellowship halls, coffee shops, restaurants, and gymnasiums in churches of Christ
Many churches of Christ are sailing at tempest speed toward fun and games. No longer do many think of the church as a spiritual institution, but as a social society dedicated to the desires and whims of its members.
Some churches of Christ, like the White Station church in Memphis, Tennessee, have opened coffee shops in their buildings. White Station says the coffee shop is for social activities, birthday parties, card games, etc. The Crown Hill church of Christ in Seattle, Washington invites all to have “Coffee and Donuts, Sundays at 10 am” and ask all to “come and fellowship with us.”
There are music groups that perform at churches, including “Christian rock bands,” and charge a cover charge for those in attendance.
One church of Christ in Birmingham, Alabama has a dance teacher on staff to teach dance to kids and adults. We see advertisements from churches of Christ inviting the community to become a part of their soccer teams, join their work-out classes, and to come jog with them. Parties of all kinds are given, including Halloween parties with “trunk-or treat” and free food. It seems that many have perverted the plea of Christ from “Come unto Me,” to “Come on, let the good times roll!”
Others build their Family Life Centers (gyms, with a fancy name) in order to have a place for all to play basketball and volleyball and the older folks can play shuffleboard, knit, sew, play cards, and take yoga classes. Some, while opposed to the church sponsored gyms, argue that if they don't build them their youth will wander off to the more liberal churches that have them. The attitude is, “If you can't lick 'em, join 'em.” This is the embodiment of the “give us a king” tendency.
Women in leadership roles in churches of Christ
On the television program, “In Search of the Lord's Way” sponsored by institutional churches of Christ, preacher Mack Lyon dealt with the growing problem of women in leadership roles in churches of Christ. This set off a storm of protests from viewers. Citing scriptures as to why women do not have authority for such roles did not prevent the onslaught of protests. One lady wrote: “God help us. This Message is from Churches of Christ.” Raymond Elliott, an institutional church preacher writes, “She was upset that the television program was sponsored by churches of Christ and that the public would think that all churches of Christ would agree with this brother's sermon. She also wrote, “I couldn't disagree more with his message. And yet people in Abilene hear that it's from Churches of Christ.” Elliott went on to say, “Please take a good breath and read slowly the following remark by this individual... “Pretty soon, they'll all be dead, including Mack Lyon, and the problem of traditional coC'ers will snuff itself out.”
Mike Cope, a preacher at the Highland church of Christ in Abilene, Texas and a teacher at Abilene Christian University, said on his website, “Of course, I think this brother (Mack Lyon) is wrong. Way wrong.” “I'm becoming more and more convinced that only time will take care of this.”
I fear that this attitude is more prevalent than I first thought. From the statements above, it appears that many churches of Christ are ready to embrace women preachers and are just waiting for the old guard (those who oppose women preachers) to die out.
There is not one scripture to be found that gives divine authority for women preachers. The apostle Paul addresses this when he said by inspiration of God, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35). In writing the young gospel preacher Timothy, Paul said, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (1 Timothy 2:11-12). It is very hard to preach without speaking!
Celebration of Holy Days
A new trend in many churches of Christ is the celebration of holy days or religious holidays. Paul, concerned about Christians observing Jewish holidays said, “You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain” (Galatians 4:10-11).
But this passage has little bearing on those that have already left the word of God. An email sent by a member of a church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee, stated that in a worship service, some members were marked with ashes on their forehead as they celebrated Ash Wednesday.
A church in Huntsville, Alabama, invited a rabbi to speak at their special Easter service. At Christmas time, Christmas wreaths adorn the entrance doors of many churches of Christ all across the land and Christmas parties are held inside the buildings. Raymond Elliott writes, “Some of our liberal brethren are observing special holidays like Easter, Lent, Ash Wednesday (having ashes placed on your forehead), having solos in their assemblies, even serving the Lord's Supper on days other than the first day of the week, and having instrumental music playing in the background during an assembly.” Elliott warns, “It is evident that we are witnessing a major division occurring in our brotherhood.” The “give us a king” tendency is alive and well in some churches of Christ.
The Tendency to change churches of Christ
It seems that each succeeding generation in the Lord's church is moving further away from the “ancient order” and is pushing the envelope, so to speak, as to what they think God might accept from His people. Change is not only on the way, but is already here. The change that is on the way is “wholesale change in churches of Christ.” Let's enumerate some of these areas of change:
Ø Change in the Lord's Supper from a spiritual commemoration of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ to a common meal.
Ø Churches with women elders, women preachers, women “praise leaders”, women deacons, women assisting in worship.
Ø A shift of emphasis from the “spiritual” to the “social.”
Ø The perceived need for churches to field ball teams and compete with denominational churches.
Ø More emphasis on “church camps” and “church retreats.”
Ø Many churches have gone into the apartment business, seeking to provide housing, especially the elderly.
Ø A change in worship through song to a party like atmosphere, waving hands, clapping, and swiveling hips.
Ø Churches building fellowship halls and gyms.
Ø Emphasis on things like baby-sitting services, mother's day out, pre-school and kindergarten programs.
Ø Fellowship of those divorced and re-married for reasons other than fornication (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9).
At the 2003 Abilene Christian College Lectureship there were three lectures presented on how to change churches of Christ without losing members. One speaker from Lubbock spoke on how they changed the worship (drama, choruses, praise teams of men and women). One spoke on the change in leadership. Another spoke on how women were brought into a more public role in the worship service of their local congregation by having women baptizing their children; making announcements; one lady handles the weddings and funerals at Highland; women giving testimonies; female missionaries making reports before the church; women praying over babies before the congregation, etc.”
Brethren beware! All of this is to prepare churches of Christ to accept women preachers and elders. It has already taken place in some churches. The numbers will continue to swell.
While these things are coming and are now in some, if not many churches, the picture is clear; churches of Christ are about to weather another storm of liberalism. We would like to invite churches of Christ to evaluate (seriously) what has happened in their congregations in the past thirty to fifty years, and if you see a change from what was taught years ago, ask yourselves where you are going? Is the leadership in the church where you attend able to lead the church back to fundamental Christianity? If the old guard doesn't question these things, the young folks will never give it a thought.
If you are a member of a church that is getting further and further away from New Testament Christianity, we invite you to “come on back.” There are numerous churches that have shunned the “innovations of man” for the “Word of God.” Do you have the courage to leave those that you love dearly, and worship at a church that has stood for the truth down through the years? Are we like Israel of old? Do you cry, “Give us a king?” Do you want to be like everyone around you?
By Frank Richey
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