Today we conclude our long look at Leroy Garrett’s “What Must the Church of Christ Do to Be Saved?” In his final essay, Garrett encourages Church of Christ congregations to look for and follow other congregations who are making the right changes in the right ways for the right reasons. The author specifically mentions the Preston Road and Skillman Avenue Churches of Christ in Dallas for their leadership in hosting restoration forums and church change seminars. He points to the Central Church of Christ in Irving which proudly proclaims on their sign out front that they are “An Ecumenical Fellowship.” The Central church there brings in preachers from other denominations to speak in their pulpit and cooperates with other churches in DFW in outreach and mercy ministries. The Richardson East congregation worships with other denominations in their buildings and fellowships Christians from all tradition streams. The Lake Highlands Church of Christ in Dallas encourages women to participate and lead in their worship assemblies and are not afraid to employ the use of musical instruments in videos and other special recordings. The Downtown Church of Christ in El Paso uses instrumental music and women teaching from the pulpit. The Quaker Avenue congregation in Lubbock reached out to the Broadway Church of Christ there to repent from and apologize for their own sectarian and exclusivistic ways and asked for Broadway’s fellowship and Christian cooperation for the benefit of God’s Kingdom.
You know, when I was a kid, 30-35 years ago, our family could be on a summer vacation and visit a Church of Christ in Colorado Springs or Austin or Memphis and experience worship and observe congregational structures identical to what we were used to at our home congregation in Dallas. We would hear the same words in prayers, sing the exact same songs, and read similar articles in the bulletins at these other congregations that we would hear and sing and read at home. Well, it’s not like that anymore. For a variety of reasons — I think all of them are related to technology — things are different. Your Church of Christ congregation is very different from the one down the street and from the ones in Houston and Nashville. Very different.
And it’s not a bad thing. It’s not bad at all. I believe our diversity is God-ordained. We don’t all have the same gifts; we don’t all come from the same places; we don’t all see things the exact same way. And that’s OK. We’re still all perfectly united by the blood of the Lamb that courses through our spiritual veins. And unity in diversity is a beautiful portrait of the Gospel.
The Churches of Christ are a beautiful people with lots of creative diversity. We should recognize our diversity and accept the liberating truth that oneness does not mean sameness.
(My good friend Paul Dennis is always saying, “You don’t have to be my twin to be my brother.” I think he’s quoting Al Maxey. But, to me, it’s Paul Dennis.)
We can have churches that have Sunday School and those that do not; those that support Herald of Truth and those that do not; those that have instrumental music and those that do not; those that use plurality of cups and those that do not; churches that are premillennial and those that are not; etc., etc., and yet be united in the essentials of the faith, and doing some things together. And no one has to compromise any truth or violate his or her conscience!
If we are to be saved as a people and recapture our heritage as a unity movement, we have no choice but to get on with it.
While interviewing for the preaching minister position here at Central in Amarillo, I was told on separate occasions by a couple of ministers and a couple of elders that Central is extremely proud of its Church of Christ heritage but is not bound by it. We hang on to our Church of Christ roots, we uphold our Church of Christ traditions, but we are not going to be held back by them. When it comes to our C of C traditions and heritage versus a more faithful proclamation of the Gospel or a more accurate portrait of God’s Kingdom, we’ll set the traditions and heritage aside every time.
The interesting thing, though, is that these changes suggested in Garrett’s book actually all go straight back to our original Church of Christ and Restoration Movement ideals. Breaking down denominational barriers and fellowshiping with all who call Jesus Lord is not some new liberal idea; it’s the very thing that compelled Stone and Campbell, the very thing that produced our movement. We are actually honoring our Church of Christ heritage when we pledge to not let issues of worship practice or congregational structure divide us.
Allow me to conclude this lengthy series with this: I believe with everything I’ve got that as the United States moves more rapidly into a post-denominational, post-Christian culture, the Churches of Christ are perfectly poised to be the leaders of a fiery Gospel revolution. Precisely because of our roots and our heritage, because of our commitment to Holy Scripture, because of the prominence we place on baptism and communion, because of the seriousness with which we have studied and practiced the Christian faith, we’re in the right place at the right time. God can use us to his eternal glory and praise. I believe God has moved us forward to this point, as a Movement, to be in front of a spiritual renewal in this country. Again, we are uniquely positioned, I believe, to do that here.
But not if we keep doing the same old things in the same old ways. There are some changes that have to be made.
May our God empower us by the strength of his Holy Spirit to make those changes. May we be faithful to our call as we partner with him in redeeming the world. And may he be given glory and honor in his Church today and forever more.