Maxey - Martin Dialogue

An Email Exchange Between

Al Maxey, Minister/Elder
Cuba Avenue Church of Christ
Alamogordo, New Mexico


David Martin, Pastor
Solid Rock Baptist Church
Bartlett, Tennessee

Comments by Al Maxey

Sunday, August 4, 2002

In his brief reply this morning David made the following statement of intent, "I don't do our webpage, someone outside of our church does. If I can coordinate with him, I'll put this exchange on the internet." I want to thank David for this willingness to make our dialogue available to his friends and companions via his web page. As I have stated numerous times over the years, Truth has nothing to fear from open and honest investigation. I am fully willing to have every word of mine available to the public for intense scrutiny, and I am glad that David feels the same. I will be looking forward to seeing those links on his web page. I believe many will benefit from our dialogue.

David wrote, "The gist that I get is that you are saying, 'I'm just like you (me, the Baptist)' in a lot of ways. It seems that you are in agreement with me on many issues that I register opposition to in my article." I am sure that you and I share similar convictions in many areas, David. It is obvious we both have a love for the Lord, and seek to spend our lives serving Him to the best of our ability and understanding. It appears we both have a zeal for writing, and also for sharing our insights with others. We undoubtedly both want to better perceive God's Will and His inspired Word. In these ways I imagine I am like you.

I also, like you, feel compelled to stand boldly against what I perceive to be teachings and practices opposed to Truth. There is no place for "wimps" in the Lord's army, and I have been known to be somewhat outspoken and blunt in my assault on falsehood. I believe one can quickly cross over the line, however, and become CONTENTIOUS in his/her CONTENDING for the faith. I pray for boldness, but not coldness, in my dealings with those in need of perceiving the Word more accurately.

Yes, David, some of what troubles you (as declared in your article about "Campbellites") also troubles me. On the other hand, some of YOUR teaching troubles me as well. I am certainly NOT willing to declare myself in complete agreement with you on all matters, because I think you have gravely misunderstood some of God's Will for His people, as well as misunderstanding the group known as churches of Christ. I pray we will have an opportunity to discuss some of those areas in the course of our dialogue. Then again, there are indeed certain religious abuses which you and I both deplore. With regard to THESE, we are in agreement.

By the way, I again commend you for the improvement of your tone in your posts. You have yet to refer to me as a "Campbellite." I regard that as a step forward. You and I both know that such a term is purely inflammatory and designed to accomplish only one purpose: to offend. We need to rise above such a temptation to lower ourselves to the tactics of the world about us. I thank you for seeking to avoid such caustic characterizations in our dialogue. I shall seek to do the same. I only regret that you felt the need to use them previously.

David observed, "It seems that you" believe "that I have made the mistake of thinking that ALL church of Christ congregations STILL believe the way they used to way back in the 50's because of a FEW congregations within your circle that still do." David, I think your mistake is even greater than this. Regardless of the time period, one can never judge the whole by the actions or beliefs of the few. The churches of Christ were just as diverse in the 50's as they are today. That is because they have always been an independent and autonomous grouping of distinct congregations with no human authority higher than the leadership of the local congregation.

Just as the seven congregations in Asia Minor (Revelation 2-3) reflected the times and locations in which they existed, so also do congregations reflect to some degree the times and locations in which they exist today. The 50's was an interesting decade in our history, and the mindsets that existed in various parts of our nation can be perceived in certain congregations during that time. For example, there were congregations in the South where black men and women were excluded (it was thought they would be happier among their "own kind"). This was a godless misrepresentation of Christian behavior, but it did indeed reflect the times. You will find very few congregations today who hold that same belief and practice. People have indeed evolved in their understanding of certain Christian principles.

In other ways, the churches of Christ of the 50's, and even prior decades, had some very positive characteristics. It was a time when secular entertainment had not yet evolved to the point it has today, and community activities seemed far more focused on the home and the church. The members of the churches of Christ were well-known at that time as a "people of the Book," and were very knowledgeable in the Word. I think many have lost that focus today (in almost all religious groups) due to the many, and ever increasing, distractions of the world.

On the other hand, there was a greater perception among some of the members of the churches of Christ in previous generations that they were the ONLY ones "going to heaven," the ONLY ones saved. There was an arrogance that became the focus of jokes and criticisms of this group at that time (some of which carries over in caustic remarks against our group even to this day). However, that perception among us has greatly diminished over the decades, for which I am thankful.

David wrote, "From what you have said, MOST of the 'CoC' folks have been more enlightened in recent years and seen the errors of the 'old-time' CoC. Am I correct? If so, can I expect that you will stand without apology against the 'old-time' CoC ways and teachings that are in error?" I would not phrase it this way at all, David. I think your perception somewhat misses the point. The fact is: people and groups and nations EVOLVE. The church today is certainly not exactly as it was in the first century. The beauty of the church is its adaptability. It is relevant in any culture, among any people (primitive or modern), and at any time. TRUTH remains constant, but the people of God can portray that Truth in their lives and teachings in any number of ways. The church is not frozen in first century perception and practice; the church evolves .... It is TRUTH that is timeless and changeless.

Are the members of the churches of Christ "more enlightened" than in times past? I doubt that they are any more or less enlightened than they have always been. Truth is available to every generation, and always has been, and has been either received or rejected in each generation. There are positive as well as negative aspects of each generation of disciples. My goal is to accentuate the former and help us grow out of the latter. Are there attitudes of my forefathers in my religious heritage that I believe were inappropriate? Yes. And in my teaching I seek to help people turn from them. Are there attitudes of my forefathers in my religious heritage that I believe are honorable and godly? Absolutely. And I pray that we can continue to reflect such godliness in future generations.

In short, David, I am unwilling to "trash" any generation of disciples. Each generation has had its strengths as well as its weaknesses. Each religious group has good points and bad points. Rather than trash a group, or a period of time, let's simply hold up Christ and Truth and call all men to rally to these eternal positives. God is glorified NOT when we seek to put others down, but when we all seek to lift HIM up!!! Wouldn't you agree, David?

Yes, let's speak out boldly against every false way, but if we spend all our time preaching against falsehood, that leaves no time to proclaim Truth. I think the best way to thwart the incursion of darkness into the lives of people and societies is NOT to curse the darkness, but to hold high the LIGHT. Bashing Baptists, Maligning Methodists, and Cursing Campbellites is fruitless. Why not rather Glorify God and Lift up the Lord?!! Teach Truth!! Falsehood will be left behind in the wake of the forward progress of Truth.

Do I "stand without apology against the 'old-time' CoC ways and teachings that are in error?" David, I "stand without apology" against ANY ways and teachings that are in error .... including your own!! Yes, I will speak out against them and expose them to the light of the Word. But, trashing others because they differ with me is NOT the best method of convicting hearts of error. Patient, loving instruction in TRUTH will win hearts, bashing and cursing those we perceive to be in error will only calcify them in their resolve to oppose us.

David asked, "I am curious to know where MAX LUCADO fits into the Church of Christ landscape? (He dots the landscape of Southern Baptist and other Christian bookstores.)" I have met Max and his family; in fact, they actually came and heard me preach when they were on vacation some years ago in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Max is a talented writer, and has definitely found his "niche" in the Christian Books market. His popularity transcends any one denomination, which has caused him to focus his efforts far more on edification than evangelization. This has troubled some with the churches of Christ, and it has caused Max to be labeled by them as "liberal." The numerous perceptions about Max, as well as other noted persons in our fellowship, vary greatly. Some love him, some hate him. There is no "official" Church of Christ perception of Max Lucado. Where he is placed on "the Church of Christ landscape" will be determined entirely by the one doing the placing. Thus, he would likely end up "all over the map" by the time people got through judging him. The better path is simply to accept him as a beloved brother; a brother with whom we may differ on some points of perception or practice ... but a brother nonetheless. A brother with special talents God is utilizing to reach people that most of us would never have opportunity to reach.

I appreciate your prompt replies, David, and look forward to our continued dialogue.

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