Issue #220 -------
November 11, 2005
The trust of the people in the leaders reflects
the confidence of the leaders in the people.
Paulo Freire (1921-1997)
"Pedagogy of the Oppressed"
Alexandre Ledru-Rollin (1807-1864), a noted leader in the French revolution, once stated sarcastically, "There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader." We laugh at such a ludicrous statement, but oftentimes employ this very model of leadership ourselves. It is unworkable! Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) once wisely declared, "A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus." Men and women who "lead" by "going with the flow" of popular opinion are not leaders, but the led. I'm reminded of the little dog who pranced proudly in front of his owners on their daily walk; seemingly leading the way. He would stop at each corner to see which way his owners would go, and then once again resume his position in front of them. He thought he was leading, but in reality he was merely following out in front.
A leader will always be greatly limited, however, by the degree of willingness of those whom he or she presumes to lead to actually follow that lead, and God help the fool who attempts to lead when he or she is not gifted with true leadership ability. Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) wrote, "Woe to him that claims obedience when it is not due." The apostle Paul informs us that leadership in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ is a gift given to particular disciples (Rom. 12:6-8). God never intended for all members of the body to be leaders, "but placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired" (1 Cor. 12:18). Yes, "there are varieties of gifts" and "varieties of ministries" in the church (1 Cor. 12:4-5); leadership is merely one of many. Therefore, it is not overstating the matter to declare that leaders in the church must be called to this ministry, and that calling must come from the Lord, not from man. The elders of the church, for example, are divinely ordained. Paul told the shepherds of the church in Ephesus that "the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God" (Acts 20:28). Mere men may presume to name someone a shepherd of the flock, and quite often do, but only the Spirit can actually make someone a shepherd of the flock, and the distinction is tremendous, as are the consequences to the flock if the former scenario exists without the latter reality.
The fact that men frequently do appoint such disciples as elders, men whom the Spirit of God has not gifted with the qualities and characteristics necessary to competent spiritual leadership, necessitates some means of rectifying this situation when the limitations of these men become apparent ... and such limitations will, in time, become apparent as these men fail to rise to the task set before them. How does a congregation evaluate these men to determine their competency? Do they even have a right or obligation to do so? If an elder needs to be removed for some reason, how is this accomplished? And by whom? Should the elders themselves agree to submit to periodic review for the purpose of affirming their leadership? If so, by whom is this review conducted, and by what authority? If the review is less than favorable, what happens then? May shepherds of the flock be voted in and out in some form of democratic process? Some condemn the Baptists for voting members in or out, but is this truly any different? Would this constitute a politicizing of the body of Christ? Would this lead to men "running for office" in the church, and thereafter seeking desperately to "appease their constituents" so as to survive the periodic reelection, reevaluation, and/or reaffirmation process? Might this lead to a periodic purging of those elders who do not satisfy the whims of whiners and murmurings of malcontents within the congregation? Brethren, these are serious questions, with some potentially serious consequences, which the church needs to reflect upon carefully and prayerfully.
There is a growing movement within many congregations of the Churches of Christ whereby the elders are made to submit themselves, on a regular, prescheduled basis, for evaluation and review by the members of the congregations they shepherd. Although the particulars of this process vary from place to place, the members essentially are provided the opportunity to cast out any man who does not suit them. This practice of evaluation, for the intended purpose of the removal or affirmation of a congregation's elders, is causing some grave concern on the part of some within Churches of Christ. Some elders, fearful of being "voted out," are actually spending time in seeking to coddle caustic, critical members so as to retain their "office." In so doing, some are actually compromising their care and leadership of God's flock. This has led many elderships to the conviction that such a process of periodic review within a congregation is not a wise course to follow. Others are suggesting quite strongly that it may not even be a Scriptural course to follow. A few leaders in the church are further charging those congregations who employ such a process with having embraced "false doctrine," and they are calling upon them to repent. They characterize such "policing of pastors" as little more than an attempt by self-willed members to "accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires" (2 Tim. 4:3).
In the October, 2005 issue of Contending For The Faith, for example, David P. Brown (who is both the Editor and the Publisher, and also a Reflections subscriber) dealt with this very issue in his Editorial. David was specifically concerned with the actions of the elders at the Brown Trail Church of Christ in Bedford, Texas. They had apparently made the decision to submit themselves to an evaluation and reaffirmation process a few years back. They have since regretted that decision, as it led to some problems within the congregation. Therefore, they wrote a letter of apology to the congregation admitting their mistake, saying, "We are sorry that wrongs were committed and people were hurt!" They also declared, "The present elders have determined that so long as they are the overseers of the Brown Trail congregation such actions will never be conducted again. It is not our belief ... that congregations should conduct periodic affirmation/evaluation of the eldership in view of dismissing some or all of the elders. We do not believe that such is in accord with the Scriptures."
Although David Brown, in his editorial, questions the genuineness of their "repentance," finding what he believes to be glaring inconsistencies in their letter to the congregation, nevertheless he agrees wholeheartedly with their statement in that letter that such a practice is not in accord with the teaching of Scripture. Indeed, he characterizes it as "sin" and "false doctrine." Near the end of his article, Brown declares, "The sin-problem with the re-evaluation and reaffirmation of elders ... is that it violates the authorization of the New Testament, which delegated authority belongs only to faithful elders." He then goes on to charge that these elders, by allowing such a process of evaluation, "placed authority into the hands of the church, which authority God only put into the hands of qualified and faithful elders." Thus, this is a false doctrine that "placed into the hands of the congregation authority that God does not, in the last Will and Testament of His Son, authorize it to possess."
To aid me in my research into this practice, about which I had previously not given much thought, I sent out a written appeal to you, the readers of these Reflections. Since you represent such a great cross-section of the brotherhood the world over, I was genuinely interested in your perspective. You did not disappoint me. As in the past, you flooded my mailbox with hundreds of responses. Obviously, I could not personally respond in any depth to each one, thus I pray you will all forgive the rather brief expression of gratitude that I used to acknowledge receipt of your comments. I can assure you that each one was read, printed out, and read again. Some of those comments and insights will be shared in the course of this current study (anonymously, of course).
Term Limits for Elders
Your responses were virtually unanimous in recognizing that there needed to be some recourse for congregations faced with the sad reality of one or more elders who were simply not qualified to serve in that position. Is there any way to remove such men, or are they (like the Pope and U.S. Supreme Court justices) elders for the remainder of their lives? Various solutions have been sought to this dilemma, some of which are quite creative. The variety of these "solutions" is largely due to the fact that some in the church are under the impression that the New Covenant writings are silent with regard to this matter. A reader in Indiana wrote, "The Bible does not give specifics for the questions you brought up." Another reader spoke of "the absence of Scriptural guidance" regarding this matter. A preacher in New Mexico stated, "There is as little about how long an elder should serve as there is about selecting him." A preacher in Texas felt that "congregational autonomy should be the rule in light of the biblical silence." As for a Scriptural basis for removing an elder? -- "I think the Lord has left some things to community wisdom," writes an elder in Texas.
There is absolutely no arguing with the fact that we do not always give sufficient credit to the members of the congregation. There is tremendous wisdom to be found there (as well as almost inconceivable ignorance). Obviously, one must be somewhat discerning and selective when seeking advice. Tapping into this vast resource, some congregations, as previously noted, have devised some interesting ways of trying to address this problem of ineffective or unqualified elders. One of those solutions is to limit or restrict the length of time an elder serves the congregation. These are known as "term limits," and they are generally set at 3 years (although in some cases they are less, 1-2 years, in other cases they are more, up to 5 years). An elder knows going in that in a rather short time he is out again! This is believed not only to prevent elder "burnout," but also provides a way for a man who proves to be ineffective in his leadership to be removed without a "fuss" or any personal embarrassment to him. If a man is inept as a shepherd of the flock, the congregation just "hunkers down and waits it out." In due time his term is up and he's gone. Problem solved!
I must admit that I was rather surprised at the number of congregations employing this methodology. It seems to be a popular trend. A reader in Georgia reasoned, "I think if more men knew that serving as an elder was not going to be a 'life sentence,' they might be more willing to serve." In one large southern Texas congregation "elders are selected for a three year term. There are six elders with staggered terms, so every couple of years a couple of elders leave and then two new elders are selected." Another large congregation in Texas employs much the same method: "We have staggered rotating terms of service for elders, presently with seven elders serving five-year terms. Each year or two the church nominates men to replace the one or two elders rotating out. Those who rotate out must remain out for at least one year, then they may be re-elected to active service. Those who are not in active service do not attend the meetings, but they continue serving in an unofficial pastoral function as encouragers, mentors, teachers and examples to the church." A preacher in Oklahoma agrees -- "I believe elders should be appointed for a set period of time (perhaps 3 years), then take a sabbatical for a year, then come back if both he and the congregation want him back."
Although I love these brethren dearly, and have nothing but the utmost respect for them, nevertheless I am compelled by my convictions to say that I have a serious problem with the above concept of "term limits" for shepherds of the Lord's flock. Yes, I can understand why these congregations have opted for this practice, and I can even agree that, strictly based on following a "corporate model," it may be of value to a "board of directors" in some ways. The church is not a corporation, however; elders are not a board of directors. We are family, and I see no precedent for term limits on spiritual leadership in either the physical or spiritual family! Indeed, as competent shepherds grow more experienced, and as godly wisdom increases within these good shepherds, they become increasingly important to the proper care and guidance of the flock. Should a man who is effectively leading the flock of God, providing spiritual nourishment to His people, be set aside simply because some humanly devised "term of office" has expired? Did the apostles have fixed terms? What about the evangelists in the early church? Perhaps each of the members should serve within their congregations "3-on, 1-off" to avoid burnout ... although, from what I've seen in most congregations, far too many of the members are already on extended "sabbaticals" from active service. Brethren, there are no reservists or retirees in the army of the Lord. You are either serving on active duty, or you are a deserter!!
Serving as a spiritual leader in the Body of Christ is a calling of God. Shepherds are made by the Holy Spirit. What possible right does any man have to set "term limits" on those individuals the Holy Spirit has made, and the Father has called, to serve as shepherds of the flock? I am not able to find anywhere in Scripture, either OT or NT, where "term limits" were imposed on those God called to lead His people. If I've somehow missed these passages, please enlighten me. Did Moses step aside three years after leading the people into the wilderness? Some wanted him to, but God wiped those people out. How effective would Isaiah or Jeremiah or the apostle John have been if forced to step aside and take "sabbaticals" from leading the people of God? Again, some wanted them to, but these men called of God remained faithful to their spiritual summons from above. Brethren, I fear we have allowed the "corporate model" to infest the church, and we are not spiritually improved or benefited thereby.
A preacher in New Mexico wrote, "As long as elders are willing to continue teaching and shepherding, and the congregation continues to respect them as effective teachers and leaders, they should continue to serve." Another reader observes, "If any elder is actually doing the work of an elder, he would, at all times, be a great asset, as well as greatly appreciated." An author and evangelist from Arizona said, "As long as a shepherd is able to exercise his gift of leadership, and he does so competently, wisely, and humbly, he will always be a shepherd. If God has gifted a man to shepherd His sheep, only God can 'unshepherd' him." A reader in Texas wrote, "I don't know how one 'resigns' from serving one's fellow Christians as a shepherd, if the Holy Spirit had anything to do with his selection." In other words, how does one stop being what God made him to be?! And by what authority does any man insist that they step aside from providing the service to the One Body that the Lord Himself called them to accomplish? Another reader in Texas stated, "I believe elders are chosen by the Spirit, and I once told a close friend who had resigned as an elder due to health reasons that God probably didn't recognize his resignation." A minister in Oklahoma observed, "A man may serve as long as he is Scripturally qualified and is actually doing the work. When he ceases to do the work, he ceases to be qualified." A reader in North Carolina said, "As for elders being in for life, that depends upon their still being able to serve in their position. I know many men who are fit both physically and mentally well into their 80's and 90's. Certainly, God never set an age limit on service to Him!" Nor has our God ever set term limits on service to Him, especially when that service is ordained by the Holy Spirit Himself.
Evaluation & Affirmation of Elders
Another methodology that is becoming increasingly popular, and which elicited the criticism of David Brown in his editorial in the most recent issue of Contending For The Faith, is the process whereby the members of the congregation periodically evaluate the performance and personal qualities of the elders, and then have an "up or down" vote on their fitness to remain in that "office." If an elder does not receive a predetermined percentage of the congregation's votes (usually around 75%), then he is "removed from office." This process is especially attractive to some members, who view it as their opportunity to be forever "rid of" those men they believe should not be leading the congregation. Unfortunately, this often becomes a methodology for malcontents to manipulate other members for the purpose of eliminating those leaders who will not submit to their whims. Such a process, therefore, has the potential for tremendous abuse by those who would use it as a tool to try and impose their will upon a congregation. In so doing, the scene is set for self-willed men to remove shepherds the Holy Spirit has set in place. Contrary to popular opinion, the Lord's church is not a democracy! No particular group of human beings, no matter how "well-intentioned," has the right to overturn the will of God by a majority vote!!
Others suggest this is not the purpose of the evaluation and affirmation process. Rather, it is a safeguard against abuse on the part of elders, and provides a viable recourse to the congregation for the removal of unfit shepherds. After all, doesn't Ezekiel 34 speak of "false shepherds" of God's flock? And wouldn't God expect something to be done about these worthless leaders? The answer, of course, is a resounding YES! However, our God is NOT silent as to the process whereby His people are to deal with such false shepherds of the flock, or those who may, for whatever reason, be unfit to serve. That process is NOT for the members of the congregation to periodically review and vote upon their leaders! An elder in Missouri wrote, "Personally, I don't feel this is proper. This is worldly and does not seem to have any kind of precedent in Scripture, as far as I have been able to see." Another reader feared that such up or down voting smacks of "politics" in the church. He wrote, "It is possible for reaffirmations to be used as referendums on the direction of the congregation and styles of worship rather than the spiritual character and behavior of the elders. It is sometimes necessary for elders to do what's right, rather than worry about public opinion, and reaffirmation in some congregations makes that problematic." A minister from Texas said he was in a discussion recently with quite a few other gospel preachers, and this process of affirmation was the topic they were all examining. "Not surprisingly, there were some strong feelings on this issue, especially because some see 'elder reaffirmation' as a tool of 'liberals' to facilitate taking over congregations."
The more I reflect on this process, the more convicted I am becoming (and this is just my personal conviction; I would never impose it upon others as law, or as a test of fellowship or condition of salvation) that this methodology is probably not the wisest course to pursue. Yes, there needs to be a means whereby unfit shepherds can be evaluated and, if need be, removed. There also needs to be a way for an eldership to know if they have the support of the flock. I do not believe, however, that the reaffirmation process is the way to accomplish these goals. No, the NT writings do not specifically condemn it, thus neither shall I, but I believe they provide a better way! After all, think about it -- an eldership that must rely upon a periodic balloting process to determine if they have the confidence of the members of the congregation, is a group of shepherds completely out of touch with their flock. A good shepherd KNOWS his flock, and they know him! Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, said, "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own, and My own know Me" (John 10:14). Should His under-shepherds be any less intimately involved in the lives of the flock?! If one knows the sheep of the flock, then one knows if they have confidence in him or not. This is not a great mystery that is cleared up every 3-5 years when the congregation goes to the polls. Thus, a periodic casting of ballots becomes unnecessary; indeed, it is truly an affront to the intimate relationship enjoyed between sheep and shepherd. Conversely, if a shepherd does NOT have the respect and confidence of the flock, then that will become obvious long before the need for a vote. In such cases, the Lord has already spoken as to what must be done (which we shall soon examine).
Therefore, I see absolutely no need for a periodic process of congregational evaluation and reaffirmation of elders. In reality, that process is ongoing; it occurs daily as the sheep interact with the shepherds. When problems arise, the Lord has spoken as to how to deal with them. The ONLY possible justification I can conceive of for an eldership initiating such a process leading to an up or down vote of affirmation would perhaps be as a tool for silencing the voice of dissent in the congregation. We are all aware that every congregation has its committed cadre of critics and malcontents. They are usually quite vocal. Whenever they criticize they can almost always be counted upon to refer to that great host of unknown supporters that they "are not at liberty to name." They will make it sound like their own sullen discontent is embraced by hordes within the congregation. Sometimes the only way to silence such people, short of disfellowshipping them (which, frankly, needs to be employed far more than we typically do), is to allow the congregation to "give voice" to their support of the elders and their direction for the congregation. When the "vast number" of these critics is thereby exposed as being only the murmurings of a few, that exposure before all the flock is often sufficient to silence these critics ... at least temporarily. If such self-willed troublers of the church persist, however, a more permanent solution will need to be sought, and, again, the Lord has provided for that in Scripture.
What Sayeth the Scriptures?
Term limits for shepherds, and casting ballots to affirm or dismiss shepherds, may have the support of the corporate world, but do they have a place in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ? It is my conviction that they do NOT. So how is a shepherd to know if he has the trust and support of the sheep? Simple -- By knowing the sheep intimately. But what is to be done when a man has been placed in a position for which he is unfit, and to which the Spirit never called him? And, yes, it does happen. How is this shepherd to be dealt with so that he causes no harm to the flock? Have the New Testament writings spoken to this problem? Yes, they have.
FIRST --- Acts 20:28-31. The first line of defense is the eldership itself. That is why there is to be a plurality. They are to be watchmen of one another, not only watchmen of the flock. If one of them begins to drift from his spiritual calling, the others are to rein him back in. If he refuses, he is to be removed by the other elders. After all, they are the guardians of the flock; they are to resist and oppose that which threatens the flock; if that should be one of their own number, they must be the first line of defense for their flock. The apostle Paul urged the elders from Ephesus, as they met with him in Miletus, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock" (vs. 28). Why? Because "from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them" (vs. 30). I believe Paul is, at least in part, warning these shepherds that some of them may fall victim to the spirit of Diotrephes (3 John 9-11), or a spirit of immorality, and that the others are to be alert to this possibility and take action if/when it occurs. If there is grievous sin in the life of one of the elders, or if he is unfit to serve for some legitimate reason, the other elders should not wait until the "3-year reaffirmation vote" to deal with the problem. If that is their "solution" to the problem before them, then they are equally culpable, and they are equally unfit to lead. Good shepherds will deal with any threat to the sheep, and they will deal with it immediately, even if it comes from one of their own fellow shepherds. Good shepherds don't wait for the sheep to handle the problem for them.
SECOND --- 1 Timothy 5:19-20. A great many of the readers responded by citing this passage as the "better way" to deal with an elder who has become unfit for further service. Although some implied the Scriptures provided no guidance, many of you recognized in this passage a definite source of spiritual guidance. Paul instructed Timothy, "Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also may be fearful of sinning." I believe there is a caution given here, though --- "Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thus share responsibility for the sins of others" (vs. 22). Some see this latter verse as a caution against selecting a man to serve as an elder too hastily. That is certainly a possible interpretation. More likely, however, given the context, is that it refers back to the previous verses in which accusations against elders and possible rebuke of and removal of an elder may be necessary. This is NOT to be done rashly, or without reputable witnesses to the alleged sin, or without sufficient investigation. We all know that every shepherd has his critics; those who would love to see him removed or ruined. If Timothy isn't careful, he could fall victim to their schemes and thus "lay hands on" a good man who is the object of malicious murmuring. In acting too hastily, Timothy would share the sin of these malcontents.
The point of the passage, however, is that a congregation of believers DOES have recourse when an elder has abused his position, or if he is unfit to serve for some reason. If the other elders do not rise to meet their responsibility in the matter, then concerned members of the flock may appeal to those recognized as leaders in the local community of faith (some scholars, by the way, feel Timothy was one of the elders in Ephesus), bringing confirmation of the accusations, and thus seek relief. Again, it is to be the spiritual leaders that take this action of confronting the elder in question; they are the ones responsible for rebuking, and if necessary, removing the elder. There is no congregational vote taken every three years. Instead, when a problem exists, the problem is confronted. It should be done by the elders themselves. If for some reason they don't (perhaps, in their defense, they may not be aware of the problem), then a group of responsible members are to go to one of them, or to the evangelist (which Timothy also was), and submit the concern, with proper validation, for their attention.
An elder in Missouri wrote, "If a man is no longer qualified, or is no longer desirous of the work, or is no longer 'doing the work,' he should step down on his own, or, barring that voluntary act, should be asked by the other elders to step down." Again, this correctly places the responsibility first of all upon the elder himself to recognize his deficiency and act responsibly for the good of the flock, or, if he is unwilling, for the other elders to take the necessary action for the good of the flock. This elder gives this insight about the eldership in which he serves: "As an eldership we have committed to one another and to the flock that we will be the watchers, and if one of us steps out of line, so to speak, we will work together to do whatever is needed -- up to and including asking one of us to step down. Our relationship together as elders has been such that we feel this will work in our case. We work well together, and have prayed, cried, laughed, sweated, fasted and suffered together so much already, that this being alert to one another will work." I firmly believe that this is essential to an eldership. They must agree to be so intimately involved with one another, and so open and honest with one another, that they can be genuine "watchmen" of one another. If this is discussed ahead of time, and if any action is taken in love, they will be more likely to be receptive to any necessary correction.
A reader in Florida said, "Any elder with half a brain and a servant's heart should know when to resign." Unfortunately, not all elders have those qualities, and yet they were appointed anyway. Thus, there needs to be a way to approach such persons. I believe the above is a far better approach than term limits or periodic votes of confidence. A reader in North Carolina wrote, "If a man is no longer 'fit to serve as an Elder,' it is hoped he would realize so and step down. If he refuses, then the ELDERS, not the congregation, should step in and request that he step down." Frankly, if elders are the kind of men they should be, and if they are serving as they should serve, there will be no need for congregational affirmations on a periodic basis. A reader in the state of Alabama wrote, "We have never had a reaffirmation process for our elders. We have worshipped at this congregation for almost ten years and have been blessed to have godly, spiritual shepherds. I don't believe there has ever been a time where a reaffirmation process was needed."
THIRD --- Matthew 18:15-18. A reader in the great state of Pennsylvania stated he believed that this passage "applies here as well as in other situations." I believe this may be the recourse available within those congregations where the above two lines of defense break down. If trying to bring a satisfactory outcome to the problem by going to the leaders involved fails, then the church as a whole may need to step up and fill the leadership void of those unwilling to deal responsibly with the problem. This, of course, would be a "last resort," and it is hoped would never be necessary, but if it should prove to be, it is there to be utilized. This may indeed, at this point, require a vocal or visible consensus of the members of the congregation to deal with a serious problem in the leadership, one which the leaders refuse to confront. If this point is ever reached in a congregation, that congregation has had serious problems for some time, primarily in incompetent leadership. Thus, the solution will most certainly prove extremely painful for all, and it will take the group some time to recover. That is why steps one and two are so critical. Indeed, that is why it is so vital that the right men be recognized as shepherds to begin with!! But, we will address that issue in the very next Reflections.
An elder in Florida, and a good friend, wrote, "Al, when I first read your request of the readers, I said, 'uh oh, another can of worms.' But, I know you will treat this subject with much thought, prayer, and a concern for the brotherhood." I pray that I have done just that. This is, admittedly, a difficult topic to discuss, and one that can cause an emotional response from those of differing perspectives and practices. I realize that by stating my own convictions on these matters that I run the risk of troubling, perhaps even offending, some people whose love and friendship I cherish deeply. It is not my intent to hurt anyone, but merely to declare in love my convictions based upon my study of the Word of God. I pray this article will be received in the same spirit with which it was written.
I love the blood-bought bride of Christ. I love each of you who are part of that universal body of believers, even those of you who may differ with my preferences, perceptions and personal convictions. I feel strongly about my beliefs, and tend to speak them boldly, but I respect your right to differ, and will not elevate my own views to the level of divine law, nor will I ever sever fellowship with, or condemn to hell, those who have arrived at differing convictions. You are all still my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I hope you regard me as being the same. If I think you are wrong, I will tell you, but I pray it will always be done in love. I have attempted to do that in this article. May God's grace be upon each of you!
From a Reader in Florida:
Dear Al, Enclosed is a check for an autographed copy of your book Down, But Not Out, and also for your two Reflections CD's (2003 and 2004). Hopefully in the future you will be making available a CD of the 2005 Reflections articles -- and CD's for subsequent years too!! These will be enjoyed and used -- now and in coming years! Your Reflections archives are to me like a candy store is to a child!
From a Minister in Australia:
Bro. Al, I have heard it stated by many that the Churches of Christ in Australia will disappear within 10 years. I feel like I am standing alone sometimes in my concern. Keep sending out the message with power. I love to read your Reflections. Let me know if there is some way I can assist over here.
From a Reader in Georgia:
Al, Thank you for your excellent work on 1 Peter 3:21. As always, I am challenged by your thoughtful insights. I have learned so much from your Reflections ministry. Since I have been freed from the legal restraints of typical Church of Christ doctrine, I am truly a changed person. I see so much more of the beauty in people and feel so much more at peace with the world and our Lord. I know this may sound strange, but my acceptance of the real gospel (grace through faith) and the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ (active, loving life lived toward God and men) has created a greater challenge than "keeping the form." At the same time, I consider myself a work in progress, and I love every minute of it!! Al, the Spirit of God certainly led me to you, and, in so doing, my prayers were answered. As imperfect men, we are always challenged to help one another grow in faith. Again, you have helped us so much. Thank you for caring so deeply for your brothers and sisters, and for a lost world of precious people beloved of God. Give our love to Shelly.
From a Reader in Texas:
Brother Al, Does Scripture demand a plurality of elders? If the qualifications of an elder are individual in nature and do not constitute a "-ship" of elders, then what Scriptural basis demands an "eldership" in the church? I appreciate your Reflections and need some more on this issue.
From a Minister in California:
Bro. Maxey, The first time that I talked to you (less than a year ago), I asked you about 1 Cor. 11 and the "Head Covering for Women" issue. You said that you'd "get back to me on this," or that you might do a Reflections article on it. The Reflections article that you devoted to this issue is outstanding, as are all of your writings. The special issue that you did on Rosa Parks was superb (I don't want to use "outstanding" again). Edward Fudge briefly mentioned her in one of his gracEmails, and he referred his readers to your Reflections issue that you did. Great job by both of you. I have more to say, but I'll call you on the phone. God bless you, and keep up the great work. Keep the faith.
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