by Al Maxey

Issue #249 ------- May 15, 2006
Govern thy Life and Thoughts as
if the whole World were to see
the one and read the other.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734)

Thirty Years on the Firing Line
Reflecting on Three Decades of Service
May, 1976 - May, 2006

Bro. G. C. Brewer (1884-1956), who was easily, and without argument, one of the most prolific writers and highly respected thinkers of the Stone-Campbell Movement, once penned a fascinating book with the riveting title "Forty Years on the Firing Line." I have always had a tremendous respect for Bro. Brewer, although, regrettably, I never had the opportunity to meet him in person -- I was only seven years old when he passed from this life. Nevertheless, while in college and graduate school, and during the years of my own personal ministry, I often sought counsel and encouragement from his writings. I certainly do not agree with some of his teachings, but that in no way whatsoever diminishes my tremendous respect for him as a devoted disciple of Christ Jesus. I admire his courage of conviction, and also his willingness to stand boldly for his perception of God's eternal Truth. We need more men like Grover Cleveland Brewer in the Lord's church today!

Bro. G. C. Brewer and I are blood brethren in two senses of that phrase. Having both been redeemed by the blood of God's beloved Son, we are brethren in the family of our heavenly Father. But he and I are further bound by the blood of common ancestors. We are both descended from Radford and Elizabeth Maxey of Virginia, he by their son John Maxey, and I by their son William Maxey. Brother G. C. Brewer's mother, Virginia Maxey, married Hiram Brewer on November 27, 1879 in the state of Tennessee. Grover Cleveland Brewer was born just five years later. My birth into this good southern family would be considerably later, not taking place until the year 1949, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Although I had the unbelievable "misfortune" of being born outside the hallowed borders of the great state of Texas, I still managed to make my paternal family proud (who are all Texan, tried and true) by entering this world on March 2nd, which is Texas Independence Day.

Another blood-relative to us both was Gen. Samuel Bell Maxey (who was my great-great-great-great uncle). He served as a Confederate General, and had the rare distinction of being Gen. Stonewall Jackson's roommate at West Point (where they were in the same graduating class). After the Civil War had ended, he was pardoned by yet another classmate, then United States President Ulysses S. Grant, and went on to serve for twelve years as the first United States Senator from Texas after that state was readmitted to the Union. The Maxey plantation in Paris, Texas is now a well-known State Historic Site. In 1971 it was listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

But, I digress. Therefore, I shall bring my genealogical ramblings to a merciful (for the reader) conclusion. Similar to the title of Bro. Brewer's book, I have titled this issue of my weekly Reflections: "Thirty Years on the Firing Line." Thirty years ago this month, following the completion of my Master's Degree from Eastern New Mexico University, I began serving the Father in full-time ministry. It has been a wonderful journey through life thus far, and I sincerely pray He will give me many more years of effective service in His kingdom. However, should He choose to bring this journey to a close in the near future, I shall offer no objection or complaint. He has blessed me well beyond anything I expected or deserved, and I consider myself privileged to have served Him this long. As Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) observed in his work The Transformations of Man, "Life at its fullest and best is divine service."

I have never been one, as my family and loved ones will quickly attest, to seek out the path of least resistance in life. Drifting on the tide, going with the flow, never appealed to me; I prefer swimming against the current. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) captured my focus quite well when he expressed his own journey this way: "My life is like a stroll upon the beach, as near to the ocean's edge as I can go." Unlike Thoreau, however, I often dared to wade into deeper waters. "Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful." So said George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). I concur completely! "Life was meant to be lived," Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) declared in her Autobiography, and those who do so successfully, making a difference in the lives of others, must do so with conviction and courage. The voyage to that distant shore, with the prospect of having to weather the many storms of life that loom ahead just beyond the far horizon, is not for the faint-hearted seaman! Nor is it for the "cocky sailor" who feels he can cross the vast expanse of the restless ocean without the guidance and protection of the "Master of the Sea!" Launching out into the great unknown can be both harrowing and humbling, but the safe harbor is assured to all those who sail with the Captain of our salvation!

It's Okay To Be Different

Brethren, if you are going to serve successfully aboard the Lord's ship (His church), you need to learn one lesson very quickly: your fellow crew members are a diverse bunch of sailors!! Many are as different in temperament and talent as night and day, but we serve aboard the same vessel, under the command of the same Captain, and we serve with singleness of purpose: to reach the far shore, helping our shipmates, and others adrift at sea, to do the same! Indeed, it is our diversity that truly makes us strong and a functioning crew. Like a human body, when each part functions properly, according to its individual design and purpose, the body is able to achieve its goals. In the church of our Lord Jesus there is Unity in Diversity. It is not only okay to be different in countless ways, it is actually beneficial. We are diverse by divine design (1 Cor. 12; Rom. 12; Eph. 4). Thus, we should celebrate this diversity, not condemn it.

We don't have to be alike to serve aboard the same ship. To phrase it differently: we don't have to be in perfect agreement to be in perfect harmony in One Body. I have brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus who sing heartfelt praises to God with musical accompaniment, and brethren who sing a cappella. I have family members who choose to drink from one cup, and those who drink from individual cups as they remember the shed blood of our Lord in His memorial meal. Some of my spiritual siblings support homes for orphans and the aged, read modern versions of the Bible, attend Sunday School, enjoy a fellowship meal in the church building, and have praise teams. Some do not. And yet, we be brethren! We're on the same ship, brethren ... get used to it!

Know Your Limitations

I served in the U. S. Navy for six years [from 1968 to 1974]. It was a wonderful experience, and I value the lessons learned during those years. Two of those years were spent in Vietnam. I was part of a special combat unit in the Mekong Delta [see Issue #232]. One learns very quickly that there are things one does well, and then there are things one does poorly. I was good with a gun. I was rated an "expert" as a marksman, and could actually breakdown and reassemble an M-16 blindfolded. I was also a very strong swimmer, and was certified in "Jungle Warfare" and "Counterinsurgency," undergoing training with the Navy SEALS in Little Creek, Virginia in 1969 for this certification. My five man team was the only team in the school that managed to evade capture during the month-long SERE (survival, evasion, resistance and escape) training and POW camp run by the Marine Corps, for which we received a special award. Capitalizing upon one's personal strengths, and knowing one's weaknesses and limitations, is vital to survival, and also to accomplishing one's mission. The same is true in the church.

It doesn't take one long to realize that he has certain limitations. There are things I do well; there are things I do not do well. Unfortunately, there is often an expectation on the part of a congregation of believers that their "hired man" should possess a certain expertise in virtually every area of ministry. Even if one is fresh out of school and in his first full-time work, he is still expected to be the epitome of perfection in every area of activity. One of the brotherhood journals did a survey of members several years back on their expectations for the local preacher. The survey showed that they expected him to be about 30 years old with 30 years experience, and, if he met every one of their expectations for his ministry, he would need to put in a 300 hour work week! Hardly realistic. However, as I began my ministry, this was also the impression I was under. I almost destroyed myself in an attempt to be the perfect, master of all areas of ministry, preacher! Two years later, in the summer of 1978, I quit. I wasn't the perfect preacher, and I knew it; thus, I felt I shouldn't be preaching at all. I spent four years as the Executive Director of the Albuquerque Christian Children's Home. This was a 26 acre campus in central New Mexico that cared for children who had been abandoned or abused, and provided counseling for families in crisis. It was a good work, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. During this time I served as a Deacon with the University Church of Christ in Albuquerque, taught a few classes at the University of New Mexico Bible Chair, spoke at several city-wide workshops and youth rallies, and filled in on occasion when the local preacher (who was Ancil Jenkins) was out of town. Ancil's wife, Elaine, was my secretary at the Children's Home.

But, again, I digress! The point is -- not being realistic with my own strengths and weaknesses had almost ended my desire to serve as a minister of the gospel. I had to refocus, and part of that meant coming to grips with my own limitations. There are areas of service in the kingdom for which I am not gifted. Thus, I readily leave those areas to my brothers and sisters who are in possession of those spiritual gifts. I no longer feel guilty for failing to serve in those areas. If God calls you to be an ear in His spiritual body, then be the best ear you can be, and don't stress out over the fact you are not an eye or a nose. You were not called and equipped to be those things, so don't let other members of the body pressure you to be what you are not. "God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired" (1 Cor. 12:18). That is an extremely important lesson that must be learned if one is to be successful in ministry. You are not a "one man show," or, to use a Navy phrase -- you are not a "one man crew." Trying to be will make your voyage through life most unpleasant.

Be Yourself; Don't Fake It

God made you who and what you are, so be the best YOU that you can be. In other words, don't let people pressure you into trying to be who or what you aren't. I decided a good many years ago that in my life and ministry I would be as transparent as was possible (and advisable). With me -- what you see is what you get. You may not like what you see -- and some most certainly don't -- but it's the real me. A nurse told me some years ago, as I was visiting a member in the hospital, "You sure don't act or look like a preacher!" I thanked her!! Based on the common stereotype of preachers, I took that assessment as a compliment. I don't have enough hair to "poof up," and Shelly hates fake eye-lashes, so I guess the church is stuck with us as we are -- just common people, with an uncommon passion to devote our lives to serving our Lord. As a beloved old black preacher once said, "I is what I is."

You Can't Please Everyone

I'll be honest -- it took me a few years to figure this one out! Or maybe I should say: I knew this truth intellectually, but still felt compelled to make the effort. It is a formula for frustration and failure. The reality is: no matter what you do, somebody won't like it. Trying to please everybody will drive you crazy. So, stop trying! Yes, be diplomatic about it; you don't want to go out of your way to antagonize people. However, in the final analysis, you must be faithful to your personal calling from God. Try and be patient and forbearing with those who take exception to your actions and attitudes, but never back down. You serve Him, not them. When this fact finally found a lodging place in my consciousness, it was like a sunrise after a long dark night. I work for the Lord; I work with the Lord's people. The only One I ultimately must please is Him. Yes, I need to do my best to keep my relationships with my brethren on a positive plane, and that can be a challenge at times, but when it comes down to a choice as to what course to follow or action to take, I follow His lead, not theirs. This has troubled some people over the years, but I have never backed down ... and never will. I have a clear vision of the purpose in life for which I believe my God has called me, and I will fulfill it, regardless of the cost to me personally.

My Reflections ministry, in which I have been engaged for almost four years now, is a perfect case in point. There are some who absolutely hate what I am doing; even regarding it as the work of the devil. I have been attacked, criticized, "written up," and have even lost friends over it. Some will no longer fellowship me because they believe I have "abandoned the faith." Does this hurt? Yes, it does! I know the deep hurt that David felt when he wrote, "If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God" (Psalm 55:12-14). I have had people advise me to abandon this ministry, so as to keep certain people "happy" and to keep from "rocking the boat." That would indeed be the easy choice; the pathway of least resistance. But it would be a failure on my part to be faithful to what I truly believe is a genuine calling from God. Failing Him, just to please them, could prove eternally fatal for me. I would rather suffer at their hands here, than suffer at His hands hereafter. "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:19-20). "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

No, you can't please everybody. That is a fact of life. Therefore, you must seek to please God, and trust Him to place you under His protective care as you faithfully serve Him. I know that I have worried my poor parents to death over the years in the choices I have made. They fear for me, as any good parent would for a child who has willingly placed himself in harm's way, but, to their credit, they have encouraged me and supported me every step of the way (even though they didn't always agree with me). I love them dearly for it. My wife and children have done the same, and such loving support has given me courage to live by faith, and by my convictions. Above all, God has been there for me. In 30 years of ministry, I have never been fired or asked to leave a location. Each move has been because God has opened a new door for expanded ministry. As I have grown personally, He places me where I can best serve. The circumstances leading to these moves have been almost miraculous at times, convincing Shelly and me time and again that God is truly guiding our voyage. I believe His hand is upon this Reflections ministry; it would not be as successful as it is otherwise. God, through these weekly thoughts shared with over ten thousand readers worldwide, is truly having an impact upon the lives of countless disciples and congregations. It is making a difference. I am merely a conduit for His power. For me to plug that conduit to please a handful of malcontents would cost me my soul. I have no doubt about that. Thus, I shall continue to provide this conduit until God Himself directs me otherwise. Please pray for me and my family. We need your loving support, as I have no doubt there are difficult days ahead as many of us seek to bring much needed reform.

Rooting vs. Running

One of the major mistakes both ministers and congregations make is too frequently changing preachers. I believe I heard recently that the national average is about every three years. That is too often! Studies by experts in church growth show that a minister doesn't even really begin to have a lasting impact upon his congregation or community until he has been there for at least five years! The credibility factor takes time. In my last three ministries (the two previous congregations, and my current one) I have consciously committed to a long-term relationship. In Santa Fe, New Mexico I spent eight years as the minister there (twice the tenure of any other minister in the history of that congregation, both prior or since), and it was with many tears that we left. We loved it there, and still keep in contact with many of the members, but God opened a door in Hawaii (where I had longed to serve for many, many years). We spent six years with the church in Honolulu (again, the longest tenure of any preacher in their history, both prior or since). When our sons graduated and moved back to the mainland, and got married, and gave us grandchildren that we had not seen, we knew it was time to get closer to family. We prayed about it, and God again threw open a door here in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Next month Shelly and I will begin our ninth year with this fabulous group of believers in the desert southwest. Brother Jim Morrow, with whom I served as an elder here, and who passed away suddenly a few months back, had years ago served this congregation as its minister for a period of 14 years. Thus, I have a ways to go to top that record. Jim was a great man, and I miss him!

My point, though, is that over the years I have learned the value of ministerial longevity. A minister and his family should plant roots and become part of the community. This transient mentality that too many have is not really conducive to growth, either personally or congregationally. "Root, don't Run!" I personally know of ministers who run to another congregation every time a problem arises, or whenever someone in the church confronts them. I know of one preacher who actually went through three congregations in one year. Frankly, such men, in my view, have no concept of what ministry to a local body of believers is all about. If a sailor jumped ship every time the sailing got rough, most ships would drift onto the rocks for lack of a committed crew. Ministers and congregations need to commit to one another, and stand by one another, during fair weather and foul. Ministry is not always smooth sailing with fair winds. I've been on the ocean aboard an aircraft carrier (the USS Kitty Hawk -- I spent 9 months aboard this ship with an A-6 squadron, visiting ports like Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, etc.) during a major storm when waves were breaking over our bow (which was 60' above the surface of the sea). It can be unnerving; but you ride out the storm; the crew pulls together; you get through it. A successful voyage requires that degree of commitment to the mission. It is no less true for the church!

Not Everyone Appreciates Truth

One of the most difficult lessons I have learned over the years, and one that troubles me still, is that not everyone in the church truly appreciates Truth. I know! That sounds shocking, and one's first reaction is to deny such a claim. But, brethren, let's be honest with ourselves. We have all seen and experienced it. Far too many of our brethren are so steeped in tradition that when those "sacred cows" are challenged, and they are forced to face the objective Truths of God's Word, they will often choose the former over the latter. I have learned in thirty years of ministry that one takes his very life in his hands every time he dares to challenge a church dogma or tradition. One can more easily survive a challenge of Truth itself, than he can a challenge of a group's cherished practices and perceptions. There is hardly a group less forgiving than one who has just had their safe little boat rocked when they were slumbering soundly in the bottom. Frankly, it is far easier to convert an atheist to Jesus Christ than it is to convert a traditionalist to Truth.

Timing Is Critical

One lesson I have learned the hard way is that timing is critical when seeking to share some deeper insight into God's Word that may prove to be challenging to those disciples with whom one is serving. The key to this timing is knowing your audience. For example, the apostle Paul stated there were some things he truly wished to share with the saints in Corinth, however "I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able" (1 Cor. 3:2). Had Paul planted seed without preparing the soil, the seed would not have taken root and thrived. Timing is critical. Paul knew his audience, and he knew they would choke on the meat of the Word; thus, he was forced to give them only milk at that point in their spiritual development. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews lamented the fact that many of his readers were spiritually immature. "You have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature" (Heb. 5:12-14). You simply can't feed an infant a steak, and many a teacher of the Word has bemoaned the day he made the attempt!

The proclamation of God's eternal Truth is not as easy or simple as it may first appear. One doesn't just stand before a group and "unload." One may, at times, like to do so, but it is unwise! Good spiritual guides will tailor their teaching to their audience. Where are they spiritually? What level of maturity have they attained? What are their specific needs at the moment? What are their prejudices and biases? What can they tolerate in the way of new insights, and what might cause them to stumble? Truth is Truth ... that is a fact. But, how and when Truth is presented to people makes all the difference in the world as to whether or not it is embraced. Many a preacher of Truth has been "sent packing" because he failed to prepare the soil for the seed.

Strive For Balance

Many ships over the centuries have capsized, or even descended to "Davy Jones' Locker," because the crew failed to properly stow and balance the cargo. I can remember being involved in "replenishment at sea" details aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, and there was definitely a tremendous amount of thought put into just where and how these replenishments (food, fuel, ammo) were stored. Careful records were kept so that the ship's cargo would be balanced. Had they simply placed the cargo haphazardly anywhere, the result could have been disastrous! The same lesson must be learned in ministry!

It is my conviction that in preaching and teaching especially one must strive for balance, not only in what is presented, but how. Not every lesson should be a pulpit-pounding, fire and brimstone, lambasting of sinners. There is a time and place for "tough love" in our preaching and teaching, but a steady diet can be deadly. The same is true for sermons advocating unconditional love, grace and mercy toward all. These are good, and we need them, but there must be balance! In my thirty years of ministry I have consciously sought to provide a consistent, balanced diet in my teaching and preaching. Some lessons will be topical, some expository. Some classes will deal with an issue (like divorce and remarriage), others will focus on a book of the Bible. I have examined men and women of the Bible (biographies), doctrines of the Bible, prayers, promises and parables of the Bible. I have done lecture classes, and then small group classes (where there is far more participation). I truly believe balance is critical to a successful ministry.

A few years back there was an elderly gentleman in the congregation for which I preached who would occasionally be called upon to teach a class or present a sermon. No matter what his topic, he could hardly get through a sentence without "bashing the denominations." In fact, there were some who would almost make a game out of counting the times he would use the word "denomination." One brother told me that during one particular lesson he had given up counting after thirty! That is lack of balance, and it can be very counter-productive to a congregation's efforts to reach out to our friends and neighbors. People are hesitant to bring visitors to a service where the religious beliefs of their guests will likely be hammered into the ground from the pulpit. A minister must be extremely careful not to become one who belabors a "hobby." Back in the late 1970's, when I was serving as a deacon in Albuquerque, Bro. Ancil Jenkins, who was the preacher at the University Church of Christ, was teaching a class one Sunday morning and said that a preacher should not have a "hobby." I had never heard that expression, and so I raised my hand and asked him if he meant to suggest that my love for chess was wrong! Needless to say, I felt like a fool when he explained what he meant by "hobby." That was how naive I was at the time. Ancil was right, though. If our whole ministry becomes focused on just one issue (if we are a "hobbyist"), we can end up doing more harm than good.

Love One Another

One of the greatest challenges of any ship's Captain is to instill within his diverse crew a respectful cohesiveness. The success of his mission, indeed of the entire voyage, will depend largely upon how well the crew lives and works together. The Captain of our ship, who is the Lord Jesus Christ, faces the very same challenge. He has a very diverse crew, and they have a tendency to squabble (you know how sailors are!!). If our voyage to the far shore, the safe harbor, is to be successful, the crew must serve together as one! This perfect bond of unity is LOVE (Col. 3:14). I love Psalm 133. Notice how it begins and ends -- "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!" ... "For there the Lord commanded the blessing -- life forever!" (vs. 1, 3). If we would live forever with the Father, we, His children, must live together as Family! The blessing of LIFE is to be found in family, not in factions. The latter results not only in separation from one another, but from the Father. The apostle Paul writes, "Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned" (Titus 3:10-11).

We are told, "There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him" (Prov. 6:16). The last in this list is: "one who spreads strife among brothers." Such a person our God hates! Such a person is an abomination in His sight. That is serious! It behooves us, therefore, to be very cautious about spreading strife among the crew of our Captain's ship. One can be cast overboard for doing so! We all have opinions; we all have personal preferences and perceptions; we all have traditions that we cherish. There is nothing wrong with this. There is more than ample room aboard the ship for a diverse crew. What we dare not do, however, is hamper our mission and disrupt our voyage by seeking to force our fellow shipmates into compliance with our own views. There is only one law aboard ship, and that is the voice of the Captain. This is a lesson we must learn.

The Twelve on one occasion disputed over which of them was the greatest (Luke 9:46), James and John wanted to incinerate an entire village of Samaritans (Luke 9:54), and John sought to hinder another's ministry because "he does not follow along with us" (Luke 9:49). Our Lord's crew was in need of a lesson on LOVE. His crew needs it no less today. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35). In thirty years of service aboard the Lord's ship, the lesson I believe we most need to appreciate, and we all struggle with it, is to learn to love one another far more than we do. In the final analysis, as we stand before our Commander in Chief for a review of our years of service, the tedious tenets of our individual traditions, upon which we seemed to place so much value, will matter little. What will matter is: how loving we were, and whether we were willing to show it! "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. ... Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of law" (Rom. 13:8, 10). Let me close with the following excerpt from a Tim McGraw song titled "My Next Thirty Years."

In my next thirty years
I'm gonna settle all the scores;
Cry a little less, laugh a little more.
Find a world of happiness
without the hate and fears;
Figure out just what I'm doing here
... in my next thirty years.

I think I'll take a moment to celebrate my age;
an ending of an era and the turning of a page.
Now it's time to focus on where I go from here.
Lord have mercy on my next thirty years!

Reflections on CD
Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

by Al Maxey
Order Your Copy Today
Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in South Carolina:

Al, I recently finished Down, But Not Out. Excellent thoughts. I appreciate your work. I look forward to more of your Reflections.

From a Reader in Georgia:

Al, Thank you so much for your articles. I really enjoy them. Please send me all three of your Reflections CD's (the check is enclosed). I live in south Georgia, which is an extremely conservative area. I am considering leaving the Church of Christ for a community church, as I am having a very hard time with some of the teachings here, and also with the worship service (especially the song service).

From a Minister in Missouri:

Al, I enjoyed your writing on Boles. Having grown up in the one-cup fellowship, I heard the name Boles many times. A lot of those old preachers recommended his books, and still do today. Because of those kinds of recommendations, I have built up a decent library of books over the years that probably aren't worth the paper they're written on. I am so blessed to have been able to "see the light" before I got any older. Thanks again for your work and for your good advice to me on the phone the other day. God bless you!

From a Reader in Indiana:

Dear Al, Thank you so much for this latest issue which had a link to Dick Soule's Peculiar Press. I am printing off many of his articles to read, and am looking forward to studying these, especially the one on the role of women in the church. I also subscribed to his mailout. Also, how interesting that H. Leo Boles and Daniel Sommer were from the same area of the country, and both caused so much trouble for the church for years to come. I also wanted to thank you for your links to previous issues of your Reflections. I especially appreciated your dialogue with William in Issue #4 concerning your focus for your Reflections ministry. It was good to see your thought processes and intent from the very beginning. I certainly think you are accomplishing the goal you have set out to accomplish. You are having a great impact for good! Your writings really do help make a difference! Thank you!

Special Notes:


From a Reader in North Carolina:

Al, Very nice and solid answers to the questions in your issue "The Q&A Corner." I particularly enjoyed your thoughts on congregational autonomy. It's an issue I have questioned nearly all my life. After a careful study of Acts, congregational autonomy just doesn't make sense!

From a Ed.D. in Florida:

Brother Al, These questions that you have addressed in your last article were extremely well done. As we approach the North American Christian Convention, to be held toward the end of next month in Louisville, Kentucky, I have a suggestion for you. Respond to other questions of commonality - fellowship - unity - forbearance - brotherly love - etc. (i.e., positive principles) leading up to that event. Perhaps your writings can and will be a watershed to inform the church world-wide where we have been, and, more importantly, where we need to go. God bless you.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

My Gosh! Church Autonomy! Another one of my sacred cows has been slaughtered. It's interesting how many of these old legalistic doctrines fall by the wayside when we open our minds and ask a simple question: Where is the Scripture(s) that supports such? One night in Bible class a brother condemned some other brethren by calling their use of the PA system for some of their better singers a "choir." I asked him where the Bible condemned a choir. He talked all around it, but never came up with an answer. When I told our preacher about this, he wanted to know exactly where these microphoned singers sat. When I told him that they sat among the congregation, he said, "Oh, so they don't face the congregation," as if that somehow made it acceptable!! Brother, I hope you continue to keep trying to bring sanity to this crazy world of ours!

From a Reader in Alabama:

Bro. Maxey, The apostle Paul specifies "Sing" in Colossians and Ephesians. Yet, of course, there is no mention of instruments in the NT -- whether prohibitive or authoritative. So, personally, I will not go beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4:6). I will choose not to use instruments in my praise to God, because such use was not written. Yet, neither will I condemn those who choose to, because such condemnation is also not written. What do you think?

From a Minister in Oklahoma:

Bro. Al, I showed Rick Atchley's DVD on "Learning Division" to my elders first, and then to my entire congregation, to kick off my new Wednesday evening class series on "The Life and Times of the Body of Christ." I wanted them to know that the subject we were about to study over the coming weeks was going to "strip the Church naked," and that they had better get ready for it. Since I grew up in the Churches of Christ (and served as a minister in them for seven years), and am now preaching for a congregation of the Independent Christian Church, I have been truly amazed and pleased at the lack of reciprocal discrediting that my Christian Church brethren have expressed toward those in Churches of Christ. What an exciting time in church history to be ministering!

From a Minister in Kansas:

Brother Al, One Cup man here! I see from your articles that you have often been the target of the "Church Police." The favorite slogan of the "Church Police" is -- "We have to protect the church." What they really mean is -- "We want things to remain exactly as they are." Anyone, male or female, who doesn't line up with their program is mistreated and hounded until they leave. I obeyed the gospel 28 years ago, and I've seen way too many people run down, run over, and run off. My own experience has been in the "One Cup" group -- you know: "the one true church." One thing I've learned after 28 years is this: it's very easy to push the brethren around once you've pushed Jesus out of the way! Keep up the good work, Al.

From a Minister in Kentucky:

Al, It is an interesting coincident that you dealt with the question of the meaning of "one faith" in your last Reflections. I recently (in early April) conducted a gospel meeting using the theme: "Unity in the Book of Ephesians." I used computer visuals for each lesson, and did the lessons more as a Bible study than "preaching." I am attaching one panel from my PowerPoint presentation dealing with Eph. 4:4. You can see for yourself what my conclusion is about the "one faith."

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, I keep thinking you will some day find the bottom of the barrel to your Reflections, but to my great joy you just keep going and going and going! I need to review some teaching on John 4 where Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman. I think I remember reading something you wrote, but I can't find it. Can you help me?

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