by Al Maxey

Issue #330 ------- January 3, 2008
We are not afraid to follow truth wherever
it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so
long as reason is left free to combat it.

Thomas Jefferson {1743-1826}

The One Cup Fellowship
Reflection on a Conviction

For quite some time now, a good many of my beloved brethren have been urging me to do a thorough analysis of the One Cup fellowship within our own Stone-Campbell Movement. In response to their plea, I have decided to begin 2008 with just such a study, but it may very well prove not to be what my fellow disciples had expected, or perhaps hoped for. Some, I feel sure, longed for me to fire a full broadside against this little ship in the harbor and blow it out of the water. I have no intention of doing so. That little ship has just as much right to be within the harbor as the larger vessels. Some of the officers on that little craft, however, I would not be opposed to making "walk the plank." They have led their crew astray, and I am pleased to see a growing dissatisfaction among those onboard their vessel, even among many of the officers. With some encouragement and assistance, these few sectarian skippers and their militant minions could be removed, and this ship could chart a far more responsible course, one that would take it away from the rocks and reefs that threaten to sink it.

My intention in this reflective analysis will additionally not be to review the history of this One Cup movement within our faith-heritage. For those interested in such an overview, I would refer them to the excellent analysis provided by Dr. Dallas Burdette, a former member of this group, and also a loyal supporter of and subscriber to my Reflections ministry from the very beginning. That study is titled: A Brief History of the One-Cup and Non-Sunday School Movement. I would encourage everyone to go to his web page and read this study. You will be greatly enlightened. The URL for his web site is: When you get to his Internet page, click on "Sermons and Essays" to locate this history. As his background was in this movement, he speaks from personal experience in this marvelous essay!

Let me state from the very beginning (and I state this quite emphatically) my deep love and respect for those brethren whose convictions lead them to observe the Lord's Supper with but one cup. I fully embrace them as my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, and whenever I am blessed to be in their assemblies I will gladly share that one cup with them as we surround our Lord's Table. I personally find nothing wrong, from a theological perspective, with this practice, and, indeed, can easily appreciate the beauty and simplicity of the observance. I must admit, however, to a bit of personal discomfort with (strictly out of concern for sanitation) the thought of a large gathering all drinking from a common vessel. Although I'm sure precautions are taken, it still lies outside my own comfort zone. Nevertheless, one should never allow fastidiousness to affect fellowship with these beloved brethren. Such concerns are minor, and can be dealt with in love quite easily so that all are made comfortable with the particulars of the practice.

It is my firm belief that God would not have His children squabbling with and separating from one another over matters of personal preference and perception. Yes, there are indeed a number of significant essentials (Reflections #200a) about which there can be no compromise. These are far fewer than most disciples realize, however. Most of the battles that have resulted in the woeful dismemberment of the Body of Christ over the centuries have been waged over matters about which our Father never uttered a single syllable, but about which we ourselves have deduced decrees we assumed to be divine, and therefore we became dogmatic and divisive in our regard for them and in our effort to bind them upon all others the world over. We lost sight of the beauty of unity in diversity, and fell headlong into the muck and mire of an enforced uniformity. We lost sight of a loving Person, and instead embraced a legalistic pattern. There is truly no winner but Satan when the children of God follow such a path. Brethren, it is time to return to the highway of holiness ... and wholeness. Our feuding has only fragmented the Family into factions; it has not facilitated faithfulness. A dismembered body is not fully functional. If we are to share our faith with those outside the Family of God, we must share our love with those inside the Family of God.

An expression of which I'm quite fond is -- "You don't have to be my twin to be my brother." We may be different in a multitude of ways, but if we have the same Father ...we be brethren. It is time the children of God began accepting this fact. Where I assemble we use multiple cups; where you assemble the preference may be for one cup ... but, we be brethren. Where I assemble we sing a cappella; where you assemble the singing may be accompanied by instruments ... but, we be brethren. The same can be said about Sunday School, eating in the building, fellowship halls, and a thousand other matters. Unless God Himself within the inspired writings has specifically commanded either pro or con regarding the matter, it becomes simply a matter of personal conviction based on personal assumptions drawn from personal study and reflection. Such human deductions and inferences can never rise to the level of divine decree, and therefore they can never be made terms of fellowship or conditions of salvation. For us to divide over them is, in a word, SIN. Thus, I will never, ever sever fellowship with fellow disciples of Christ Jesus simply because they may differ with me on some matter about which our Father never spoke a word. We can each hold our individual convictions dear, respect the convictions of the other, and in so doing maintain a state of harmony and oneness within the universal Body of Christ. In other words, we daily practice LOVE: the perfect bond of unity [Col. 3:14].

One of my readers recently wrote me, somewhat taking me to task for what he perceived to be an overly harsh attitude toward all those who differ with me. It was his impression that if someone didn't agree with me, then I would come after them with a vengeance. That simply is not a true characterization of my methods and tactics. Anyone who knows me at all, or who is even vaguely familiar with my writings and teachings, knows that I am extremely tolerant of those who differ with me. My goal has never been to "recreate the church in his own image" (as one critic has charged). I am more than happy to allow others the same freedom I have: to study the Word and come to a point of conviction about its teachings. I accept the fact that not all will agree with me, and I love them no less for such lack of agreement. Where I've got a tendency to "get my hackles up," and to go on the offensive (and without mercy), is when persons or parties dogmatically demand that the rest of humanity must bow to their particular perceptions, preferences and practices, and when they are willing to dismember the Body of Christ when their demands are not met. Against such little lords I will speak out quickly and forcefully, and if they persist in their effort to reduce the family to factions I will expose them and oppose them with every fiber of my being. Paul said he wished such people would castrate themselves [Gal. 5:12]. Jesus called the legalists "sons of hell" and "a brood of vipers" [Matt. 23], and said hookers would get into the kingdom of God before they would [Matt. 21:31]. We're even told that "God hates ... the one who sows strife/discord among brethren" [Prov. 6:19]. Yes, He hates the sinner as well as the sin (please read Reflections #178 -- Hated By God). I have not yet become quite this "ugly" ... but don't push me!!

The simple, honest truth is: I have no use whatsoever for those who elevate human precepts above love for the Father and His children. Yes, you are free to hold your convictions dear, and to live by them, and even to share your convictions with others. You are not free, nor do you have the authority, to seek to bind these personal convictions, no matter how "correct" you deem them to be, upon the rest of humanity as terms of fellowship and conditions of salvation. When such men came to Antioch, "Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them" [Acts 15:2]. Paul later characterized them as "false brethren who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage" [Gal. 2:4]. What was Paul's reaction? "We did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you" [vs. 5]. Neither shall I. Thus, I have nothing but love and respect for those who differ with me on any of a thousand points of personal preference and practice, but for those who demand I must submit to their position or suffer the consequences, I have nothing but disgust and contempt ... and I will not hesitate in demonstrating such feelings! Such individuals are the troublers of the church, and they need to be confronted fearlessly and firmly. I hammer them hard, and make no apologies for doing so!

Let me speak bluntly. With regard to the One Cup movement within our faith-heritage, the Diotrephes-types who push their deadly dogma through the publication Old Paths Advocate are, in my estimation, the very types of which Paul, Jesus and God spoke above. Their rigid partyism, divisive dogmatism and ultra-legalistic patternism have done far more to dismember the precious Body of Christ than just about anything imaginable. It is quite encouraging to note that it is not just people like myself, who are not part of the One Cup movement, but also responsible leaders within that movement, who are declaring the same thing. For example, I have in my possession a six page typed letter, dated May 20, 2007, from Don McCord to Don King, in which the former takes to task the latter for the tragic direction which the OPA leadership have determined to take. A little background -- Don McCord is one of the more respected leaders in the One Cup fellowship, and has been for a good many decades (he is now over 80 years old). He was the editor and publisher of the publication Old Paths Advocate for over 14 years (this was quite some time back, obviously, when the OPA had a much different tone and focus). Don King is the current editor of the OPA, and he, along with his disciples, has greatly abused his position of influence in the One Cup group. This has led to a growing unrest among the rank and file, who are becoming more vocal in their rejection of the direction of these little lords.

In the above referenced letter, which has been widely distributed among the One Cup brethren, several of whom have graciously shared it with me, Don McCord writes to Don King, "Don, I saw the April Old Paths Advocate and cried like a baby. Big boys do cry; old boys do too. I have not been able to look at the paper since. I do not want my children to see it. During all of these many years, I have never felt this way. I will get over it. I am done with being embattled, embroiled, embittered over anything; the day is too far spent. I hereby contritely confess my own sin of silence." As is true of many within this fellowship, they are speaking out. They are determined to remain silent no longer in the face of the abuses perpetrated by these OPA power brokers who are attacking congregations throughout the brotherhood, seeking to intimidate them into bowing to their theological whims. McCord writes, "What are we doing? Who do we think we are? The Lord has not commissioned us as Kingdom watchmen of some sort over matters in congregations of which we are not members." He continues, "In the blaming game we play, I have found that there is enough blame to go around on all sides, including myself, and have some left over. In the name of discipline and cleansing the Sanctuary, we offend and run off those who need us most. We exert brotherhood and preacher pressure to the point that a man is fearful of being his own man in Christ, lest he suffer reprisal. This is not right; never has been. May the wisdom from above have a new birth! Our land is in great need of healing. We all need to call a halt, draw in our spurs, cool our heels, and see how close we can grow to one another. We need to embrace a season of repenting, confessing, forgiving, and forgetting those things that hinder."

Just as a side note, Bro. Don McCord stated, "Use this letter as you see fit; I will do the same." Thus, authorization was given to make this information public, and, indeed, such was done on a rather wide scale. Thus, my above quotes are not out of order, nor an invasion of confidentiality. They are merely reflective of what is already a matter of public record. I personally find the spirit of this aged disciple very encouraging. Although he and I differ on a host of doctrines and practices, we nevertheless are united in fellowship through our One Shepherd. We may be in different folds, but we are both part of the One Flock. I'm thrilled to see respected leaders within our faith-heritage, like Bro. McCord, vowing to break silence and speak out boldly against the excesses of those who, by their attitudes and actions, are afflicting the Lord's sheep. May his tribe increase!

Doctrine of the Cup

Some of my fellow "Cups" brethren are likely wondering about, and perhaps somewhat perplexed about, the biblical rationale behind the conviction of our "Cup" brethren. Why this insistence upon employing a single cup in the observance of the Lord's Supper? What is so sinful about multiple or individual cups? Though a number of explanations might be given, the true reason for this dichotomy of observance lies in one's approach to biblical interpretation (hermeneutics). As I have sought to demonstrate repeatedly over the years in countless studies and sermons, the CENI hermeneutic has a rather obvious inherent danger, of which too many brethren are seemingly unaware -- there is a tendency to elevate biblical examples and human inferences to the same level of authority as specific commands from the Lord. Few people question the authority behind the specific, clearly stated commands of our Lord God (whether they be prohibitive or permissive). If God commanded it, we are obligated to obey it. The primary problem arises over just what degree of authority, if any at all, to give unto the examples of various early church disciples and what authority to bestow upon our own deductions, assumptions and inferences drawn from our study of the Scriptures. Simply stated: may mere human assumptions ever rise to the same level as divine commands? The ultra-conservative, legalistic patternists believe that they may, and they'll enforce human assumptions with the same zeal with which they enforce divine commands. The problem, of course, is that the former are based on man's wisdom, which is far too frequently lacking at best, and very often fatally flawed. By elevating men's assumptions, the inevitable has come to pass: feuding factions formed around diverse deductions of flawed disciples.

Jesus and Paul both placed the observance of the Lord's Supper, with regard to frequency, in the realm of the non-specific. It was not the day that was critical to our God, but the spirit with which this memorial was observed. "As often as" you do it, was all that Jesus and Paul said. In Troas we have a singular example that this was done on "the first day of the week" [Acts 20:7]. There is evidence in the minds of most scholars, however, that it was observed daily (according to Acts 2 and the overwhelming testimony of history). The legalists, as one might imagine, do not care for that view. As for the practice of the saints in Troas, we simply don't know, with any degree of certainty, if the "first day of the week" was the only time they observed the Lord's Supper. There are many other questions raised by this passage as well [see Reflections #173]. Additionally, we know nothing pertaining to frequency about the many other congregations throughout the world. All we know for certain, at least from the biblical record, is that one verse states what happened on one weekend in one remote city. And yet from that solitary verse a universal doctrine of exclusion has been formed by some within our faith-heritage. Sunday is the ONLY day the Lord's Supper may be observed, they insist, and those "apostates" who dare to observe it on any other day will go straight to hell. Of course, foot washing, which was commanded at the very same event where our Lord instituted the Lord's Supper, doesn't count. We can ignore that ... or "spiritualize" it. Further, every example in the New Covenant writings of the Lord's Supper actually being observed was at night. But, it is only the day of observance that is important, not the time of day, these rigid patternists "reason." Well, you begin to see the problem. Consistency is not one of the strong points of this method of interpretation.

Anyway, based on this interpretive philosophy, the legalistic patternists will declare that "Jesus took the CUP," and with that cup instituted the observance of the Lord's Supper. The text does not say, they point out, that Jesus took up CUPS. They further insist that Jesus told those assembled in the upper room with Him, "Drink from IT (singular), all of YOU (plural)" [Matt. 26:27]. Thus, all who had gathered together were to share a common cup. Paul wrote, "Is not the CUP of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread" [1 Cor. 10:16-17]. They reason this would also apply to the one cup which all were to share. When a student of the Word examines the Passover meal, from which Jesus chose certain elements to be emblematic of His upcoming sacrifice, he will quickly learn that Jesus actually had four cups of wine on the table before Him. In Luke's gospel record we have reference to two of them [Luke 22:17, 20], not just one. One will further learn (as I have noted in Reflections #14) that nowhere in the OT Scriptures are cups of wine in the Passover meal commanded by God. Indeed, God is completely silent about their addition to this memorial meal. The reality is, they were added by the ancient Jewish rabbis, and thus are a human innovation. Yet, Jesus embraced these cups of wine, even though they were clearly "unauthorized" by God. Did He sin in doing so? I think not!!

Jesus selected one of those cups of wine (and, yes, it was fermented, not just Welch's grape juice from Walmart) to represent the blood of His covenant, which was about to be shed on our behalf. Yes, Jesus said, "Take this cup and share it among yourselves" [Luke 22:17], but He also indicated that it was the "fruit of the vine" that they would be drinking. Thus, it was the wine (the blood of the grape) that represented His own shed blood, not the cup itself. It was the contents that were "poured out" as they drank from it, symbolizing the pouring out of His blood on the cross. When disciples surround this Table today and partake of the bread and fruit of the vine, they share together, as one, the reality of our Lord's sacrifice. It is a time of corporate remembrance, and should heighten our sense of oneness in Him. It is truly a unity meal (the very thing that was lacking in Corinth, and for which they received a firm rebuke by the apostle Paul -- 1 Cor. 11:17-20). Paul emphasized this unity in 1 Cor. 10:16-17, as previously noted. Frankly, and this may come as a shock to some of my fellow "Cups" brethren, I believe communing from one cup conveys the concept of this unity and oneness far better than a tray filled with individual miniature cups containing a single sip of Welch's grape juice. Unlike some of my One Cup brethren, however, I do not believe one method is commanded over the other, but I do believe that their practice has the benefit of visually conveying the spiritual reality of oneness far better than our practice. Thus, I am not personally opposed in the least to the observance of the Lord's Supper with a single cup ... at least not for theological reasons (though I still have some reservations about such a practice due to health and sanitation concerns). Nor am I opposed to its connection with an "agape feast," most likely the true practice (dare we say "pattern"?!) of the early disciples of Jesus, which also reflects in a stunningly visual manner the reality of our unity in One Family around the table of fellowship.

Where I tend to have my greatest problem with some within the One Cup fellowship (as well as some within the a cappella and Non-Sunday School segments of our movement, just to name a couple of patternistic perspectives) is when they make these convictions of theirs (good though they may be in and of themselves) into conditions of both fellowship and salvation. I find nowhere in all of Scripture where my Lord elevated the number of cups to such life or death importance. Men may assume it, but the Lord did not assert it. In the absence of the latter, I cannot in good faith validate the former. In other words, I simply can not, and most definitely will not, ever give mere human assumptions and examples (devoid of any specific divine decree supportive of such) equal weight with God's recorded commands. I may certainly recognize such fairly drawn assumptions and recorded examples as illustrative and instructive to my spiritual growth, but my understanding of biblical hermeneutics (Reflections #126) does not comport with their elevation to universal LAW. Therefore, I utterly reject any and all attempts by others to bind them upon me, and will expose and oppose their efforts to bind them upon my fellow siblings against their will as well.

Perhaps some of the greatest, and certainly some of the most godly and biblical, advice ever given comes from the pen of brother Thomas Campbell. Near the end of 1809 a document was distributed which is known as his Declaration and Address. Notice just a couple of the many propositions contained in this lengthy and historically significant document:

Do our human inferences, assumptions and deductions have a place in our study and interpretation of Scripture? Yes, they most certainly do. I don't think anyone would deny that. There are many things we assume and infer in our quest to better understand His will for our lives. These personal insights will have great bearing on our own individual convictions, and others may well share those same insights and convictions. Such agreement is indeed comforting to us, and helps to confirm our own beliefs and understandings. Where too many have failed, however, is in their further assumption that their assumptions are in some way more insightful than those of their brethren with whom they differ. Their inferences, therefore, become the Standard by which all others are measured with regard to fitness for the joys of fellowship. As Campbell clearly noted, that is giving far more authoritative weight to human assumptions and deductions than is warranted.

Yes, we must live by our own convictions (some of which will be influenced by our inferences), but we have no right to compel others to bow to our own insights. Ours are no more infallible than theirs. Thus, let us grant to others the same freedom to grow in understanding and knowledge that we claim for ourselves. We are all flawed, fallible fellow travelers through life; none of us has yet arrived at perfection of perception. Therefore, let us be loving and generous with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and let us accept one another, differing convictions and all. In so doing, we'll further the cause of unity and break down the sectarian barriers that separate us.

Concluding Thoughts

Johnny Elmore, of Ardmore, Oklahoma, spoke of "innovations in the work and worship of the church" in the December, 2006 issue of Old Paths Advocate [his article was titled "The Spirit of Innovation and Individual Communion Cups"]. He stated, "Nowhere is that spirit more evident than in the introduction of individual communion cups into the Lord's Supper" [p. 1]. I wonder if this brother is aware of the "spirit of innovation" evident in the addition by the rabbis of the four cups of wine to the Passover celebration? An innovation our Lord Jesus readily embraced, I might point out. In light of this fact, he might want to rethink his condemnation of such "innovation" as being opposed to the spirit of godliness, for his words, whether he realizes it or not, serve to indict the Lord Jesus Himself!! The very next month (January, 2007), in the same periodical, Mike Criswell had a rather lengthy article [titled "This Do In Remembrance of Me"] in which he spoke of the use of one cup in the Lord's Supper being "a divine imperative" [p. 3]. Individual cups on the Table are viewed as a corruption of this time of communion [p. 4]. Criswell falls headlong into the hermeneutical trap of the so-called "law of silence" -- he writes, "To add any other action or element is to violate the prohibitive silence of the scriptures and to open wide the floodgates of sin. When it comes to scripture we must note that silence is always prohibitive!" [vs. 4]. That is simply false, as I have demonstrated time and again in numerous reflective studies on silence (to which I would refer the reader; they may be found under the heading "Law of Silence" on my Topical Index web page).

Clearly, I differ greatly with that interpretive methodology that leads one to take personal perceptions drawn from mere examples that have no commands behind them and human assumptions drawn from things God never stated or events about which nothing is known and elevate them to the same level of authority as specific divine commands. To then take such humanly elevated perceptions and preferences and make them tests of fellowship and conditions of eternal salvation has only led to the horrendous lack of harmony and unity in the Body of Christ today. I'm convinced the vast majority of my brethren in my faith-heritage have embraced this philosophy without thought. My mission and purpose, therefore, is to challenge them simply to THINK. As more and more of my siblings in the various factions of our movement are doing this, the walls that divide us are crumbling; barriers are being breached; brethren are being reunited. I am beginning to witness a dramatic and heart-warming reformation, one that is growing ... something I was not sure I would live to see. Thank God for it, and may it continue. And it will if more and more of us will commit to working toward the unity for which our Lord prayed in John 17, rather than promoting a uniformity that serves only the purposes of the forces of darkness. To my One Cup and Multi-cups, Instrumental and A cappella, Sunday School and Non-class, Institutional and Non-Institutional brethren (and a host of other diverse disciples) I simply say -- We Be Brethren. So, let's start acting like it. Our Father will be proud, we will be blessed, and the world will see the power of love and faith in action and be drawn to the saving embrace of our Savior.

Reflections on CD
The 2007 CD Is Now Ready
Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Order Your Copy Today
Publisher: (301) 695-1707
Reflections on the Holy Spirit
A Published Tract by Al Maxey
Order Copies From:
J. Elbert Peters
1701 Jeannette Circle, NW
Huntsville, Alabama 35816
(256) 859-3186
Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Florida:

Dear Brother Al, I love your 2007 PowerPoint Sermons CD. I just got it in the mail today and I can't stop looking at it!! I really want to encourage your readers to order this CD. It is great for private study or public presentation. Thank you so very much for making this CD of your PowerPoint sermons from the past year available to us!! I wish you and your family a Happy and Healthy New Year.

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Brother Al, I am new to your web site, and I am finding myself eagerly going through every inch of it!! I was raised in a legalistic family, in a One Cup Church of Christ, but a good friend, who also goes to this church, recently opened my eyes to the Truth earlier this year. I am so lucky that he did not stop going to this One Cup church, because had it not been for him I would still be feeling as if I would never make it to heaven! All of these rules that they keep making up to keep us "in line" ... where did they come up with all of this?! It is nowhere in the Bible. I have talked with my dad about this, and he attacked this other person, saying that he was going to send me straight to hell for believing it was okay to have more than one cup. My dad then had all the elders from our church come after me! You are so right, Bro. Al ... if you stand up to these people, they will just black ball you or send everyone after you and try to force you back to their way of thinking. I am now working my way through all the many lies my dad has taught me, and I really can't help but feel that my whole spiritual life up to this point has been a lie. This has been really hard on me, coming out of this way of thinking and embracing Truth. Al, I want to thank you for your stand, and may God bless you for the work that you do for us! I now have opened eyes.

From a Minister in Kansas:

Bro. Al, One Cup man here. I've just read your latest Reflections and I couldn't agree less with Daniel Douglas (your latest attacker). I need to repent. Of what, you ask? I need to repent, because I should have taken a stand for freedom in Christ a long time ago!! When the church allows the "War Lords" to decide who can and can't be fellowshipped, it is time for us to repent!! I did this too long! Brethren, we must stand up and let the "powers that be" know that we are disciples of Christ. We are NOT disciples of the Church of Christ denomination. Brother Al, I know that you are constantly being attacked. Therefore, I pray for you, and for all those who seek unity and freedom in Christ Jesus. May the Lord open the eyes of our brethren who continue to promote division rather than unity in the Body of Christ. Thank you for another great year of writing; thanks for helping so many!! God bless you and all who work for unity. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Al, I want to thank you for the encouragement I found in your writings during a very dark period of my life after having gone through a divorce that the Church of Christ then deemed "unscriptural." In your book Down, But Not Out I found for the first time someone teaching God's grace and love in a new way, a way that made me want to learn more, rather than cringe away. It was a "light bulb" moment that took quite some time to soak in -- that there is actually a different way to look at Scripture than CENI, and that what we've been taught as incontrovertible fact, is in reality only man's opinion. I still haven't gone back to any kind of organized congregation, but thanks to your Reflections my heart is at least open to the possibility. I have been disfellowshipped by my three grown children, and, Bro. Al, your writings literally may have saved my sanity ... if not my life. I don't mean to be overly dramatic, but legalism literally destroys lives, and your writings have helped bring a lovely note of hope to many. Thank you!!

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Bro. Al, I have been reading your Reflections on your web site for some years now, and have grown to appreciate them increasingly. I would now like to be added to your mailing list so that I might receive them by email. You may or may not be interested in my "journey of faith," but in brief -- I was born and reared in south Texas, am a retired engineer (with a PhD from a university here in Texas), and was raised in the Churches of Christ. I was well-trained in all our traditions, my early education being at Abilene Christian University. I have served as a song leader, lay preacher, deacon and elder. But no more! After years of searching, prayer, study and meditation, I find that in the twilight of my life I am compelled to confront the many errors I supported for so long within our heritage, and to make some attempt to undo the damage that has been caused by them. Brother, your Reflections have been both informative and comforting to me in this journey. I look forward to perusing them further in the future. May God bless your efforts!

From a Reader in Mississippi:

Dear Brother Al, Thank you for saying so eloquently what my family and I have long said and thought about Christmas! How we dread those close-to-Christmas sermons telling us how it is "wrong" to celebrate the day in any spiritual manner. My Bible says there was a lot of celebrating when Jesus was born! No, we don't know the exact day of His birth. But, you know, there are some adopted children, particularly those who are adopted from other countries, whose actual birthdays are not known either. And yet you can bet they and their parents celebrate the fact of their birth on some designated day, and they celebrate it with great joy. I, like you, believe the negative preachers in the brotherhood will soon long for the day, given the state of our nation, when we can celebrate Christmas and/or look upon a monument on which the Ten Commandments are engraved. Bro. Al, "The Great Christmas Lie" was one of your finest articles!! It was so full of common sense, and that is so needed at this time of year!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, My wife and I spent four years and four months in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, a country which allows no religious freedom. We did have a waver to meet inside the western camp, but those outside could face up to two years in prison for engaging in Christian worship. The Arabs did everything they could to suppress Christmas. We were told not to put up outside decorations, and, of course, there was to be no public mention of Christmas or any greeting of "Merry Christmas." Imagine my shock when we returned home to find those same policies being promoted here in the US. As a result, I probably gave the first sermon on the subject of Christmas ever preached at our local congregation. I had never heard one in all my 54 years of membership in the Churches of Christ. I also wrote a column in the local daily newspaper (where I'd been hired to write a daily column). I received a couple of negative letters, and suspect they were likely from members of the Church of Christ. Brother, I agree with your last Reflections 100%. There is nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas as Jesus' birthday. I can just imagine the Holy Spirit instructing Luke to write two whole chapters about Jesus' birth, and then insisting the church forget about it. Keep up the good work, brother.

From a Reader in Florida:

Dear Bro. Al, Three or more decades ago, I would have taken great issue with much of what you say in your articles, and with your most recent Reflections ("The Great Christmas Lie") in particular. However, through the years I have grown in my knowledge and understanding. At least, I think I have! So, permit me to say a very hearty Amen to your most recent issue of Reflections.

From a Reader in Missouri:

Bro. Al, May I scream from the housetops, "AMEN and AMEN!!" to your last Reflections. How sad that so many people want to strip our nation of everything good and replace it with nothingness. I pray for this nation of ours: that eyes and hearts will be opened, and minds will begin to think again, instead of drinking in every word spewed forth from the secular progressives. In the past, I used to be just as guilty, but I now thank God daily that my eyes, ears and heart have been opened, and that I can now see anew. We love and appreciate you so much, Al ... you and Shelly both! Merry Christmas and a very prosperous New Year!

From a Minister in Mississippi:

Thank you, Brother Al, for your last article! I appreciate your work so much, and have benefited from it over and over. You know I love you! Blessings to you and your family.

From a Pastor in California:

Brother Al, I have been saying for years that one of these days -- and that day is getting closer and closer -- we'll finally realize who the real enemy is. It is not the instrumentalists (nor the non-instrumentalists), nor the Baptists, nor the Methodists, nor the Pentecostals, nor even any of those evil "denominationalists." The real enemy, as you have so ably stated, is that godless crowd seeking to eliminate everything that mentions, refers to, praises, acknowledges or expresses love for God and the Bible. If we don't start realizing who the real enemy is, and join forces with all who love the Lord, then we are going to find ourselves being overrun by the real enemy. Thanks for that excellent piece, brother!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Dear Brother Al, Once again you have hit the nail squarely on the head! Why on earth Christians have let the "PC" (politically correct) crowd attempt to lock God in a closet is beyond me! We, of all people, should know that God is not mocked, and that the world is going to pay a huge price for the evil we allow to flourish amongst us! I am an old man who has been around the block a few times, but darned if I don't still believe in Santa Claus!! He lives in the hearts of all who would make the world a little better place for our children! I hold a lot of traditions dear. No, they are not the laws of God, and they will never become so ... at least not for me. They are merely the way I was brought up and the things I have come to cherish. The Church of Christ is full of traditions, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, so long as they are not made matters of one's salvation or turned into LAW. Al, it is wonderful that you have been sending out your Reflections for five years now!! They have clearly been responsible for much growth in the brotherhood. Keep up the great work. My wife and I also have an anniversary this month -- we celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary on December 24. Al, we wish you and Shelly a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Bro. Al, Wow -- I didn't realize those ultra-legalists in eastern Tennessee had fixed their sights on "straightening out" the brethren in New Mexico!! Let me tell you something -- I know exactly what that congregation in Mountain City, TN (where Darrell Broking preaches) is all about, along with 99% of the other Churches of Christ in eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia (that's where I'm from; I grew up in those congregations; I even worked as a youth minister for three years in Elizabethton, TN, which lies in the shadow of Mountain City). Those folks up there will ride you out of town on a rail for even thinking about freedom in the grace of God!! Those years spent in eastern Tennessee were without doubt the worst of my spiritual life. Ashamedly, I must confess to being part of that crazy bunch of brethren who shake the Bible in people's faces and tell them they are all going to hell. But thanks be to God for His deliverance! Thanks be to His Holy Spirit who set me free from that bondage! Keep the faith, my dear brother, and I hope that "Santa" is good to you this year!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Bro. Al, Merry Christmas to you and yours! My, how I have changed over the years! For the first twenty years of my ministry I wouldn't even send a Christmas card. I felt uncomfortable when someone wished me a "Merry Christmas," I frowned on those members who did, and I would never allow the words to slip from my lips unless it was to condemn it. It is truly sad to think that folks like me were the first to guide this nation into taking Christmas out of our culture!! Shame on me!! Thanks for your work, Al. Please keep it up!! May God continue to give you the ability to write and shed light on "our culture" in Churches of Christ, which too many believe is "thus saith the Lord."

From a Minister in Arkansas:

Dearest Bro. Al, I too know how it feels to have your name dragged through the mire by "brethren" intent upon accusing you falsely. I preached a six night gospel meeting back in the year 2000 only to have several of the area preachers (none of whom attended that meeting or even heard the lessons) accuse me of teaching Calvinism. I wonder if such men are really "contending for the faith," as they claim, or merely "condemning the faithful." How can they continue to preach the gospel with a clear conscience, while at the same time tearing down other gospel ministers?! It appears to me that they need to spend more time examining their own faith. Bro. Maxey, I urge you not to let such men discourage you, but keep fighting the good fight of faith. You are indeed engaged in a noble, loving, caring and joyous ministry, and we all love your weekly Reflections. Frankly, I think your critics are just jealous of the great success God has given you. I will pray that these false accusers come to repentance for their evil deeds. May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always.

From a Reader in Canada:

Brother Al, With regard to the condemnation of you by Danny Douglas, it sounds to me like if I join with you, and if I associate with your ministry, that I'm in very good company!! Anyone who can get that kind of reaction from these people, who truly only profess to be Christians, can't be all bad. In fact, they react this way probably because you're hitting them where it hurts -- right in their prized traditions, which most of them can't let go of. Those who attack you for taking positions that are not in keeping with their own traditions, and who do so in an unloving and vindictive way, are truly only professing to be Christians; they are not the real deal. Jesus did not behave as these men do, and He doesn't expect His followers to do so ... ever. Thank you for conducting such a ministry as you are through your weekly Reflections.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, I love your devotion and dedication to bringing us all out of our prisons!! I have said it before, and still think it is true, that gifts of the Holy Spirit did not disappear. The power of your words and the gentleness of your heart in your firm stand are not of Al Maxey, but rather they are a gift from the Father to one who is willing to stand up and face Goliath with a sling and a few rocks. We all know how the battle comes out, of course, but Goliath still doesn't recognize the power just one individual has when he is standing tall with God. Merry Christmas to you and your family, and may God richly bless you in your gift during 2008.

From a Reader in Canada:

Brother Al, Those people who don't like me have never blessed me with the charge of keeping such great company as Anderson, Shelly, Cope, etc. Al, like them, you too are a blessing to so many of us, and don't let anyone tell you differently. It is so hard for me to accept as "Christian" the anger, hatred and unforgiveness I see in these people who are within the ultra-conservative church. How can someone truly be a Christian and have this as the fruit of their lives?! My own children are members in the ultra-conservative Churches of Christ, believing that if someone differs with them on even one issue, then that person is hell bound. Oh, what pressure this type of religion creates on its followers. There is no inner beauty or peace of mind; they are in constant distress, never knowing if they've sinned some sin of omission or ignorance that they haven't managed to "cover" and are thus lost forever! How do they sleep at night with such pressure?! Brother Al, may God continue to bless you and your ministry!

From a Missionary in Bolivia:

Brother Al, Thanks for the recent article. I agree that we spend too much time sweating the small things when outside multitudes of people are living in bondage to Satan because we who should be sharing the freedom we know in Christ are instead cloistered in our little worlds smothered by suffocating arguments. I live in a country where mother earth and the god of the underworld ("Tio Supay") are not only worshiped by a large number of citizens, but by the President himself. God needs us more now than ever to shine a light in the darkness. Each day God gives us, we have yet another opportunity to allow Jesus to shine rather than ourselves. However, when we allow ourselves to become mired in the mud of the "issues," Satan has a large and disgusting smile on his face, because that's just handing him a victory on a silver platter. It is time, as you say, to be the embodiment of Christ on earth for the benefit of others, just as Christ was the embodiment of the Father for the benefit of us.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, It seems that those who would divide and divide and divide, until there is only one person in each faction, are really feeling "heap much heat" from you!! Keep it up, brother!!

From an Elder in New Mexico:

Amen to your December Reflections, Bro. Al ... both the article "The Great Christmas Lie" and your "Year End Musings." I could not agree more!! Keep up the good work! I reprinted your first section and sent it to our Yahoo group at church with my endorsement. I hope you don't mind. I gave you the credit.

From a Minister in Texas:

Brother Al, Thank you for the time and energy you have devoted to your Reflections ministry this year. You did an outstanding job of encouraging, challenging and inspiring the Body of Christ. I hope the remainder of 2007 will be a time of great joy for you and your family. Grace and peace to you.

From a Minister in New Jersey:

Move over, Bro. Al. Is that soap box big enough for two?!! Have a blessed, happy and very Merry Christmas and a high and Holy New Year.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Al, What a way to end Reflections 2007. Reflections #329 was one great piece of writing!! You really outdid yourself. I also wanted to tell you that I have found a congregation that I feel is the answer to my prayers. Although I have to drive farther than I like, it is worth the extra miles. It is such a loving, caring congregation. We are involved in the community -- not hammering away at people, but showing God's love. There is a spirit of openness in this congregation where you can feel free to express your opinions and ask questions. It is such a change from where I was formerly attending. Have a great day, Al, and thanks again for that last issue of Reflections.

From a Reader in Louisiana:

Dear Bro. Al, As the year 2007 is ending, I must sincerely thank you for your enlightenment which you have shared to help us in our spiritual development. I have particularly relished the articles on the Stone-Campbell Movement, about which so many have so little knowledge. Your articles about our abuse of the silence of the Scriptures are especially encouraging. I fear we are replicating the "foolish Galatians" by allowing our liberties to be taken away from us. So many members of the Churches of Christ are totally ignorant about the grace of God, and about His Holy Spirit who actually abides within us! Thank you for your bravery, and for your determination to help us perceive and appreciate our liberties in those matters that are not essential to our salvation. For years the legalists have had us in an iron cage. It is past time for us to unlock the door of legalism. I have visceral pain when I hear a devout Christian say that he HOPES he goes to heaven. We have been denied the grace of God for so long in our movement that many don't even think they are worthy of it anymore.

From an Elder in California:

Dear Bro. Maxey, I want to add my thanks to you for sharing your studies with so many people. When I first began reading your writings it was for the purpose of deciding for myself whether or not you were a "change agent." Sure enough, you are!! It now escapes me, however, how anyone can address Peter's admonition in 2 Pet. 3:18 -- "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" -- without being willing to change. I have served as a shepherd in the Lord's church for many years, but only began to savor the sweet aroma of being truly "free in Christ" around five years ago. Before that, I "had all the answers," and those "answers" would cover a large whiteboard. I wove a legalistic tapestry that ignored the fact that law and grace cannot coexist. As God's Word began to convict me, I took an eraser to my "whiteboard" until it was almost empty! Much of what I had taught in the past ... I could teach no more. I have encouraged several of my brothers and sisters in Christ to subscribe to your writings. I have also given out books written by some of the pioneers who, like you, must have suffered much at the hands of the legalists -- including Bros. Ketcherside, Cecil Hook, and many others. I have also ordered your book Down, But Not Out, and look forward to receiving it. Thank you, Bro. Maxey, for your efforts in behalf of our Jesus!!

From a Minister in Mississippi:

Brother Al, I have not written in a while, but that is only to give you time to correspond with others. As this year ends, I extend my prayers to God for you and your family. I appreciate your Reflections ministry, even when we don't agree on all the points of various passages. I thank you for your time and for the correspondence we have had, while also looking forward to more of the same in the coming year. Many people, Brother Al, including myself, appreciate the good that you bring and the love that you display. Thank you!!

From a Reader in Washington:

Bro. Al, The modern day Santa, a well-known and well-recognized figure, bears far too many similarities to the one who appears as an "angel of light," who once said he would exalt his throne above the stars of God and would be "like the most High," and who is actively "seeking" those "whom he may devour." The one the Bible calls "The Great Deceiver." There are far, far too many similarities for comfort. The upshot of all this? Jesus' place has been usurped by a pleasant fat fellow boasting a red hat and a team of flying reindeer. Perhaps you would provide your readers the link to the following in-depth article -- Santa Claus: Pretender to the Throne -- which is the other side of the coin.

From a Minister/Author in California:

Dear Bro. Maxey, I read your last Reflections with jubilation! Dear Old Saint Nick -- he is such a happy, thoughtful Santa, and I love when he comes shimmering down the chimney with His bag of toys and special gifts for all. I am saddened when the legalists turn their backs on such a happy, giving figure! Legalism, and that "holier than thou" attitude, has driven more people away than they could ever convert in a whole year, and it is getting worse and worse. In the last few years I have pleaded with all segments of the Church of Christ, both Sunday School and Non-Sunday School, Cups and One Cup, etc., to come together around the table and see if it would be possible to agree to have some type of fellowship, worshipping together in Spirit and Truth, and perhaps even exchange pulpits now and then. But, they say such is "unscriptural" and they will not work for such fellowship. Bro. Maxey, I wish it were possible to send your Reflections to each of these churches!! On a brighter note, may I say to you and your family: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Al, What a big hammer you must have to be able to hit so many nails squarely on the head with your latest article "The Great Christmas Lie." 'Tis my own thinking right down the line. I have now been into most of the "Happy Holidays" stores in our area, and everybody I speak with I wish a "Merry Christmas" ... getting a surprised return of "Well, uhhh, thank you!" Thankfully, our little town has all the "Merry Christmas" out in force on the Square, and a big electric sign that says "Welcome to Santa Land." Our city government does NOT go along with the present day thinking of "Happy Holidays," and has a big "Merry Christmas" sign in the lobby of City Hall. Also, there is a large billboard sign on I-35 that proclaims "This city is run by God." As for Daniel Douglas and his trash wagon, he must not realize just how many people he is placing in jeopardy of hell with his radical statements seeking to turn people against you. Don't get me started on the likes of such people!! Bro. Al, please continue with your vital work with these Reflections. I personally feel it is the most important work you will ever do!! Soldier on, dear brother!

From an Elder in Missouri:

Dear Brother Al, AMEN!!! Your article was great, and it follows what we have practiced and believed for some time. Taking "Christ" out of "Christmas" has only accomplished the destroying of people's faith and the creation of increasing materialism both within and without the church. I am forwarding your last Reflections to as many people as I can!!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Bro. Maxey, Thank you for your article on "the perfect." I have long shared your view that "the perfect" is not the canonization of the Scriptures, but is rather the "perfecting" of the saints. To take it one step farther, it appears to me that there is a direct link to the role of the Holy Spirit and His sanctifying power in the life of the Christian and this "perfecting" that takes place. Interestingly, my wife and I were discussing this exact topic the day before we discovered your article had been posted. How timely!! There is an interesting connection between 2 Cor. 3:18 and 1 Cor. 13:12. Both passages use imagery of one who is beholding his reflection within a mirror. The reflection, however, is in the process of gradually reflecting no longer the saint, but the Savior. The Spirit of God is bringing us to "the perfect" through the process of sanctification. As we yield our spirit and our will to the Holy Spirit, we participate in this process of perfecting (thus all the admonitions to "keep in step with the Spirit" and "do not grieve the Holy Spirit"). As we continue to yield, we reflect and behold more of Christ and less of self. We literally mirror our Lord and Savior and return to God's original plan that man would be the image of God. This mirroring of the Lord is an ongoing process in this life; we never arrive at ultimate perfection until we are with Him in glory. We are now in the process of reflecting the glory of God in ourselves, from glory to glory, as we grow closer to the goal of perfect/complete mirroring/reflecting. As a side note, all this talk of restoring the pattern of NT Christianity, and this insisting that the pattern is found in the forms of our faith (worship practices, church structure, etc.), completely misses the real pattern on which we should focus: being transformed into the likeness of Christ. If ever there was a pattern we should pursue, it is this one! Unfortunately, we have been too carnal in our approach to recognize it. Anyway, I just wanted to share this insight with you, and to thank you again for your love for our Lord, His children and His Word. May He continue to guide you and richly bless you!

If you would like to be removed from or added to this
mailing list, contact me and I will immediately comply.
If you are challenged by these Reflections, then feel
free to send them on to others and encourage them
to write for a free subscription. These articles may all
be purchased on CD. Check the ARCHIVES for
details and past issues of these weekly Reflections: