by Al Maxey

Issue #340 ------- March 12, 2008
Wherever there is a creed, there is a
heretic round the corner or in his grave.

Alfred North Whitehead {1861-1947}

Narrow Way or Narrow-Minded?
Critical Analysis of John Waddey's Wayward
Message to Churches of Christ Scattered Abroad

In his masterful work titled "Heretics," which was published in the year 1905, the remarkable author and thinker G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) made this astute observation -- "The modern world holds certain dogmas so strongly that it does not even know they are dogmas!" In the course of time, human dogmas have a tendency to become elevated to the status of divine decrees, with their proponents not in the least averse to seeking universal imposition of such dubious dogma upon the rest of humanity, with the cruel castigation of all who dare to differ with it following not far behind. Such unequivocal, tyrannical, obstinate absolutism is truly troubling to the spiritually-minded. And yet, such militant narrow-mindedness surrounds us in this fallen world of ours. [It is rather interesting to note that the Greek word transliterated "heresy" or "heretic" actually conveys the concept of a willingness to divide and separate into various sects or factions based upon opinionated personal choice. In other words, by biblical definition, it is not those who oppose your opinionated dogma who are the "heretics," but rather you who insist upon imposing your opinions as divine doctrine and withholding your fellowship from those who dare to differ with you.]

For thirty-two years now I have been engaged in active ministry for the Lord throughout the world. It's been a fascinating journey [see: Reflections #249] during which I have learned a number of valuable lessons. One of which is: 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've learned in thirty-two 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 which has just had its safe little boat rocked when its members were all slumbering soundly in the bottom. Frankly, it's a lot easier to convert an atheist to Jesus Christ than it is to convert a traditionalist to Truth.

There is a committed cadre within the ultra-conservative, legalistic, patternistic wing of our very own faith-heritage (and this is equally true of most other movements within Christendom) who are devoted to the destruction of anything and everything that dares to differ with the preferences, perceptions, precepts and practices of their particular party. A few within this cadre have stepped forward to give voice to the views of their fellow factionists. Others eagerly seek to be enforcers of the party policies, marking and maligning all those dreaded digressives and loathsome liberals who have "left the faith" and embraced "apostasy." Some are even willing to expend thousands of dollars on advertisements in which they eviscerate their brethren before an appalled public. It is a growing degeneracy and dysfunction that must genuinely grieve the Holy Spirit and distress our heavenly Father. Believers and non-believers alike are shocked and saddened by such displays of depraved dogmatism. Some of us have had enough! We can abide it no longer! We have chosen to take a public, visible, vocal stand against this outrage, and are willing to place ourselves in harm's way to declare for all to hear, "This must stop!" The unity for which our Lord prayed and died demands we remain silent no longer. It is time to push back the darkness and let the light of God's grace shine forth brightly once more! To this end I am committed, regardless of the cost to me personally.

Therefore, when I read the "advertisement" in The Daily Oklahoman, I could not remain silent. Such evil must be exposed for what it is. Similarly, when I received this month's issue of Christianity: Then & Now, the need to confront the darkness once again compelled me to take a stand, rather than cower in silence in the face of the absurdities of the legalistic, patternistic mindset. Until the enslaved are made to perceive the horrors of their enslavement, they will never seek to be free. A major portion of my ministry is directed toward those honest hearts trapped within the confines of legalism; honest hearts in which there is a growing yearning for something more spiritually relevant to their lives than the religious regulation and restriction under which they have wasted away for far too long. They have a desire to be free, but have yet to find the way out of their bondage. They will not hear it from their captors, so, Lord willing, they will hear it from me, and others like me. And, thanks be to God, with each passing week more and more precious souls are being liberated. The sound of their rejoicing fills my ears ... as does the ranting and raving of their increasingly irate former captors. Needless to say, in the eyes of the latter I am regarded as an emissary from hell, and they daily seek to silence me. With God's help, and your prayerful support, they will not succeed, and the result will be a growing number of liberated souls praising God for their release.

The editor of the above named periodical is John Waddey, who preaches for the Church of Christ in Surprise, Arizona. He has been a subscriber to my weekly Reflections almost from the beginning, and will even occasionally comment positively about some of my studies (as I indeed do about some of his). John is a good writer, and, frankly, it is important for all of us to have our theological perspectives challenged now and then. John challenges mine, as I challenge his. I believe he is dead wrong in some areas of his thinking, and I do not hesitate to tell him so. He returns the favor!! I have referred to some of his teachings in previous issues of my Reflections [#243, for example], and he has dealt with some of my teaching on his web site. In the most recent issue of his periodical -- Volume 7, Number 7, March 1, 2008 -- the lead article is titled "A Message to Churches of Christ Scattered Abroad" [pages 1, 4]. It is this article I would like to review in this present issue of Reflections, as I am thoroughly convicted that he has made some serious misstatements that need to be challenged and countered.

Waddey's Introduction

John Waddey is convinced that the so-called "Change Movement," along with its vocal proponents, those dreaded "Change Agents," constitutes a deadly threat to the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. Unless stopped dead in their tracks, these "Servants of Satan" will so corrupt the church by their changes that it will not even be recognizable to the Bridegroom when He returns to claim His beloved bride. His betrothed will have been transformed into some hideous monstrosity fit only for destruction in the lake of fire. Frankly, brethren, this is little more than fear-mongering: a common tactic of the legalists to condition their hearers to turn a deaf ear to any and all who dare to question or challenge the status quo of the party. It is a sectarian strategy that has long proved effective in stifling change, though it is losing its efficacy in our much more enlightened era. Brethren are increasingly questioning that which has been handed down to them as "Truth," and they are increasingly challenging the tedious tenets of their tenacious, oftentimes tyrannical, leaders. Such honest, reflective openness is leading many to reject the religious rigidity of the past and to embrace a more grace-centered, Christ-focused spiritual experience in their daily lives and in their times of corporate assembly. This, as one can easily imagine, is driving the leaders of legalism nuts, and they are intensifying their attacks on all who seek to promote any kind of change from their personal and party perspectives, preferences and practices. It is a global battle, and freedom is at stake.

John Waddey writes, "False religions seek to proselyte our brethren, and unfaithful teachers endanger our churches." This is true. I agree completely with John on this point. However, we would very likely (indeed, of a certainty) differ on the identity of the latter. Those perceived to be "unfaithful teachers" who "endanger" the congregations of believers throughout the world are the "agents of change," according to Waddey. Frankly, I believe he has misidentified the "enemy." There is no question that some within the church are indeed a danger to it. I'm not sure that danger lies in those simply seeking responsible change in areas of methodology for the sake of greater cultural and societal relevance. Most of the changes that are being promoted today, and with which these legalistic patternists seem to take the greatest exception, have nothing whatsoever to do with divine Truth, but merely with human Tradition. The worshipful expression of the Body of Christ should never be frozen in time and place; it should be living and evolving. In this way, Christianity becomes relevant to any culture at any time in history. To insist that one may only express one's love and devotion to God in exactly the manner and form found in first century congregations is to completely miss the point. Such thinking only tends to fossilize worshipful expression, rather than allowing it freedom of loving expression, which expression may vary from place to place, culture to culture. By focusing upon the externals of the church's worshipful expression, the legalistic patternists have seemingly failed to perceive that it is the heart that is the focus of our Lord. Preciseness of practice is not the benchmark of faithfulness; it is rather the depth of devotion of the inner man!

As Waddey begins his article, he does so by seeking to justify such a written appeal to disciples worldwide. He writes, "In the early days of our back-to-the-Bible movement, brethren would often send out a 'Circular Letter' to all the congregations in a district or state. With communication limited, and seasoned teachers and leaders few, this method was used to educate brethren on particular points of doctrine, correct mistaken views circulating among them, or to warn of false teachers who were seeking entrance into the churches. Today, our brotherhood stretches around the world. More than three million Christians are striving to worship and to serve God after the pattern revealed in the New Testament." Once again, reference is made to this rather elusive, highly contested "pattern" that is "revealed" within the pages of the NT writings. I have been asking for well over thirty years for a detailed list of the particulars of this pattern. Since it must be followed precisely in order to assure faithfulness to God, one would think it would be posted on the auditorium walls of every congregation. However, not one single patternist has to date provided me with that pattern. Indeed, they become infuriated when I press them for it. Why?! Because, for one, salvation and fellowship are not based upon human compliance with a detailed pattern, but upon faith in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Second, these legalists know only too well that the moment they attempt to formulate a list of particulars they will immediately be attacked by other patternists who will differ with them on the various points of their list. Ironic, is it not, that even the patternists can't agree on what constitutes the "pattern"?! Indeed, there is no more divisive and divided bunch around than the legalistic patternists. With every new variation on the pattern, a new faction emerges! When will these sectarians ever realize that the pathway they walk is only leading them farther and farther away from the Lord and from unity with His people?!

I also find it rather interesting, and even somewhat amusing, that John has identified the "Church of Christ" group as "our movement" within rather recent American history, with congregations of this movement originally scattered throughout various districts and states. Most ultra-conservatives within the Churches of Christ would rather be horse-whipped than admit that we are the product of a religious movement in recent history. Their claim has always been: "We are the One True Church that dates back to the day of Pentecost. WE are the Church, all others are merely denominations and movements." It's almost like the popes seeking to solidify their papal succession back to the apostle Peter. Everyone kind of chuckles under their breath at such notions, but nevertheless somewhat good-naturedly have a tendency to allow them this self-delusion. Most discerning disciples today, however, know better than to make such claims. Facts are facts. The Churches of Christ are indeed the product of a religious movement of rather recent beginnings. That is neither good nor bad, right nor wrong in itself. It just is. It is what one makes of this fact that may well constitute a positive or a negative.

One other observation before we move on to the body of this article -- John Waddey made this declaration: "Today our brotherhood stretches around the world. More than three million Christians are striving to worship and serve God after the pattern revealed in the New Testament." I'm not really sure where John Waddey got his figure of 3,000,000. If this is the number he believes are in "our brotherhood" (the Churches of Christ), then he is sadly mistaken. Carl Royster and Mac Lynn, for example, in their book "Churches of Christ in the United States" (2006 edition), noted that in the year 2006 we had 12,963 congregations with a total of 1,265,844 members. The vast majority of this number, according to the analysis, are classified as "Mainstream." The Non-Institutional group only has a total of 132,587 members; the Non-Class group has 21,555; the One Cup group has 18,243. The number of members in the remainder of the world (according to Mac Lynn's "Churches of Christ around the World" -- the 2003 edition) is said to be 884,942 (although I think this number is somewhat inflated due to the outrageous numbers coming out of India and certain small African nations -- Nigeria, for example, claims to have 265,000 members). Therefore, the most liberal reckoning would be just over two million members worldwide. So, if there are indeed three million "Christians" in the world (as per John Waddey's count), but considerably less than that number within the Churches of Christ, is Waddey thereby suggesting there may well be a million or more genuine Christians who are NOT within "our brotherhood"? Hmmmmm. Further, if indeed there are 3,000,000 members within the Churches of Christ, I can assure you that John's assertion that these three million "are striving to worship and serve God after the pattern revealed in the New Testament" is completely false. Again, statistics clearly show that those ultra-conservative patternists within the Churches of Christ make up only a very small percentage of the entire membership, and that percentage is now rapidly dwindling [some church growth experts have even suggested that congregations made up of adherents advocating this legalistic, patternistic mindset will be virtually nonexistent by the end of this century, and possibly sooner], which is why John Waddey, and others like him, are so terribly worried, and why they are becoming increasingly reactive to the blossoming grace-centered, Christ-focused movement within our own faith-heritage. [NOTE: I would encourage the reader to consult Reflections #268 - Delineation of Diversity: A Sectional Spectrum Analysis of Disciples in Mainline Churches of Christ and also Reflections #259 - Churches of Christ in Crisis: Reflecting on a Movement's Decline.]

Waddey's Exhortation

At the conclusion of his rather brief introduction, John Waddey writes, "So to members of the Churches of Christ scattered in the nations of the world, we send the following exhortation." This exhortation, which constitutes the remainder of his article, is made up of nine bulleted paragraphs, the second of which has an additional six points. I will provide each of his statements in their entirety, and then make a few comments following each. With some of his declarations I have little argument, however others are so outrageous as to warrant a challenge.

I appreciate that John Waddey has at least been open enough to characterize this plea as "our plea." I certainly don't find such a plea in the inspired writings coming from God. This concept of restoration has long been a point of contention among disciples of Christ. Does our God really desire for all Christians everywhere to be exact replicas of the first century disciples in their worshipful expressions and practices? If so, where has He ever declared them to be the universal model for all subsequent times and cultures? To suggest that any change at all from their "pattern" constitutes "apostasy" is ludicrous! This is especially true when one considers that the patternists pick and choose which aspects of first century practice they will implement in today's culture. If restoration is indeed a valid principle, and if it is central to faithfulness, then why are we so selective in what is restored? And just who gets to decide? Does John Waddey use one cup in the Lord's Supper at his congregation? If not, shouldn't he consider "restoring" the first century practice (assuming that is what it was)? Which brings up yet another point. How do we know what first century practice was?! Was every congregation uniform in every respect? Were Jewish and Gentile assemblies exactly identical? Can we know for sure that what Troas did is what Corinth, Antioch, Jerusalem and Rome did? Which congregation becomes the universal standard for the formulation of this "pattern" we must all follow? And, again, who gets to decide? Is it any wonder there is no agreement on the nature of this elusive pattern?!

Yes, it is quite true: "a multitude of our brethren" have indeed abandoned the concept of restoring some elusive 2000 year old "pattern" ... as well they should. Since there is clearly no agreement among the patternists as to what specifically is to be restored, the whole process thereby breaks down before it has even begun. Yes, let's imitate the faithfulness of our spiritual forefathers, to the degree that they sought to be Christ-like, but to seek to imitate their methodologies (given the fact that they lived in different times and different cultures), as they went about implementing divine principles, can only fail. Such an effort has led to the fragmented, feuding factions and squabbling sects we see in Christendom today. It is unworkable to base unity, faithfulness and even salvation upon uniformity of practice; those things may only be achieved by the unity of the Spirit, and that is based upon a Person, not a pattern or practice. Restoration is a false trail leading nowhere. It should be abandoned, and the sooner the better. Issue #3 of my Reflections dealt with this very fallacy, and I would urge the readers to review it.

May one divide the One Body of Christ into various denominated factions, schisms and sects, and still be pleasing to our God? Of course not! The patternists have been dismembering the Body of Christ for years, and I oppose this practice. Is the group known as "Church of Christ" (this "movement" of which John spoke in his introductory remarks) a denominated historical entity? Of course it is. Waddey even let this slip in his own article. The universal One Body of our Lord is NOT to be equated with any one particular group or movement within Christendom. It is rather made up of individuals -- i.e., all the redeemed the world over. The totality of the redeemed will never be found within the parameters of any one group or movement, because no one group or movement constitutes, in its entirety, the universal One Body of Christ Jesus. If you are in Christ, and if I am in Christ, then we be brethren ... regardless of what appears on the sign above the door of the buildings in which we assemble. The so-called "change agents" do not believe in the separation of brethren; rather, we seek to embrace and accept all of our Father's many children. It is rather the legalistic patternists who have denominated themselves the "one true church," and who then exclude all others who do not parrot the same sectarian shibboleths as they. Frankly, that is about as denominational and sectarian as one can get, and to answer Waddey's question -- NO, they cannot do this and be pleasing to God.

Yes, I do indeed concur with John's analysis in #2. I reject the notion that there is a "pattern" that must be precisely followed in order to be acceptable to our God. And, yes, there is indeed quite a wide variety of expression permissible among the people of God in various places, times and cultures as they seek to pour out their heartfelt praise to their God and serve Him within the parameters of their opportunities and abilities. John might want to read Romans 14 again. I believe baptism is essential to salvation in the sense that it is a demonstration of faith that our Lord expects of us. Yes, we are saved by grace through faith, but that faith must be active and visible. It is expressed in part by immersion. It is also expressed by repentance and devoted service to our Father. There are many aspects to this process of moving from darkness to light, and yet they all fall under the umbrellas of grace and faith (the former of God, the latter of man). Baptism has its place, but it is not the "magic wand" of salvation. With regard to musical instruments as either an aid or accompaniment to our singing, I have dealt with this extensively in my writings, as have others. It is utterly impossible to prove that God finds them so offensive that their use in our worshipful expression will cost us our very salvation. Indeed, there is far more evidence in Scripture that He approves of their use. In fact, I have a standing challenge to the patternists to produce even one verse in the Bible where God even hints at disapproval. They have yet to produce that verse. In its absence, I shall not presume to condemn what He has not condemned. As for the role of women within the church today, again I have expressed my views many times, and would refer the reader to my Topical Index where, under the heading "Role of Women," I have dealt extensively with this issue. As for item #6, that is just absurd. I know of no so-called "change agents" who advocate embracing the tenets of Catholicism or of the New Age movement.

In other words, anyone who rejects their perception of patternism is simply laboring to incorporate the practices of the dreaded "denominations" into "the one, true church" (which is, of course, our group). Are we, in the Churches of Christ the only people on the face of the earth who have good ideas with regard to how best to reach the lost, edify the saved, and glorify our God? Do we have a monopoly? Is there anything wrong or sinful with employing the best methodologies available in our effort to make the gospel message relevant to our own day, and make the expression of our devotion relevant to our own members? If the Baptists thought of something before we did, does that make it wrong? Frankly, we ought to be seeking assistance and advice from wherever and whomever we can. Yes, evaluate it in light of the principles of God's Word, but don't reject something just because WE didn't think of it first.

John Waddey is thinking of such congregations as Richland Hills in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Quail Springs in Oklahoma City. He perceives these changes that have occurred as nothing less than full-blown "apostasy," and that the precious souls of countless thousands are being forever lost due to the godless tactics and teachings of these evil "change agents." The reality is far less sinister. Good, honest hearts are simply going to God's Word, some for the very first time, and making careful inquiry into the validity of their many practices and positions. Are these Truth, or are they tradition? A growing number are discovering that much of what has been handed down as absolute Truth, is, in fact, nothing more than cherished tradition. There is nothing wrong with having traditions. There is nothing wrong with keeping these traditional practices, if that is the will of the vast majority of the congregation. However, if all they are is tradition, then they are NOT inviolate; they CAN be changed, or even dispensed with altogether, if circumstances warrant. The "change agents" are not sowing "tares" among the people of God, they are merely exposing "traditions." And when traditions are finally perceived for what they truly are, and what they are not, responsible change is right around the corner. We are seeing these changes occurring in Churches of Christ throughout the nation ... and throughout the world. And it is long overdue!

There are a great many things in this statement about which one is tempted to comment, but I'll limit my response. Most would agree, regardless of where they may be situated along the broad theological spectrum within our "brotherhood," that a growing number of our leading colleges and universities are moving away from the rigid religiosity of the past. In other words, they are truly providing the service for which they were designed: providing an environment where men and women are truly free to think and reason, rather than merely regurgitating and replicating the party policies pounded into them (which is the standard practice of too many of our ultra-conservative preaching schools -- Memphis School of Preaching being a perfect example). Waddey seems to be of the opinion that if anyone dares to hold a view other than the ones accepted by our predecessors in the party (what he terms "faulty views"), then that person is not truly loyal to Christ Jesus. They are digressives and defectors, and anything they may teach is simply perceived to be "confusing, corrupting and divisive." In reality, however, all that is happening here is that discerning disciples (and yes, there tend to be a good number of these within the academic community) are increasingly perceiving the inadequacies and fallacies of the whole legalistic, patternistic approach to worship of and service to God, and they're rapidly turning to a far more grace-affirming, Christ-focused, relationship-over-religion approach to our Christian walk. Needless to say, this glorious liberation from legalism is not being well-received by those still fixated upon the concept of redemption through regulation.

I have chosen to deal with the above two points together, as they are truly intimately connected. I must admit, I agree with everything John Waddey stated in these two paragraphs from his article. He is absolutely right, and his points from Scripture are accurate. Where John and I would likely differ, and differ quite dramatically, is in the identity of these troublers of the church. There have always been those who seek to pervert the gospel of our Lord and lead astray the sheep of His flock. There have always been false teachers, worthless shepherds and deceitful workers. As long as the conflict between good and evil continues to be waged, such men and women will infiltrate and infect the Body of Christ. Waddey's right in issuing this warning to the church, and we should all take it very seriously. However, in the above warnings from the inspired New Covenant writings, who are these troublers? A careful reading will demonstrate they are those persons who are intent upon returning to some form of justification by law, and who are willing to sever fellowship with brethren over personal preferences. They are deniers of the deity of Jesus Christ, as well as those who denied He came in the flesh. They are NOT those men and women who may simply have personal convictions that differ from yours. It's okay to be different; it's NOT okay to be divisive over those differences. I can assure you that most of what John Waddey, and others like him, will "mark" a person for has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Truth -- it has to do with tradition. In other words, a good 90% (at least) of the "marking" and maligning that occurs by these "contenders for the faith" is over matters about which not one single syllable has ever been uttered within God's Word. It is about opinions and preferences, and, by definition, when one is willing to divide over such matters, that malicious mindset constitutes "heresy."

This loose paraphrase of liftings from the letters of Paul makes it appear that "the message" proclaimed to the lost of every nation is all about the rites and rituals of some Sunday morning "worship service" (a phrase that never once appears in the Bible, by the way), and that faithfulness to the gospel is to be found in precisely practicing the "five acts of worship" in exactly the same manner as first century Christians. Of course, the questions again arise: which congregation is the standard for that pattern? Were all the congregations of the first century uniform in their every practice? Were Jews and Arabs identical in their practice? Were Greeks and Romans? Exactly which set of "rules" for the assembly did the Ethiopian eunuch take back home with him, I wonder?! And just exactly which passage of Scripture commands that becoming clones of first century disciples with regard to methodology is critical to both fellowship and salvation?!! If John Waddey would please share that passage with me from the NT writings, I would be most grateful ... and I will pass it along to the readers in my next issue of Reflections. I have searched the Word extensively, and have yet to find it. Thus, I look forward to John sharing it with us all. Let me share one with him: "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith" [Heb. 13:7]. What is it we are to imitate? It is their faith; the courage of their individual conviction that compelled them to live, and even die, for the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether they ate various meats, or only ate vegetables ... whether they observed certain "holy" days, or observed all days alike ... whether they used instruments, or sang a cappella ... whether they used multiple cups, or just one cup ... whether they ate in the church building, or ate only in their homes ... Etc. [Romans 14] ... are all equally irrelevant to our fellowship and salvation. These are not matters over which disciples of Christ mark one another, they are rather matters that challenge us to mature alongside one another. Yes, let's imitate the faith and love and compassion and mercy of those within the first century church. But, imitate their methods?! Whatever for?! The basic principles of divine Truth (as well as specific commands of God) are those things which are eternal; the mere methodologies of their implementation change over time (as indeed they must in order to be relevant).

Once again, I completely concur with what John Waddey wrote in this final paragraph of his article. Who were these "false teachers" plaguing the Galatian brethren, however? Were they those horrible instrumentalists? Were they those abominable multiple-cuppers? Were they those liberals who built fellowship halls and ate in the church buildings? Were they those nuts who thought praise teams were acceptable? No? Then it must have been those Sunday-schoolers! No? Well, then, who?!! That's right ... those troubling the church were the legalists. By stressing the importance of rules and regulations with respect to fellowship and salvation, these false teachers had indeed "perverted the gospel of Christ." And they continue to do so today. "Remember, a perverted gospel will save no one!" (Waddey's words). May God truly help this man to perceive the meaning of what he just wrote. To assist in that task, may I suggest a very careful study of Reflections #202 -- Epistle to the Galatians: Magna Charta of Christian Liberty. I'd also highly recommend Reflections #215 -- Embracing Another Gospel: Analyzing Apostolic Authorial Intent in the Admonition of Galatians 1:6-9. Since Waddey referred to this latter passage in his final remark above, I would urge him to give careful, prayerful consideration to this study. It is my prayer that it may help enlighten him to the realities of God's grace!

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Readers' Reflections

From a Missionary in Bulgaria:

Dear Bro. Al, Thank you for your thorough word study from the Greek in your article titled "It is the Gift of God." How many Bible classes have we all sat in where comment after comment starts with, "I think ..." or "In my opinion ..."? Whenever I'm teaching a class and get such comments my response is always, "Yes, but what does the Word say?" What I might think, or what my opinion might be, does not stand up for a second against God's intention. Just as dangerous and frustrating are comments such as, "Well, my favorite preacher always told us that this meant ..." or "The elders where I used to worship said that it meant ...". Bro. Al, please keep up the good work, and keep those Greek word studies flowing!

From a Missionary in El Salvador:

Dear Brother Al, Someone passed on to me your article "Ostracism in Oklahoma." I was glad to see/sense your righteous indignation toward those responsible for the anti-gospel treatment of the brethren at the Quail Springs Church of Christ. It appears that many of us in/from the Church of Christ tradition are inclined to think that those who make matters such as the instrument into conditions of salvation and fellowship are simply a bit too narrow-minded, legalistic, hard-headed, but still "good-hearted, good old boys." We just keep on extending to them the right hand of fellowship, hoping and praying that some day they will all "come around." However, I see that in your article you don't portray them as "good old boys." You are right!! They, and the spirit they possess, should be strongly condemned. A few men made the effort to put that big ad in the newspaper. Three of them put their names to it. We have declared them to be "bad guys" ... and rightly so! But is it not true that what they did --- embarrassing us all who are associated with the Churches of Christ --- is also being done by thousands of little churches and their preachers across the world?! What those three men did with their ad, church members do every day in their attitudes and actions against children of God who are simply different from them. Where is this all going, brother? In our present politically/religiously-correct climate, do we dare to stand up like Paul and pronounce a Galatians-style condemnation of such wickedness? Evidently Bro. Al Maxey thinks we must. And I say: Grace to you, brother!!

From a Reader in Barbados, Caribbean Islands:

Brother Al, As usual, you force us to examine the many dogmas we have adopted (usually without active thought) over time. This study in Ephesians 2:8-9 is no less the case. Clearly the "gift" must be one of these three: grace, salvation or faith. I'm inclined to agree with your position that salvation, which is by grace through faith, appears to be the gift that Paul intends. I asked a Greek and Hebrew professor what his opinion was. Here is his reply: "You ask a wonderful theological/exegetical question to which I can only give my opinion, not a definitive answer. The problem is that there is NO precise referent. Grace is feminine - Faith is feminine - Even salvation (as a noun) is feminine. Yet it must be one of these three. However, it is a tautology to say that salvation and grace are 'not of yourselves,' so in that case it certainly looks more like the passage is really pointing out that man cannot even take credit for his own act of faith, but rather that faith was itself created by God and implanted within us (i.e., the normal Calvinistic position). So, that is basically my opinion, although others obviously disagree strenuously. From an exegetical standpoint, though, the other positions have to explain away the matter of the tautology." Please keep your great work going, Al. My prayer is that when you have come to the end of your leg of the race, that God will raise up someone to continue this marvelous work of yours!

From a Professor at Pepperdine University:

Hello Brother Al, I currently attend the ------- Church of Christ and we are starting a series on the Minor Prophets, with Obadiah being the first. I did a Google search on "Obadiah Minor Prophet" for some background info and your study of Obadiah was the first one listed by Google out of 468,000. I just thought you would like to know that!!

From a Reader in Alaska:

Dear Brother Al, I have been reading your Reflections for about a year now, and with great interest. I noticed in your most recent issue there was a letter from "a new reader in Alaska." This was a real thrill for me! I had recommended your web site about a year ago to the very minister who had recommended your site to this new reader. It makes my heart leap for joy to know your Reflections are being "passed on" to faithful Christians. Bro. Al, we wanted to check and see if you were going to be in the area on the weekend of March 15-16, as we plan to come visit Alamogordo at that time. My wife and I would really like to see you and visit with you, if you have some time for us. May God bless you richly, and may He give you a long life. I firmly believe you are at the very front of the battle against legalism!

From a New Reader in Tennessee:

Brother Al, I hadn't come across your Reflections prior to tonight. A great sister from my home congregation is a champion of freedom in Christ, and she sent me the copy of your article about the ad against Quail Springs. New winds are blowing, my brother, and it is refreshing to those of us who have felt like we've been dying of thirst in the desert of traditionalism!! You give me hope! Thank you! Our congregation, at this very moment (thankfully), is going through those same pulls and tugs. My hope and prayer is that we too will very soon replace traditionalism with "Christ-ism." 'Bout time! I have preached for some great congregations for 25 years, and I know the "landscape" very well.

From a New Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Maxey, I've just read your Reflections article regarding Quail Springs and instrumental music in the services. My response to what you wrote is: "Amen, Brother!" I'm a lifelong member of the Churches of Christ and was raised in a very fundamental congregation, but one that was filled with love and compassion. I now attend a congregation that is a bit more "progressive," but which has chosen not to have instrumental music in its services. Nevertheless, when I initially saw the advertisement referred to in your article, I had just come from a Bible study in which one of the statistics presented was that more than half of the population of the United States has never been inside of a church building, much less enjoyed the fellowship of Christians. When I saw this advertisement, my first reaction was: "If I were one of those who had not previously participated, this article would do absolutely nothing except confirm a belief that such participation would bring me into the company not of the saved, but of hypocrites. I have a great love for two of the members at Quail Springs, one of whom is one of the very elders there who helped make the difficult decision to add an instrumental service. I can only say that if the other members of that congregation are as committed to God as are my friends, then that place is truly being prepared by the Master. May you and yours and the church at Quail Springs be blessed.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Dear Brother Al, I want to thank you for the article you wrote titled "Ostracism in Oklahoma." You see, I am a proud member of the Quail Springs Church of Christ. Your article was very well-written and honest! My husband and I just can't put our minds around this whole legalism-in-the-church thing. All we care about is that the church is Spirit-filled and that it preaches Christ's Truth. I was ashamed and embarrassed for the name of Christ Jesus when I read that advertisement in The Daily Oklahoman. That was a full-page example of a public misrepresentation of our Lord. Again, I just wanted to say Thank You, Bro. Al. I appreciate your words and your service to the Lord.

From a New Reader in Florida:

Dear Brother Al, Thanks to a brother who is a winter visitor (a "snowbird") at the Church of Christ where we worship, I have discovered you! We've had some interesting conversations, and he sent me one of your Reflections. I read it and then immediately signed up to receive them regularly. I have also since read many, many of the ones in your archives. Through your wise words, I've gotten answers to situations that have long been troubling me. I am so glad to know that I'm not alone in my "questioning." I really like reading your articles, and also the many responses from your readers. I am not a kid (I'm 73 years young), and have been in the Churches of Christ for most of my adult life. Thanks to your writings, I'm now very delighted to be totally immersed in some very eye-opening, head-clearing learning!!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Dear Brother Al, I like to read the remarks from your readers, and I note that many of them, like myself, have come from a legalistic background, and yet they are now walking in God's grace. Hopefully, most of these will remain in our faith-heritage and help you in your ministry to plant seeds of Truth and Light to a lot of our enslaved brethren. Simply leaving the Church of Christ, if there is any way to continue working and worshipping with them, would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water. I give your Reflections to those I know who are searching for a way out of legalism, and these writings of yours are doing much good!!

From a Minister in California:

Right on, Bro. Al. God's great, gracious gift has to be our salvation!! And we can only comprehend the greatness of that gift when we begin to get our arms around the grace of God. Without grace, salvation is nothing more than an unattainable prize at the end of a futile quest to keep LAW. But, when we grasp God's grace by faith, salvation blossoms into the gift for which we willingly give up everything we used to count precious. It is the pearl of great price. Thanks, Bro. Al, for another positively stimulating Reflections.

From a Minister in Kansas:

Bro. Al, One Cup man here. Great job on the last couple of issues of your Reflections. What a wonderful testimony from the sister in the Midwest. I look forward to meeting her in May when she and her husband visit us here in Kansas. Brother Al, there are so many from our faith-heritage who have come to see the dangers associated with following men rather than Jesus. Men separate us from one another by telling us we can't have any fellowship with this group or that group within the Churches of Christ. Jesus, on the other hand, tells us to be ONE so that the world may be WON. God bless all who seek unity in Christ.

From a Reader in California:

My dear friend and brother, I feel that as each week passes, and as I begin looking forward to your latest Reflections gem, I am given anew the joy of exquisitely intelligent and sound biblical study into regions that I never dreamed I could ever experience!! It is one thing to just read your articles, and it is quite another to be overwhelmed by the light of your scholarship! My prayer is that your readership will continue to grow, and that those who venture into the realm of your reflective studies will come away with newly-found freedom in Christ. Bro. Al, your study on "The Gift of God" was so logical and intelligent, but it was your last paragraph that truly summed up just how all of this ties in to our present day, and what needs to be done to spread the Good News of His Grace which can set us free. I find myself struggling to contain the near-militancy I feel when I think about all the legalism and patternism that must be eliminated from our congregations. In the church today, form must follow function, NOT the other way around. If we get the function right, the form will follow, and that can and will be led by the Spirit into areas we've likely never dreamed of. And yes, we are changing ... just not fast enough! But, oh, the journey of change from legalism to freedom we've experienced since the 40's and 50's. What a joy to behold. Being in the twilight years of my life, I only hope I can live to see a time where my faith-heritage becomes that which I feel God intended it to be. Thanks be to God, that transition to grace-centered places of worship is happening, and thanks to you, brother, along with others, for being champions of Truth. Keep doing what you are doing, my brother. You are truly a voice crying in the wilderness. May God richly bless you and your family always and forever! Your grateful Christian sister in California.

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