by Al Maxey

Issue #390 ------- March 14, 2009
Politics, like religion, holds up the torches
of martyrdom to the reformers of error.

Thomas Jefferson {1743-1826}

Odds and Ends
Random Reflections

Very few people in this world would likely ever disagree with the view that one of the greatest writers of all time was William Shakespeare (1564-1616). In his fabulous work Richard III, the following brief quote lends itself to hours of worthwhile reflection and discussion -- "And thus I clothe my naked villainy with odd old ends stol'n forth of holy writ, and seem a saint when most I play the devil." This brief quote clearly brings to mind the statement of the apostle Paul regarding false apostles and deceitful brethren who, though they "disguise themselves as servants of righteousness" [2 Cor. 11:13-15], are in reality of their father the devil [John 8:44]. Therefore, they clothe their naked villainy with select proof texts lifted from "Holy Writ," seeking to promote a perception of patternistic perfection, when all the while they are merely petty partyists.

Over the past few decades, during which I have been actively involved in public ministry, I have done a considerable amount of reflection upon, writing about and exposing of the tenets and tyrants associated with legalistic patternism in the Stone-Campbell Movement. This sectarian spirit and rigid religiosity has wormed its way through the history of the Christian faith over the past two millennia, doing unbelievable harm to the cause of our Lord Jesus on earth. It should be vigorously opposed by every grace-centered, Christ-focused disciple who yearns for the unity of the One Body and for the realization of freedom for each of God's children. It is so painful watching the precious Body of Christ being systematically dismembered by those more intent upon opinions than oneness, factions than family. It breaks my heart to witness Diotrephes in action today among my beloved brethren, and to watch my weary spiritual siblings withering under the fiery blasts of these godless leaders who have "infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves" [Gal. 2:4, NIV]. In the spirit of Paul, we must never, ever "yield in subjection to them even for an hour" [vs. 5]. Our lives, both here and hereafter, literally depend upon our resolve to oppose such servants of darkness disguised as servants of Light.

However, it should be known that those who dare to oppose these factionists will pay an extremely high price for their loyalty to the Master. They will be hounded, vilified and eviscerated without mercy, and every attempt to destroy both their name and their ministry will be made. Even after they have passed from this life, they will be slandered and defamed. I mention this only to forewarn my brethren that fighting the "good fight" is not without personal cost. You will be wounded in battle, but be assured --- the victory is already won. Let me give you a recent, and thoroughly sickening, example of the above truth. In the February, 2009 edition of the periodical Contending for the Faith, there appears on page 10 an article by Dub McClish, who lives in Denton, Texas. The article is titled "Long Time Liberal Goes To His Own Home." Let me translate this title for you -- "Another Liberal Has Gone To Hell." The article is blasting the memory of a gospel preacher named Walter Burch, who recently died. Since Dub McClish disagrees with some of the views held by Walter Burch, the former's conclusion is that the latter is forever doomed to the deepest pit in hell. McClish writes of Burch, "He was the first full-time preacher at the apostate Richland Hills [non]-Church of Christ when both he and it were doctrinally sound." Bro. Burch, who also taught at Abilene Christian University for over a decade, became a "change agent," however (according to McClish), daring to "fellowship the Christian Church." In this article, Dub McClish states, "Not surprisingly, both the Richland Hills and ACU web sites heap great praise upon him. I can hardly wait to read the accolades The [un]-Christian Chronicle will give him." Well, there is more, but you get the idea. On the very same page of this issue of Contending for the Faith is a cartoon depicting "change agents" being cast into hell along with Judas. The caption has Judas saying to them, "I betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. What was your motivation?"

Brethren, we ought to be disturbed by this! These people have arrogantly assumed for themselves the authority to determine who is and who isn't saved, and that determination is based upon personal and party perceptions and preferences. This is sectarianism of the most Satanic sort, and, sadly, we see it all about us. I have no doubt that if we should choose NOT to confront this evil among us, then we are going to have much to answer for one day as we stand before the Father. Why did we stand by doing nothing while our brethren were being beaten before our eyes? Why did we stand silently while the Bride of Christ was being raped right in front of us? Perhaps others feel they can "justify" such inaction, but I cannot. Regardless of the cost to me personally --- I will speak out, and I will take action, and I will confront, with all the force I can muster, these people who are seemingly determined to cause irreversible harm to the cause of Jesus Christ. I dare do nothing else!!

And yet, as each of us take a stand for grace and Truth and freedom, and as we promote unity rather than uniformity, we ourselves will become the focus of those who have throughout the centuries sought to enslave the people of God to their own narrow, partisan precepts and practices. In my last Reflections (Issue #389), which was titled "Fiery Factional Fomentation," I sought to address just such an assault against me by Morris Bowers from Athens, Alabama. I encouraged him, in much the same language as Jesus used to confront His own accusers, to simply provide the evidence [John 18:23]. Time and again within that article I pleaded with Morris Bowers to substantiate his several accusations by providing the direct quotes from my writings and teachings that affirm his charges. I also stated that I would report to the readers whether or not he ever did so. The very same day (Saturday, March 7) that my Reflections was sent out (in fact, about 9 hours later), Mr. Bowers sent the following response to my pleas (this was sent not just to me, but to a number of people on his mailing list):

Frankly, this attempt at substantiation of his charges would be somewhat humorous, if it were not so utterly pathetic. NONE of his previous accusations were even addressed; they were ignored altogether. Instead, what he did was issue several new accusations (equally without substantiation). He listed 6 of my articles (out of almost 400) that he says "teach error," although he fails to mention what that error is. He says they teach "'what if' conclusions," although he fails to provide a single example. He says my conclusions are built around what atheists, humanists and denominational people teach, although, again, not a single example from my writings is provided to substantiate this new accusation. In fact, his only substantiated criticism is that I have placed a quotation at the beginning of each of my Reflections.

Yes, I do indeed place a quotation at the top of each issue, and also place a picture or clipart of some kind at the beginning. My usage of a particular graphic does not suggest my support of the lifestyle or theology of the graphic artist any more than my use of a quotation suggests my support of the lifestyle or theology of the individual quoted. The apostle Paul quoted pagan poets, but I doubt that anyone would suggest he thereby embraced paganism. I place a quote at the top of each issue simply as a "thought starter." They get the mental juices flowing. There are times when I agree with the quote provided, there are times when I don't. They are simply provided as something for us all to ponder, and generally they are related in some way to the thoughts about to be presented in the article. To make more of them than that is unwarranted. The fact that Morris Bowers has done just that demonstrates the desperation of this man when backed into a corner and forced to "produce the evidence." HE CAN'T ... and he knows it. Thus, he makes himself look even more foolish by this criticism of my using quotations at the beginning of each article. If this is the best he can do in providing the evidence for his many accusations against me, then he's succeeded only in completely losing all credibility in the eyes of rational disciples of Christ. By the way, I wrote to Mr. Bowers later that same evening and asked him to substantiate his newest accusations with direct quotes from my own writings. You guessed it -- that evidence has yet to be provided!! No real surprise there!

A New Reader Wonders

About three days ago I received an email from a brother-in-Christ (location unknown) who requested to be added to the mailing list for my weekly Reflections. In addition to the subscription request, he had the following things to say, which I found rather interesting --- "Dear Al, I also have a question for you that I hope you will have the time to answer. I know you are probably a very busy man, but your response would be greatly appreciated. I am a subscriber to the Yahoo group known as CFTF [**Which stands for "Contending for the Faith." This group has been in existence for nine years and has 354 members. Although it bills itself as "a friendly list," where all members are asked to "behave themselves in a manner that would befit Christians," where no "brotherhood disputes" are ever discussed, and where anyone "who brings contention onto the list" will be removed, nevertheless this is largely a gathering of very legalistic, patternistic individuals who are only too willing to "go after" the "liberals" tooth-and-toenail .. Al Maxey]. I have been a member of this Internet group for quite some time, and the people who are on there seem to have a big problem with everyone I used to consider good, godly people (everyone from Dave Miller to Apologetics Press, Curtis Cates, GBN ... you name it). YOU are also included in this list of evil 'false teachers.' I have been having discussions with these people who are on there (men such as: Dub McClish, Michael Hatcher, Daniel Coe, etc.). They all refuse to give me a direct response as to WHY you are a 'false teacher,' although they do say you are 'liberal' and such. I do not understand any of this. I personally love reading your Reflections, and think that you have some great insights into the Bible. I just wish there were more people out there who had web sites like yours, and who also devoted as much time to study of the Word as you obviously do. My question to you is: why do these people consider you to be a 'false teacher,' and what does it mean when they refer to you as a 'liberal'? Aren't we all supposed to be united in Christ (John 17)? Yet, I have never seen such hatred spit out as on this group."

Although we hear the phrase "false teacher" tossed about virtually every day, and applied countless times to those with whom one may differ over a wide variety of so-called "weighty matters of the law," it might come as a surprise to many readers to learn that the phrase "false teacher" is used only one time within the pages of the Bible. The frequency with which it is employed to label and libel others, however, might cause some to suspect that this characterization is found flowing freely from the pen of every New Testament writer. It is not. Indeed, it is used most sparingly, and most specifically. The lone occurrence is 2 Peter 2:1. For those who may wish to study this unique phrase in greater depth, I would refer them to Reflections #123 -- Focusing on False Teachers: Scriptural Fact vs. Sectarian Fallacy. Once an individual genuinely understands the manner in which this term is utilized in Scripture, and to whom it actually refers, that person will immediately become aware of the unconscionable abuse of this passage by too many within our faith-heritage who profess to be "contenders for the faith" once for all delivered unto the saints. In reality, they are anything but.

Yes, the men named above by this brother do indeed consider me to be a "false teacher," a "liberal," and a good many other things! And, not surprisingly, they, like most of their compatriots, are quite quick to eviscerate and incinerate those with whom they differ on a thousand and one points of personal and party preference, perception and practice, although they are extremely reluctant to ever "produce the evidence" for their caustic criticisms when challenged to do so!! Indeed, they'll typically clam up and flee for cover. WHY do these people regard me as a "false teacher"? For the simple reason that I do not parrot their party line; I don't goose-step to their drum beat; I do not pronounce "Shibboleth" as they do. I dare to think for myself, and draw my own conclusions. I dare to differ with their dogma. I dare to promote unity rather than uniformity; a Person rather than a pattern. And I dare NOT remain silent in the face of teaching that seeks to bring my brethren back under slavery to legal regulation. I'm FREE, and I dare to believe others have a right to be free as well. For these "infractions" I'm deemed a "liberal" (among other things). Go figure!

What About Sunday Evening?

Let me move to another topic, one that has troubled many congregations over the years. There are very few congregations, regardless of denominational affiliation, that have not struggled with the concept and practice of a "second service" on Sunday. For as long as many of us can remember, there has been a Sunday morning "worship service" (although I care very little for this characterization) followed later that evening by a second service. The second service is typically a "mini-repeat" of the morning assembly, complete with three songs, a prayer, a sermon, and a reoffering of the Lord's Supper to "those who missed" that morning. I dealt with this latter issue almost four years ago in Reflections #196 -- The Second Serving Controversy. Some present day disciples, however, have occasionally wondered where the idea for the second assembly itself originated. Who thought of this, and why? A few of the very strict patternists have even demanded "Book, Chapter and Verse" for more than one assembly on Sunday. And they have a point (that is, if we want to be patternistic literalists), for there is NO mention anywhere in the NT writings of a "second service." In fact, there is no mention anywhere in the NT of a Sunday morning worship assembly. EVERY such gathering, according to the examples provided within the NT writings, was in the evening. Thus, if one is going to bind the DAY, should not one also bind the TIME of day?! Most of these legalistic patternists will not go quite that far, although a few will, thus again demonstrating just how terribly inconsistent this tendentious theology truly is!

But, placing such petty party concerns aside (and, oh, that they could ALL be forever cast aside), the undeniable reality is that in the majority of our congregations we have inherited this tradition of a "second service" on Sunday evenings. That is just "the way things are," therefore we need to deal with this traditional practice in a realistic and responsible manner so as to make the most of these additional opportunities for the saints to gather together on the Lord's Day, thus making each of these times spiritually meaningful to those who choose to attend. Believe me, this can be a huge challenge for the leaders of each individual congregation, for in those congregations where the members do not believe the evening assembly is relevant and meeting their needs, attendance has dropped dramatically (and, frankly, this is the case in the vast majority of congregations). Thus, there is significant concern among those leaders and members who believe the second service is still of some value to find a way to attract the members back to this assembly. In light of the above, let me share with you the following recent email I received from a concerned minister in the great state of Tennessee:

I must be very honest here with this fellow minister -- I too have struggled over the years with what to do about the declining attendance at the "second service" on Sunday. There have been times, to be perfectly blunt with you, when I have wondered why we even bother with such an assembly. In some congregations there is so little interest and involvement, that the whole effort almost seems pointless. Yet, on the other hand, that is a rather defeatist attitude, and it displays a willingness to simply "give up" instead of confronting the problem with some creative solutions. Perhaps the operative word here is "creative." We need to be willing to "think outside the box" to some extent; not being fearful of change, if such change (even though radical) is reasonable, responsible and required. Too many are reluctant to leave their comfortable religious ruts, even though their numbers are diminishing and their spiritual fervor is fading. When one reclines within a rut for too long, it only remains for someone to come along and fill in this "open grave" -- as we're already dead, but just don't know it.

Yes, as the minister from Tennessee rightly suggests, there are a great many ideas out there as to what to do with the Sunday evening assembly. Some of them are quite good. Some are less attractive and advisable. Ultimately, however, each congregation of believers must decide for themselves what specific plan of action will accomplish the most good for the saints in their location. What may work marvelously in one place, may be a disaster in another. Thus, it is truly hard for one group to presume to advise another, as each group clearly has their own unique dynamic. What proves effective in a rural setting, for example, may prove ineffective in the suburbs or inner city. What lifts the spirits in Nashville, may dampen them in Anchorage. There are simply too many factors and variables that must be considered for any one size to fit all with respect to the Sunday evening assembly.

With the above qualifiers in mind, I would suggest the brother in Tennessee not give up too quickly on the idea of small groups, or some variation thereof. Though it has indeed been a disaster in some congregations, it has proved to be a God-send in a great many others within our own fellowship. Nevertheless, I would certainly caution a congregation not to embrace such a change too quickly. It needs to be thought-through, studied, talked about and planned many months in advance. We took well over a year here at the Cuba Avenue Church of Christ in Alamogordo, New Mexico before we felt we were finally ready to go forward with a small groups program for Sunday evenings, and over the years we've altered and refined it significantly as we've sought to work out the "bugs" ... and we are still doing so. A change poorly planned and poorly prepared for and poorly communicated to the congregation is destined for failure. Some congregations have literally ended up boarding up their buildings due to poorly conceived plans to keep them open! Change can bring new life to a congregation when properly embraced, but it can also spell disaster for those who pursue it irresponsibly.

There are a number of congregations, who are truly blessed with fabulous singing ability, and who dearly love singing together, who have devoted the entire evening assembly simply to singing. This is very uplifting for them, and they gain much from it. This would probably not work in those congregations that struggle with their singing. I know of other congregations that have devoted the evening assembly to visitation. They will assemble at the building for a brief "devotional" time together, then break into small teams and go visit their neighbors, those in hospitals or nursing homes, those who may be experiencing spiritual struggles and discouragement, etc. Several congregations have opted to terminate the evening assembly altogether, and will instead have a potluck meal following the morning assembly with a time of singing and prayer and exhortation from the Word following. When that time together is concluded, then the rest of the day is free to spend some quality time with family (which, in our fast-paced society, we get too little of these days).

I have heard of a few congregations where the local members have chosen to dismiss their evening assembly and spend a portion of their afternoons and evenings participating in various community events and projects, thus making their presence felt in the community in a positive way. One particular congregation decided that they would spend the evenings visiting other churches in town, and then on the first Sunday evening of each month they would all meet together to discuss what they had learned from their visits. This was NOT a "bash the denominations" event, but rather an effort to get to better know and understand these other Christians in the community. They would discuss the positive teachings and practices they had observed, and study together from the Scriptures regarding things they had seen with which they differed (not for the purpose of putting down others, but learning from them, and in the process strengthening their own faith and convictions). Although, clearly, this would not work in some congregations, nevertheless I feel it has great potential for broadening our spiritual horizons.

Undoubtedly, there are countless other possibilities for how to make the evening assembly more meaningful and relevant. Some, for example, have opted out of a second sermon during that assembly, and instead have a biblical discussion on some topic (more like a Bible class). Others have shown videos, with discussion time following. Some have a question box in the foyer for the members to place Bible questions, or questions about other matters pertaining to their walk with Christ, and these are addressed during the evening assembly by the spiritual leaders of the congregation. Again, the key word is "creativity." Don't be afraid to "think outside the traditional box." If any of you out there are in congregations that have tried something innovative on Sunday evenings, and it is working well for you, then I would invite you to write me and tell me about it. I'll pass these along to the other readers for their consideration. May God bless and guide each of us as we seek to serve Him and others better in our daily lives and in our worshipful assemblies.

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Readers' Reflections

From a Missionary in Colombia:

Dear Bro. Al, Thank you so much for sending me all of your Teachings on CD, which I had recently ordered. They were wonderfully wrapped and came through perfectly. They are so useful to me, even though some of the problems you are facing in the USA we don't face down here right now. God bless you!

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Bro. Al, Although I have long been an avid Reflections reader, I have never purchased any of the CDs. I would now like to purchase the 2003-2008 Reflections on CD, as well as the Debate CDs and the PowerPoint Sermons CDs. Enclosed is my check for $75. My high school senior daughter has just recently subscribed to your Reflections and she loves the personal touch you offer your subscribers by responding to them upon subscribing. Most web sites do not do that any more. Thank you for your ministry! Soldier on!

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Bro. Al, I am a North Carolina septuagenarian who has been truly blessed by 62 years as a Christian worshipping with our beloved brethren in Christ's church in several countries and states. Al, you are a unique blessing to all of us who follow your writings with a common love for and devotion to our Lord God. I appreciate the spirit, courage, love and scholarship you bring to the written page. I thank God for you and your work, and pray His blessings will cover you constantly. God is glorified by your work, and we, your readers, are blessed, encouraged, renewed in our mind and strengthened in our faith because of your work. THANKS!!

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Dear Bro. Al, Your quotation from Samuel Clemens at the beginning of your last Reflections is so superb. Your own comment contrasting the Master's "Message of Reconciliation" and man's "message of incineration" is also most fitly spoken!! God bless!

From an Author in Texas:

Brother Al, I have also been the subject of Morris Bowers' many slanders over the last few years. Thus, let me say -- it shouldn't surprise you when you receive NO substantiation of his charges!!

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Brother Al, Would you please send me the piece written by Morris Bowers. I'm always amazed (although maybe I shouldn't be) at how some folk cannot tolerate good Bible teaching when it is not framed in the terms they have always heard. If it is not in their own vernacular, then it sounds "strange" to them. Even if it means the same thing, it is still "strange doctrine." That, to me, simply shows that these folk do not think for themselves, but are merely "rehearsing the creeds."

From a Reader in California:

Brother Al, After reading your last Reflections, and after contemplating the zany attacks of your critics (like Mr. Bowers), I have come to the conclusion that these individuals are idolaters. I am sure that they would be shocked at this characterization, but let's look at the facts. These people worship the Bible over the Truth of Jesus Christ Himself. In fact, if someone preaches the grace of Jesus Christ "too much," then they are suspicious of that person -- Al Maxey, to name just one! God is very clear: "You shall have no other gods before Me." I am reminded of the bronze snake in the wilderness. That precious gift God gave to His people became, in time, an idol that had to be destroyed. People worshipped the gift rather than the Giver. What a sad state of affairs!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Bro. Al, You have stated that some of the legalists watch you like a hawk, just waiting for anything they can pounce on! It seems to me that they are far more like buzzards than hawks. A very wise old man once advised me never, ever to get into a contest with a buzzard: they have no honor and care not at all who gets dirty. Describes these men very well. Fortunately, their foul actions are succeeding in causing many of their more honest disciples to open their eyes to Grace and Truth! Hang in there, brother, and keep swinging!

From a Reader in Kentucky:

Bro. Al, I just finished reading your latest Reflections, and would like to request a copy of "How Truth Changes" by Morris Bowers. I was told officially just two days ago by one of the elders here, who dropped by my place for a visit, exactly where I was going to be spending eternity! I'm accused of having a "closed mind" because I will not agree with what they want me to believe. I have used some of the material that you have written, as well as a few others, to show some of these Non-Institutional brothers that there is not an "exact pattern" that everyone must hold to in order to be deemed "faithful." I have not received any response to this material now for three months, except that I have been told that I have gotten ahold of some "liberal" material on the Internet and that I'm now "in error." Thanks so much for your well-thought-out articles, Al, and for what always seems to be your good timing.

From a Minister in Kansas:

Brother Al, One Cup man here. I hope that you enjoyed your 60th birthday! Time surely goes by quickly when you're having fun! The members of the Contending for the Faith group, the Old Paths Advocate group, and all the other groups, have convinced me that they do not want anyone in the church except those who will agree with their own views. It's the same old story -- line up or get out! The freedom to think for yourself is not allowed, nor do they allow congregational autonomy to exist. How long will the people of God allow this to go on? The power brokers have only as much power as the members of the church allow them to have. So, it's time for the members to stand up and say: Enough! The members need to let it be known that they will no longer tolerate the ungodly way the power brokers do business. It is never right to mistreat anyone (whether saint or sinner) just because you may differ with them. May God bless you in your service to the kingdom, Al. And God bless all who seek unity in Christ.

From an Elder in Missouri:

Brother Al, First, thank you for sending me the document by Bro. Bowers so quickly. I read it with a sense of the incredible! How can a man who claims to seek only Truth make such arguments?! Second, I appreciate your consistent stand for nothing but the Truth as revealed in the Scriptures. Your Reflections often make us think. You encourage us all to seek the proper relationship with God, not a lock-step formation with rules and laws established by a group of men who claim to know what Truth is. Thank you, Al, for your hard work and for your stand. I agree that it is a shame one must spend time and effort in responding to these attacks. Clearly, I would much rather be reading some of the thoughts you have on other matters. However, what is an even greater shame, in my thinking, is the audience of such missives sent out by these critics, an audience who choose NOT to seek and read for themselves whether these things are even true. Blind sheep following malicious blind leaders!! In short, Al, I pray for you and your efforts, and I thank my God continually for men like you who are willing to stand for Truth in spite of the difficulties you face in so doing. Keep up the good work. I look forward to your next Reflections!

From a Reader in California:

Dear Brother Maxey, I want to thank you so very much for everything you do! Your Reflections have changed my life completely! Many of the issues that you address have been the very ones that I -- a lifetime member of the Church of Christ -- have struggled with for years. You have taken my inner struggles and given not only voice and thought to them, but answers as well. I don't want to go overboard with praise here, but your reasoning and thoughtfulness are unparalleled in all the years of my association with Pepperdine, and I believe this is due primarily to your simple brilliance. Some time back I reached a point where I could no longer square the teaching I had heard all my life with the spirit of Christ that I found in Scripture. Your Issue #36 was one of the best in showing the spirit of love that we ought to have. Another aspect of your teaching that I found refreshing is that of the nature of man and man's final destination. I believe that you are spot on with all of your arguments on this issue. Thanks to your writings, for the first time in my adult life I truly feel the Grace that was clearly in front of me all along. I am now free to ignore the cult-like (yes!) strictures sadly imposed by many within our brotherhood. But perhaps the most important lesson you've taught me is not to respond in kind. Although I now believe many of my brethren within our fellowship are mistaken about a great many ideas ... I LOVE THEM! And I believe they are saved by grace, just as I am. It feels so good to say that at last!

I grew up believing that we (the Churches of Christ) were "right," and that we had a corner on "The Truth." But, thanks to you, I realize we have a long way to go. In the meantime, however, I don't have to worry about my salvation as I grow in understanding. At one point, had someone asked me if I was saved, I would have replied that, yes, I had been baptized, but, no, I wasn't sure if I was saved (since I continue to sin, since I haven't done enough, etc., etc.). I believed salvation was given freely, but used to feel that I had to WORK to KEEP it. Thank you, Al, for indulging me in this letter. I have read your Reflections for some time, but I finally felt moved to communicate with you directly. I just had to thank you, and I hope some day in the future my wife and I can come to visit and worship with you!

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Brother Maxey, I stumbled upon your web site while engaged in a Bible study last year, and I am deeply interested in progressing in my overall understanding as a Christian, as well as growing spiritually. Would you please add me to your mailing list for Reflections. I was baptized into a somewhat conservative Church of Christ at the age of 17 (I am now in my forties). I have experienced several relationships with women from the Non-Institutional congregations, as well as having had contact with the NI beliefs through day-to-day experiences. I have read through many of your Reflections on this, and can very strongly relate to what you say. Frankly, I am sick and tired of our brotherhood being splintered by this divisive sect. I know the NI sect is not the only one with an exclusive and esoteric doctrine, but they do seem to me to be the most vehement and the most insistent that their way is the only way. Having come from a similar mindset, I do understand what it feels like to believe that I am one of the very few on earth who has it all "just right," so my heart aches for them.

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