by Al Maxey

Issue #423 ------- December 4, 2009
The practice of terror serves the true believer
not only to cow and crush his opponents but
also to invigorate and intensify his own faith.

Eric Hoffer {1902-1983}

Search and Destroy Missions
The Dark Side of Legalistic Patternism

Proclaiming the glorious Gospel of God's Grace to fallen men, and ministering to those in need of His healing, restoring mercy, is a life-calling well worth the negative responses that will naturally arise from those who are opposed to living in accordance with His divine will for mankind. What a joy it is to see precious souls led to a relationship with the Father through His Son. What a thrill one receives when beholding a life transformed by the working of the Holy Spirit within the hearts and minds of people willing to change. How discouraging, however, to experience the inevitable assaults from out of the darkness that surrounds the Light, a darkness that seeks ultimately to overcome it. Even more discouraging is when these vicious attacks come from those who profess to be servants of the Light. Yet, we know from Scripture that such is the nature of our foe. Paul writes, "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, who masquerade as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, as Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. Thus, it's not surprising if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve" [2 Cor. 11:13-15].

During the thirty-four years in which I have been in fulltime ministry for the Father I have experienced some tremendous "spiritual highs." I have also been the focus of some pretty vicious assaults. The former, however, more than outweigh the latter, making such a life of service well worth every sacrifice one might be called to make, or any hardship or affliction one might be called upon to endure for His name's sake. Nevertheless, it is never pleasant to be the focal point of a frontal assault from the forces of darkness. It is to be expected, it is to be endured, but it is certainly never enjoyed.

My very first issue of these weekly Reflections was mailed out on December 1, 2002. For these past seven years I've been tirelessly seeking to share with anyone and everyone who will listen the message of God's Grace, urging my fellow disciples to cease their sectarian strife with one another and begin tearing down the walls that divide us so that we might be increasingly united as One Body in Christ Jesus. I honestly did not know what to expect when I started this writing ministry seven years ago. I started by sending my reflections to just a handful of friends and family members. Little by little my mailing list grew ... and then it exploded. My mailing list now numbers in the tens of thousands worldwide, and my Reflections web site has been ranked this past year as the second most visited Church of Christ site on the Internet. I am truly convinced that this is God's doing, brethren, not mine, and that it is reflective of a tremendous hunger and thirst for responsible change within our Stone-Campbell Movement. The legalistic, patternistic mindset of too many of our forefathers has now become abhorrent to the vast majority of us, and we are walking away in droves from such sectarian silliness and factional foolishness!! We are "shaking the dust" of this deadly dogma from our feet and moving into an era where we are willing to embrace as brethren those we had previously been indoctrinated to believe were the enemy. Thank God I have lived to see this day, and thank God He has chosen to use my feeble efforts to help bring it about.

Sadly, however, my efforts at reform have made some enemies, some of whom are individuals I dearly love, but who now consider me a "godless apostate" for my unwillingness to "parrot the party shibboleths." This hurts, it is truly heartbreaking, and yet it is part of the price each of us must be prepared to pay when seeking to proclaim Truth over tradition; a Person over a pattern; relationship over religion. Those who seem to have been the most favorably impacted by these Reflections have been those within the ultra-conservative factions of our movement, such as the Non-Institutional and One Cup brethren, as well as a good many who were adherents to the Contending for the Faith mindset. Congregations within these branches of the Churches of Christ have, in recent years, seen a mass exodus of their members to more progressive, grace-centered congregations. Many are leaving our faith-heritage altogether, as they are utterly disillusioned with the legalism, sectarianism, exclusivism and isolationism. The ultra-conservative segment of our movement is dying! By the end of this century it will be virtually non-existent!! This has the leaders of these factions extremely upset, as one might imagine, and they have, within the past few years, begun to attack all of those whom they perceive to be the leaders within this "growing apostasy." Their goal is to destroy anyone and everyone they perceive to be the cause of their decline (failing to perceive that it is they, and their misguided theology of legalistic patternism, that is the true cause of what will be their ultimate demise).

In my "Readers' Reflections" section of my weekly mailouts I print a sampling of the many letters I receive from readers throughout the world. Obviously, I cannot print them all, and in some cases I have to do some editing (some are many pages long, so I use portions that are relevant to the topic at hand, or that might interest the readers; others have grammatical errors, so I correct them; etc.). I receive a good number of emails from those within the above named groups, especially from leaders within these groups. These are men who are doing some serious soul-searching as they examine their doctrines and practices in light of God's Word. Many are coming to the conclusion that what they had previously been proclaiming as Truth is simply tradition. I have spent hours talking with these dear brethren privately via email, letters and on the phone. Some have even made trips out here to visit with me in person. They are facing some critical changes in their futures as they seek to share these insights with those they love (both in their families and in their congregations). Some are being persecuted for it. I provided an actual example of this in Reflections #182 -- Faith In Formaldehyde: A One Cup Preacher's Powerful Sermon That Resulted In His Termination. I've also shared with you other actual struggles being experienced by your fellow disciples who are seeking to be free in Christ. A few examples are: #306, #314, #322.

Needless to say, the hardcore leaders of these factions have sought repeatedly to undermine this ministry in any way they can, and also to pursue those within their ranks who are beginning to think for themselves. They have approached me time and again, asking for the names and locations of these men. Naturally, I refuse to provide them with this information, for obvious reasons. My readers are aware that they can confide in me their innermost thoughts and feelings (this is called trust) without fear of being exposed to this rabid pack of snarling wolves who seek to ravage them. They may voice all their theological concerns and share their spiritual insights without worrying about me "selling them out" to those who cannot bear for the particulars of their party patterns to be challenged. I've built this environment of trust very carefully and purposefully, and I have no intention of ever violating it. As for the identity of the howling hounds who pursue the sheep, however, I have no qualms whatsoever about letting the flock of our Lord know exactly who they are and where they are. Indeed, shepherds must alert the sheep whenever a wolf is near ... however, alerting a wolf to the location of sheep is NOT in the "job description" of a good shepherd.

Let me give you an actual example. On Tuesday, November 24 of this year I received the following email from Glen Garrett, who lives in Kingston Springs, TN. I am leaving all the poor grammar and misspelled words. You will see it just as it appeared in my Inbox: "Called the # on your website but no answer ... I didn't want to talk to a machine ... Unless you put the preacher's names on these replys about the one cup, how do we know that what you are saying about the reply is true? One of the things that makes me doubt you is the way that things are worded ... 'One Cup MINISTER' Minister ... really? They do NOT refer to themselves this way ... Is this just the way YOU refer to them??? None of them that I know of will call themself a 'Minister' ... (just so you know) ... 'One Cup Minister here' ... I don't think so ... show proof that the replies are really from a real Preacher of the Gospel!!!!!! It is way to convenient for you to with-hold thier names!!!! Either tell us thier names (no need for phone # or adress because I know all of them already) Or I say that YOU ARE A LIAR!! So now you are in a catch 22 ... I hope you answer me back ..."

Yes, I did send him a response. I explained to him, in part, "Glen, I do not reveal the names of those good, honest, decent brethren who respond to my Reflections articles unless they give me permission to do so. ... There is a very, very important reason for doing this: to do so would expose them to the 'hounds' of the various factions who would not hesitate for a second to hunt these men and women down and to make their lives a living hell. ... I will simply never expose my readers who confide in me to such vicious, hellish assaults. Many of these good brethren are now beginning to question and challenge many of their traditions, and a few are even finding the courage to speak out about them. I'm very glad to see this happening. If they choose to reveal themselves to their fellow factionists, then that is their own business. ... However, it is not MY place to do this for them, and to thereby expose them to the attacks of their factional leaders." A few hours later he wrote back: "If they are true 'MINISTERS,' I surely think that they can handle anything the HOUNDS will throw their way ... to use your term ... If you want to consider this a hellish assault, be my guest ... you ain't seen nothin' yet." That was the last I heard from Mr. Garrett. I forwarded his emails to a number of my readers who are members of the One Cup wing of our movement. I was curious as to who this person was. One brother in California wrote back saying, "Yes, Bro. Al, he's an OPA dude. I looked on their web site and found his information. Yes, I too believe that he is on the prowl to crucify OPA dissenters and everyone that says anything that does not line up with their doctrines and creeds. Keep up the good fight."

OPA stands for Old Paths Advocate, which is the publication of the radical leadership of the One Cup fellowship. More and more, the members of this small wing within the Churches of Christ are turning away in disgust from these radical leaders, which just incites them to further attacks against these brethren who are simply sickened by the tyranny. I have done a number of articles on this OPA bunch, the following being a couple of examples: #313, #276. Several months ago a number of the ministers within the One Cup fellowship, those who have become much more grace-centered in their thinking, sought to bring about a written debate between one of the OPA leaders and the heretic Al Maxey on the "Law of Silence" (one of the key principles upon which they base their theology). I indicated to them that I would be willing ... provided the entire debate was made available to ALL the readers of the Old Paths Advocate! Well, you can imagine how that was received! Needless to say, that debate will never, ever happen. They don't dare allow their readers to see any reasoned challenge to their dogma. What did happen was that I came under intensified fire from these leaders, and renewed efforts were made to discover more and more of those who have "defected" from their "old paths." Just as soon as these ministers are identified they will be hounded from their pulpits and pursued wherever they go. I have received a good many such "horror stories" in the past few years from those who have been the focus of these attacks. It is almost unbelievable what they have had to endure ... and these OPA leaders (as well as the Non-Institutional and Contending for the Faith leaders) continue to try and track down those within their ranks who dare to differ with them!! Brethren, this is truly the dark side of legalism -- the same deadly, blind zealotry that ended in the death of our Lord and the martyrdom of countless faithful saints.

No, this is not "pleasant" to talk about; it is not "pretty" and "positive." But, it is reality, and those who refuse to see it will become easy targets and victims. Burying one's head in the sand does not dissipate the impending terror that looms ever near. God's disciples were never called to run and hide; they were called to confront the darkness with the power of the Light. To do anything less is spiritual and moral cowardice!! It is also suicidal, as the enemy will not hesitate to eviscerate you at the first sign of weakness, though they will turn tail and run for the nearest cave at the first sign of confident confrontation from those they seek to control. "Resist the devil and he will flee from you" [James 4:7]. So also will his servants!! They may be murderous opportunists, but they are cowards at heart. That is why they run in packs, seeking to isolate the weak. At the first sign of strength, they melt back into the darkness.

My "good fight" is NOT with the good brethren who make up the One Cup fellowship within our movement. Nor is it with my conservative or Non-Institutional brethren. Yes, I do differ with some of their perspectives and practices, but I respect their convictions and their desire to serve the Lord to the best of their ability. I seek only to encourage them to regard those with whom they differ in the same gracious manner, and to thus broaden their "horizon of fellowship" in the One Family of our Lord. Additionally, it should be noted that a good many of these beloved brethren are discontent within their legalistic tradition, but they are simply unaware of how to extricate themselves. My goal is to try and reach them with the message of freedom in Christ. I have discussed this in some depth in Reflections #162 -- Evangelizing the Enslaved: Breaking the Bonds of Sectarian Slavery. I would also urge an examination of Reflections #330 -- The One Cup Fellowship: Reflection on a Conviction. No, my battle is not with these brethren; it is with those who tyrannize them! Indeed, I am finding that a great many souls within these various wings of our movement to be quite open these days to dialogue with me (and with others like me who seek to bring about greater unity within the universal One Body). This is good, and needs to be encouraged.

Yes, there is a "search and destroy" mindset among a number of people within the various factions in the church. This is, in a word, an abomination. It needs to be exposed whenever and wherever it is found, just as the apostle John did with Diotrephes in his third epistle (see my reflective examination of this wicked man, and his present day counterparts, in Reflections #183 --- The Diotrephes Despotism: Lobos Lording It Over Lambs). Thankfully, my beloved brethren who find themselves in such camps are waking up to their condition, and they are beginning to get a taste of freedom in Christ. They are hearing of God's Grace (some for the first time), and they are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the tyranny and deception of their leaders. This growing awareness is refreshing, and I intend to fan it into a raging flame that will liberate the oppressed and consume their oppressors.

Let me conclude with the following comment I received on Thanksgiving Day from a minister (preacher, evangelist) of a One Cup congregation in the beautiful state of Missouri -- "Brother Al, Did you read the article in the latest OPA that says we should never witness for Christ or give our personal testimonies?! I've heard a lot of ridiculous things come from that publication, but that article takes the cake! Not only is it written by a man who is very ignorant of Christ's desires for His people, but it is an article that can be very detrimental to the work of Christ. Al, I want to thank you again for reaching out to the One Cup brethren as you have been doing for years. So many of us have been inspired and enlightened by the message of freedom in Christ that you proclaim. I want you to know that the face of the One Cup brotherhood is changing for the good, and the message of grace is finally beginning to be preached from our pulpits!! I rejoice every single time I read of one of your readers from the One Cup church that has had their minds opened by your ministry! All those hard-hearted men from our brotherhood that constantly attack you are only showing how afraid they really are that they are losing their own power to the power of the cross!! May God continue to bless you, brother!!"

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

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Publisher: (301) 695-1707

Readers' Reflections

From a Missionary in the Fiji Islands:

Dear Bro. Al, Once again I find your Reflections an encouragement to my soul. In your recent writing titled "Quid Pro Quo Theology" (Issue #421) I appreciated the fact that you referred to Leroy Garrett as "brother" ... indeed, he is. I too disagree with many of the conclusions that he draws, but he came by them honestly. Bro. Garrett's conclusion that all are saved is not much different than the doctrine of selection (predetermination) where people believe that God has already chosen those He will save and those who will be lost, and people have no choice in the matter. The main reason we do what we do (I have been a missionary now for over 35 years) is because we believe the Word of God has to be proclaimed in order for the enslaved to be free. If I followed Bro. Garrett's conclusion, then I might as well be back in the USA attending the Sunday morning ritual of getting my attendance card punched at the local Church of Christ, while hoping that a just God will in fact save everyone regardless of whether they ever acknowledge Him or not, or come to know Him or not. Though my brethren will not actually voice this view, they do show it by continuing to build bigger and bigger monuments while giving less and less support to those of us who have chosen the "front lines" in our Lord's work of seeking and saving the lost. May God help us all to care more for those He cares for.

From a Minister in India:

Beloved Brother Al, The following question was posted to a forum known as Biblelist. Have you ever heard of such an allergy as this person describes? --- "Dear Fellow Preachers, we baptized a young lady just last night as a result of a personal study. It seems she is deathly allergic to grapes. The question came up about her partaking of the fruit of the vine in the Lord's Supper. One brother said that some other 'fruit of the vine' could be used for her. Another stated that hers would be a case just like one who was sick and not able to partake: the Lord would understand her not partaking. My questions: (1) Have any of you ever had any experience with this problem? If so, how did you deal with it? (2) Could any of you give me some advice?"

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, You wrote in your last Reflections, "We must be willing to adapt our methods of conveying Truth." This is a statement I am beginning to believe is more and more important. There are so many people who are shy, nervous and uncomfortable in a formal church setting. Most of them will never darken the doors of our church buildings. The decline in organized church membership indicates that this is getting far worse! There is nothing wrong with us "having church," but why do we continue insisting that others must join and participate in "our church"? We need to discern ways to interact with others, perhaps by example and service, informally teaching them of the blessings of a righteous life, without putting pressure on them to "join" or "contribute" to our group!! I believe that many among us are already finding productive ways of doing this.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Thank you so much for recommending that study book on Revelation. I ordered it, and it is now on its way from Al, your writings are so encouraging to me. I am old in years, but am still immature in Christ. Praise God for His mercy and forgiveness. Each new issue of your Reflections has something meaningful for me. Thank you for all the work you do. May God continue to bless you and guide you in leading His people to love Him more!

From a Reader in Ohio:

Brother Al, Just wanted to drop a quick note to say hello, and also to say thanks again for such a nice visit and lunch we had the other day. My mind keeps going back to that visit every time I read something new or come across a difficult or controversial issue, and I find myself wondering, "What would Al think about this?!" I really enjoyed your latest Reflections: "Sticking, Spitting, Sighing." I am sure that I have read this story before in the gospel of Mark, but I did not think much past the fact it was just another miracle performed by our Lord. Great stuff, as usual, brother. I really look forward to spending more time with you in the future (in fact, I heard something about Tulsa in March?). One of the many things for which I am thankful is being able to count you as a mentor! May God bless you.

From an Elder in Florida:

Bro. Al, Dr. Dallas Burdette called me the other day and told me about this article of Dr. Leroy Garrett's that you addressed in Reflections #421. I could not believe what Dallas told me (not that I doubted his word, it was just that I couldn't believe Leroy would say those things). I did not have time to read his article until now, and I am truly shocked. I have read his "Once More With Love" articles quite often, but I must have missed this issue. Anyway, thanks for sending it to me. I believe you answered it quite well. I am still completely shocked!! I have spent some time with Leroy in times past, and I have never heard anything come from him like this! I just hope that he is well.

From a Minister in Missouri:

Dear Brother Al, When my sister, brother and I were little we used to "play church" at home, and we would all take turns "preaching." I have a tape from one of our "services," back when my sister was only 2 years old. In her "sermon" all she kept saying was, "God says NO!!" Apparently she had been paying attention at church on Sundays!

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