by Al Maxey

Issue #514 ------- December 12, 2011
Every day people are straying away
from the church and going back to God.

Lenny Bruce {1925-1966}

Makeover For A Movement
Can We Save the Church of Christ?

John Heywood (1497-1580) was an English playwright who was very well-known in his time for his poems, plays, and his vast collection of proverbs. One of those proverbs voices this rather bold assertion: "The nearer to the church, the farther from God." Perhaps this sheds some light upon the comment made by Lenny Bruce in the quote at the top of this article. Over the centuries the people of God have become increasingly institutionalized. Systematized religion has supplanted spiritual relationship. In short: we have lost our way! The Father seeks children, and we offer Him a corporation. He wants sons, and we give Him sects; He desires daughters, and we deliver denominations; He hopes for Family, and all we have to offer Him are feuding factions. His Body is dismembered; His Family is fractured. Oh, how we must grieve Him at times by our attitudes and actions! Is there any hope for us? Have we digressed too far? Can we change course? Is it possible for squabbling siblings to set aside their "sacred shibboleths" and seek spiritual unity? Can we ever truly achieve the divinely desired reality of One Body? One that is fully functional, rather than dysfunctional? It is my personal conviction that there is still hope for us, but becoming what our Father seeks will not come easily, for we must be willing to cast aside centuries of religious rubbish that has buried the beauty and simplicity of what our Lord originally sought for us.

First, let me clarify a few things. The "church" has never been lost, thus has no need of being "saved." It is made up of all who are God's own: children embraced by grace. Jesus declared, "I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it" (Matt. 16:18). It may be battered and bruised by the forces of this present darkness, but it cannot be destroyed. It is safe, thus saved. This certainty of eternal salvation is also for the individual members of this universal One Body. We rest safely in the loving embrace of our Lord, and there is no force in the universe capable of wresting us from His arms. Ours is a blessed assurance that should cause us to face the trials of life with a deep inner joy and peace. We know we are saved (1 John 5:13), not because of anything we have done, but because of what He has done! Some, therefore, may find the subtitle of this present Reflections somewhat confusing, and even troubling. What do I mean when I ask if we can "save" the Church of Christ? "Bro. Al, didn't you just state that the church has never been lost, thus has no need of being saved?"

The solution, of course, is to be found in what one means by the terms "church" and "save." My question has nothing to do with the universal One Body built by Christ Jesus and indwelt, empowered, and preserved by His Spirit. Although it may be horribly afflicted, it will never be overcome; it will endure to the end, triumphing over all that comes against it. My question has to do with a religious movement within Christendom; specifically: that group emerging from the Stone-Campbell Movement that has denominated itself as the Churches of Christ. I make a clear distinction (although some of my brethren do not) between this historical group and the universal One Body (Church) of Jesus Christ. There are also scores of sub-factions of this denomination, into which I was born and raised, that would probably best be characterized as "sects," for they are clearly sectarian in focus and rigidly dogmatic with regard to the particulars of legalistic patternism. My question is: Can this group known as the Churches of Christ, in all of its various manifestations, be saved? Maybe a better question might be: Should they be saved?! Are we doing the universal One Body of Christ a favor by seeking to save a segment of His Body that has seemingly lost its way? Such questions, by the way, could (and should) be asked of all the various other denominated groups, movements, sects and factions that have arisen within Christendom over the past two thousand years. My concern in this study, however, is with my own faith-heritage. And what I mean by "save" is to ask whether our group can truly be a functional force for promoting the good news of God's love and grace, or if we have instead become so dysfunctional that our presence in society is more detrimental to His cause than beneficial. And, if we are losing our relevancy and efficacy, can this be reversed? Is there hope for us? Is there a place for our particular "brand" of Christian expression, or has our group so lost touch with the spirit of the Gospel and the people around us that we are beyond "salvation" as a viable Christian entity?

These are legitimate questions, and they are being asked by many thoughtful disciples of Christ both inside and outside of Churches of Christ. Such questions are underscored by the fact that statistics clearly show an increasing decline in membership within this denomination in recent years. We are losing our people (especially our youth and young adults) at a rapid pace, and many are left wondering why. Can this be turned around? Can we be "saved" from this decline? Or, will the Churches of Christ one day, perhaps by the beginning of the next century, be little more than a footnote in the church history books? -- a unity movement that went horribly astray from the vision of its founders, thus becoming one of the most divisive and divided groups in religious history, which inevitably led to its self-destruction. I'll be honest with you, and some may not like what I am about to say, but if we don't cast off the sectarian, factional, legalistic spirit that has for too long characterized far too many in our movement, then I pray we perish!! We are certainly doing no favors for the Gospel when we portray a graceless, cantankerous spirit to those who simply want to see Jesus! On the other hand, if we are willing to take an honest look at ourselves, confess our failings, and vow to change, there is no reason that we (or any other association of disciples within the One Body) can't become a functional, fruitful part of the whole.

My hope for a number of years now, and this is, in part, the focus of my Reflections ministry (as well as the books and speaking engagements that have arisen from it), is that we, in our faith-heritage, might have a vital place in our Lord's plan for the furtherance of His Gospel, and that by working together with all other parts of that One Body we might be a channel of blessing to a segment of society who might relate to our particular approach to living victoriously for Jesus in a troubled world. Our approach may not be for everyone, but it doesn't have to be. The beauty of relationship with the Father, through His Son and Spirit, is that it transcends religion. Worshipful expression is not forever fixed in one style, nor are the evidentiary acts of our faith and love limited to the social and cultural norms of previous disciples. We are free to be brothers and sisters, without being forced to be identical twins!! Therefore, there is indeed a place for great diversity within the Body -- which means: there can be a place for the Church of Christ tradition and methodology, just as there can be a place for the tradition and methodology of other disciples. What there is NO place for in Christ's Church is the hatred and division that has arisen over these varying personal perceptions, preferences and practices (i.e., shameful squabbling among siblings over what have become sacred sectarian shibboleths).

So, we ask in all seriousness, and with hopeful hearts -- What Must the Church of Christ Do to be Saved? This, by the way, is the title of a marvelous new book by Dr. Leroy Garrett, a devoted disciple of Jesus, now in his 90's, who has been a great encouragement to me personally in my ministry. Some time back, Leroy wrote me, "Al, I want to join others in commending you for taking biblical exposition seriously, and for believing in your readers that they are willing to think and to consider a different point of view. You consistently show both resourcefulness and responsibility in your essays. Soldier on!" His encouragement has meant a lot to me over the years. Thus, I was thrilled when I was sent a free copy of his new book, and I want to urge everyone to get a copy and prayerfully consider what this dear disciple has to say to us within Churches of Christ. It is 121 pages, paperback, $7.95 per copy ($2.88 shipping), and is published by Nevada Publications [4135 Badger Circle, Reno, NV 89519 -- Phone: (775) 747-0800 -- Fax: (775) 747-2916]. The owner of this publication company is Stanley Paher, another man I am blessed to call my friend and brother. Stan called me on the phone the other day and we had a great conversation about Leroy's new book (as well as about many other matters facing our faith-heritage today). Again, I urge you to contact Stan to get your own copy of this book. He may also be reached by email at: I want to spend the remainder of this Reflections reviewing Leroy's new book (as well as making a few observations of my own), and especially sharing with you some of his insightful challenges to those of us in the Churches of Christ. Like me, Leroy Garrett has not given up on this portion of the One Body, and, like me, he is calling for prayerful reflection on where we've been, where we are, and where we need to go if we are indeed to be "saved."

At the very beginning of his work, Leroy explains what he means by his title -- "I am asking what the Church of Christ as a church or as a denomination ... must do in order to be 'saved' as a viable witness to the Christian faith in today's world. What must it do to escape extinction in the decades ahead, or if not extinction, relegated to an insignificant southern or Tennessee-Texas sect? What must it do to save its own people from boredom, mediocrity, and irrelevance? What must it do to escape from its legalistic, sectarian, and isolationist past ... and become a meaningful part of the larger Christian world?" [p. 6]. In these several probing questions we are forced to face ourselves as we are often perceived by others within the One Body. Although, clearly, these assessments are not true of all those within the Churches of Christ, they are nevertheless disturbingly reflective of a mindset with which we are all very familiar. Yes, thank God, many within our movement are making the necessary changes to move away from this deadly dysfunction, but we still have a long way to go. Some things are required of us if we are to be "saved," and we must act without delay.

First, and perhaps one of the most important things we must do, is -- "We must confess that we have been wrong about some things" [p. 7]. This is hard to do for a religious group that has bought into the premise that we, of all people on earth, are the privileged few who have God's Word all figured out, and that all other disciples are either ignorant or willfully insubordinate to the Truth that we alone possess in all its fullness. We are the "one true church," the only ones going to heaven, the only faithful Christians; thus, when one differs with our perceptions and practices, one differs with God Himself. As a result, we have nothing to do with other churches and other Christians; we became exclusivists and isolationists. "The Lord's church," we declare, has reference only to us; if you worship in any building other than ours, you are bound straight for hell. We can never be saved as a viable part of the One Body unless we repent of such arrogance! The reality is: we have been terribly wrong about some things, and we need to confess them to our people and our communities, and we need to repent of them publicly.

We must repent of a narrow, petty sectarianism [p. 12]. We must repent of condemning other disciples of Christ to hell for daring to differ with our customs and traditions. We must become "intolerant and disgusted" with what we have become [p. 17], and we must let others know we are sickened by what we see. "We must confess that we have been wrong in making instrumental music a test of fellowship and for saying it is sinful for others to use instruments. It is of course right and proper that we should sing acappella if that is our preference and conviction, but it is wrong for us to make our position a command of God for all others. ... We have made a law where God has not made one, and this is wrong. Let us say it, loud and clear!" [p. 19]. In reality, we have made many such laws for God, where HE has made none. By seeking to impose our religious rigidity upon the rest of humanity, we have only succeeded in inflicting untold harm upon the Body of Christ and hampering His cause. It is time for us to publicly confess "our sin of being one of the most divided, sectarian churches in America" [p. 21]. "To be saved as a witnessing church we must show the world how we love one another. No more debating and fussing and dividing. Like Thomas Campbell, we must become sick and tired of the whole sectarian mess" [p. 22]. "Because of our deplorable partyism and all the legalisms that go with it we have for decades been going to church more and enjoying it less" [p. 24]. Amen!! I can't tell you how many sermons I have heard over the years from our pulpits that were nothing more than a public flogging of all those "wretched denominations" and their "heretical horde of hell-bound members." We ought to be ashamed of ourselves!! And, if we are to be saved, we had better be willing to say so!!

Leroy quotes the powerful passage penned by Paul in Galatians 3:28 ("In Christ there is neither male nor female"), and then declares, "The Church of Christ must take steps to demonstrate that it really believes that oneness in Christ transcends gender" [p. 50]. Bro. Garrett says that if our movement is to be saved, we must immediately begin correcting "what might well be our most besetting sin: the way we treat our sisters in Christ" [ibid]. We can do this by calling for "an end to some of our traditions that have no validity" [ibid]. For example, what's wrong with women serving the Lord's Supper? What's wrong with women praying in the presence of men? "Let the little girls take up and pass out the cards. Little boys can pass out the cards but not the little girls. It only shows that we start male-domination early" [p. 53]. Several years ago I suggested that we allow little girls to help pick up the cards that the members and visitors filled out. "Nope! Slippery Slope!" Thank God we are beyond that now. Yes, in our congregation little girls now pick up the cards. As Leroy says, "We don't deserve to be saved if we don't shrug off such nonsense" [p. 53]. It is time to repent of our foolishness! In chapter 9, Leroy makes a great appeal to our movement to reconsider our male-dominated dogma. We would do well to give his assessment some prayerful consideration if we desire to be relevant in the 21st century, rather than relegated to obscurity.

Another thing that must change about us is our view of grace. "We don't really believe in the grace of God. While we deny it, we really believe in works-salvation. We are saved by being baptized (exactly the right way, mind you!), by taking Communion regularly (it has to be the right day!), and by studying our Bibles (the doctrine has to be exactly right!)" [p. 59]. "We must start believing in the gospel of the grace of God, the basis of which is that salvation is His free gift to us. There is no work that we can perform to attain it" [p. 60]. "By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). This means we must repent of our obsession with rushing people to the baptistery, where we have falsely assumed for too long that salvation occurs. Even our early leaders in the Stone-Campbell Movement didn't preach such a doctrine. Alexander Campbell, for example, taught that baptism is "a pardon-certifying act rather than a pardon-procuring act. That is, we do not 'gain' or 'procure' salvation by being baptized" [p. 61-62]. In reviewing his own ministry of many decades, Leroy Garrett reflects that he has "sought to free our people of a legalistic view of baptism and to give them a nonsectarian view of who is a Christian. We have insisted that while we hold to everything the Bible says about baptism, we reject some of the deductions drawn from what the Bible says" [p. 118]. "Oddly enough, our pioneers were never hard-liners when it came to baptism" [p. 119]. Although they preached baptism, and "defended the ordinance on the polemic platform, ... they did not make it 'absolutely essential,' as Campbell put it" [p. 119]. The reality is: we have made baptism a sacrament, the precise point in time when God confers grace, and this is nothing less than false teaching. If we are to be "saved," we need to repent of this digression from the proclamation of the Gospel, for it shifts our focus from a Savior to a sacrament, which is undoubtedly what Paul had in mind, at least in part, when he wrote, "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel" (1 Cor. 1:17). "Haven't we been guilty of preaching an ordinance more than a Person?" [p. 85].

I am also in total agreement with Leroy, and I have been proclaiming this for many, many years, when he pleads with our people to abandon the CENI hermeneutic, with its ridiculous "law of silence," which is an approach to biblical interpretation guaranteed to bring about nothing but division. This hermeneutic has led to the theology and practice of "Patternism," and has caused us to seek to "restore" the first century church in its every particular (something that is not only impossible, but an absurdity). "We have an unchanging gospel that transcends all time. But means and methods will change, as will traditions" [p. 65]. "We have erred in our claim that there is a uniform pattern of organization and worship in the New Testament churches and that we have duly 'restored' that pattern. This is evident in the fact that we can't even agree among ourselves as to what that pattern requires. We have not only differed but divided over almost every aspect of the life of the church, whether it has to do with using instruments of music, missionary and benevolent societies, Sunday schools, the manner of serving Communion, cooperative efforts, work of elders and preachers, etc., etc. Are we to conclude that God has given us a prescribed norm or pattern that is so obscure that we ourselves cannot make head or tail of it? Or is it that we have erred in making the New Testament something that it never has been and was never intended to be?!" [p. 64].

If we are to be saved, so as to be relevant in our societies today, we must repent of our sin of absolutism. This perception that we are right about everything, and everybody else is wrong, is the epitome of arrogance, and it drives people away (as it rightly should). "We must abandon our claim to exclusive truth in order to be an authentic people. We have no right to exist believing that we and we only have the truth. We must admit that we are both fallible and finite, that we, like everyone else, are wrong about some things and ignorant about other things" [p. 70]. I love this statement by Leroy: "Truth is absolute, our grasp of truth is relative" [ibid]. Yet, we have gained a reputation over the years as a rather self-righteous group, and if there was anything the other Christians in the community could count on it was that we could not be counted on to participate with them in anything. Take part in a community prayer service with all those denominationalists and apostates? God forbid!! Work alongside them in feeding the hungry? Heavens NO!! Brethren, if we are to be saved, we must repent ... and, frankly, we need to announce this repentance to our fellow Christians throughout our communities. It's time our neighbors saw us as something other than that "weird little sect" off by itself in a corner of the city.

"If the Church of Christ is to be saved for a meaningful ministry in the 21st century, it must come to terms with its status as a distinct religious body, to wit, that it is at worst a sect, at best a denomination. This is imperative for one vital reason: self-authenticity. If we are to be a redemptive people in a troubled world we must be an honest people. We can't play such games as 'They are all denominations (or sects), but we are not' and have any viable impact upon a lost world" [p. 74]. "A sect presumes to be the whole of the Body of Christ, exclusive of all other believers, while a denomination recognizes that it is only part of the whole" [p. 77]. If we're honest with ourselves, we must admit that those within the Churches of Christ DO NOT constitute the universal One Body of Christ in its entirety upon the face of the earth. We are a "named group" of believers with traditions and practices that have evolved over the years. There is nothing wrong with this as long as we grant other believers the same privilege of grace, and as long as we embrace them as brethren, and work alongside them to reach those who are still separate from God. It is okay to be different; it is not okay to be divisive about it. When we become the latter, we become sectarian. My association is with the "named historical group" known in the Yellow Pages as the "Church of Christ." My membership (if I may used that term) is in the universal One Body of Christ Jesus, which makes me a brother to every other person who is also within that One Body ... regardless of their various associations with differing historical groups. Our oneness is in a Person, not a Party, and our unity is of the Spirit, whereas uniformity is the goal of a sect.

"At the heart of our problem (and this is true of other churches as well) is that we are caught in the trappings of our own institutionalism -- or churchism might be the word. ... Our Achilles heel is the System. The System resists change, except occasional cosmetic change. Nothing real or substantial. The System demands conformity, and the System is uneasy with thinking people around, especially a thinking preacher or a preacher that says something. The System must maintain the status quo, and it must preserve itself at all cost. Most significantly, the System is tied to the building. Regular church attendance, along with generous giving, is the essence of 'faithfulness'" [p. 90]. "We need to realize what we have allowed the System to do to us" [p. 91]. Bro. Garrett suggests that one of the ways we can save ourselves from this institutional system of religion is to abandon our "edifice-complex." We spend too much time "going to the church" (a building, where the "five acts" are performed), instead of actually "being the church" (a Spirit-filled people reflecting Jesus in their daily lives as they interact with their friends, family and neighbors).

Leroy Garrett has correctly pointed out in this fabulous little book (which I hope and pray you will all buy and read) that "the Churches of Christ are dying for change!" [p. 106]. There is a thirst among our people for significant responsible change, and a growing awareness among many of our leaders that without this change we are destined to perish as a group. If we are trying to be a 1st century church in a 21st century world, we will fail. "Any institution that survives the centuries must change as the world around it changes, or it will be ineffective. This is especially true of the church" [p. 107]. That doesn't mean that Truth changes; Truth is absolute. It doesn't mean the Good News changes; that gospel message transcends the confines of time and place. But our methods must change, our ways of expressing Truth must change, our ways of demonstrating our love and joy and faith must change, so as to be relevant to the times and places in which we live. If not, we will be little more than an oddity to our neighbors, rather than compelling ambassadors of God's grace. "This can never be realized until the leadership takes the initiative and works for change" [p. 109]. Fellow leaders, like my dear brother Leroy Garrett, I challenge you to have the courage of conviction to take the lead in bringing about the responsible changes necessary to our "salvation." You will be met with resistance; you will be vilified, perhaps even by friends and family; it will not be pleasant. However, if we are to be a force for grace in the 21st century we must gird our loins and "get with it." The vast majority of our people are waiting for bold leadership. It's time to provide it!!

Special CD Offers

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

(A 193 page book by Al Maxey)
Also Available on KINDLE

One Bread, One Body
An Examination of Eucharistic
Expectation, Evolution & Extremism

(A 230 page book by Al Maxey)
Also Available on KINDLE

Readers' Reflections

From a Leader at Eastern European Mission:

Brother Al, My wife and I want to thank you for your amazing service to the Kingdom with your weekly Reflections. What a road you have traveled since you began this ministry in December, 2002!! Your "Johnny Appleseed" labors have raised an international orchard of eternal life-giving fruit to an unimaginable army of God's people. How all of heaven must rejoice over what you have accomplished -- so let your heart rejoice also. Take the Comforter's comfort and strength, and continue your journey. Our prayers travel with you!! Also please send me a signed copy of your book Down, But Not Out, and I'll get a check to you right away. I know someone who has great need of its teaching right now.

From a Reader in China:

Brother Al, Thank you so much for Reflections #512 ("Grumblings and Rumblings"). A lot of us are dealing with our "Grumpys," and it is not fun at all. We're lucky if such people are just a small part of our life, but when they are people we love, it is so hard to continue pressing on. I began to change my thinking a decade ago, but it is only after being in China for the past three years that I have really radically examined and overhauled my beliefs. The Spirit has guided me toward a more grace-centered faith, and away from the dangerous soul- and Spirit-quenching claws of legalism that were once embedded in me. It is also helpful that there isn't a Church of Christ on every other street corner, with stern men in ill-fitting suits waiting to beat those legalistic beliefs back into me!! My spiritual growth has compelled me further out of the group called Church of Christ, and I have paid dearly for it. Friends that I have known since my childhood, whom I had previously been able to count on for prayers and support, have abruptly and completely cut themselves off from me (lest, I suppose, my "flagrant liberalism" infect them somehow). My wife and I often feel alone, largely because we are in China, but also because of the "cold winds" that blow upon us from those we hoped we could count on at home. We have the support of wonderful brothers and sisters here (from various Christian faith-heritages), and that is not a small thing, but it pains our hearts to be rejected by those we thought cared for us, and all because we no longer wear the name "Church of Christ." Pray for us. It is hard to be strong in these times. And I hope your readers will pray for us as well. Thank you again for being one of the few voices out there who not only speaks out against the "Grumpys," but who also speaks out for and encourages those of us who are still finding faith and trusting grace. It is for these souls throughout the world that I believe the Spirit has called you, and I am thankful that your faith is strong enough to withstand the ire of the neo-Pharisees.

From a Reader in Florida:

Brother Al, I am always spreading the word about you and your ministry, and, of course, they are always kind words! Speaking of words, I don't think you have any idea of just how much your words via your Reflections have meant to my LIFE!! Saying "Thank You" just isn't adequate to express my eternal gratitude that you came into my life and rescued me!! I never would have had the courage to leave the suffocating, graceless, mean-spirited, legalistic Church of Christ we were members of had it not been for you! Praise the Lord (and Al Maxey) -- my husband and I are now FREE, and loving every minute!! God bless you!!

From a Reader in the Philippines:

Brother Al, In your last article you wrote, "Those who are rigidly religious rarely find it within themselves to manifest a spirit of grace. The outer parameters of their acceptance are clearly marked and militantly patrolled: you are embraced if you embrace their positions; you are eviscerated if you do not." Brother, you rang my bell with that one! Back in late 1969 or early 1970, W. L. Wharton told me (rather prophetically) that we (conservatives) were guilty of two basic errors: (1) our overemphasis on obedience, obedience, obedience to the virtual exclusion of grace, and (2) our demand for doctrinal rigidity, under the implied threat of being declared unworthy of the fellowship of "faithful" saints. I have seen the truth of this many times over the decades. Preachers I've known for 40+ years are such hardliners that they have destroyed both congregational autonomy and personal freedom in Christ. The "issues" back then have long since bitten the dust, and what we have today in too many cases is just a grasping for power and a preservation of tradition. Thanks for your good articles exposing this disease.

From a Reader in Connecticut:

Brother Al, What a beautiful reminder of God's grace your last article was. I have met too many of those "brothers" who militantly patrol those perimeters you spoke of, and your observation about them is dead on! If you do not embrace their view on all things, you are eviscerated in the name of the King (the exact opposite of the example set by Christ Himself). My wife and I support a community project for young single women who find themselves expecting a child due to poor lifestyle choices. In lieu of abortion, these young women have decided to give life to their babies, and we (as Christians) support them in this decision and help them put their lives back together. However, we find ourselves condemned by some of our legalistic-minded family members because this program is jointly supported by the efforts and resources of brothers and sisters from various other Christian faith-groups. They refuse to help in any way, and their total lack of grace and love is so blatant that it serves to underscore just how important and timely are the lessons taught in your Reflections. I must say: your lessons on and thought-provoking analysis of some of the most important Christian life lessons have brought my wife and me much closer to Christ, and they have made our prayers deeper and more meaningful than a quarter century of legal lectures and brow beatings we experienced in the church of our past. We thank God daily for you and Shelly, and for the fruit all your hard work is now bringing forth worldwide!!

From a Reader in California:

Brother Al, I said to Terry Rush, as I will say to you -- Jesus also had such critics, so you are in good company. I do, however, like the fact that you refer to them as cartoon characters!! God bless your work!

From a Reader in England:

Dear Bro. Maxey, I am writing a research paper on the future of education in America. Thus, I feel the need to delve briefly into American/European history on this subject. Understanding what Raikes, Asbury and Elliot did for England and America (the latter copying Raikes' model) seems to be helpful. May I use your web article (Reflections #184 -- "Raikes' Ragged Regiment: Reflecting on the Sunday School and Non-Sunday School Movements") as a reference for my paper? I found it intriguing that contrary to the worldly philosophers of that day (e.g., John Locke), Raikes, Asbury and Elliot taught girls and non-whites, a forerunner of modern public education for all. It's amazing that some should consider Sunday Schools to be a work of the devil (although I'll admit that what is taught in some of them today perhaps could be!!). Thank you very much for your study and your attention to my request.

From a Minister in California:

Brother Al, The spirit of the Pharisee in any age is to EXclude everyone possible. The spirit of Jesus in any age is to INclude everyone possible. Pharisees go to incredible lengths to EXclude; recipients of grace go to incredible lengths to INclude. It's not rocket science, this thing called Grace!! Keep rollin', brother!

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Brother Al, I love reading your Reflections each week, but I have a great advantage over most of your readers: I get to sit in your classes and listen to your sermons each week, all of which are so uplifting and such a blessing. We also can't wait until it's time to head for The Tulsa Workshop to hear you and others preach about our freedom in Christ. May God continue to bless you as you continue to free so many of us from the legalistic bondage of the past.

From a Reader in Georgia:

Brother Al, When I read stories about how all the intricate details get woven into the lives of people with extraordinary outcomes, it boggles my mind that people can't see the Holy Spirit as being alive and active!! Thanks for sharing this article on the writing of the hymn "The Ninety and Nine." It was very encouraging.

From a Minister in Texas:

Brother Al, Wow! I think the story of Sankey's composition of the music for the hymn "The Ninety and Nine" (which obviously wasn't his at all, or at least not primarily, but was inspired by the Spirit) is even more amazing and touching than the story of Clephane's writing of the words. I always loved this old hymn. Thanks for the account of how it came to be.

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