by Al Maxey

Issue #534 ------- June 8, 2012
Here and there in the midst of American society
you meet with men full of a fanatical and almost
wild spiritualism. From time to time strange sects
arise which endeavor to strike out extraordinary
paths to eternal happiness. Religious insanity
is very common in the United States.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)

Factional Face-off on Facebook
Social Networking - Sectarian Nitpicking

Anyone reading this is more than likely quite familiar with an aspect of social media known as "social networking." Although the Internet initially provided a place for the sharing of data, it quickly evolved to a medium where individuals and groups throughout the world could share their lives. Intimate interaction with others in "real time" is now an almost universal reality, even in some of the poorest and most underdeveloped parts of the globe. "Social Networking" is a phrase that describes this ability to become part of a virtual global community, and to interact instantly and intimately with others on various levels. One of the most popular social networking sites is Facebook. There are close to 1 billion users on Facebook worldwide at present (there were 845 million registered as of January, 2012), which is almost 1 out of 7 people on the planet. The vast majority of Facebook users are outside the United States. Clearly, the potential for achieving great good with such networking is astronomical ... so also is the potential for great evil. Just as there are people devoted to sharing the blessings of God's Word with the world, so also are there people devoted to promoting every form of perversion. It is my conviction that Christians must make use of this medium to spread the Good News and share with others the joys associated with our daily living in His grace. God has opened a great door of opportunity; we must not hesitate to enter it. On the other hand, the Internet, like the world around us, is a place that can be extremely dangerous and deadly. Losing sight of this fact can prove very costly.

As one might imagine, there is quite a diversity of opinion among Christians as to the parameters of acceptable use of such social networking sites. Some, who are rather ultra-conservative in theology and practice, and who perceive such virtual communities as constituting something of a "virtual church," are determined to impose the same types of restrictions and regulations they bind in their own congregations. For example, they "disfellowship" people online, and "withdraw" from people who are in certain "virtual communities." Dub McClish, in an article titled "Facebook and Fellowship" [Contending for the Faith, February, 2012, p. 1, 11], took this to its ultimate extreme, as he and his comrades are wont to do with any number of matters. Dub states he will not "friend" anyone on Facebook who has "friended" people with whom he personally differs. Thus, he will not fellowship people who fellowship people he doesn't like. "I'll be your friend, as long as you aren't friends with 'old so-and-so.'" Dub wrote, "Suppose Jane Doe wants to be on my friend list, or she invites me to be on hers. Before accepting, I check her Facebook page and find Max Lucado, Barry Grider, and Dave Miller on her 'friends' list, and Abilene Christian University among her 'interests.' If she is their 'friend' (implying that she has no problems with their errors), she therefore has no problem fellowshipping them. She is therefore violating 2 John 10-11 by tacitly bidding them 'Godspeed.' ... I do not want my name to appear in a list of someone else's 'friends' if it contains apostates and false teachers, for such would imply my fellowship/friendship with them. Likewise, I will not knowingly accept one as a 'friend' if I know he or she has 'friended' apostates." Dub concludes by saying that if one accepts someone on Facebook as a "friend," then "they had better be faithful brethren. Otherwise, one runs afoul of the New Testament teaching concerning fellowship and incurs guilt by a congenial and accepting association."

As with most things, I believe Dub McClish has taken this way too far. However, he does make a valid point: in these growing virtual communities we must exercise some degree of care with regard to our associations, for there are predators out there looking for unsuspecting people upon whom they may prey. I don't think we have to go to the sectarian extremes of people like McClish, but neither should we be unaware of the dangers that await us when we involve ourselves in the vast world of social media and networking. If we surround ourselves only with those with whom we agree on every matter, however, and exclude from our "august presence" all whom we deem "spiritually inferior" in some way, then it will be extremely hard for us to truly reach those who need to hear the Good News. Jesus, you may remember, associated with sinners -- even publicans and prostitutes -- in order that He might share the love of the Father with them. Perhaps our level of inclusion and exclusion should be closer to His, than to those separatists who write for publications such as Contending for the Faith.

Barton W. Stone (1772-1844), one of the early founders/leaders of our movement (Stone-Campbell Movement), wrote, "I blush for my fellows who hold up the Bible as the bond of union, yet make their opinions of it a test of fellowship; who plead for union of all Christians, yet refuse to fellowship with such as dissent from their notions. Vain men! Their zeal is not according to knowledge, nor is their spirit that of Christ. Such antisectarian-sectarians are doing more mischief to the cause and advancement of truth, the unity of Christians, and the salvation of the world, than all the skeptics in the world. In fact, they create skeptics" ["Remarks," Christian Messenger, August, 1835, p. 180].

It is imperative that we take a strong stand for Truth in all our social interactions and associations. We can be in the world without being of the world. By interacting with it in a responsible way we can truly transform the world, rather than being conformed to it. Yeast doesn't affect the dough while it remains in the package -- it must mingle with that which it seeks to transform. The same is true of disciples of Christ. Our true effectiveness in His cause is through our associations with those most in need of His grace, not in isolating ourselves behind thick walls of religious exclusion. I decided a long time ago that I would no longer be party to partyism, nor would I any longer take part in the promotion of "brand name" religion. I am a member of His universal One Body (His "church"), and I am a brother with ALL others who are united with Him. We may differ on a thousand points of personal preference, perception and practice, but these will not cause me to sever my fellowship or association with them. They don't have to be my twins to be my brethren! This is not only a truth I proclaim in my teaching, but one I try to practice in my daily living. Although my example has been an encouragement to many, it has also elicited considerable anger from others, who have gone to considerable lengths to attack my ministry, my family, and me.

For example, I have just returned from a three week vacation. During that time off, Shelly and I flew out to North Carolina to visit our youngest son and his family (a super daughter-in-law and three precious grandkids). After that, we flew to Missouri and spent another week with another of our sons and his family (also a super daughter-in-law and four precious grandkids). Our oldest son and his family live here in New Mexico (thus, much closer to us). We are so proud of all of them, and our ten grandchildren. God has truly blessed us. It was a fabulous vacation, and we got to see some new parts of the country. We also had the privilege of being able to attend Bible class and the worship assembly in both locations with our sons and their families. What a blessing to sit together with them and share in these times of study and devotion to our Father. As many people do, Shelly and I would occasionally place an "update" on our Facebook pages about places we had seen and things we had done. In the course of our vacation, I also commented briefly about each of the assemblies we attended on the Sundays we were there with them. My comment about our attendance at the Union Hill Church of Christ in Nixa, MO with our son and his family received very little comment on my Facebook page. However, my comment about our attendance at the congregation our youngest son and his family attend received 194 comments. What was the difference?! You guessed it -- Shelly and I dared to assemble with brethren in Christ that were not part of the "Church of Christ" church. You would have thought I had sacrificed a cat on the Lord's Table by the reaction. It was astounding, and I still find myself shaking my head over it. Following is the full text of what I posted to my Facebook page on Sunday, May 20:

I posted the above to my Facebook page from my "Kindle Fire" shortly after getting home from lunch, and then went out to enjoy the afternoon with the family. I didn't think any more about my post, as it seemed to me to be just a quick informational update that nobody would likely pay much attention to, although our loved ones might take an interest in what was happening with us while we were away. Later on I clicked on my Kindle to check email and got a message from a friend who asked if I had checked my Facebook page lately. He said that if I hadn't, I might want to do so, as an explosion had taken place on there. I immediately went to my Facebook site and was astounded at the battle being waged. People could probably hear my jaw hit the floor all through the house! A handful of "Church of Christ" legalists (most of them women) had "gone on the warpath" and were creating quite a stir. My friends on Facebook (I have 1909 friends to date) were doing their best to counter their attacks, but things had clearly gotten out of control.

One of these women wondered, "Should members of the Lord's church worship with denominational churches???" The Lord's church, of course, would be the "Church of Christ" church -- the "one, true church" -- the ONLY group approved by God. Every other group on the planet is a denominational church, but OUR church is the LORD'S church. What arrogance!! Another of these women wrote, "We really aren't to have fellowship with the denominational world." This second woman also stated, "I love my children, but if they go against God, I'm not going to." The implication, of course, was that my son was "going against God" by worshipping God in a group that wasn't the same as her group. This is sectarianism gone to seed. The first woman accused me of having "left sound doctrine," and said she would be praying for me. Yet another of these legalistic women wrote, "I am shaking the dust off my feet." She then "unfriended" me, saying that God would deal with me one day. Finally a man spoke up and offered this bit of "wisdom" -- "Baptists aren't Christians, they are Baptists." I suppose I should have told him that by this reasoning the only real Christians would be those in the Christian Church. After all, Church of Christers aren't Christians, they're Church of Christers! Right?! Good Grief. There was a part of me that felt like bursting out laughing at the insanity I was witnessing, yet there was another part of me that wanted to just sit down and cry at the abysmal ignorance of some who profess to be disciples of Jesus and at the harm they are inflicting upon others and upon the cause of Christ. In all, about five people "unfriended" me on Facebook, although the uproar caused about three times that many to ask to be added as "friends," and I also picked up 20 more subscriptions to my Reflections as a result of this whole fiasco (one lady wrote, "I would like to subscribe. Great post on Facebook earlier; I agree with you! My husband just left the faculty at ------ University, and one of the things we are now praying about is leaving the Church of Christ. One reason is the way some react, just like the way they reacted to your status posting. We want to be free in Christ!! Thanks for all you do!"). My dear wife, Shelly, after reading the nonsense on Facebook following my post, wrote this simple statement: "Well, after reading all of these comments, all I can say is it was great worshipping with Christians this morning!"

At one point during the course of the 194 postings that were generated by my original update, I wrote the following (as some of my friends were encouraging me privately: "You had better jump in there; these women are taking over your site") -- "Some of you, frankly, are exposing your deep-seated sectarianism. There is only one church universal, and it is composed of individual believers. My loyalty is to the Lord and all of His people, not to any one movement, sect or any faction thereof. I will no longer equate the 'Church of Christ' group with the universal One Body. Yes, this group has saved people in it, but they are not the only ones saved. I will never again promote such arrogant exclusivism. God's Family is vaster than any particular denomination, and that includes the one with which I associate. It's time for the walls to come down and for brand name loyalties to cease. If you don't share this vision, feel free to hit the 'unfriend' button, but know that I will continue to pray God will remove your blinders of Tradition and open your eyes to His Truth." After posting this, one of my friends wrote, "Al, I was wondering when you'd notice what was happening on your page here. Looks like a subject for your next Reflections. I'm one of your readers in Raleigh. Sure wish I could take you to lunch while you're in town!" Another friend finally jumped into the middle of the mess and wrote, "Al's on vacation. Let's respect the man's time off and have this conversation somewhere else." Needless to say, the legalists weren't having any of that. The battle waged on!

A friend who lives in China added this thought, which I thought was quite astute: "One thing that confuses me is that the hardcore Church of Christ thoughts being posted here are almost exclusively being posted by WOMEN. Aren't you the people who believe women shouldn't teach publicly?!! So, what are you gals doin' usurpin' Al's authority? Or, is this just like the rest of your theology which you choose to enforce only when it agrees with you?" Just another of those things in life that make you go "Hmmmmm!!" One friend, after looking at the many attacks, lamented, "So sad to see that the exclusive spirit the Church of Christ is notorious for is still thriving!" Yes, we have a lot of work to do. One additional note -- when we got back home to New Mexico, I dropped by the church office to pick up any mail that might have accumulated, and Maria (the church secretary) asked if I had received the email the church office had received (which she had then forwarded on to me). She sent it to my office address, so I hadn't seen it. I opened it up and it was from one of the women on Facebook who had thrown such a fit. She apparently decided her rant on Facebook was not sufficient, so she contacted the congregation here to inform them of my apostasy. She wrote, "Is this what you all teach? I am so shocked. Say it isn't so. If you teach this, then we need to let people know so they can avoid you in the future." You've never been loved, 'till you've been "loved" by a legalist!! How sad. Actually, many of the members of this congregation are on my friends list on Facebook, as are the other leaders here. One of those members wrote this on Facebook: "I am disappointed and disgusted with some of the garbage on here. I can't believe that 21st century Christians are still playing the 'denominationalism card.' You make me absolutely sick. A man walks into a church to worship his God -- guess what: it doesn't matter the sign on the door, the title on the sign in the front yard, or the type of man preaching the sermon that Sunday. Some of you need to figure out if you are worshippers of Christ or if you are worshippers of your own beliefs. Disgusting! Al, you are my hero for many reasons! Love you, brother!"

Yes, social networking can get rather interesting at times. One person wrote that he couldn't believe that all of this hoopla was created simply because I stated that I worshipped at a Baptist congregation that morning. It takes so little to set off a legalist. Jesus and His disciples rubbed some grain between their hands on the Sabbath and the "religious" were ready to kill them. Not much has changed in 2000 years. But, just as social networking can bring out the worst in some people, it can also bring out the best in others. Although the outbursts of the few described above were frustrating, the depth of maturity and insight of the majority was truly refreshing to witness. My sister-in-law (Shelly's little sister), Kim Allison (who is a nurse in Texas), wrote on my Facebook page, "There are just some who don't understand how far God's grace reaches -- even beyond the walls of their tiny congregation. They read the words, but they don't understand." How true. My son in Missouri, David Maxey, wrote the following (which includes a reference to our son, Tim Maxey, who lives in North Carolina): "Not to speak for you, Dad, but I would guess you were encouraged by the wonderful members of that congregation, as I'm sure they were encouraged by you and Mom. And Tim, don't you agree that God probably really enjoys listening to good music? After all, we are to use our talents He has given us for Him, and He has given a lot of wonderful people the amazing talent of music!! PLAY ON!! ... Worship takes place in your heart, and I truly believe that God will accept a faithful heart regardless of denomination. ... I hope some people wear chin straps on Judgment Day, because I have a feeling there will be a lot of dropped jaws!" David, I am so proud of you for writing this!! Thank you!

A doctor in Kentucky, whom I have known for a number of years, wrote the following: "What has aggravated me about this thread is the number of people who are Facebook 'friends' with Al and who decided to attack him while he was on vacation because he worshipped at a church that has a different label than their own church. Al's Reflections articles have been online for years and years. He has debated these very topics. For those who are confused about what the 'doctrine of Christ' is, he has written an article on that (#84). For those who are curious about his view on 1 Peter 3:21 and the 'essentialness' of baptism, he has written articles on that (#217 and #497). Want to totally lose it? -- and I'm speaking to all the patternists out there, and to those who live and die by command, example and inference -- then read the "available light" studies by Al (#158, etc.). These have all been online for years, folks. I happen to agree with all of it, and I truly believe God has put Al Maxey in a wonderful place to minister to others. When you call Al out on his place of worship this past Sunday, you demonstrate that you don't know him, and you don't read his writings. Choosing to attack him and 'correct' him while he is on vacation because of his Facebook update (when he has been the same for years) is unkind, unloving, and doesn't show the spirit of Christ. If there is one thing out of harmony with how Christians should behave on this thread, that would be it."

The grown son of one of the former elders here (with whom I served a few years ago; that elder is now deceased, although his wife is still a member here and a dear sister-in-Christ) wrote the following (and I hope to give him a big hug for writing this the next time he comes to visit here): "I will submit this one comment: my job brings me into contact daily with people of many different denominations. Every conversation I have with them, and the study, research and discussions that follow, reinforce two things. One: there are a lot more things that we (in the various denominations, including the Church of Christ) agree on than we disagree on. Two: many of the things I was taught growing up in the Church of Christ are NOT supported in Scripture, and these have been used to cause many divisions, as well as much damage and dissension. These have also caused many (some of whom are personal acquaintances) to shun 'religion' altogether, which is exactly the opposite of the unity for which Jesus prayed."

Let me close this "back from vacation" issue of my Reflections with one of the final statements I made on my Facebook site in response to the flood of posts regarding my visit to Center Grove Baptist Church in Clemmons, NC -- "The pitiful sectarian mindset displayed by 3-4 people on here shows you why I determined decades ago to devote myself to using my writings to combat this. This is a godless spirit that is at work in Christendom, and it must be rebuked and cast out. For however much longer God gives me on this earth, I shall be daily seeking to do just that, and to helping unite believers in Him, rather than in perpetuating sectarian division. I will never again be party to the latter!!"

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

Immersed By One Spirit
Rethinking the Purpose and Place of
Baptism in NT Theology and Practice

(A 304 page book by Al Maxey)
Also Available on KINDLE and NOOK

Readers' Reflections

From a Professor at Abilene Christian University:

Have you seen the latest issue of Contending for the Faith, that paragon of "hate journalism" disgorged upon decent folk by the ultra-legalists within our movement? Once again you have been attacked by name by one of their rabid writers: some guy named Daniel Denham. He seems to regard you as the epitome of apostasy. What's crazy is that these people, by their vicious attacks, only expose their own godlessness. Stand firm, brother. God will deal with these people. In the meantime, He is clearly accomplishing great things through your writing and speaking ministries. Don't let the yapping dogs discourage you.

From an Army Captain in Afghanistan:

I just wanted to send a quick note to thank you again for sending me free of charge your MP3 Audio Sermons CD's and your MP3 audio CD's of your Sunday morning adult class on 1st & 2nd Peter titled Encouragement for the End Times. These studies came in particularly useful during our "ruck march" the other day. I'm sending you a picture taken during that march. If you can make out the headphones in the picture, that's me listening to one of your lessons on 1st Peter. Thank you for your prayers, encouragement and support while we're over here. By the way, one of the chaplains here was doing a series on 1st Peter, so I lent him the CD you sent me. Thank you again for sending them. They are really helping me in my walk with the Lord. I hope you had a good trip on your vacation, and I'm looking forward to your next Reflections.

From a Minister in Tanzania, Africa:

I am glad to study and pass on to others your articles on your web page. Indeed, they are uplifting. I was a Lutheran pastor for so long. But, after having read the Bible, I discovered that we were not fully following the Scriptures. Now, I just want to know the Truth, and the Truth only. I am going to order all three of your books. Also, I would like to invite you to come and conduct a seminar or workshop for the edification of the Body here. I will organize everything, if you are willing, so that we can hear the Truth you teach. May God richly bless you.

From a Reader in Minnesota:

I came across the story of Jephthah while listening to a chronological survey of the Bible. For some reason, this story never really registered with me; it was too problematic. I looked at Josephus and also various commentaries. I have been teaching some young adults basic exegesis and hermeneutics: start with clear, straight-forward themes, pay attention to the context, and proceed from there. You did all of the above in a masterful way in Reflections #224 -- Jephthah's Reckless Vow: Reflective Analysis of Judges 11. I was also impressed with your humble conclusion: "This is my best attempt, but I hold my conclusions tentatively." Unfortunately, there are too many examples of teachers and leaders treating opinion as doctrine and doctrine as dogma; majoring in minors. So, I thank you. Your thoughtful, careful study is much appreciated. Also, thank you for your service in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971 (I understand '69 was one of the worst years in Vietnam). More importantly, thank you for your service to our King and Savior.

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

I just viewed your web pages on the strengths and weaknesses of the various Bible translations (A View of the Versions). I found these studies to be very helpful. In fact, they have been the most helpful of anything I have viewed so far. Thank you!

From a Reader in Arkansas:

I apologize for the delay in complimenting your very fine article on Irene Sendler (Reflections #532 -- Heroine of the Holocaust: Courage of Conviction under Fire). I will forward this article of yours on to others. I pray that more will learn of Irene Sendler, who was truly a heroine of righteousness. Lord willing, we will visit the Yad Vashem again next year. We will make it a point to spend time at Irene's tree. If you haven't seen this, you will find the Yad Vashem web site tribute to Irene Sendler most interesting (Click Here). I will be in Israel this year for Pentecost. I count it a blessing indeed. Shalom.

From a Reader in Alabama:

I've been reading your Reflections for quite a while now, and I have a great deal of respect for the changes you are trying to make in the hearts of Christians. I wonder if you have written anything on church discipline. My daughter "left the church" and is worshipping with her husband with a group that uses instrumental music during the assembly. Naturally, being in the "Bible belt," the Church of Christ she worshipped with before has withdrawn from her, as did most members of the church where I worship. When she had her baby, none of them attended her shower. I've studied the subject some, and I find 1st Corinthians to be geared toward removing the immoral and/or wicked from the church so their influence isn't damaging to the rest of the members, not geared toward "marking and standing apart from" those who once worshipped at a "Church of Christ," but who have chosen to leave. Am I missing something?! Some of the members here are coming over today to talk to me about why I think it is okay to attend my granddaughter's birthday party, thus "fellowshipping" with my daughter. I would love any light you might be able to shed on this situation. If the Lord is truly calling for to me to separate myself from my child, I am totally willing to do that (though not without much pain, especially since there is a grandbaby involved), but I don't want to be bound by what GOD hasn't bound on us in this matter! I thank you in advance for any help.

From a Reader in Alabama:

I have been reading your articles for a good long while now, and I have been challenged and encouraged. I recently read "Soaring Outside the Cage" (Reflections #533) and wanted to tell you what a huge encouragement it was. In fact, just two weeks prior to reading this, my wife and I had decided to leave the congregation we had been attending for the past 10 years, and which was the group I had pretty much grown up in. This was a painful decision, and one we didn't make lightly. It became clear to us, though, that we needed to make a change for our spiritual well-being. Thanks again for your insight, and also for challenging me to think and to study so that I can truly see what the Lord is telling me in His Word.

From a Reader in Canada:

What can I say but Thank You. Thank God that you are His, and that you share your gift with us all. I have just moved to the east coast of Canada, on Prince Edward Island, and have not even fully unpacked yet, but I did take time to look up your latest articles that I missed while moving. Your Reflections are food for my soul. God knows our heart, and He knows how deeply I love you, brother, and how much I depend on you for support, knowledge, and spiritual guidance. Again, thank you and God bless you!

From Bobby Deason in Cambodia:

Just a note from Cambodia to say thank you for being free in Christ and for helping to set others free. My brother, Larry Deason, died in 2008. One of the books that he wrote is "Set Free, Stay Free." I send them free to anyone in the USA, and I also pay the postage. But, since I'm not home a lot of the time, and since we stopped shipping internationally because of the 300% increase in postage in 2007, I have placed all ten of our books online in PDF format (Click Here). They can be read, downloaded and printed out if one chooses, and they are free of charge. Thank you so much for sharing our books and web site over the years. You are a dear brother, and an encourager. You build up the Body of Christ. I've also enjoyed your posts and pictures on Facebook. If you are interested, and have time, I've posted a lot of pictures of my teaching at the South Pacific Bible College in New Zealand, SIBI in Singapore, and now at CBI in Phnom Penh. I took a towel with me to class last Thursday in preparation for teaching John 13, and I washed the feet of all 22 of my students. They, in turn, then surprised me by coming up and washing mine! I was overcome with emotion, joy and praise to Jesus for His humbling example. When one of the brothers wiped my feet with his hair and then kissed my foot, tears flooded my face. I've posted pictures on Facebook of me washing their feet, and then of them washing mine.

From a Reader in Texas:

Thanks so much for your Reflections article "Soaring Outside the Cage." It really spoke to me! After spending a month helping care for a sick uncle in the heart of the legalistic group you mentioned, I came home and decided that if that was what Christianity was all about, then count me out. It was absolutely dreadful, spiritually speaking.

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, you are writing some very good articles about freedom. Certainly it is to be desired over practically everything else. More and more you are encouraging people to be free, and through your efforts, testified to by the witness from others you include in your essays, more and more are finding that joy. Your advice has helped many become liberated, and that is such a good condition.

From a Reader in Tennessee:

"Soaring Outside the Cage" was such a well-written article, Al. You showed not only a precise understanding of the struggle to be free in the midst of legalism and patternism, but you also showed such compassion toward those whose pain is so deep. I know I say each time I respond, "Keep up the good work," but, Al, your writings are making a difference!! So, I say it again: "Keep up the good work!"

From a Reader in Arizona:

Thank you for the good reminder ("Soaring Outside the Cage") of the struggles of some who are escaping the assortment of false teachings that torment sincere people who want to serve the Lord. I imagine that the situation is worse for those with no other churches nearby. Many of us fail to fully welcome visitors that join us, and that reflects our own immaturity. Our greatest failures are personal, and not corporate. I hope you and Shelly have a delightful time on your vacation.

From a Reader in Georgia:

Thanks, Al, for opening the doors to the cages!! I guess one by one we each have to take action to experience that freedom, but at least we are no longer chained to a post ... the doors are open. The joy of freedom in Christ completely trounces the fear of rejection by those still chained. I like the song: "Take the Shackles Off of Me so I can Dance." Have a safe, fun, well-deserved vacation, and a Happy Mother's Day to Shelly. Let me know if you ever get stuck in the Atlanta airport.

From an Evangelist in Alabama:

I often read your Reflections and am greatly inspired by them! As a young evangelist in Alabama, I preach for Baptist churches, filling in for them as necessary. However, I have also had personal dealings with the very sectarian/legalistic Church of Christ churches, and at one point they almost had me convinced that I was "bound for hell" because I sang with a piano and had a fellowship hall. The more I've studied this group, the more amazed I have become at the petty things they so often cling to. Bro. Maxey, I really appreciate your ministry, and I find your writings profitable for throwing back the covers and exposing the truth on these needless arguments by these legalists.

From Harold Key in Texas:

I was "disfellowshipped" by 22 other preachers and "Churches of Christ" in Memphis, TN and written up in a two page "Factual Report to the Brethren" in the Gospel Advocate [November 25, 1954, pages 925-926]. I stayed in "Churches of Christ" until 2003, preaching the Good News, which is Christ-centered, that makes us free in Christ. For the last nine years I have been a part of the Parkgate Community Church (200+ Sunday attendance) here in Pasadena, TX (150,000+ suburb of Houston). I am an elder, adult teacher on Sundays, and on Wednesdays I tell and illustrate Bible stories to the two oldest classes in our daycare. I also am a primary instructor at South Houston Bible Institute for persons of any race, sex or religious affiliation. I have continued to be the chair person of a monthly meeting of several preachers and elders of area Churches of Christ and Independent Christian Churches. The harmony and good will of the group is most refreshing. I would be happy if you would consider this to be a standing invitation to anyone in the southeast metropolitan area who is so fatigued and feeling so hopeless and so despairing of the entrenched legalism and pettiness in their home congregations, and who don't know where to turn. They have a standing invitation to come here!! They may contact me at my email address --, or by phone 281-487-1890, or by US Postal Service: 4026 Coapites St., Pasadena, TX 77504. Blessings on you, my brother, and feel free to publish this email to you.

From a Reader in [Withheld by Request]:

I have subscribed to your Reflections for several years now, and I always read them, and sometimes I forward them to friends if I feel a certain topic might interest them. I have come to respect your scholarship, as well as your kindness and patience toward those who might differ with you. The purpose of this email is to thank you for what you do. It helps the rest of us to think about issues and study them again and more carefully, even if we might not always agree with you.

My husband and I both grew up in the Church of Christ. We have always attended one everywhere we've lived in the state of --------. Last year, however, we moved to south ---------, and we've had trouble finding a church. There is a Church of Christ in our town, but our first impression of it was the sign outside the building that had this quote on it: "Ask your 'Pastor' where that term is used in the Bible." It is a very small, legalistic congregation with no elders, and few children. We've been in congregations like that before, and want to avoid such groups. We were attending a Church of Christ about an hour away, but the drive got to be too much (we have young children). Lately, we have been going to Grace Fellowship. We are currently taking a class there for people who want to find out more about it. We had a local member of the Church of Christ come see us a couple of weeks ago when they found out where we were going. He was very kind about it, but warned us against going to a "denominational" church, saying that using instruments in worship is sinful and we might lose our salvation over it. In a nutshell, his whole argument is the "law of silence." He has been sending us emails since that visit, so I sent him a few links to your Reflections. We haven't heard back from him since then.

It's been a real struggle to consider leaving the Church of Christ. We want to do what's right and please God, ultimately, rather than men. We were already comfortable with instrumental music, but our personal preference is acappella. We do miss that. What we've learned so far about Grace Fellowship, however, seems very biblical, so we might end up placing membership there in the future. Al, I just wanted to say that I really appreciate the time you have taken over the years to write your Reflections. They have been such a blessing to us, especially now. I also have a new appreciation for some of the criticism you have undergone (and our critics have been fairly nice, at least thus far --- those you have had to deal with have not been). Please pray for my family as we try to make the right decision. I pray that God will give you strength and wisdom as you go about doing His work for the kingdom. Thank you for your service to the Lord, and also for your service to our country.

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