Some Time In The Next Few Days …

…my “unique viewers” counter will roll over 70,000 since January 7, 2005.

Most web statisticians will agree that means that only between 15-35,000 of those are actual, unique viewers. I’m pretty sure the numbers have slowed from a good-sized banquet gathering to a booth at the coffee bar, so “the next few days” is only a guess. Of those numbers, some will have dropped their blogging habit in favor of Facebook or Twitter or the next thing that requires fewer words, thoughts and commitment. I’m sure some will have only stayed long enough at this blog to learn they’re not interested, or are offended.

(Mike Cope once told me while still preaching at Highland that his personal motto was “A little something to offend everyone.” I still like that.)

I’m not big into the numbers. (I probably haven’t checked that dumb counter for weeks; just happened to see it when scrolling down to review an older post.) I’m not offering a prize for viewer #70,000. (It’d be junk, anyway. That’s all I own. Junk and stuff. I use the stuff and look at the junk.)

So, here’s a little something to offend and disappoint everyone:

I think the Restoration Movement started off in the wrong direction, and is still pursuing it.

I believe the whole idea of trying to restore the New Testament church of century one is wrong-headed (though probably right-hearted) and has led us into the divisive, contentious, denominational morass that at least some folks are willing to recognize for what it is.

(Mother Lemming to Teenage Son: “Well, if all your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you do it, too?” Teenage Son: “Duh! – Of course!” Maybe our fellowship’s plight is not that desperate. Or is it?)

Instead of trying to be like an institution of imperfect people – sinful people, made perfect by the blood of Christ – shouldn’t we have been trying to just be like Christ?

Even Paul instructs that he should be followed only inasfar as he follows Christ.

The whole Restoration exercise has made us church-centered instead of Christ-centered. We preach church instead of Christ. We preach what to do instead of what He has done – and is doing, and would like to do through us, if we’d just let Him. And far too often, we preach as doctrines of God what are really precepts and interpretations and legislations of men. Law, in other words, which cannot save. (Paul said that. I believe him.)

I don’t want to be like the church of the first century. Or the eighteenth century. Or the twentieth, or even the twenty-first. I want to be like Jesus.

But I need your help.

I need to know who Jesus is, and what I understand about Him that’s right, and what I misunderstand about Him that’s wrong. I need His Spirit inside me and His family – His church – around me. I need the comfort and reassurance of God without and within me.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

I believe that’s why God puts us, the lonely, in His family – so that we can see Christ in each other and get to know Him better.

I don’t give a flying flip anymore about who is in and who is out of the church, the saved, the redeemed. I’ll talk about Jesus Christ with anyone, and let God decide – and I will be glad to listen to what anyone believes about Him and glad to share Whom I believe and in the end, I will only be responsible for what I’ve believed and chosen and taught and so will they.

I don’t give a howling hoot any longer about how church must be structured or what name must appear on the sign in front or what you can or can’t do on Sunday inside the building as if it were somehow more sacred than the rest of the world the Lord God made with His own words of creation during six extraordinary days of creative work.

I don’t care a whining whimper these days about programs, series, lessons, lectures, theories, interpretations, deductions, conclusions, traditions, and any kind of religious claptrap that diverts attention from Christ to the church as if the church were of first importance. The church was of first importance to Christ, the Bridegroom who laid down His life for her.

If the church is of first importance to the church … well, good people, that’s just plain narcissism on the part of the bride. That’s the twenty-five cent word. The five cent word is “selfishness.” And it’s a sin.

Time is short. It has been for the better part of two thousand years, and an end of one kind or another comes to all and it awaits you and me.

I don’t want to squander the time pursuing a life as part of a bride that primps at the mirror, ignoring all of the other crucial things involved in preparing for the arrival of the bridegroom and the great wedding feast to come.

I just want to sit down at Christ’s table and dine with Him and with you.

I simply want to sing and pray His praise with our voices blended.

I genuinely want to be immersed with you in His life, doing together with you what He wants us to do.

I emphatically want to be a part of His church, His family with you – all of you – because that’s what He wants.

Now those are the sort of numbers I can get excited about!

Tomorrow I will have to get up, get dressed and go to work at my church, and either pretend that I did not write this and do not believe it, or own up to it with everything that I say and do hereafter – and possibly lose that job as a result. So I need you to pray for me, all three of you who are left reading this fool’s errand of a blog – and be God’s family for me.

44 thoughts on “Some Time In The Next Few Days …

  1. Number 3, here. I’ll be praying. 🙂

    I was sitting in church yesterday thinking along these same lines. I didn’t particularly like the worship singing, part of the message rubbed me the wrong way – but man, was I joyfully in love!! I was thinking how strange it all really is that those things didn’t matter – so foreign to my flesh.

  2. You are absolutely right. If you lose a job for telling the truth it is a job you can ill afford to keep…don’t you think?

    Thank you for once more saying what I have been thinking. The whole “church centered” instead of “Christ centered”…sews up the whole thing.

  3. Your words so Perfectly summed up my own thoughts. My prayer is that God’s people around the world will begin to embrace this and realize that while we are looking in the mirror, the people God loved enough to die for are dying all around us. You have my prayers, my fellowship and a whole lot of love.

  4. i doubt very much that you’re alone in these sentiments, in fact there were many moments there where my thoughts were “now that statement is MONEY”.

  5. Keith,

    As you know we have been Paul centered rather than Christ centered. It is a shame we haven’t found more balance than we have in the Gospels.

    To you and to anyone in a position of authority in the congregation you minister at,

    What harm is there in taking a good honest look first at Christ, then at His church and see if there are discrepancies? Anyone who is afraid of that should be ashamed and even more ashamed should be the person who notices them and is too afraid and sissy to point them out? If you get chastised for doing so it is because people are dominated by the fear of maintaining status quo rather than the responsibility that comes in courageously shepherding a flock.

    I am glad you are not just a hireling there to parrot back stock responses but instead that the church you preach at has a prophetic voice that is Christ-centered. If they stick with an honest voice that is not afraid of the truth, they will be blessed by their courage.

  6. I stumbled on your blog awhile back, and have been a lurker, but coming out of hiding to say thanks for this post. I keep trying to explain this general idea to others, but you presented it so much more clearly than I have ever been able to attempt.

    So much of what “we” do is NOT working…(or right) but we keep doing it anyway. I’m tired of feeling like a square peg in a round hole, and posts like yours make me feel a little less lonely.

  7. I appreciate this passionate post. It does feel like we are spinning our wheels. I pray things move forward for you, and the church will work with you.

  8. Thank you for this post. In my preaching, I have tried to persuade Christians (mostly from the CoC tribe) that we need to stop trying to be “a” church located at some point in history and just start being “the” church of Jesus Christ and to do that means we must become the very presence of Jesus Christ in our world – no more, no less. That is a welcoming message on the one hand because it is free from the legalistic trappings that place the burden of salvation on what we do. But that is a challenging message because any honest pursuit of simply being the presence of Jesus Christ in our world must be accompanied with the realization that we will always fall woefully short of such an endeavor and that to pursue such an endeavor means that our very life (world-view, values, practices, etc…) must continually undergo a radical change that marks us as very different from the world we live among.

    Within the framework of our restoration herritage, I think the legalistic patternism one one hand made salvation exceedingly difficult because it placed the burden of redemption on our ability to get the pattern right rather than faith in the grace of God. Yet on the other hand, I think the legalistic patternism turned the gospel into a very cheap gospel because it reduced the Christian life to a set of specific doctrinal observances rather than pursuing the call of Jesus to “follow me.” But as I get to know more of my Christian family in other tribes outsdie of the Restoration Movement, I am more and more aware that the Restoration Movement and CoC is not alone in the unintentional distorting and cheapening of the gospel and that is why I no longer have any interest in disassociating myself from my Restoration and CoC tribe. For whatever problems and defiencies we have, I would not find anything different elsewhere. Church has and continues to be people striving to be like Jesus Christ, warts and all.

    Thank you for the great post.

    Grace and peace,

    K. Rex Butts

  9. I saw this blog today via a link from Facebook. My experience has been that error comes incrementally with people who measure their words very carefully. [I don’t care how the church is structured or what name is on the door. I don’t care about what we can’t do on Sunday inside the doors, as if the church is more important than the rest of the Lord’s creation.] I’m paraphrasing, but this is what was said isn’t it? It does matter what we call ourselves. It does matter how we are structured. It does matter what we do on Sunday’s inside the doors (how we worship). The church IS more important that the rest of creation. The world will burn some day but not the bride, not Christ’s church. I understand about how some people in the church are more concerned with doctrine or truth than they are about living a truly Christian life but we must have both spirit and truth. They are equally important. What I hear being said is that truth or doctrine doesn’t really matter, just our love of Christ, our Christian spirit. That is dead wrong.

  10. It’s been my experience that error comes, Jeff, from people paraphrasing when they should be quoting. That includes scripture, as well as other folks’ blogs.

    It’s been my experience that people who like to look for error in others will generally find it, whether it’s there or not.

    I’m sick to death of other folks trying to guilt me into the mindset of factious fault-finding, which is sin, by the way, and I want no atom of it anymore.

    Names on church buildings don’t save people. Jesus saves people, and died to do it. And if we would rather be abiut the business of condemning the saved rather than saving the condemned, then not even heaven can help us.

  11. Jeff,

    Your assumption is that the “truth” spoken of by Jesus and his disciples is Christian doctrine. Is it? Or perhaps the truth spoken of was Jesus rather than doctrines dilineated about Christianity throughout history(some of which are no doubt questionable). Perhaps the truth – Jesus Christ – was the way he lived (against all the idolatrous ways we have conceived that life should be lived). Perhaps that way was the life we were created to live. Perhaps that is why Jesus, in this midst of anxiety among his disciples, reassured his disciples that he was the way, truth, and life (cf. Jn 14.6)…not to be reduced to a set of doctrine but to be pursued as the authentic way of living, a way full of God’s promise of redemption.

    Grace and peace,

    K. Rex Butts

  12. Jeff,

    Nice job of building a straw man and then burning him to the ground. Next time I’d be interested in what you have to say in response to Keith rather than your imaginary boogie man.

    You wrote, “My experience has been that error comes incrementally with people who measure their words very carefully.”

    Yes, well, my experience has been that error comes stomping into the room with people who aren’t thoughtful enough to carefully measure their words. Your straw man lies in a heap of ashes, but Keith’s observations and passion are standing errect with the truth and the Man who is self-described as Truth.

  13. Keith,

    A friend pointed me to this blog today. So I came, and read, and have been reading the comments. Great thoughts, mostly. Yours were exceptional.

    But mostly, (who cares what a newby thinks?), I just wanted to say that I could easily imagine God pointing out your blog to Jesus and saying, “Check this one out, Son.” And then I could imagine seeing Jesus smile…more and more. And if you had been watching me read it, then that’s what you would have Jesus in me doing.

    So Thanks,


  14. Keith, as you know I have referred to “The church of Paul many times” and as long as Paul’s church worships the “High Priest” instead of the “ONE TRUE GOD” their worship will neither satisfy God’s command, not the needs of the worshiper. There will be that empty feeling. We need to read what Jesus said about worship and to whom it should be directed. The CoC hardly ever mentions the “Father” any more it seems to be a struggle between Paul and Jesus as to who will control. I haven’t been to a Church meeting in quite sometime, It just became an exercise in futility, listening to them preach Paul, and worship Jesus, instead of preaching Jesus, and worshiping “God The Father” God’s Church, it ain’t what it used to be.

  15. Glenn, I do care what people think and believe – and I’ll bet you do, too- whether they’re “newbies” or not. I care what Jeff thinks even though I don’t think I’ve ever interacted with him before.

    I’m glad you’ve been blessed by this post, and that Jeff has been challenged by it, but it’s not scripture; it is sure to have faults – my faults – and if we all just walk away from it unchanged and unwilling to compare it our lives with the Christ of scripture, then the words are wasted.

    Yesterday was difficult for me. The way I minister at my church doesn’t give me a lot of face-to-face interaction with people, and I’m trying to figure out how to change that and still get done the work that needs doing.

  16. If Karl Barth was correct in his perception, that “the church is the extension of the incarnation”, – and I believe that Barth was theologically perceptive, and on target, my sense is that your blog may pose too much of an “either -or” scenario.

    Would it not be more in concert with the biblical writers to view “Christ” and “church” more from a perspective of “both – and”? I’m thinking of both the complement and the importance of “you are our epistles – known and read by all persons” – that Paul communicated to the Christians – the church in Philippi.

    Can one’s focus be so extensively upon one, or the other – without the loss of a sense of balance and perspective?

  17. Anonymous, I hear you – and I am an advocate of avoiding “either-or” thinking when it’s not warranted. (In fact, I favor a “both-and” view of the phrase “discerning the body” as referring to both the literal and metaphorical; the sacrifice of Christ and the church for whom He gave Himself).

    If I were pursuing an “either-or” point of view here, I’d be saying we shouldn’t be at all concerned about the church; let ‘er fall where she may. That’s bogus. That’s why I said “of first importance.” I would have avoided the metaphor of bride and groom altogether, and that would have been patently and intellectually dishonest.

    My point is priority, not exclusion, of one focus – and that we as a fellowship of believers have been spending a few hundred years too long with our eyes on churchianity rather than Christ.

  18. The negativity and defensiveness in the responses to Jeff Bassett kinda makes this “blog outsider” wonder how deep is the commitment by to speaking truth to “power” and breaking the bonds of “orthodoxy” (as defined by who?)

    It’s easy enough to be the “rebel” or “radical” as long as we get to do the yakking…but when someone want to challenge our own fashionableness…different critter…

    –Anonymous Steve

  19. Keith,

    I’ll do my best to be part of your support network. I’ll also do my best not to get angry with obnoxious responses that you get, but rather to serve even those with whom I disagree.

    If we get Jesus right, we’ll get the church right.
    If we start with the church, we’ll never get Jesus right.

    Keith, my only disagreement with your whole post was that I think you might not be looking far enough back in “Restoration Movement” History. Yeah, we went off the rails pretty fast, due as much to a constitutional view of Scripture as anything else, but we started as people trying to be free in Christ.

    Remember how different Stone, Campbell (Dad and Son), Smith, and all the other streams, were in the early decades. Yet they could extend the right hand of fellowship to one another.

    Of course I don’t want to fight about how you view RM history — and I wouldn’t begin to deny the seriously gloomy aspects of it, especially the last 150 years — but the simple plea that Thomas Campbell makes is still beautiful.

    The Lord’s church is one.

    The Lord’s church is made up of all those who profess their belief in Christ and obedience to him in accordance with the Scriptures.

    They all ought to receive each other as Christ Jesus as received them.

    Let me know what I can do to help!

    in HIS love,

  20. Nick, that’s why I said that those who began the Restoration Movement were probably right-hearted, though wrong-headed. They chose the imperfect pattern rather than the perfect.

    Like them, I’m all for unity in the body of Christ. Had I been them – had I been treated like some of them (and I’m talking about the Campbells, of course) were by the church fellowship of their heritage, I suspect I would not have done as well. The movement was all very democratic and American and had its own Declaration of Independence as it were … and it was very institutional.

    No one has greater respect for their ideals and courage than I do.

    I just think their effort was misdirected to the bride rather than to the Bridegroom; to the organization rather than to the Individual.

  21. Anonymous Steve, as soon as I figure out what you’re trying to say, I’m sure I’ll have an appropriate response.

    Thanks for dropping by.

  22. Awesome brother! I wish I had written it then I could be the one wondering about my future. You nailed it but flying flip, howling hoot, and whining whimper, Such variety and passion. God bless you I enjoy reading your thoughts. You are a blessing in my life.

  23. Ok…..I’m late, but I am here! Sorry for the delay. This is THE post that I got glimpses of a long, long, long time ago….and felt like at some point you would post. It’s been fun watching you in this process and journey! And it’s been a BLESSING to read ALL your posts leading up to this one. But this is THE ONE I have been waiting on, and it was even better than I imagined. This is the one that needs to be the “Forward” for the book I have been urging you to write. 🙂 In fact, I think you have already written it……now you just have to figure out how to arrange it and put it together. The material is already there, brother! Thanks for sharing your heart with us these last 4 years or so. I hope you do it for another 10 or 20 or 30 ! You have blessed my life greatly, and I know you have blessed many others with this blog also.

    And this one was the most impacting, transparent, Christ-centered, loving, honest, gut wrenching, heart felt post I have ever read from you.

    I end by simply saying THANK YOU!

  24. Keith, this is the first time I have dropped in on your blog since…well, I guess since I left my job at a Christian University in a small southern state, and changed my daily e-routine. D. Underwood pointed me to this, and it’s a good-un. I have said the same for a long time, as well, and I think the original RM movers and shakers were moving away from something as surely as they were moving toward what they envisioned. In that, I cannot fault them, at all, but fault their progeny for letting it move into the institutional navel-gazers we sometimes tend to be.

    I’m thankful to DU for reminding me how I’m fed here. I think I’ll have to stop by more often. BTW, am I #70,000? (I’ve even forgotten how I used to sign in on this blog, and have to post as “anonymous”)

    don eudaly

  25. Sorry, Don! It rolled over 70,000 on Monday. But welcome back.

    I was beginning to think you’d no longer give me the time of day!

  26. Did I misunderstand what Keith was saying in his blog? Did I misstate what he said? The extreme danger of what I hear Keith and others saying is that it inevitably leads to “anything goes”, which is denominationalism (many ways of getting to the same place). It leads to, “we can’t really know truth”. If we focus on the spirit to the exclusion of truth (and truth is ALL of the scriptures, the whole counsel of God, not just Jesus’ example) then how can anyone who worships God and his Son be wrong about anything they do? That means we can pray to mother Mary, we can be baptized for those of our family who have died in sin, we can baptize our sinless infants. Where does it stop? Who draws the line? Is it just arbitrary or is there a pattern laid out for us in the New Testament? I’m NOT saying that we are saved by our truth or doctrine alone but I am saying that if we don’t have truth and spirit we are in danger of being unprofitable servants and missing out on the grace of our Lord.

  27. Jeff, if that’s the way you understood what Keith said, i can understand the upset. That’s not what i “heard” when i read it.

    I (me, not Keith) feel that many place the church and how we “do” church as what is important when we draw lines of fellowship and even salvation issues around what are really ecclesiastic issues rather than worship of the one on whom the focus should be.

    I am saying no more or less than that, and that is what I feel Keith is saying. I’m not at all positing that those things aren’t important, but they become important in a bad way when we place them at the core of the gospel message, really in place of what IS the core of the gospel message.

    If you don’t do this, good. I try not to.

    I think this is what is being said, but I don’t want to speak for the author.


  28. Jeff, I’m glad you asked. There is a pattern in the scripture. He is Jesus. Read Acts right after Luke and you discover that the disciples followed His lead exactly. That’s what I’m advocating, bro.

    You’ve made a lot of assumptions not only about what I believe but where you’re convinced certain beliefs lead – as if when one gets away from anything she has been taught or even to question it – that somehow automatically throws one’s feet out from underneath her and sends her hurtling down the slippery slope to eternal condemnation. Truth is still truth. But not all truth is law.

    You seem to have classified my ramblings as “spirit only” and devoid of “truth.”

    All I’m advocating is doing what Jesus did, teaching what Jesus taught and being willing to set aside anything we’re teaching or doing that are solely founded in traditions of men.

    That’s where the line should be drawn.

    That’s where it stops.

    Now: If truth is all of scripture, the whole counsel of God, why do you only require a pattern from the New Testament? Does the Old Testament have no value in revealing what God does and does not want for us? Is there nothing praiseworthy and praise-inspiring in it?

    See? That’s how I felt when you made an artificial distinction in what I had said. That’s what Ben was describing as immolating the straw man.

  29. The mantra of “being like Jesus” is a worthy goal and I would never discourage anyone from that lofty ambition but in my opinion it is an excuse for not having firm beliefs about Christ and His church.

  30. Chris, it may be that such an opinion comes from the fact that, these days, we Christians so rarely preach or teach or study or meditate upon Christ in order to know Him; to know what He teaches; to know what He asks us to do; to know what His desires for His church were and are.

    Calling the imitation of Christ simply a “mantra” sounds very cynical, Chris. I hope I don’t sound that way, because I’m trying very hard not to. But when a heart’s “beliefs about Christ and His church” have become so firm that they can no longer be questioned – that they cannot be re-examined with a fresh and unbiased view of what scripture actually says – then that heart has become too calcified, petrified, and brittle for Christ to shape and use it any longer.

    The very essence of being a Christian is a recognition that one never reaches a point where he does or knows all there is to do and know; a heart that says, “I have failed and need to borrow the wisdom and righteousness of Christ.”

    That’s not a lack of belief.

    It is belief.

  31. Great stuff, brother. Very good indeed.

    Have you read Jared Wilson’s book, Your Jesus is Too Safe? I highly recommend it. If you’re not familiar with Jared, stop by his blog The Gospel Driven Church. He’s what I like to cal relentlessly focused on Jesus.

  32. Keith, I am honestly trying to understand what you are saying. I only have what you have written to help me. I too don’t want to be misunderstood. I’m not saying nor did I say that one who questions what he/she has been taught or practiced is on a “slippery slope”. There are things that some teach as binding salvation issues which I believe are not. What I said was that when we ignore or neglect truth and focus only upon the spirit we are on a slippery slope.

    I also have not said that what you have written is devoid of truth, but I question statements like (and I’ll quote not paraphrase) “I don’t give a flying flip anymore about who is in and who is out of the church, the saved, the redeemed. I’ll talk about Jesus Christ with anyone, and let God decide”.

    It seems to me you’re indicating that all who believe in Jesus are my brothers. You do what you think is right and I’ll do what I think is right and let God sort it out at the end. What else would you be talking about? Considering, we all know that we should be speaking about Christ and his church to everyone especially those outside the body of Christ.

    You also said, “I don’t give a howling hoot any longer about how church must be structured or what name must appear on the sign in front or what you can or can’t do on Sunday inside the building as if it were somehow more sacred than the rest of the world the Lord God made with His own words of creation during six extraordinary days of creative work.”

    What do you mean when you say, “how the church must be structured”? Certainly you’re not talking about the order of worship. It’s ridiculous to think you are talking about the building itself, there is nothing sacred about that. It sounds like you are talking about congregational leadership, the Elders and Deacons or about how we conduct our worship, what we do, in other words the truth of our worship, or both. In either case I’m sure that God does, “give[s] a howling hoot”. I know this because we are commanded to worship in “spirit and truth” (John 4:24) if we want to be acceptable to God. Therefore logic dictates that there is a wrong way to worship too. I think Cain may know something about that. So, if I’m building a straw man then please tell me exactly what you mean when you say you don’t care about “what you can or can’t do on Sunday inside the building”.

  33. (cont)If it doesn’t matter what we call ourselves or “what name must appear on the sign in front” then I may chose to call myself Catholic, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist, Episcopalian or for that matter whatever I want. My church can be called Harvest Temple, Crossroads Church or The Father’s House. Oh wait…It’s not my church, It is Christ church so what should I call myself? Just as my bride has taken my name so do we take the name of Christ. Our name does matter!

    When you say “read Acts right after Luke” in the context of what you have said I question the meaning of your words. Are you inferring that we give less weight to the Epistles? Are you suggesting that those letters are not Holy Spirit Inspired or less important than the Gospels? Are the commands and examples we find in those letters, “traditions of men”? That is what it sounds like you’re saying. If it’s not, define what you mean by “solely founded in the traditions of men” in the context of what the Church of Christ generally teaches or practice.

    So after I have read your piece and your responses several times as a whole, I still come to the conclusion which I tried to previously state. Which summarized goes something like this, stop judging what others in Christendom do, just be concerned about their imitation of Christ. Only the red letters matter. We are all brothers in Christ. As long as you are sincerely trying to follow Christ’s example, God’s grace and Christ’s blood will cover the rest.

    As I have said, there is a no less important flip side to what I’m saying. Christians who are more concerned with legalism than truly striving to be Christ like and living a productive Christian life can’t be pleasing to God either. There must be a balance. If this is your point, I agree but what you have said goes beyond that.

    I apologize about the length of this post but to avoid being misunderstood or accused of building a straw man or paraphrasing incorrectly it seemed necessary. I pray that you now clearly understand my words and thoughts of disagreement. May we as Christians always strive to love God and his Word, His Son and the church for whom he gave such a priceless gift.

  34. Let me try, Jeff.

    “I don’t give a flying flip anymore about who is in and who is out of the church, the saved, the redeemed. I’ll talk about Jesus Christ with anyone, and let God decide” – It’s not my place to decide who’s in and who’s out. God decides. How unclear is that? Does it say “all who believe in Jesus are my brothers”? It does not. But as a follower of Christ, I am to regard everyone with His love, whether they believe or not. Someone who does not believe and someone who does have an important characteristic in common: the need to be drawn closer to God through Christ. Clear?

    I said … “how the church must be structured”. Not in my purview to determine. God structured the church with Christ as Head, us as the body. Within it, there are people gifted by the Spirit to serve as certain kinds of members of that body. Elders shepherd. Deacons serve. To legislate beyond that is to, indeed, go beyond … scripture. People have. They have divided over it. That constitutes vivisection of the body and it is heinous. I don’t care to be a part of that heresy.

    You and I may not see eye-to-eye on the issue of the name on the sign out front. It does not matter what you call your church. There are any number of ways that God’s people are referred to in scripture – “the believers,” “the Way,” “the church,” “the church of Christ,” “the church of God,” “the assembly of the saints.” (Though you’ll find that one in Psalms.) There’s some evidence that in the persecutions of Rome, the early Christians identified their meeting places in the catacombs with a picture of a fish. What saves you is not the name on the sign out front, but Christ. What matters is the name God gives you. That’s not up to me or you. And to divide the body of Christ over the name on the sign out front … well, I just said what that is.

    I said, “read Acts right after Luke”. What in the phrasing of that simple recommendation infers “that we give less weight to the Epistles?” or “that those letters are not Holy Spirit Inspired or less important than the Gospels”? I said it to illustrate that the early believers followed Christ in everything the did. He was their pattern. He’s the pattern we need to, not rules and regulations that others have cobbled together from this scripture and that to justify what they’re already doing or what they want to do or what excludes others who disagree with them.

    You came to this conclusion, that I was saying: “… stop judging what others in Christendom do, just be concerned about their imitation of Christ. Only the red letters matter. We are all brothers in Christ. As long as you are sincerely trying to follow Christ’s example, God’s grace and Christ’s blood will cover the rest.”

    Did I say that? In a word, no.

    Would you like me to?

  35. We should stop judging others. (Matthew 7:1; Luke 6:37). We should judge for ourselves whether it’s right to obey others rather than God (Acts 4:19). We should not discriminate among ourselves and become judgmental (James 2:4). Not even Jesus did while in the flesh here (John 12:47) and we need to be more concerned about saving than judging.

    Believers in Christ are brothers (James 2:1) and God will judge us all. So we should regard others as better than ourselves, not inferior to ourselves (Philippians 2:3). We should accept one another Romans 15:7, strong or weak.

    Sincerely following Christ’s example certainly is preferable to following it insincerely (2 Corinthians 11:3), but obedience is implicit in that. Not doing what we’ve been asked and shown is not sincerely following. And, yes, “God’s grace and Christ’s blood will cover the rest” because frankly, nothing else in the universe can. We will sin, sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly, but not all of our righteous deeds combined are worth any more than filthy rags when it comes to justifying us.

    “Only the red letters matter.” That is beneath anyone’s dignity to accuse, let alone to respond to.

    Jeff, I surely hope you don’t read into scripture all kinds of things that aren’t there, because I feel you have done that with this blog post!

    You and I have a very different view of John 4. “Spirit” refers to His Spirit entwined with ours in worship to God, as nearly as I can tell. The Spirit is His gift to us. “Truth” does in fact refer to truth in our expression as well as our comprehension of what God has revealed to us in Scripture (which the Spirit is also given to help us understand). If we are worshiping insincerely, we are not worshiping in truth. If we are worshiping what we desire above what God desires, we are not worshiping in truth. And if we are worshiping the church above Christ, we are absolutely not worshiping in truth.

    But truth is not up to man to legislate.

    When one wants to care about those things, and enforce them, and make sure that everyone is “marked” who doesn’t agree with their view of them and thrust them out of fellowship and no longer accept them or call them brother, then I’d say that’s judging and I want no atom of it. That’s what I was saying, Jeff.

    Is that any clearer?

  36. Keith- while this is time consuming I believe it is profitable. I thank you for responding to me. I apologize if I misrepresented or made incorrect assumptions about your words and meanings. That was not my intention. The vagueness of your “I don’t give a flip” paragraphs left a lot of room for interpretation.

    Maybe the troubles you have seen in the Lord’s church are different than the ones I have seen. The error I have read about and have seen in the Lord’s church is related to the church moving away from those things taught by Jesus and his disciples and practiced by the 1st century church toward things that are not based in scripture and are inventions of man to make worship more contemporary and more popular. Too many people are more worried about pleasing themselves rather than pleasing God.

    I’m trying but I just don’t understand your comment, “I don’t give a flying flip anymore about who is in and who is out of the church, the saved, the redeemed. I’ll talk about Jesus Christ with anyone, and let God decide”. Maybe I’m out of touch or dense or both. Has this really been a problem in the church? Talking with people of different religious groups and beliefs about our Lord and how to be pleasing to Him…who in the world is saying that is wrong? I don’t know about you but those people are the ones I talk to about doctrine all the time. They already believe in God and his Son. I wonder if what you are really talking about is fellowship with those people or in other words, calling them my brother?

    I haven’t heard many problems regarding church structure going beyond that of Elders (Shepards) and Deacons in the Church of Christ, maybe you have. I totally agree with you that we don’t have authority to go beyond that which we find in the bible. But, if you believe this why did you say, “I don’t give a howling hoot any longer about how church must be structured.” Maybe you just said it for the shock value, if so why jump on me when I question your meaning?

    The problems I have seen with church structure relate to women serving in the leadership, men who are not qualified being placed in these roles and congregations failing to put men in these roles who are qualified because they want to continue in a men’s business meeting format. I wonder how does a woman leading a prayer or teaching a sermon in front of the congregation fit into our conversation? Is that an issue I should consider as a matter of salvation or fellowship?

  37. If, for example, my “brother” (as you would call him because he is a believer in Christ) believes and teaches that salvation comes at the point of sincere belief and repentance and that baptism is a work, not essential in God’s plan of salvation, I’m not to judge him by the Word? Wonder if “my brother” teaches homosexuality is not sin or once I have been saved I am always saved? What if “my brother” teaches and practices the partaking of the Lord’s Supper once a month or on Thursdays? Maybe my brother teaches playing instruments and dancing are acceptable forms of worship. Can I judge him by the Word?

    Paul tells us in Romans16 to, “mark them which cause division and offenses contrary to the doctrine.” He goes on to describe “them” as having “good works and fair speeches” and states they, “deceive the hearts of the simple.” This seems to describe believers in Christ who will lead other believers into false doctrine. How do I determine if such a person is one that Paul is talking about? Wouldn’t I have to judge him? Not by my judgment but by the Word. Paul is saying I shouldn’t call such a one brother, isn’t he?

    Jesus also says in Matthew 7, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” The next verse describes a time when someone will profess to be a brother in Christ but Christ will recognize him and tell him, “I never knew you.” If I met that man today wouldn’t he describe himself as believer and therefore according to you, my brother?

    I don’t think what I said about John 4 is all that different from what you have said. I agree with you. I would only expound by saying that if our worship is not heartfelt and sincere coupled with correct then it is not acceptable. You can’t worship in spirit without it being heartfelt and sincere and you can’t worship heartfelt and sincere if it is not correct and expect it be acceptable.

    Finally, let’s talk plain. If we are talking about whether or not a congregation has a kitchen in their building, whether they have children’s bible hour, if the minister is also an Elder, benevolence outside the body of Christ, one cup may cups, paid minister verses unpaid minister or any of the things that have historically divided the Church then I agree with much of what you have to say. Dividing the church over such matters is a sin. But if we are talking about the plan of salvation, women taking leading roles and leading the worship, singing with the instrument or any of the other error that is slowly creeping into the church today then all of what I have written stands.

    I look forward to your reply.

  38. Jeff, how you can observe “Too many people are more worried about pleasing themselves rather than pleasing God” without judging others is beyond me. Did you ask them if they were more worried about pleasing themselves rather than God? Did they lie to you? If so, how did you know they were lying?

    I think you are quoting scriptures I’ve heard and read quoted many times as justification for judging and excluding others. I don’t know if that’s your purpose for doing so, but I have seen them used that way – with people calling out others by name and preaching them straight into hell over a difference of opinion that doesn’t even approach the power of God’s doctrine. You’ve listed all the places where you draw the line and as long as I agree with you on them, I’m okay. If not, then what you have written still stands … as what you have written. But that’s all, bro.

    My call in this post and many others was to go back to scripture, focus on Christ, and stop superimposing man’s interpretations, hermeneutics, methods, intents, prejudices, exclusivism and judgmentalism on it.

    Jeff, you and I will not agree on all of the points you’ve raised. One or two here and there, perhaps. (I’ve addressed most if not all of them in this blog before and a search with the search tool at the top using appropriate key words will doubtless lead you to the responses that I would make.)

    If you’ve read my next post, which went live earlier in the day, you probably already know that.

    I am truly saddened if this means that you cannot regard me as your brother in Christ, for I do regard you as mine. I hope you will pray for me as I will pray for you – and for both of us to be drawn ever closer to Christ.

  39. Keith- I finally understand what you mean buy all your carefully crafted words. I have read your latest post. Thank you for finally being direct and clear.

    To answer your question; I know that, “too many people are more worried about pleasing themselves rather than pleasing God” because I talk to them and listen to their words. I ask questions sometimes to get clarification, just like I have done over the last couple of days with you. And, just like with you, I usually get to the truth if I keep at it.

    You see the reason you have disguised your true thoughts with carefully crafted sentences is now self evident. They are what I thought they were from the very beginning.

    I do not wish God’s blessings for you but I do sincerely hope that you realize the dangerous game you are playing and I pray that you don’t deceive many others with your false teaching.

    If a name doesn’t matter please remove the name Church of Christ from your identity so others will not confuse your false doctrine with that which is found in the scriptures.

    I will pray for you and any of those that might follow your lead.

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