And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 17, Number
In this issue:
In the early 1980's my wife and I lived in the Texas panhandle where I worked as evangelist with a church in Dumas, TX. About 40 miles to the south was Amarillo. The Central Church of Christ (CCOC) of Amarillo invited radio listeners to visit, describing themselves as the "Exciting Central Church of Christ". (This is the same church that brother Hoyt Houchen worked with in 1950 when he debated local Baptist preacher Ray Tatum on the church, baptism, apostasy and premillennialism. (If memory serves, brother Houchen told me this church later set him packing because he spoke out against the unscriptural arrangement of the Herald of Truth.)
I got to wondering whether the CCOC is still "exciting" today. Are they still offering excitement to draw people to Christ as they did over 30 years ago? This was (and is) a purely emotional appeal designed to emphasis an experience one could expect at the CCOC. (Being a Christian is not boring, but joyful (Phil. 4:4). Yet, "excitement" is not the gospel call to the lost. Nor do we read of churches in the New Testament touting how "exciting" they were to draw sinners to Jesus. Instead, the gospel call of the New Testament is a call to surrender self in faith, repentance and baptism for salvation from sin. Then, to obey Christ in everything as one takes upon himself the yoke of Christ, Matt. 11:28-30; Acts 2:36-41; 2 Ths. 2:13-14.)
I spent some time on the CCOC website (www.amarillocentral.org/) and what I found is fairly typical of the churches of Christ that have moved beyond the New Testament pattern of work and worship of the local church. They no longer use "exciting" to proclaim their relevancy to the community; now their ministries are "engaging" and "dynamic". Their program of work is similar to what one finds in community churches and mainstream denominations. Let me be clear: The program of work of the CCOC (and many other churches of Christ) does not conform to the "pattern of sound words" revealed in the New Testament (2 Tim. 1:13; Col. 3:17). They have forsaken the will of the Father in many things (Matt. 7:21-23). We will note some below.
The CCOC and many other churches of Christ have long since abandoned an appeal to Bible authority as the binding pattern for the work and worship of the local church. Some have even gone farther down the road of apostasy than the CCOC. For example, more and more churches of Christ are using instrumental music in worship - another addition of men (Matt. 15:8-9; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
It is not particularly surprising that, after spending a good amount of time on their website, I could not find the plan of salvation. The lost are being told how to be saved from physical hunger and loneliness on their site, but not how to be saved from sin.
We take no pleasure in pointing out the following biblical errors. It grieves us to see brethren compromise themselves to the point that a church of Christ can no longer be distinguished from a denomination. Yet, we cannot ignore such departures from the word of God. We must warn ourselves and others to be careful to demand and follow Bible authority for all the local church teaches and practices (Col. 3:17). What has happened to others can happen to us. We cannot rearrange the local church to suit ourselves and please God (2 Tim. 2:15).
The following sample of the advertised work of the CCOC is representative, not exhaustive. Our question to the following is simply this: "By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?" (Matt. 21:23)
The Social Gospel
1) Fall Festival. Trick or treat booths, candy for the kids, free to the public.
2) Tastes from Around the World. For $5 you can taste international cuisine to break a dedicated day of fasting on October 22. Provided by the children's ministry. ("All proceeds will go to benefit Missions Month".)
Many churches of Christ now offer food, fun and frolic as "fellowship" and "outreach". The work of the local church is spiritual, not eating and drinking (1 Cor. 11:22, 34).
("Community Outreach Ministry")
1) Care Central Financial Assistance. "This ministry takes place each Sunday morning from 8:45 to 11:30 at the information booth. Opportunities to visit, pray, and assist people who need financial assistance with utilities, emergency gasoline, birth certificates, state ID’s, and emergency food."
2) Loaves & Fishes Food Distribution. "This ministry takes place the first three Thursday mornings of the month from 9:00 to 11:30 in the north basement area of the church building."
Linking general benevolence by the church with evangelism has long been a way to get people interested in the gospel. It is not the Bible way. Jesus did not entice people with food; He rebuked people when they followed Him for food (Jno. 6:25-27). When He told them He was the Bread of Life from above, many no longer followed Him (Jno. 6:51-66).
Ministers, Ministries, Missions
A list of their ministers is intriguing: Youth, Young Adult, New Members, Senior Adults, Associate Minister, Family Discipleship, Community Outreach, Children's Minister (woman), Worship Minister, Preaching Minister. They have a woman serving as Associate Youth Minister. The gospel preacher is a "minister of God" (1 Ths. 3:2). While we certainly read of multiple "prophets and teachers" in a local church (as in Antioch, Acts 13:1), where are all these differentiations of preachers in the Scriptures? Pray tell, what is the scriptural difference between a "worship" and a "preaching" minister?
1) Children's Worship (4 years - 2nd Grade). "We have a special time of worship for kids ages 4 years to 2nd grade that is offered during the 10:15 am Worship Hour. Children are invited to join us in Hangar C as we dive into the word and lift praises to our King."
2) Medical Mission: CLINICA EZELL IN GUATEMALA. "...the Health Talents surgical clinic in Guatemala. This medical missions organization, led and supported by Churches of Christ, provides medical treatment and surgeries for a wide range of conditions, including cleft palates and hernias, mainly in young children. The extra money collected last year allowed us to purchase an anesthesia machine and fund a staff position for a full-time nurse at the clinic. This year, we’d like to buy another piece of needed equipment and continue to fund the nurse’s salary."
Worship is designed by God to edify the church (1 Cor. 14:26). Removing children from the worship assembly forfeits their right to be trained in reverent worship conduct by their parents and robs them of valuable instruction.
The benevolent work of local churches in the NT was limited to needy Christians, not expanded to all (Acts 11:27; 1 Tim. 5:16).
Fellowship with Denominations
1) 4 Amarillo. "First Baptist + Polk Street Methodist + First Presbyterian + Central Church of Christ - 4 downtown Amarillo churches seeking to engage our neighborhood for the sake of Christ." "Together with the other 4 Amarillo churches, we spent a week this summer renovating a house in our neighborhood, hosting a neighborhood VBS at two local schools, and doing various service projects downtown."
2) Ecumenical Worship Services. "The 4 Amarillo Thanksgiving Service will be hosted by Central on November 23..."
In 1950 the CCOC debated Baptists on Bible topics; now they collaborate with them and other denominations. Their fellowship with error is a clear violation of God's will (Eph. 5:11; 2 Jno. 10-11).
This brief review serves to warn us of what can happen to a church 50-75 years down the road. The CCOC's fall from grace into the errors of denominationalism is a serious warning for us to be careful. We must remain vigilant against error and faithful to the Lord (1 Cor. 16:13; Gal. 1:6-10; Jude 3-4; 2 Jno. 9-11). "Wherefore let him to thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).
The Ten Commandments Part 1
Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:34-40
1. "The Barna Research Group says that 60 percent of Americans can’t name
even five of the Ten Commandments." (Faithlife Blog)
I. WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY & HOW?
Exo. 20:1, 18; 19:1; Deut. 5:1-5, 22-29 (4:13)
II. THE COMMANDMENTS, Exo. 20:1-17.
Concerning God: #1-4.
III. ARE WE UNDER 10 COMMANDMENTS?
A. No, We
are Under the Authority of Jesus, not Moses, Matt. 17:5; 28:18; Rom. 7:1-12.
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Is Gender Biological or Emotional?
The effort to define gender by "the heart and mind" and not by biology is picking up steam in our country (See The New Face of Transgender Youth, Brian Prowse-Gany, news.yahoo.com). The debate is swirling over transgender children - whether their feelings define their gender and how society ought to react. Some professionals are now diagnosing gender dysphoria: "a persistent unease with the characteristics of one's gender, accompanied by a strong identification with the opposite gender" (Ibid). To hear some explain it, a boy is not a boy when he feels like a girl, and a girl is not a girl when she feels like a boy. Using that logic, if a boy feels like a man, a woman or a horse, does it make it so? I am not trying to be insensitive. If feelings define gender, why cannot feelings define every aspect of one's reality? Will perception now define what is actual and factual?
The Bible says gender was created by God and gender identity occurs through the biological process of reproduction (Gen. 1:26-28). Gender is physical and physiological, not emotional and psychological.
In a children's book ("I Am Jazz"), 14-year-old Jazz Jennings chronicles her life being born a boy but feeling and deciding her gender was really female, along with her struggles and rewards. She has been named one of Time Magazine's "25 Most Influential Teens of 2014". She and the larger LGBTQ community (Q for "Questioning") is influencing youth to think and be transgendered. She says to resist and object to transgender thinking and living (as we are doing here) is to be "closed minded". She calls it "black and white" thinking instead of "rainbow" thinking (Ibid).
In the meantime, one-third of transgendered youth have attempted suicide. We ask why, if they are living their true gender? They say it is our fault for not being "accepting" of them as transgendered. Which brings us back to the problem. Without respect for God's order and truth, everyone does "what is right in his own eyes" (Jgs. 21:25). Then, we are expected to "accept" everything!
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 10/26/2014
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA