May 11, 2006

unity concessions

The Lord does not approve of divisions in His body; yet we opt to divide over often insignificant opinions, occasionally over something as simple as personality conflicts.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that unless the divided churches rooted in the Restoration Movement find ways to unite, our prospects of forming any viable unity with churches outside the RM is probably not going to happen.

My overly simplified solution for ending divisions: Perhaps rather than having our occasional (and usually unfruitful) unity conference featuring our most articulate and well known speakers, why not just announce a great big ol' picnic BBQ and allow the conference to take place from table-to-table among the rank-and-file members. If we're truly seeking Christian union then we need to engage the total membership, not just a select few that often present their own thoughts rather than what the congregation desires.

Below are several concessions we might have to live with if any form of unity is realized. There are many more; perhaps you can add others, or give good reasons why we shouldn't concede these:

1. While we may have an aversion to instrumental music we don't have to use it, but we must be willing to allow those who are not adverse to using instruments to do so without condemning them.

2. Churches utilizing one cup, two cups, or hundreds of cups in celebrating the Lord's Supper should not cause divisions, we can choose what we believe to be correct, and let other churches make their choice as well .... it doesn't really matter!

3. Whether to use church contributions for orphanages, colleges, preacher schools, or other places we feel need our help will have to be determined by each church, and respected by other churches that don't agree.

4. Sunday schools are great, and we can continue to use this tool, but for church groups that don't believe it's right, then they should continue Sunday mornings sans the Sunday School System, without either group condemning the other. It should be the choice of each church, and all Christians should understand this is simply a matter of choice and not a life-and-death situation.

We don't have to concede anything that goes against our conscience that we feel is absolute truth, in fact it would be wrong. We just need to realize that as believers we are God's children, and while we may not agree exactly on the scriptures, we can still be ONE in Him.


timeless cousin said...

When the COC realizes that "function does NOT follow form", I feel that only then will true unity occur and that the subject of "concessions" will be moot. There was an amazing series of articles on the subject of bringing the church into the 21st century in "Wineskins" many years ago (I cannot remember who wrote them, nor do I have the entire series - I wish I had all of them), and this "function/form" issue should be required reading for ALL Christians. It seems so simple to me now...when Christians gather together, WHAT is the function of this? Of is to worship and praise God, and the this "function" rises from the depths of our hearts as the spirit moves among us. THAT'S what the church needs to be concentrating on, rather than the continued legalism of "form". What is it about "form" that seems to give people this sense of security in worship? Is it basic insecurity so common in many of us who grew up in the 40's - 50's COC that dictates this sense of restrictive worship...that if we do it THIS way or THAT way, we'll be "safe"?? Why are we so quick to label churches "liberal" or "conservative" when they should be neither? More often than not, it is "form" that is the reason for such labels. If Christians would transcend this mindset, they would then realize that it is "function" that needs to be our only worship Him with all our minds, hearts, and spirits, to love each other, and to send THIS message to all the world.

I love a cappella music...there's purity and beauty and harmony in this. Some of the most moving music I've ever sung has been for voices only. It's music from our hearts. But, having been a violinist, I also have great love for instrumental music. Rather than condemn a cappella music as restrictive, I would rather give appreciation to the church for teaching me to READ and love music at a young age, which then opened doors for furthering my musical endeavors through schools and college. But do I feel that there is no place for instruments in the church...NO WAY! Rather, I love both. I can only imagine that when I go to heaven some day, I will find an orchestra and a choir of millions! Why do we put such restrictions on What God "accepts" on the issue of "form". And please, lest we not forget...maybe there weren't pianos and organs in the First Century Church because (DOH) they hadn't been INVENTED yet. But, these Christians were NOT unfamiliar with forms of instruments...just read the old testament about the instruments of David...of all the Jews. But, closer to home, I will never forget watching my daughter, then 6 years old, participate in a small rural church's children's chorus called "Sweet Sounds"...their musical plays, "Down By the Creekbank" and others. One Sunday, they sang for the congregation, and as they walked out, only one little girl stayed on stage, leaning one elbow on a plant stand, and she sang the last line of the song as a solo, "I Love You Lord, and I Lift MY voice...Let Me Be a Sweet, Sweet Sound to Your Ears" while her piano teacher played the lovely arpeggios on the piano softly in the background. This was the child who came home from Sunday School saying with such emotion, "Mommy, I just LOVE JESUS!!" In this warm, comforting congregation, I found something I had long been looking for...true worship! I certainly didn't find it in the COC where I had grown up! But, within 5 years, I was again at the door of the COC, and was amazed that THIS was NOT the COC I grew up in, thankfully. In my younger years, the music WAS, in the COC, the message, the worship is's spirit-driven. And I think that we are so confident of God's grace, that He probably wouldn't bat an eye if a piano or an organ was introduced...or a solo violin accompanying a's ALL "Sweet Sounds" going to the heavens for God to enjoy...this would be "form following function". (And I defy any member of the COC to say that they don't enjoy listening to Bill Gaither's shows!!! The best of both worlds maybe.)

Larry, I'll send you CD's of the "music" we did for 4th of July and for the last 4 x-Mas concerts...THIS is the way we sounded!!

L.E.Meredith said...

Very good advice, This is my pholosophy in life live and let live, love and be loved

Larry said...

timeless cousin...
For too many years many of us in the COC thought we had the perfect pattern for all things relating to the church.

Today most members of the COC realize we have brothers and sisters in other groups, but we don't seem to be doing much to change our image, and make it apparent that we love them and want their fellowship.

In talking with Christians outside the COC many of them still hold to their beliefs that we are arrogant know-it-alls who think the doors of heaven will only open to those wearing the COC label....sad indeed!

Perfect unity will never happen, but surely we can offer our hand in fellowship to other Christians and finally put behind us the my-way-or-the-highway image we have inherited over the years.

Larry said...

Unity of the brotherhood is God's desire, and even if the church I am a member of will not recognize other Christians as brothers and sisters I will extend my hand to them in fellowship.

I have many friends who are members of other churches in this area, and they know I recognize them as my brothers. One of them wanted to know if this was a "new policy" in the COC, since in the past they didn't feel like they were recognized as Christians by us. Regardless of what the COC, or any other group promotes, I will continue to accept as my brothers those who believe in Jesus and enjoy their fellowship.

Danny Kaye said...

We do need to be careful about what we are willing to concede. Let's look at the list you provided.

Instrumental Music
Lord's Supper
Sunday School

One question, though. I think I read about a BBQ somewhere? How 'bout some details on that one?
And can I bring the pasta salad? I'm allergic to celery. And EVERYBODY makes it with celery.

Larry said...

Danny Kaye...
Celery is an ugly vile tasting weed that lies just below beets and spinach on my hate list.

You can certainly provide the special recipe pasta salad, but if some of the brethren we're seeking unity with want you to try their celery version of the pasta salad, it's your duty to concede and gulp down the vile stuff with gusto!

Danny Kaye said...

But Larry. I'm alergic. My throat actually closes up if I eat it.

And then I would need some kind of resuscitation. I don't think I want that kind of unity...if ya' know what I mean.

Lee Hodges said...

Those who are unity minded could start in their own town or community. Walk down the street, and take a brother to lunch. I know in fact that this is already taking place. The area where I used to work in PA has a monthly ministers meeting where CofC and Christian church miniters meet and share. Grass roots is the answer IMHO

Larry said...

Churches of Christ in this area don't really seem overly anxious to seek unity, even with churches within the RM.

There are two Churches of Christ in a population of about 4,000 where I live, and neither recognizes the other group as Christians.

Sad state of affairs!

Alan said...

Early church unity wasn't based on the length of the list of things that they all agreed upon. It was based on their wholehearted devotion to one thing.


jettybetty said...

I am pretty sure I have mentioned Preacher Rick's United Kingdom series. I just think it's VERY good!