More quotes and comments

April 2009

Re: More quotes and comments

Dear brethren,

Confucius, who lived about five hundred years before Jesus Christ came to earth, is reported to have said, “If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant . . .  “ From many experiences over the years I know this quite well. Paucity of vocabulary and lack of articulation skills, both in speaking and writing, caused me to say to responders many times, “That is not what I meant.” Or the metaphor, “That is not what I said”. Then Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean.” I can relate to this as well, although some would question if the concept or idea or thought is there if you can’t relate it.

Anyway, my interest in language and reading has made me very appreciative, and sometimes envious, of the vocabulary and ability of others to express themselves both orally and in writing. So again in this letter I will share some impressive thoughts I have read recently.

1.) “A Growing Concept for the Conventional Church”

Recently bro. Fred Peatross who writes a regular column called “Abductive Columns” for “New Wineskins” wrote one with the above title. I’ve known of Fred for a number of years, having communicated with him some and read after him considerably. In our time I know of  no writer with a church of Christ background who has made his life and struggles as a Christian more transparent than he has in his writings. His willingness to so share his inner self gives sincerity and veracity to his effort to serve Jesus Christ and his disciples.

In this column he gives his “(short) contempt list” which consists of three attitudes and/or modern-day traditions. They are as follows:

a.)    The tradition of preaching as the centerpiece of the assembly

b.)    No more than a philosophical commitment to the unchurched

c.)    Non-participatory worship

He sees these as serious problems and so do I. Further, I must say that I have been and am part of the problem.

Alleged preaching, more often than not sermonizing, based upon prooftexting, is the standard fare of our Sunday morning assembling. Frequently the Sunday morning “preaching” is reaffirming the party’s unwritten creed. Beside the fact that it is often boring and not very effective when it comes to learning, it was not the practice of the first century church. I understand it did not become a standard practice among believers until the fourth century.

Further, I think this tradition contributes to numbers two and three listed by Fred. We expect “the unchurched” to come to our assemblies to hear our preacher in lieu of every one of us (male and female) being a preacher and conveying the gospel in our lifestyle and by word of mouth during the course of our everyday activities. Certainly, “the unchurched” as Fred calls them are not coming to our assemblies in most cases/places.

For the most part in the Churches of Christ with which I am acquainted, we have “non-participatory worship.” Oh, some brethren do a few token things like lead a song or pass the emblems or the collection basket, and the women join in the singing, but it’s mostly a passive assembly of spectators.

For a fact I know that any talk of change of the atmosphere and “acts of worship” of the assembly is more often than not to be viewed as disrespectful of the authority of the scriptures and heretical because our traditions are so ingrained and the framework of power for many leaders. Then, and I don’t mean to be demeaning, many (maybe most) of the rank-and-file like it this way as it relieves them of responsibility and fits into the erroneous sacred and secular, clergy/laity and worship concepts.

That is why it was so refreshing to run across a quote attributed to Winchester Spudchecker which ties in with what Fred wrote.

“Is sitting in this uncushioned pew, staring at the back of twelve rows of heads for forty-five minutes, doing things by the Book? Why do we spend so much money when we’re here only twice a week for a few hours? Why is half the congregation barely awake when Pastor Farley preaches? Why do my kids hate Sunday School? Why do we go through the same predictable, yawn-inspiring ritual every Sunday morning? Why am I going to church when it bores me to tears and does nothing for my spirituality? Why do I wear this uncomfortable necktie every Sunday morning when all it seems to do is cut off blood circulation to my brain? (Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna, p.3.)

Fred provokes a lot of thinking with his writing and I could comment much more. I’ll let this suffice for this time as I have said enough for my critics to say, “We told you he was sacrilegious.”

2.) “a ministry of alienation”

“During the past century we have conducted what might be called ‘a ministry of alienation’, in which we too often focused on how we could deny to others access to the kingdom of God because of some disagreement in form or doctrine. We spent too much energy in debating and dividing.

“Our message has been focused wrongly, because we were seeking to convert people to a system, an apparatus, an institution. Our emphasis in evangelistic activities has been on the church (ourselves) instead of upon Christ.” (The Quest for Understandable Hermeneutics by Hal Hougey, p. 617.)

The brother is right. How many books did you read, or tracts, or sermons did you hear with the bold title or theme or thrust, “Which Church Of Christ Is Right”?  The result of this issue-oriented emphasis was that we became a denomination of many exclusive, legalistic, self-righteous sects warring against one another. This in turn has deteriorated to the point where we are now nominal cultural Christians instead of passionate relationship-oriented people who we should have been all along.

There’s a bright spot out there though, a ray of light coming through, as I see more and more brethren each year realizing the reality of the words of these quotes and letting the grace of God prevail in their lives rather than the party spirit. I hope you understand what I mean.

In Him,

J. James Albert

P.S. In the late 1950s I first came in contact with Buff Scott, Jr. via his writings in “Mission Messenger”. He wrote a couple of articles for my publication “Restoration Reporter” in the early 1960s. One thing you can say about Buff and his writings is that he “calls a spade a spade” when he sees one. He does just that in his new book The Son of Perdition, which is an indictment of Roman Catholicism. To obtain a copy you can contact him as Renewal@mindspring.com.

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