Praises to God for his blessings, both physical and spiritual. He has “spared” us almost into the beginning of another year to do His will and serve His purposes here on earth. This is especially significant to persons like myself who are seventy plus and on the descending side of this earthly life. May our service be with a joyous attitude with activities of obedience that reflect His nature and give Him all the glory and honor.
In the interest of looking and going forward I would like to look back at a couple of concepts or developments or ideas that occupied my thoughts from time to time in 2009. Bear with me please.
At the same time it is both humorous and pathetic that an unofficial hierarchy in the one cup Churches of Christ deny they exercise or exert any control over a designated or fixed brotherhood. That they do I know from my own personal experiences. From my viewpoint I would view it as more honest if they admitted to efforts to control and define the brotherhood rather than resorting to arousing anxiety and fear, blackballing and blacklisting, exalting their opinions sanctimoniously to the detriment of some of the most spiritual who disagree or question an issue or practice or tradition.
There really is no right of the individual believer to study for himself and draw his own conclusions. One who does is first looked upon suspiciously, then “spied” upon in some manner, then possibly written up in the party paper. At the least, the brotherhood is alerted through the network of leaders, and the so-called culprit is marked and avoided even though he isn’t causing and hasn’t caused any divisions. Letters go out from brotherhood leaders who say they have no authority, but so-and-so need to recant or repent. Otherwise he will be taken off the loyal preacher list in one way or another. I have seen some of these letters that apply the screws.
There really is no congregational autonomy. I learned this many years ago when Armona was excluded from the one cup directory when bro. Roy Asplin told me certain brethren had told him to do so. He would never tell me who the brethren were, but I had a pretty good idea. Why is the directory used to extort brethren? Why do leaders write letters threatening disfellowhship in one form or another of a congregation if they exercise no control in brotherhood? Obviously that is rhetorical.
Yes there is an unofficial hierarchy of authority and control in the one cup Churches of Christ as there is in most of the sects in this denomination, and there will be until one or two things, or both, happen. One is that leaders reform. The other is that the congregations en mass truly exercise their autonomy.
2.) Authentic Faith
It’s probably presumptuous of me to say that I think few people in the Churches of Christ have examined and questioned their faith as much as I have over the years. Maybe it’s ignorant sinful pride on my part. If it is, please forgive me.
As I look back I find that I have what some people might call funny ideas about religion, spirituality, and worship. Not funny funny, but different, or maybe odd, I suppose to many of those comprising the sects in our denomination.
I think that authentic faith is not primarily expressed through the external traditions of institutionalized religion or loyalty to an identifying unwritten creed such as are common in the sects of the Churches of Christ. I think that worship of God is not primarily expressed through acts or rituals performed at a Sunday morning assembly we call “the worship service”. I think that authentic faith and spirituality are much more that perfunctory church attendance, Bible reading, and prayer.
Methinks authentic faith is manifested primarily in an attitude toward God reflected in a lifestyle wherein we are constantly aware of God’s presences in our lives and our faith in Him causes us to work to glorify, honor, please, and praise Him both in word and deed. Religious traditions can be helpful and significant to us if we don’t make them ends in themselves or misuse them. I can even say the same for unwritten creeds. Our Sunday morning assemblies can and should be important and significant aspects of our faith, but neither are they ends in themselves. Then the person with authentic faith and true spirituality will assemble with other Christians, study the Bible, and pray regularly to God. All of these have a place, but they in themselves are not the comprehensive test of having authentic faith or truly being spiritual.
Unfortunately, from the standpoint of what we have believed and practiced relative to faith and spirituality, we have put a stumbling block not only in the way of our own lives in these matters, but the faith and spirituality of other believers, as well as unbelievers. Heavenly Father, please forgive me of any part wherein I have contributed to unbelief.
It is my hope for you that 2010 is a great year for you in the service of God. May He bless you manyfold.
J. James Albert