The sect everywhere spoken against

An awful lot of articles about spiritual matters on social media amount to setting up straw men. They find the person with the most extreme ideas and pretend that this represents Christians everywhere. They set up a straw man, whack him hard, and, watch him fall down. You can generally detect them in the “click bait” titles they use: “Why the Church Is Wrong About Forgiveness,” “Christians Are Wrong about the Nature of the Trinity, And Here’s Why.”

Cheap shots are being taken at something I love deeply: The church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It makes me think of the Jewish leaders in Rome: “But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against” (Acts 28:22).

Here are some of the somewhat less than accurate declarations made about the church:

  • They think they are the only ones going to heaven: No sensible member of churches of Christ ever claimed this. Certainly, the saved are those in the church, but the Lord always was the one who decided who was in that number. Though I am a wholehearted member of a fellowship historically begun by Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone in the US during the 1800s, I doubt that ours was the only movement in history that did anything well. “The Lord knows those who are his” (2 Timothy 2:19).
  • They don’t believe in grace: To be fair, we believe in both grace and works because the New Testament teaches a blend of both (Ephesians 2:8; James 2:24). I “get” why teaching grace is popular and teaching responsibility is not, but we are under obligation to teach both. We do preach grace; grace is not incompatible with works, however. God gives us grace when in our humanity we fail; that does not mean the rules do not apply.
  • They don’t believe in music: This is as a misnomer. A cappella singing is music, just of a particular type. The instrument we are commanded to use in worship is our heart (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).
  • They don’t believe in the Holy Spirit: We search the pages of Scripture for our religious authority and do not appeal to impulses as “messages” of the Spirit. That does not mean we do not believe in God, the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit was to actually speak to me today, he would not contradict something he had already communicated to an inspired writer. To claim thus would be to open us up to all manner of new revelations, communications that would be subjective and contradictory. Scripture (a product of the Holy Spirit) was inspired by God, and its message provides the Christian with everything he needs to live and to please God (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
  • They only preach baptism: Yes, we preach baptism (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21). But after 40 years of preaching, I have pleaded for and taught righteous living following baptism too (Revelation 2:10). Never have I heard one of our brethren suggest that baptism ended our responsibilities before God. This charge is not just unbalanced, it is simply not true.
  • Members of the church are hypocritical: Well, sure, there will always be hypocrites in the church, and their presence is deplorable. But you are missing scores of heroes, missionaries, people who have overcome enormous handicaps, those who have sacrificed greatly for God’s cause. You’re looking at the wrong segment of the church and assuming that if some are hypocrites then that means all are hypocrites. In other words, you have set up a straw man.

Instead of setting up straw men, I urge you to build churches, build young people into leaders, support elders and preachers. Jesus died for this church so casually disdained (Acts 20:28). Value the church as he does.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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One thought on “The sect everywhere spoken against

  1. Stan, While I appreciate what you are trying to accomplish in the article, I must take issue with how you stated the first point about the necessity of membership in the church.

    I have no interest in being a member of a “fellowship historically begun by Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone in the US during the 1800s,”. I want to be saved and added to the church Christ promised to build, the church to which the saved were added during the first century. The semantics of your statement would tend to lead to the conclusion that I could not have been a member of the Lord’s church before this historical movement in the USA.

    The church is not an American religion. I understand the importance of the movement to return to biblical authority among several denominational groups led by these we call restorers in the U.S. But our hope is not in the legacy of Campbell, Stone, Smith, or Dasher, etc. It is in a resurrected Christ, and faithful obedience to Him, and ultimately the grace of God.

    Must I be a member of the Lord’s church? If I am saved, He will add me to no other than His. If I am not saved, it matters not what religious allegiance I espouse. It is not a matter of my choosing a church. It is a matter of submitting to a Savior, and then doing the best I can to find others of like precious faith with whom to worship in spirit and truth.

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