Monday, May 21, 2012

Why I'm Not (Still) Church of Christ

Beware...this post turned into a short story.

I've gone back and forth quite a few times about whether I should write this blog post or not.  I've been watching some blogosphere dialogue take place on the blogs of some old friends of mine.  These friends also happen to be ministers in the Church of Christ.  I grew up Church of Christ, was educated in Church of Christ schools, and have to admit, still have a soft spot of affection for the denomination that raised me.  I certainly have a great deal of respect and admiration for all of the friends, mentors, and teachers I have had in Churches of Christ and Church of Christ schools.  That having been said, I left the denomination.  My hope is that this post will be a counter-point to some of my friend's posts.  If you would like to read some of the conversation going on, Adam Metz (a man I respect who I've known since I was a kid) has a good series going on here.

First, a very short introduction to who the Churches of Christ are.  They are not a cult, and it irritates me that they have ever been accused as being such.  They are the product of an American, Christian religious movement in the early 1800s called the Restoration Movement, started and sustained by men such as Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, and Walter Scott.  At the time, American Christianity was strictly divided along denominational lines.  These men, sometimes together and sometimes as individuals, all worked to bring Christians together.  In essence, the Restoration Movement was a Christian unity movement.  To try to foster unity, the movement valued a focus on scripture (the one thing all Christians had in common was the Bible), the removal of denominational creeds and names (hence the generic name Church of Christ rather than Methodist, Episcopalian, Baptist, or Presbyterian Church), congregational autonomy, and the desire to go back to the (perceived) simplicity of the first century Church (hence the "restore" in the Restoration).  As a side note, in the early days of the movement, names such as Christians, Disciples, Churches of Christ, and Disciples of Christ were all used interchangeably.  It's not hard to see why things didn't pan out exactly how the founders had hoped.  All Christians have the Bible, but as the running joke goes, "Put five Christians in the same room with a Bible and you'll have a dozen interpretations."  And just because you don't have official creeds, that doesn't mean congregations don't have unofficial ones.  So, long story short, a movement started to create unity has since broken into three denominations.  The Churches of Christ and the Disciples of Christ split in 1906, and then in the 1960s, the Disciples of Christ split into the Christian Church on one side and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on the other.  All three of these denominations are Restoration Movement denominations, which means their theology is almost identical, but how that theology has been put into practice can be very different.

So, there's nearly 200 years of history summed up in a paragraph...moving on.

Growing up in Churches of Christ, I found myself at odds with much of what we did and said, but when you're not the one responsible for what is being done and said, it is easy to let a lot slide.  I earned a Bachelor of Religious Education (Biblical Studies) and a Master of Divinity from Church of Christ schools, and it was always my perception that my professors hoped they were teaching me and the other students so that we could go out and be catalysts for change in our congregations.  I say all that to say, everyone knew and acknowledged that there was a major divide between the fundamentalist slide many of our congregations were taking and what many of us who would one day become ministers actually believed.  To put it more bluntly, everyone knew there was something going horribly wrong in our denomination, but either no one knew what to do about it or no one had the courage to call a spade a spade.  I'm going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and call it the first.  And so, I stayed in Churches of Christ, because...hey, God was going to use people like me to change things!

But then I found myself in ministry and what had been a distant unease, sometimes even a strong pain in the backside, became an acute, spiritual disconnect.

To use an analogy I heard from another friend of mine who has also left Churches of Christ, it was as if Churches of Christ were hanging their hats on pegs I wasn't interested in anymore.  Let me give an example.  I have a deep respect and regard for the authority, history, and place of scripture in the life of the Church.  I learned that in Churches of Christ, but I found that as a minister I wasn't being asked to uphold the authority of scripture.  My congregation wanted me to uphold their interpretation of scripture, under penalty of losing my job.  That attitude was symptomatic of my childhood congregation and almost every other congregation of which I had ever been a part.  (As a side note, if you've never been attacked as a heretic when you weren't willing to spout bad theology to keep a pay check, let me say...it's not fun.)  To be frank, as a minister I was no longer willing to uphold or perpetuate that attitude.  That's just one such "peg."  Other pegs were the Holy Spirit, religion and politics, sectarian versus ecumenical approaches to congregational life, the historical context of Biblical books, science and Christianity...it was a long list of issues.  As a minister in Churches of Christ, I was constantly finding myself backed into corners where I had to choose between personal integrity and providing for my family.

That may all sound ideological.  Let me give you another example.  At the last Church of Christ congregation I served in before leaving the Churches of Christ, the leadership (all male) wanted to increase teen involvement during our worship services.  We had a great group of teens that I still miss today, but only two of them were male, and neither of them were all that keen on being the only two teens involved.  Churches of Christ (at least the vast majority of Churches of Christ) believe that only men can be involved in the worship and leadership of a congregation.  However, I had three teenage girls (none had grown up in Churches of Christ) who approached me to ask if they might lead singing, lead prayers, or lead devotionals.  I had to tell them no.  My congregation's leadership would never have approved.  And worse, I didn't have a single good reason to tell them no.  That was one of those watershed moments when you realize you've got to change the path you're on.  My job as a minister is to help people find their spiritual gifts and then empower those people to use them.  Those three girls should never have been told no.  I felt like a failure and a sellout.

And then, a great thing happened.  My wife got pregnant.  We were happy.  We were excited.  We felt all the things soon-to-be first time parents feel.  We asked all the questions soon-to-be first time parents ask.  What will our child look like?  What will our child's personality be like?  Will we have a boy or a girl?  ...And then we found ourselves with another spiritual dilemma.  If we had a girl, did we want to raise our daughter in a denomination that treated her like a second class citizen?  We didn't have to think about that one very long.  The answer was no.

I could go on and on about the reasons I left the Churches of Christ, and although it might be therapeutic for me, there isn't much point in it.  Let me just say that it wasn't a knee-jerk response and a great deal of prayer, time, effort, and conversation went on behind my transition into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  From start to finish, it took multiple years.

So, why write this post at all?  Who cares why I stayed or left the denomination I grew up in?  I wrote this blog because some of the assumptions I see behind the "Why I'm Still Church of Christ" conversation concern me.  Here they are:

1)  Churches of Christ are the Restoration Movement Denomination, and as such, have something unique to offer American Christianity.

Well, I am fully willing to admit that Churches of Christ have something unique to offer Christianity.  Personally, I really miss the acapella music, but their uniqueness isn't found in their Restoration Movement history.  Disciples of Christ and Christian Churches have just as much of a claim to that heritage.  All Churches of Christ are Restoration Movement churches, but not all Restoration Movement churches are Churches of Christ.  Churches of Christ have tended to have a "we're the only ones" attitude, and I have seen that bleed over into the way they view their heritage.

2)  If you want to be a courageous Christian, don't ever leave the denomination you're born into...unless, or course, you want to join the Churches of Christ.

I will be one of the first to rant about how idiotic some of the reasons are that people leave congregations or denominations, and church shopping has reached epidemic proportions in this country.  However, there is a point at which the courageous thing to do is leave the home we know in order to follow after God.  I believe there is a story in Genesis about just such a thing.

3)  If I can get over the differences I have with my denomination, so can you.

All people, myself included, tend to think that if it is right for them it is right for everyone.  So when individuals begin feeling as if there are some major disconnections between themselves and their denomination, the temptation is to respond with, "Stop whining.  Cowboy up."  Obviously, based off the decisions that I have made, I don't think that's a good response.  I am happy for my brothers in Christ.  I am happy that they have reconciled themselves with their religious tribe, but just because they could doesn't mean other people should. 

4)  Staying builds character.

Sometimes that is absolutely the case, but sometimes staying destroys the person.  A few years back my alma mater, Abilene Christian University, hosted a dialogue as part of their lectureships.  Basically, ACU interviewed a number of female ministry students to find out what there experience was like as ministry students who would never be able to use their degrees (unless it was for children's ministry or the long hall to a PH.D. and teaching).  At some point in the interview, each and every one of the students broke down weeping.  God had called and gifted them to serve his Church, and then his church told them they couldn't.  Please explain how that builds character.

Believe it or not, I didn't intend to write this post to bash Churches of Christ.  I have many, many good memories from my thirty years in Churches of Christ.  Abilene Christian University is a fabulous school, whether you're Christian or not, Church of Christ or not.  I hope my kids go there.  They'll get a great education.  However, staying with a denomination just because it is what you are used to or because you're afraid of what it will mean if you leave is not faithfulness.  It is laziness and cowardice.

Jesus told a parable once.  An orchard owner had had it with a tree that was not producing fruit.  He instructed his grounds keeper to cut it down.  Instead, the grounds keeper asked for one more year, saying, "I [will] dig around it and put manure on it.  If it bears fruit next year, well and good but if not, you can cut it down."  There ends the parable.  Jesus never said what happened next.  Churches of Christ are in decline (in their defense, they're a long way from being alone).  I think that much of the discussion going on about "Why I'm still Church of Christ" is in some way the gardeners spreading manure in the hopes that fruit will come soon.  Maybe it will.  Who knows?  This blog post was more for the people who are being spiritually strangled in the Churches of Christ.  There is no shame in leaving a denomination that is asking you to take your spiritual gifts and let them atrophy in the name of faithfulness.  There is no shame in leaving a denomination that has fallen into the evangelical trap of believing Biblical womanhood is 1950s womanhood.  Doing so does not mean you're leaving behind your respect for scripture's authority.  Doing so does not mean you're weak or a coward.  Doing so does not mean you don't appreciate your religious heritage.

Take courage.  Stay faithful to Christ and the power of his resurrection.  Know you're not alone.  Walk into the unknown, and who knows, God may have been waiting for you there all along.  Oh, and by the way, I'm fully assuming that if you walk out of the Church of Christ, you'll keep walking until you find your way into another Christian community.  Christians are only Christians in the Church.

I just wanted to say that, and that's why I wrote this beast of a blog post.  If you've left the Church of Christ, I'd love to hear your experience.  I only ask that you try to keep it respectful, and I know that can be hard if you've been hurt.

63 comments:

  1. Bj...after reading your blog my question to you was why you told those three teenage girls they could not lead? I attend the Anna Church of Christ where the women meet on Sunday afternoons for Ladies Bible Discussion...we lead singing amongst ourselves, we pray and we teach. We do not participate in the worship service in these ways but because our men treat us with integrity and respect we are very willing to submit to Christ in this way. It is a win/win situation for all involved. I am so sorry your family has been treated unkindly and unfairly. There are some wonderful churches of Christ still out there. My little country church has decided to get back to the basics...we consider ourselves like the Bereans...constantly studying and searching the scriptures for truth. Our young boys participate in every service, praying, leading devotionals and leading singing. The youngest is 5. These children are not baptized but they are considered innocent in our eyes. In response to your remark about if you have a daughter would she be treated like a second class citizen...I would have to say in all my experiences in the church of Christ I have never once been made to feel like this. The men I have been surrounded by in my intimate family and personal congregation have always lifted me up to feel very special and have taken great care to attend special attentions to those women without spouses. I am extremely proud and thankful for Christ' example in Ephesians 5:21....if men are constantly loving their wives, mothers, daughters, widows as Christ loved the church then it's a continuous dying to themselves on a daily basis....because I have been treated so special in this way I have absolutely no problem at all respecting and submitting to Christ or the male authority which by the way is a very special responsibility man has been given...I mean no disrespect to your blog because everyone is entitled to their opinions. I just wanted you to know that I wish your experiences had been different and that I'm speaking from my very own perspective and no one elses. I will be praying for you and your family as you search the scriptures and seek the truth! Thanks for sharing and also allowing me too as well! God Bless!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just one point to clarify before I actually make myself go to bed...

      I didn't tell the three teenagers they couldn't lead at all. I had to tell them they couldn't lead in blended (male and female) corporate worship, aka, Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wed. night. I'm saying they shouldn't have been told no in that context. If I'm reading your comment correctly, you're saying that is exactly what I should have done. Therein lies the problem.

      And I fully agree that there are some wonderful Churches of Christ out there, and some wonderful Christians in them. Also, I've very grateful you've been treated with respect in your congregation. There's nothing ever wrong with that.

      God bless.

      Delete
    2. Two words that you have used repeatedly in this blog explain allot of the confusion found in the Church of Christ. 1. Denomination 2. Worship..... the restoration movement was about unity and against denominations, men made a stand and threw off the denominational tags and put on Christ biblically, so to finally hear a person affiliated, or once affiliated with the COC, reveal that they do consider themselves a denomination is refreshing, because they act line a denomination. In regards to worship, if they (ChurchofChrist) every understood what true worship is, according to the scripture, they would have to change the signs on their Church buildings because they claim to worship approximately 2 to 3 hours a week! They would no longer forbid instruments either.... on a side note I always thought it was odd that a piano was forbidden in assembly, yet a projector and laptop was ok... anyway, i encourage you to continue to make disciples, immersing them into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, teaching them all that our Lord commanded, stay true to the doctrine of the apostles, build up the fellowship of the Saints, get to the Lords table on the first day of the week and pray without cease to He comes! Regardless of who you serve with, never forget who your service is for:-)

      Delete
    3. Thank you for your thoughts, Sleepnumber. It amazes me how often people still read this post. God bless you.

      Delete
  2. B.J. I am super glad to read this. For I myself have left the C of C. My reasons are many but the main one is just politics. I don't know of many churches that are stuck in the rut of religious hierarchy than the churches of Christ. I had several teens ask me to teach them because they weren't getting spiritually fed. They wanted more than bible bowl and play practice. So, I took my role given directly by God to teach, and We started a bible study through the Book of Luke. We all wrote what we struggled with and questions we had about the Bible and God and his word and I said that as we go through the Book we can find some of our answers and Grow in the love and knowledge of Christ and we will love him more. Well some parents heard that there was an "unsanctioned" class going on and the elders and parents threw a big fit and said that I was derisive and an anarchist for starting a class without letting everyone know about it first. And it didn't stop there there were still people spreading rumors about me and people telling there kids not to be around me or talk to me because I am such a bad influence and a heretic.

    Another big reason goes along with yours. They have a clear bias towards scripture. I was at the church I currently attend last Sunday and the preacher was doing a lesson on being kingdom minded (which by the way leads me to another point I will comment on) and he ended up in Colossians 3. And he read the text and made his point and it all fit together and made sense. Then it hit me. For the first time in my entire life I didn't hear that text used as a proof text to attack instruments in the church. It was used in context and I felt a breath of fresh air.

    My other point is the fact that they are very numbers oriented. Gods kingdom is so much bigger than the church of christ and a lot of times they don't see it that way. They are stuck on building up their name instead of the people to go out and spread Gods kingdom. so I found a place that doesn't care if they have the numbers or the church down the street has the numbers, as long as there are numbers.

    I need to cut this short because I could rant for hours and hours. I miss you man, I really hope things are going well.

    --Darin Thompson

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry you've been on the receiving end of other people's hostility. It's never a pleasant place to be. I'm glad you've found a congregation to worship and serve with that is Kingdom minded. May you find peace and wholeness there, as well as a loving and supportive family.

      Delete
  3. B,
    I appreciate that you took the time to actually articulate your thoughts this way. Both Josh and I took the time to read through your blog tonight and sat around for a long time afterwards discussing both it, and our own experiences. The truth is, I've tried several times to sit down and do the same thing and have always (as of yet) been completely unsuccessful. Just...too much going on there to be able to articulate it as clearly as you have.

    That said, I just wanted you to know that, having watched from the sidelines (and occasionally from the front lines), as you've honestly wrestled with who and what God has been calling you to be ...and seeing you grow up over the years in faith to become the sort of person who is both gracious and at the same time full of integrity has been a source of joy for both Josh and I.

    We love you. You're family. Thanks for being authentic and thoughtful about where you're coming from. It's a discussion that needs to happen, and has been swept under the rug for so long.

    So glad we're on this journey together.

    Always,
    Al

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm off to bed, but let me say that I appreciate all the comments I've received. Jenny, I appreciate the courage it takes to voice disagreement. Darin, I appreciate the passion and drive you have to serve Jesus. Allie, you've been there to help maintain my sanity more times than I can count. Kalyn and I miss you and Josh horribly. We love you too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for telling your story here, BJ. You know I resonate with much of it. I'm glad you have found a home where you can exercise the ministry to which you were so clearly called.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your support and kind words, Jared. May God bless your ministry.

      Delete
  6. Hey, BJ. I'm glad I came across your blog.

    I am a firm believer in this ... for some people the right decision is to stay, and for others it's best to leave. Our family decided to leave the CofC, but I have many good memories of our time there. I miss it sometimes. But ... there are Sunday mornings, when we're being led in worship by a God-gifted woman ... or when we're talking about God's kingdom and it's made up of all believers (not just CofC members) ... and I think this is where I belong.

    Keep up the good work, brother. God bless,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mike,

      Thank you for the feed back. I too have many good memories from my years spent in the CofC. That having been said, I'm right with you in that I feel a great sense of relief and joy when I see gifted women leading and hear people talking about how they can serve in the Kingdom of God regardless of denominational differences. I hope God blesses you and your family, and the decisions you have prayerfully made.

      Delete
  7. BJ, I'm a Christian who happens to worship at a Church of Christ. I was probably the most liberal COC church secretary (10 years) ever. I totally get what you are saying. I've seen the politics. I've known preachers as friends and have seen the conflict between getting a paycheck and revealing what they truly believe.

    My hubby is dyed in the wool COC. Even though he has evolved into a wonderfully open hearted and truth minded man (we study a lot together because I dispute so much....), he will not leave COC because he doesn't want to hurt his parents. Even though they do not live in our city or even state. My in-laws are generous loving people. They are so proud that their oldest son is faithful to 'thee church.' I fully respect, love and appreciate my husband's feeling so, we will continue worshiping at COC. We have visited other church's in our area. I just don't want his spiritual life to whither because he doesn't want to hurt his parents.

    I grew up in another denomination. Now, I work with an outreach program that serves as my spiritual outlet. Christian Women's Job Corps allows me to serve with women of all denominations. We study the Bible and pray together weekly. So, I'm not radically motivated to change churches because my needs are being met elsewhere.

    BJ, and other readers, will you please pray for my husband and I? If we aren't leaving for awhile, help us to somehow motivate change. But, most of all help us (my COC) get back to Jesus' message....LOVE, not rules....I just don't know how to go about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pearl,

      My heart goes out to you and your family. As I read through your comment, I couldn't help that I might have overstated myself in my blog post. My goal was to say there is no shame in leaving. However, there is no shame in staying either, especially if it is for the love of a spouse. Following Jesus is all about self-sacrifice, doing what is best for another and not yourself. Staying in the CofC may put you in an awkward position, but you should be admired for the nature of your love for your husband. I personally hope the CofC has a future, a very different future (of love as you put it), but a future none-the-less. I have no ill will toward the CofC. My heart simply hurts for what the CofC has put people through, including myself. Thank you again for posting on my blog, and may God be with you.

      Delete
  8. Yes, I would like CofC to have a future, too. (I didn't get the sense you wished anything negative for CofC present or future in your post.)

    I recently read Rubel Shelly's, "I Knew Jesus before..." He made many great points, but there were no practical tools in how to effect this positive change for a future. I like your viewpoints and would respect any input you'd have in helping the future. Got any ideas?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I could say, "Sure, do these 5 things," but then I wouldn't have needed to leave. I think the tension you saw in Dr. Shelly's book sums up things nicely. Many CofCers see the problems, but they don't know what to do about it. Over the last 15 years or so there has been an unofficial split going on in the CofC. This might best be seen in the theological leanings of most CofC colleges (more progressive) versus the vast majority of CofC congregations (conservative if not fundamentalist). My guess and my fear is that another split is around the corner for the Restoration Movement, if not in name then in affiliation. We can see this already between congregations like Otter Creek and Rochester Hills, versus small rural congregations. Not that the progressive congregations will disown the conservative...but the opposite is not the case.

      Anyhow, none of that is even remotely helpful to you. I'm not sure if anything can be done. Personally, I found that I couldn't do much as a minister in the CofC, no matter what I tried, and so I left. Other minister friends of mine in the CofC have gone on for doctorates, which gives them more freedom in selecting progressive congregations to serve in. Again...no help to you.

      I guess all I can say is, "Love you husband. Love the Christian family you find yourself in, and know that as a non-minister child of God, it's not your responsibility to fix his people anyway." I'll leave you with a bit of advice a mentor once told me in Kentucky. He was a CofC minister who had been in ministry for 30 plus years.

      "None of the ministers before you could fix the Church's problems. You can't either."

      He didn't mean that as defeatist in anyway. It was more of a way of giving me permission to let go and stop trying to fix things beyond me. For me that meant searching for a place I can better serve (the Disciples of Christ for me), but for you it may mean that loving God, loving your husband, and loving God's people (pain in the butts that they can be) is enough.

      I've enjoyed hearing from you so much in the comments. I appreciate your thoughts and your concern. God be with you.

      Delete
  9. Thanks for you time in responding, BJ. Hey, are you on twitter?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, no twitter here. However, you can find me on FB. Last name Gensic.

      Delete
  10. Well, I spent a really long time composing a comment, and when I went to submit it, I lost it.

    I don't want to type it all again. But, basically, I appreciate hearing your perspective on this.

    As we anticipate (eagerly) moving to a new place and finding a new church, we are questioning whether or not that church will be a CofC. I think it's a little difference for regular members than ministers. We don't necessarily have to make a long-term commitment to a specific denomination. I'm still hopeful that we'll find a CofC congregation that is a good fit with our views, but we'll see.

    I really hate the insinuation that leaving a denomination (or even a specific congregation) means that a person is selfish or nitpicky. That is just not true.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome back from the trip! I'm with you on being irritated about the insinuation that leaving a denomination/congregation makes you selfish or consumerist or spiritually immature. I agree that it certainly can be the case, sometimes, but having left myself, I wonder if that rhetoric is more a way of passive aggressively keeping people around than a general truth.

      Anyhow, I also hope you can find a good CofC when you move. If the CofC is going to have a future, it will be because of people like you and Darbie (sorry, I can't remember how he spells his name), people to have questioned and doubted and are willing to change what they love because they love it. Also, you're not the minister, which ironically, in some cases, gives you more freedom to be a change agent.

      Good luck, and keep Kalyn and me posted on how things are going.

      Delete
  11. Fascinating post. Not sure why I decided to read it today, but i did. I, as you know, didn't grow up in the church at all and have found my home in the "non denominational Christian church" as it is. I don't know enough about church history of the Church of Christ to really speak to that, but I appreciate your heartfelt thoughts and deep introspection that comes through in this post. As a woman (and NOT as a woman's rights spouting woman (UGH)), I appreciate that you thought long and hard about where you were and what that would look like to your children.

    Nothing makes me sadder than congregational/denominational junk that happens in our churches today. I'm glad you're finding a place where you can lead, love and serve.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the support and the encouragement.

      Delete
  12. BJ, I left the CoC many years ago form the Independent Christian church. I find wonderful churches in the north eastern of the country (once you hit NC), but very few in the Deep South. My family and I joined one of the only ones in our state when we had to relocate about 18 months ago. We're now currently attending a CoC. I knew I was on the right track when a friend of mine who is a member of the CoC warned me that it "wasn't a Bible believing church". Apparently a few years ago, they had had an Easter service with a nearby church of a different denomination. It isn't as "liberal" as I've become accustomed to in the IC church, but it is odd to hear members talk about Grace (a concept foreign to me before I left the church). I hear people ask questions that weren't asked in the CoC that I grew up in. I miss the instruments, but the beauty of a cappella music is growing on me again. I noticed last week they played a track during communion *for shame*! I found your blog actually looking for advice on how to formally leave the IC church in which we have placed membership. We stopped going back in July, and people know we're going elsewhere. If we move from our current state (heavy deep South CoC) into one with more Christian churches, I'll have no problem in going again. I've learned that it really isn't the whole of the church of Christ (which I don't consider a denomination)- but the specific church. Independent Christian churches also don't consider themselves to be a specific denomination. I don't feel like I'm coming back to a denomination- but placing membership with a church body that I think reflects the NT church- without the legalism typical for the CoC.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you've found a congregation you can worship with, and I agree that not every CoC is the same. I really don't know much about the Independent Christian Church or how they handle placing or removing membership, so I can't help you out much there.

      Good luck as you adjust to your new environment in the south, and God bless.

      Delete
  13. I put in a search for "leaving the church of christ" and came across this blog post. I too grew up attending the CofC three times a week and attending a christian school, youth ralleys, teen devos, etc. I learned so much about scripture and loving the Lord, but have always found myself questioning some of their beliefs. I love and respect my brothers/sisters in Christ and wish them no harm either. I like you, don't believe they are a cult, but that they are sincere people seeking to their best to serve God. My husband became a christian after we were married and I have raised my children in "the church" but have always discussed/ stated the things I'm not sure on. Anyway... what leads me to this post is that I have recently decided that I can no longer attend a church of christ because after much study and prayer I have realized that I believe some of the things taught are NOT in keeping with scripture and that the legalistic attitude is not what God would desire. For the first time, I have been learning more about God's grace and how it is ALL about HIM and not about how good we are. They say it is faith and works but it isn't. None of us will ever be good enough to merit heaven. Not Baptist, not Catholic, not CofC. It is HIS GRACE and our belief that saves us. Remember Paul's verse about how it is not about works so that no man can boast? They of course, never blatantly say it is based on our works, but the general idea is always conveyed with a good dose of fear.
    I also believe they do not address the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit accurately and that many misunderstand the role of the man being the head of the woman. He is, but He is actually called to a higher purpose and responsibility than the woman. (Servant leader like Christ, giving himself up for the woman and being a shepherd leading her to Christ). I also don't believe God will send you to hell for music in worship. They can't show me one verse that says don't have it and I can show them several that do. Yes it is in the old testament, but God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He changes not. His character remains the same even though he changed the covenant. He approved of it in the old Testament. David of course being the big example but there were also musicians at the tabernacle and temple if I'm not mistaken. He approves of it in heaven. There will be harps/ the last trumpet call etc. If both of those are acceptable and pleasing to him why would it be unpleasing to Him now? I just don't understand that He would condemn someone because of that.
    Well, enough on some of my differing opinions...
    I do love many things about the church of Christ and I still have that struggle and fear when I think about leaving. I feel I can no longer attend our church because I have come to realize that I don't believe some of their beliefs and I need to go where there is more joy and less legalism. I want to be careful though and find a church that follows scripture. I am so overwhelmed with all of this right now and suffering guilt. My family, even my sons, think I have changed and lost my mind and turning away from God but I am not. I love Him more than ever and am seeking Him with all of my heart. I just don't agree with some of what they say anymore. I know I will be disfellowshipped if I leave and attend another church and will lose many friends and family even. Can you give me any advice? Would you please pray for me? I want to do the right thing and please God but I feel I am being led a different way. Thank you My name is Laura.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laura,

      I appreciate your willingness to open up and share your fears and concerns with me. Spiritual crises, such as the one you are presently going through, are difficult to say the least. Frankly, they can be terrifying and disorienting. However, such crises provide opportunities for us to grow and be shaped by God.

      That having been said, you asked for advice. First (and I think you're already doing this), take the time to discern what you DO believe. Many times we tend to focus on what we disagree with. "I don't believe this or that," we say, but when asked what we do believe, we can't put it into words. The problem with this approach is that it is reactionary and not intentional. Take the time to clarify for yourself what it is you do believe. If you don't know that, you can't discern what church would be the healthiest place for you.

      Second, and this is the same advice my mentor gave me when I was going through a similar crisis, do research. You can find out a wealth of information about what other denominations believe by going to their websites. Check out the websites of other churches in your area. Check out the websites for the Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Disciples of Christ...the list goes on. Official denominational websites will tell you the denomination's core beliefs and practices. At this point you just need to see what others believe. It may not take you much time to see that a specific denomination wouldn't be a good fit for you. If so, great, now you know. Move on. On the other hand, you may find out you'd make a great Methodist, or as in my case, a great Disciple of Christ. Once you narrow your list of possible matches down, try to make connections with ministers in your area. I would do this before visiting a congregation. If, after talking with the minister and being able to ask any questions you have, you still feel good about things, go visit. Get involved. See what it would be like to be an active member of that Christian family.

      But, and this is important, don't rush to a conclusion. It won't do you any good to find yourself in a church shopping loop.

      Let me also say this. I completely understand the fears that are involved in this process, the fear of isolation, losing friends or family ties, etc. These are legitimate fears, and I wish I could tell you I haven't lost any friends because of my switching to Disciples of Christ. That wouldn't be true, however, especially in regard to some of the people I grew up with. People will cut ties with you, and it will take time to build a new support group. But, and this is a big but, remember who we serve and who we have to answer to in the end. If the decisions we make are based off our desire to love God and serve/follow Christ more truly, that is what matters. God knows why you are making the decisions you are making, and if you can stand with a clear conscience before God, take comfort in that. We do not live to please other people.

      Anyhow, take courage. God is with you, even in transition. You can get through this, as many have before you, no matter how hard it becomes. You're in a good place, a place that God can shape you more and more into the image of his son. God bless, and I wish you peace.

      Delete
  14. Hi,

    I really appreciate your knowledge and fair assessment regarding Church of Christ. While I don't hold the view that Churches of Christ in general are a cult I come from an extreme one that would be regarded by most as very cultish. My husband is a preacher and has emotionally and spiritually abused me to the point where I lost my mind and felt that suicide was the best option. I won't go into all the crazy horror stories but I ended up moving to an undisclosed location because of all the threats of intervention and lived in fear for awhile. My inlaws found out where I was and tried to see me multiple times. I understand from their perspective they were just trying to help me but i was literally so brainwashed that I could not afford anymore coercion or mind control. I was seperated for over a year with no resources and ended up on a dark path that was about as far from God as I could be. My poor decisions and behavior just further traumatized me. Against the advice of my counselors, I'm back with my husband and trying to work things out. The deal is we don't discuss spiritual matters. He's crossed that boundary a couple of times and I've had to be firm. It's sad that it has to be that way but he is not a safe spiritual leader where I'm concerned. Perhaps, if by some miracle, he had a heart change things could be different. I've been diagnosed with complex PTSD and am in therapy, I also have a christian therapist who, according to my husband, isn't the right christian so is a pagan from the synagogue of Satan that has stood by me during all this. Thank God for my support system! Without them I think I would be dead. I've also spent a lot of time on Church of Christ recovery websites that I have found very helpful. That being said, the website is understandably quite polarizing in regard to Church of Christ so it was nice to run across your blog and hear examples of healthier coc's which gives me hope. I have experienced much healing and am trying not to have a divisive spirit so I'm checking out another Coc this Sunday. I can't help being somewhat afraid though. I worked so hard to get away from the toxic nature of what I experienced and am fearful of stepping back in. Of course my husband does not support my decision because according to him, all the other Coc churches around here are corrupt. However, I know that going to his church is not a reasonable option for me. I just want to worship God without being brainwashed and abused.

    Thank you for "listening" and God bless!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. RJ,

      Sorry for taking such a long time to respond. It sounds to me like you have experienced the worst the C of C has to offer. There were a few things that concerned me as I read through your post. Both are concerns for you.

      First, I'm concerned that you're back with your husband. There are no winners in divorce, but to go back to a man who seems to only wish you harm is dangerous. Please listen to those who support you. They only want good for you.

      Second, yes, there are some good Cs of C out there. There are even more good C of C ministers stuck in dysfunctional churches, but I can only think of three Cs of C I would feel comfortable sending people to, so unless you're in Rochester Hills, MI, Abilene, TX, or Nashville, TN, I'd be careful there. Don't return to an environment that emotionally and mentally broke you before and expect a new outcome this time. Read my response to Laura for ideas on how you might want to move forward.

      Hang in there. Continue to seek out help, and don't put up with any crap from your husband. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

      Delete
  15. Thank-you for this webpage. I've read every single word on your Blog and all the comments. I'm not sure you will or can give me any advice so, I'll vent and see where it goes from there.

    It all started with part of my family joining the CofC. I am not a member, never have been but have visited this very large CofC several times; partly because I was invited to go, and partly because I wanted to learn more about their beliefs in hoping that it may change my views.

    My first visit, I felt like I had stepped back in time, some women dressed in long dresses and a few had veils over their head and you quickly realized only men were running the show (sorry). Oh, but during the sermon the women were quickly noted on how great they were in teaching the children and how grateful the men were for all they do. Even from this large congregation, I couldn't believe how many women didn't work and stayed home, homeschooling their children and planned bible sessions, and group outings for the children (only with CofC family). My heart sank as I listened to the preacher speak out against the worldly people and how the Baptist and others are not true Christians. I almost jumped up and left their church 'building'(oh, I learned you can't say just Church). Sunday school material had a paragraph that mentioned to beware of those who speak against them (CofC), or try to convenience them from their faith, that they(members)need to stay away from those type of people, because they were evil. I could imagine what my little grandchild was thinking of me. One of the children from CofC told me that since they are innocent children, they are not Christians yet because you have to be Baptized to be a Christian but because they don't know right from wrong and if they should die, they will go to heaven. So, when they get older they will be baptized and become a Christian and will keep their salvation, if they do the 'works'. There was no mention of the words 'grace' or John 3:16. I was surprised that this young child could quote these words so perfect; there has to be some type of document, this didn't come from the Bible.

    Lately, because our grandchild is a teenager and goes with his family to the CofC, maybe seeing things a little different, has been intentionally 'scheduled' away from us. Apparently, our grandchild must be picking up bad habits amd didn't want to do all the socializing with other kids at times. Do you realize the children are even afraid of the elders in this church? Our grandchild is led to feel we are a bad influence and any advice from us is not Christian advice. I'm so sad and hurt and feel like me and my husband are loosing here.

    You say you don't like it when people call CofC a cult, well, these are reasons why I for one think this is a very controlling, manipulative and arrogant bunch of folks who are the closest thing to a cult I've ever known (an another example are the comments from the poster, Jenny). Jenny must have never been outside of that church's world, a human being reduced herself below man and not as an equal partner. The CofC socialized network is very strong and powerful organization and if it's dividing, then maybe some people have gotten tired of being a 'Jenny'.

    I tell my Grandchild all the time that God is LOVE and he is in my heart and I love him and know that he loves me. That is something I'm not sure is taught in this CofC. From all the socializing I see at this CofC, maybe it's not about getting to heaven at all. I can't believe my family don't realize how 'trapped' they are because something (don't believe it's God), is stronger than my love. I just want them out of CofC.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm really glad I found this. For the past year or so, my husband and I have really been changing our perspectives and beliefs and at one point I would have left, if my husband hadn't been the preacher.
    We're still growing and learning and changing but we're also still in the CoC as of now. Thankfully we're currently with very caring, open-minded people, but our ties with the ultra-conservative church are the source of continually tension and frustration. I think many people would like us to just leave the church so that the lines can be officially drawn and it can stop being awkward and uncomfortable and so they can know just where we stand. They seem to assume a lot about our wayward beliefs but they don't have enough evidence to label us (change agents, heretics...). Anyway, your article revived an interest in reading other stories. I remember my husband, back in his early CoC days proudly saying how the Church has so many stories of Why I Left (Denominationalism) but that he's never once heard of someone leaving the Church for another denomination (obviously an undeniable proof of the One True Church). He would never say that now, but his former perspective was a product of the demonization of everyone outside of the Church and the skewed, biased understanding of other denominations. Admittedly, after our disillusionment with the CoC, we struggled with extreme negativity (and definitely hatred on my part), toward those who we came to disagree with and who were now condemning us over extra-biblical things.

    By God's grace we are finding the balance and learning to extend love and patience and grace to them, but it's an on-going learning process.

    I do wish we were in a position to go to other churches or experience congregations that meet in homes, or whatever, but right now isn't the time. Still, it is freeing to know that I'm not a heathen if I do check out a different service some Sunday. Ideally, we'd love to move to bigger cities and help young churches grow. Not that any of this is relevant to your article really, we just have a very limited number of people we're able to be honest with. Thanks for the outlet ;) I'll have to check out your other articles.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry for the few day delay in my response.

      Well, as an ex-minister in Churches of Christ, I can appreciate your husband's difficult position, and I'm more than confident my wife can resonate with yours. As I said in my post, it's easy to assume that the right decision for me is the right decision for everyone, however, I have very close and respected friends who are in similar situations to yours and have decided to stay in Churches of Christ. It's a hard road to take, but a valid one. Thank you for sharing a part of your story with me, and I pray that you and your family can find a place of peace and support.

      Delete
  17. Thank you so much for this post. My leaving the Church of Christ started when I began questioning the necessity of strictly acapella music. From there, it was like chains were being loosed. I was able to embrace that, as a woman, I am fully a child of God, with just as much right to teach and preach and serve communion as any man. I found the United Methodist Church last year and I joined it this past summer. It kills my family that I no longer attend the CoC, but they are largely unwilling to listen and when they do, they don't understand. The idea of a church that allows me to have my own personal beliefs that may disagree with the official church stance is strange to them.
    But I love it. I've found what I think really is the freedom of Christ - the freedom to question and doubt and live freely in the grace of God. I no longer constantly worry about if I'm good enough for heaven, which I believe is a big problem with the CoC. When I was a member, it seemed you could never really trust in your salvation. There was always the fear that you had messed up or been baptized with the wrong intentions and therefore, God didn't want you. And the terror that your best friends (Catholic and Baptist) wouldn't get into heaven because they believed the wrong things was awful for a 6 year old to go through.
    But my new church accepted me and loved me and didn't force me into anything. When I joined, they accepted my CoC baptism without a second thought. Everyone is invited to partake of communion, regardless of whether you're a member of the congregation or even of the denomination. Can you imagine this happening at a Church of Christ? People would be horrified.
    Now, my younger sister and all of my cousins are still CoC and I think they will probably stay there for life (my sister jokes that, after me, our parents deserve one kid to keep the faith). And for them, I think it's the right choice. They are happy there. The church fills their spiritual needs so they doesn't need to look elsewhere. And I'm happy that they can feel close to God without having to infuriate our family as I've done.
    So, thank you. I need to hear that I'm not the only one out there who's made this difficult choice. It was a struggle and the guilt and fear were almost overwhelming sometimes, but it was the right choice for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry your transition has been difficult for your extended family, but I applaud you for the courage it took to stick to your own integrity. I've only known a few United Methodists, but I've always felt a bit of a kindred spirit with those I've met. May God bless you and your congregation, and continue to shape you into the image of his son, regardless of gender.

      Delete
  18. I am so thankful that I came across this post. As I read some of the comments, I felt like I had so much in common with others who have posted. Some of the things Laura posted were my exact thoughts. I have not left the Church of Christ, yet. But I have been reading, praying & searching for answers. Lately, I have found myself questioning so many things. Is baptism really necessary for salvation? Is instrumental music really unbiblical? When works is so strongly stressed, are we not being told that we can make ourselves holy enough before God, that Christ's blood is not enough to save us, but that we have to "do" things to get to heaven? And are the gifts of the Holy Spirit truly not still evident today? There are so many other questions, but you get my point. I feel like (as others have mentioned), that grace is not taught. I also do not believe that the CoC members are the only ones who will make it to heaven, as they teach. I truly believe that most of the Christians where I attend earnestly believe they are doing what is right and what God wants them to do. However, I also believe that if/when they find out that I want to leave "the church" to attend elsewhere, that they will say that I have turned my back/am no longer saved/destined to hell...
    I have been struggling with so many questions & decisions. I have questions about my questions. I'm so confused on so many things. I have been visiting other churches occasionally (but still attend "my church" regularly enough so that I'm not missed too much). I guess in a way, I am church shopping. The problem is that I seem to find something wrong with every one I visit. I'm coming to the realization that I am very judgmental (goes along with my raising & my current religious affiliation, I guess). It's something I'm praying about & trying to work on. I'm also nervous about actually leaving the CofC. What if I don't find something else? And I know I will have friends who will disassociate themselves when I'm no longer a member of the church. Please keep me in your prayers, that I will obey God's will & find the church where I can best serve Him. And thank you for this post & your replies to previous posters as well. It has helped encourage me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had to chuckle at "I'm coming to the realization that I am very judgmental (goes along with my raising and my current religious affiliation, I guess)." I can completely sympathize. I wrestle with that too.

      Leaving the C of C is a major decision, and just because it was right for me doesn't mean it will be right for you. That having been said, I think you're on the right track looking for a church were you can best serve God. For me, that is a key issue. It's not about what the church gives you, but what you are allowed to give God and others through your church. This is why I think so many people are leaving the C of C, especially women. They simply aren't allowed to give their gifts away, which is why God gave them to us in the first place.

      Hang in there. Keep searching. You'll be in my thoughts and prayers. God bless.

      Delete
  19. First thank you for your courage and this blog. I am a son of COC preacher . My Dad gave me the book Muscle and Shovel 3 weeks ago and I feel lead to write. I believed without question all tenants of our faith and was thankful I attended the true church. I did suffer in fear that I would sin and not know it, die without being forgiven and be in Hell for eternity. I enjoyed Sunday morning sermons on how all the other churches down the road were filled with false teachers and how we must tell them they were going to Hell, of course in Love. One day a so called friend gave me a book called Campbellism written by a man name Ross. Of course I was offended and yes I read it, 3 times. I did what the COC had taught me, study for myself!. I examined each verse and scripture that are our the main tenants of our faith, sought to see if there might me other interpretations of each. It is difficult to change long held beliefs, very hard. I took six years, hard to face family and friends uh Elders. Freedom, that's what it feels like, Grace is freedom. No one and I mean no one has ever asked me where I went to church before I joined the church where God has lead me worship Him, no one, The correct church membership isn't important for your salvation. Now for the post I just read above, go to Faith Facts: questions for COC members, ( they are very kind) and 100 times salvation is mentioned without water baptism. My family did not withdraw from me as my fruits bear witness of Christ who lives in me. "Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened". Thomas Smith

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Although I'm going to take it out of context here, I love Paul's line "It is for freedom that Christ has set you free." Grace is freedom...exactly. I'm glad your family did not cut ties with you. neither did mine, which has made my own journey much easier than it could have been.

      Thank you for commenting, Thomas, and God bless.

      Delete
    2. Hi Thomas, thanks for sharing your story. I'd like if you can help with the book "Campbellism by Bob .L. Ross" where i can download the e-version for free?? would really appreciate

      Delete
  20. Are we still so wrapped up in legalism that we can't even leave our denomination without some right path/wrong path rational for it? Most just cannot leave because of any sort of need to just move on. We must find some deeply spiritual reason for it. The same reason most stay is the reason others leave: "Those people just don't get it right." I have long ago changed my spiritual/religious affiliation, but I still consider Church of Christ to be my spiritual footprint. I have just changed paths (Buddhist/Christian).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your thoughts. Choice requires a degree of judgment. I know judgment is considered a bad word these days, but making any decision requires discernment, a moment of "this path is better." For you that has been to transition into a Buddhist/Christian belief system, which means you decided that was "better." It as a rationalization, which is not necessarily the same as legalism. I completely agree that "getting it right" is a motivation for many, many people, but sometimes it is also a matter of health, purpose, and the desire to serve as God has gifted individuals to serve. This is not legalism, but a discipleship. It makes me sad certain ways of being Christian have become so entrenched in people's thinking that the only way to leave legalism behind is to leave Christianity. In that regard (pushing people to make that choice), the Church has absolutely failed in its calling. I think that in some ways, all the reflected discussions that have happened in the comments here are created by Christians wrestling with how heal and move forward from that failure. I wish them all luck, seeing as I am wrestling with the same questions.

      Delete
  21. I am so glad to run across this. I am a Baptist who married into a CoC family. Their wish was to convert me to CoC, but I cannot join a church when I don't agree with all if their beliefs/teachings. My husband and is family are very staunch CoC members who strongly believe the only way to Heaven is to join "the one true church". Because I stand firm in my faith, this really didn't bother me until we became parents. My family does not brainwash my daughter and teach her that the Baptist Church is the only way to Heaven, because we don't believe that. I have friends in other denominations and don't doubt their salvation for a moment. The problem is that my husband's family will not rest until they try to convince my daughter that my church is bad and that she must not be a part of it. I have even found some papers that my uncle (who married into a CoC family and is now an elder in the church) gave my husband when our daughter was born. It is basically several pages of scripture to share with her when she is older to convince her that she must join CoC if she wants to go to Heaven. She is now seven years old and already can tell there is a major differences in our churches. She has even told me she knows that my husband and his family don't think you can be a Christian if you don't join their church. Believe it or not, my husband does go to church with me (we alternate Sundays) but he will not participate in the service in any way. I really don't want my daughter to grow up with their attitudes and believing that others are going to hell because they belong to a denomination other than the CoC. I really don't know what to do about this situation other than pray. Your blog post does give me hope. I applaud you for following your heart and Thee Lord.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. kdm1974,

      I'm sorry it has taken me so long to reply to your comment. I've been busily finishing up some papers for school. I'm sorry you find yourself in your present situation. I'm lucky in that although my in-laws are C of C, they have been extremely supportive of me and my family leaving Cs of C. I think the best thing you could do is take an active role in your daughter's development as a Christian. Try not to be reactive, but rather mentor and teach. Let your daughter tell you her doubts, concerns, and questions. You're support will be more important than your answers. Not that you're thoughts don't matter, but how they are communicated can help your daughter process what she is experiencing. God bless, and I wish you luck.

      Delete
  22. bj, hello. i'm catholic and read you post with interest. god bless you on your journey. you mention the "authority" of scripture. where is that in scripture? doug

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Doug,

      Two things: First, I should clarify how I use the word "authority." Second, where is that in Scripture.

      As to how I use the world authority, I am not a biblicist. By that I mean I do not adhere to the principle that the Bible is inerrant. The Bible is not dictated to us, but rather is interpreted by the Church. So when I refer to the authority of the Bible, I am not assuming the Bible is simply a rule book or blueprint telling us how to live our lives. That having been said, even the Catholic Church refers to the Bible as "canon." I like that idea, that Scripture acts as a measuring stick, something with which to measure ourselves and see if we are still living as God has called us to live. In that sense it is authoritative. It provides a standard for right living (orthodoxy and orthopraxy) as Christians.

      Of course, this does not directly address your question: where is that in Scripture? Honest answer...it's not. It's in Church tradition. The closest thing we can get to in Scripture is where Paul says that all Scripture is "God-breathed" (II Timothy 3:16). There's plenty of debate as to what that means, which I won't bore you with now. Humbly I must admit that as a Protestant, a large part of how I understand the authority of Scripture is inherited from the Reformation, specifically Luther, although I would personally push back against his idea of sola scriptura. Scripture does not exist in isolation from Church tradition or the present, practical reality in which the Church finds itself.

      Anyhow, I don't know if any of this is exactly what you were looking for when you asked your question. Thank you for your comment and question.

      Delete
  23. Thanks for blogging about your experiences with and opinions about the Church of Christ. You mention being a bit confused about why people would consider the CoC to be a cult. While that issue is a bit debatable, I hope that you agree that some groups that have come out of the CoC are cults, namely, the International Church of Christ led by Kip McKean and his newer version, the International Christian Churches. These combine the theology of the CoC with extreme measures of control over every aspect of members' lives. Hard to get more cultish than that. Thankfully, it sounds like your version is a much healthier one. I hope you never have to come into contact with the mutated varieties - they can mess you up. God bless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, some groups that have broken from the CoC have been a good bit on the cultish side, if not blatantly there. No argument there. However, the Catholic Church isn't a cult just because the inquisition was insane. My only point above is that the CoC is not de facto a cult. Personally, I've known a handful of people that have had dealings with the Boston Movement, in its past and present form, and you're right. They can mess you up.

      Delete
  24. http://alfredeaker.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/matthew-myer-boulton-sounding-the-death-knoll-for-indianas-progressive-seminary-christian-theological-seminary-2/

    ReplyDelete
  25. I just found your site and read it...I left the church of Christ after being the child of a COC preacher and having gone to DLC, etc....I am now 72 years old and have been fearful litterally all my life of "hell" which I heard so much as a child. I know I have made many mistakes and one family member (bro-in-law) is a well know preacher in COC came into my family at my age 12 and also put this same fear into me. I don't remember ever hearing the word "grace" in my church...I know that is the only hope of anyone and wish I could have heard that in my formative years. thanks for your article.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I was with Crossroads COC in Gainesville, FL in the 80's during high school and later up to years after high school, college and working. Then joined the Army and was stationed at Fort Sill, OK near Lawton. There I was with NW COC for 4 months.

    Anyway being with Crossroads COC was a mixed bag. If you had a few friends who had a deep understanding of the scriptures and were not legalistic about it, and not caught up in the controlling aspects is misapplied discipleship methods you were okay. I learned this from experience since the brother who shared Christ with me in the beginning already knew the scriptures before moving to Gainesville and joining Crossroads. We had great fellowship. The singing was great. We learned a lot. But while there I began to question a lot of things since the brotherhood was very critical of the whole Crossroads/Boston movement. And that is when I met a new guy who placed membership who graduated from Bear Valley and Whites Ferry Road schools of ministry.

    He cleared some things up for me...like total commitment. He boiled that down to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. By this time we were sick of the arrogance we heard behind the pulpit. I was so sick of it I was visiting other COC. Some brothers were saying, "your commitment to Christ won't be as effective in another congregation" was the type of thing I heard. So I was convinced it is not a sin to join the Army and I will be stationed where God places me.

    LOL, before that I read books on the Restoration Movement. One of them was the "Stone/Campbell Movement." I was so glad to read up on this history. This was all before leaving Crossroads. And by the time I left I had an understanding of the Bible to learn on my own as God led me. And enough to agree and disagree on certain things about Crossroads. Being with a mainline COC was not so strange to me.

    Long story short after being with NW COC I brought a friend of mine from Ft. Sill and it was the first time he was ever in any church since he was maybe 3 years old. He was agnostic. And the minister had to preach on instrumental music, something I studied on my own with and did not totally agree with COC view to ban it and make a test of fellowship. I knew the Independent Christian Church in Gainesville and Ocala, FL and they seemed alright to me. I really had enough. I signaled to Jay for us to leave and we did. I later went to Western Hills CC and surprisingly Jay went with me. It took nine months but once he had faith in Christ he did not waste any time and became a Christian. His family didn't agree with him, but he did anyway. Upon finishing the Army he went to Ozark Christian College.

    Years later I'm with Calvary Chapel and have been for a number of years since they teach the books of the Bible context and chapter by chapter 99% of the time. Some topical, mostly expositional. And I see a big difference and an entire congregation full of people who have a deep understanding of the scriptures, more solid fruit in our own lives, and college students who don't drop out but mature in their faith. It's the fruit that matters and a true love for God and His people.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Is it possible to transition children/teens from COC to a non-denominational church? My husband and I would like to take his sons to Church on the Move with us when they visit twice a month, but when we tried years ago when they were much younger (they are all now teenagers) it was pretty traumatic for them. Is it something we should even try?

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hello, I'm very disappointed in what happened with your experience with the Church of Christ BJ. To clarify a few things, Paul instructed Timothy, in 1Timothy2:11-13 why a woman is not to preach,teach, or lead any sort of areas of worship/class with MEN. That's why the girls, were not allowed to do that. Simply put, that's how God made things. And, I for one, will not question Him...but I understand why it's such a heated topic. The Church of Christ has no issue with women teach,preaching to other women. But Paul made it very clear about conduct with a men/women. As for interpretations, as a history major i can clarify where it is the Church of Christ get their "true" meanings. and that's from three languages, Arabic(Musselman), Hebrew(the Jew), and Greek(while under roman rule). God made things very simple, and very specific in the Bible. And I am by no means demeaning any other gender or such. But the Bible says...what the Bible says. And we take it like that. Please be careful out there in the world BJ, and everyone. And make sure you are not practicing the "..Doctrine of Devils". Jesus loves you all. I will try to answer any questions or concerns as best I can.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for this and i understand your point on the 1Timothy 2:11-13, but i will implore you to read "I SUFFER NOT A WOMAN" a book by Richard and Catherine Kroeger. I know how much the Cs O C go into historical church traditions. I believe we'll understand why Paul instructed Timothy so and in what context. Thanks

      Delete
  29. I left Church of Christ at 40 years old. That was six years ago. I lost everyone when I left. My parents, sister, extended family, lifelong friends. Literally everyone. Once a lifer, always a lifer--until your behind is warming a seat while your heart goes dead and cold--and then you have no choice. The road has been long and hard. Our entire support group was obliterated overnight. Turns out the people who said they would love us forever, only loved us as long as we did what they told us to do.
    My marriage suffered a lot, as did my relationship with my kids, but with a lot of therapy, and a lot of grace and love for each other, we've stayed together and are moving forward as one. We do go to another church (truly non-denominational) but I stay clear of all groups or social ties. My kids, on the other hand, are fully connected with their youth group and are doing great. If it was up to me, I would never go to another church again, but I promised myself long ago, that the bitterness I struggle with, is not going to be put on my kids. So far, so good. And like I said, I still go to church, and think it's a great place full of some really good people. But there isn't one part of me, that will ever put my entire life into another group like that again. I don't know about every C of C out there, but I do know that the one my family came from was a cult. Shunning, disowning, and using fear to control people is kind of a hallmark of that. Even so, one of the things that I still have really great memories of is my youth group. Some of my most treasured friends came from that. Most of us have left C of C, but others are still stuck, afraid of the kind of fallout that me and the ones who went before me received. I also do miss acapella music sometimes. Especially remembering how beautiful it was filling a room. Wish I could forget how many relationships it's been used to destroy.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I left Church of Christ at 40 years old. That was six years ago. I lost everyone when I left. My parents, sister, extended family, lifelong friends. Literally everyone. Once a lifer, always a lifer--until your behind is warming a seat while your heart goes dead and cold--and then you have no choice. The road has been long and hard. Our entire support group was obliterated overnight. Turns out the people who said they would love us forever, only loved us as long as we did what they told us to do.
    My marriage suffered a lot, as did my relationship with my kids, but with a lot of therapy, and a lot of grace and love for each other, we've stayed together and are moving forward as one. We do go to another church (truly non-denominational) but I stay clear of all groups or social ties. My kids, on the other hand, are fully connected with their youth group and are doing great. If it was up to me, I would never go to another church again, but I promised myself long ago, that the bitterness I struggle with, is not going to be put on my kids. So far, so good. And like I said, I still go to church, and think it's a great place full of some really good people. But there isn't one part of me, that will ever put my entire life into another group like that again. I don't know about every C of C out there, but I do know that the one my family came from was a cult. Shunning, disowning, and using fear to control people is kind of a hallmark of that. Even so, one of the things that I still have really great memories of is my youth group. Some of my most treasured friends came from that. Most of us have left C of C, but others are still stuck, afraid of the kind of fallout that me and the ones who went before me received. I also do miss acapella music sometimes. Especially remembering how beautiful it was filling a room. Wish I could forget how many relationships it's been used to destroy.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Perhaps you stop wandering and focus on being a disciple. Less of self and more of thee. I suggest a book to all of you; "Muscle and a Shovel" by Michael Shank. With love, Kevin Foshee ckfoshee@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hi, I loved this article. My dad's family was/is Church of Christ and they basically believed the only true Christians were in Churches of Christ and that the Church of Christ members are the only ones going to heaven. This type of exclusivism (among other things)led my dad to leave the church and to not want any part of organized religion. He died 31 years ago never having gone back to any church. My grandmother recently wondered if he would be saved on judgment day and I wanted to say "well if he isn't that's partly on you". Seriously the pharisees had nothing on my grandmother (or most Church of Christ members from what I've seen). And another thing I appreciate you acknowledging: you referred to the Church of Christ as a denomination (which it SO is) and that it was established in the 1800s during the Restoration Movement by Alexander Campbell. No COC member I've known would never admit that. They insist that they are not a denomination and that they were the church that was founded in 33 AD and basically every other church is an offshoot of them hence their belief that they are the only ones who will be saved. Some will say "no, the COC was just restored by Campbell" and then in the same breath say that they were founded in 33 AD and were around before the restoration movement. I mean which is it? For it to be restored it would have to have gone away and Jesus said the gates of hell shall not prevail against his church. If it needed to be restored then obviously the gates of hell did prevail against it for a time and thus couldn't have been the one true church. Incidentally "Church of God" appears in scripture more often than "Church of Christ" which only appears once. Clearly, Churches of Christ cherry pick from scripture and to an extent we're all guilty of that but for a group that puts more emphasis on legalism and getting every detail right than they do the atonement and grace (at last from what I've seen) you'd think they would be more mindful of that especially since they teach that salvation is predicated on worshiping a specific way. I can't help but assume most CoC people are willfully ignorant of their own history and common sense is frowned upon. One more thing I kind of like the acapella music but there's nothing wrong with instruments. They say it's wrong because the New Testament doesn't specifically authorize it even though the Old Testament straight up commands it (Psalm 150) so it's obviously not a sin. And there are two possible reasons the NT doesn't specifically authorize it: one, the NT writers presumed a familiarity with the OT on the part of their readers since there was no NT per se at that time since it was in the process of being written and two, maybe it never occurred to the NT writers that there would be a bunch of narrow-minded idiots 2,000 years later making a big deal out of a non-issue. Like I said, I like the acapella music but to say you can't be saved if you worship with instruments is just ridiculous. I also agree that I wouldn't go so far as to call the CoC a cult but they do fit the textbook definition of one, or at least many of them do I'm sure there are exceptions. Have you experienced any of the stuff I've been ranting about? Oh and incidentally the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses sprang out of that same restoration movement and nobody would argue their cult status. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  33. I have not been a member of the non-instrumental Churches of Christ nor will I ever be. Why? Because they got too legalistic over the issue of musical instruments in worship. Besides women may lead worship. That was the case at the church I grew up in. After when my old pastor left is when I became song leader. The church secretary also lead worship but she used the boombox. The Church of Christ I grew up in is instrumental.

    ReplyDelete
  34. PART TWO

    My journey of faith was not from ... not the why I left or ran away from motif ... mine is the journey to the love of God, the love of God imperfectly expressed in 2000 years of imperfect Christian communities in which singular expression of or insight into 'truth' beyond the love of God has always been impossible.

    The last few years as my health has declined and I have found myself 50ish without a physical home in the USA ... I have often wondered what happened to those Churches of Christ folks I used to know who used to speak at length about how 'we care'?

    It has been cards from the Disciples of Christ member now in her 80's who cared enough about me as a 15/16 year old still in high school and taking a university level mathematics course from her as department chair at a United Methodist liberal arts institution ... to begin a life long friendship that is stronger than anything I have known within Churches of Christ. She sent cards and telephoned when I needed to hear 'God is still here through all that life can be.' It is the cards and messages of concern from that Edinburgh United Reformed Church mentioned above that has reminded me 'I am not alone,' even through illness. It is the soon to be 90 year old 'adopted aunt/mother' in Edinburgh who sends hugs and love across the Atlantic to me through emails from her daughter in Switzerland. She began her life faith journey in the UK Churches of Christ (Disciples) and with her late husband embraced the merger of UK Church of Christ (Disciples) into the United Reformed Church.

    Over the last two years, it has been a Disciples Christ clergy friend who asked 'how can I help you?' It is the child of Churches of Christ now serving as a priest in the Episcopal Church and an amazingly gifted young PCUSA minister who one wants to visit Iona and Mull who cared enough to ask if I needed help on evenings I didn't know what to do or to whom to turn.

    I learned that while I had 'been there for all kinds of folks' ... other than aging parents ... there wasn't anyone Churches of Christ related there for me when I couldn't help myself.

    Yes ... this is after I had 'officially left' and in the minds/exact words recently overheard being said about me ... 'gone off the deep end' ... and, yes, my tolerance for that kind of 'real hatred of me,' especially in sickness ... I have no tolerance for it ... no intention of ever being associated with it again ...

    Take heart younger man and others who read this ... I still love and respect those I used to serve in Churches of Christ ... I still respect the now retired Churches of Christ faculty members who befriended and mentored me in Texas in my early 20s ... several of whom visited me in an out-of-the-way West African location to be a part of the amazing good done on those 'scared to me' village acres.

    AND ... most important ...
    I also love without judgement all other people excluded by the language of 'the church,' 'the Lord's church,' and every other way people use that which is to embody love embracing the creation as that which excludes, deludes, and makes unwelcome.

    If this post offends, encourages, or even entertains ... it is being written on yet another night of insomnia after having taken my evening meds routine of eight meds. I really am that unwell and graciously grateful for those very few who were God's love for me over the last two years.

    West African Christian proverb:
    Owo are Abasi Ono owo.
    SOMEONE IS GOD TO SOMEONE.

    ReplyDelete
  35. PART ONE
    Thank you for sharing what can be more than difficult for many. By reading your comments, I am reminded of having been the 17 year old child of non-institutional churches of Christ who explored the Church of England and Church of Scotland roots of his family in the USA through a small liberal arts university's local Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) when the local Church of Christ actually told the shy University freshman who had already completed undergraduate courses at a different small liberal arts University before completing high school ... I was told ... "we don't pay attention to students; they are too transient." One of my family lineages has deep roots in the Stone-Campbell movement. Another lineage is more closely related to Scotland and another includes a grandmother who was a member of the Church of England. At 17, I knew my Stone-Campbell history well and ... learned about the love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness of God in worship from the Book of Common Prayer, Hymns Ancient and Modern, the Book of Common Worship, and the PCUSA hymnal. At age 19, my undergraduate small liberal arts university President asked where I was planning to pursue graduate work, I named ... Neither he nor my undergraduate University had any Stone-Campbell Movement connections. He asked me, 'Are you certain you really want to go there? You can go anywhere you want.' I answered, 'yes. I want to serve others in ministry.' At age 20, I moved to wesr to 'pursue a Master's.' Over a several year sojourn there, I attended the 8 am service in a primarily faculty and students Church of Christ and then the 11 am service at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) where I was warmly welcomed and where I experienced a community of faith that would inspire me. The shy, thin, very soft spoken 20 year old went on to serve a USA Church of Christ, a Church of Christ in England, a West African theological college, a Church of Scotland Parish Church in Edinburgh while its minister was serving as moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, a United Reformed Church (URC) congregation as the URC chaplain to the University of Edinburgh (that congregation is the ongoing congregation to which Alexander Campbell preached on his 'return to Scotland' in 'an upper room' across the street from Old College, University of Edinburgh) ... and was received into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as clergy after returning to USA. I 'pursued at PhD' in Edinburgh ...
    and ... and ...
    LONG PAUSE ... when I returned to the USA after many years in West Africa ... I no longer was the young man ... I no longer could accept paradigms, paradigm shift explanations of 'wait for change' ... rejected the multiple narrative discourses of identity, place, and ... and ... I could no longer be that which God 'created and declared good to serve others in compassionate love' and remain in Churches of Christ. I do not fault those who can and do. Like you, I kept hope for many years that 'the church' would change. Unlike you, I witnessed the inclusion of women and choral music and an 'older congregation' that had quietly practiced 'open membership.'

    ReplyDelete
  36. PART THREE

    My apology that these posts are out of sequence. They were written in order but this website provider limits the number of characters per post, and the cell phone I am using has an auto correct that 'wrongs' more often than 'rights.' If you and your wife would like to make a new friend who has already journeyed 'down a similar road a few more miles' ... reply back with an email address. There are many of us who have made our to the Disciples of Christ, the Episcopal Church, and PCUSA. And, yes, as clergy. During my Texas years, a group of us formed a continuing chapter of the Campbell Institute. If you are not familiar with it, explore a Disciples of Christ history, and you will more fully appreciate.

    The journey of life through faith often often takes us to where we never imagined possible ... I long for improved health, a time when those who have never married are truly welcome in Stone-Campbell ministry serving churches in the USA, and the rule of God's love on earth rather than a message of 'just get it right, do it right, believe it right' with the future 'pie in the sky when you die' to justify all of the ... that isn't God'compassionate embrace for the creation.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I didn't read all the comments so pardon me if I'm redundant.

    Despite all their protestations at being a denomination, in reality they are. They may not function with a heavy-handed bureaucracy but there are definite parameters and metrics by which things are judged... and in some cases that's tradition, not Scripture.

    That said, there's a lot about the CofC that I appreciate. I don't agree with some of their interpretations of Scripture and would break ranks with them in the realm of hermeneutics, even basic epistemology. Nevertheless, there's a right zeal that I've encountered and the fact that they believe they are standing on Scripture... that's a starting point. If we can agree that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, then there's hope.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I grew up and became a Christian in the church of Christ and I count it as a blessing. Attended Blue Haven Church Camp and LCU. I had many good spiritual formation times as I learned the Bible. However, learning the Bible through one set of eyes doesn't necessarily mean you really understand scripture in its fullest or richest sense nor does it mean you love the Lord with all your heart. If there is one negative that probably the cofC taught me in my youth was "Right doctrine and right practice on Sunday morning means right relationship with God". I started searching for something deeper. I started attending a "progressive" congregation in the early 90's in the Dallas, TX area and started listening to Christian radio especially one that offered a large range of solid evangelical teachers from across the denominational landscape. R.C. Sproul, Chuck Smith, and J. Vernon McGee (truly on of my faves) etc and the one thing that struck me despite some of their differences. They had a solid grasp of who Jesus was, what the scriptures basically meant and they were encouraging me in my faith on a daily basis. They weren't calling me to be Reformed or to even be a Calvary Chapel Christian. They were preaching Christ and what it mean to follow him. My knowledge of the Bible taught me that the "Unspiritual man does not understand the things of God"...Hmmm..so it stands to reason that if they understand the truly spiritual things then they have the holy Spirit and a love of the truth! Wow! Then also, that means they are also..gasp...part of the body of Christ! Flawed men, yes, completely 100% accurate? No, but who is? Led by the Spirit, teaching with the Gifts that god had given them. This also meant examining my own faith and my own devotion to Christ and my own Theology and theological constructs. God had already started to point my own pointing fingers back at me saying start looking at your own devotion and your own love for me before you go picking at others you disagree with. We, as humans, tend to set our theological idols up and take great pride in them..these are everywhere..c o C, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, you name it BUT, what counts, as Scripture says, is "faith, expressing itself through love"...And so I learned through the Scriptures and leading of the Holy Spirit, that there are in all Christian gatherings, no matter where you go, people of good faith as brother Fudge says, who are devoted, Bible believing Christians who love the Lord and led by the HOly spirit who differ from me. In a sense, MY denominational walls fell. I have been a part of and member of several Baptist churches, Calvary Chapels, non-denominational congregations and currently a member of a Nazarene Congregation that I absolutely adore where the teaching is rock solid. Are there areas where we disagree, absolutely but you know, we Love each other on the basis that truly matters, that of Christ and his sacrifice for us. Getting to basic faith in Christ is just the start. It's like the old method of teaching people to dance with paper feet on the floor. At some point you have to actually go out and dance. My whole mother's side of my family is cofC and I count some of my best friends are still part of it. I think it has changed for the better as it sees itself as a part of American Protestantism and the Evangelical community. "No man is an Island" Neither is any distinctive group of Christians. We all have colored theological glasses we inherited somewhere and it's important to know and examine them with humility to indeed see if we are "in the truth"..the problem I grew up is we didn't think we had any glasses..."we just taught the Bible"...I am in a better place..it has it's difficulties but my life would be so much poorer if God hadn't opened up my eyes and torn down my denominational walls...I have been so richly blessed. Grateful for where I came from but also grateful for where I have been and am going...

    ReplyDelete
  39. I was raised in the Church of Christ and my grandfather was an devoted elder in several congregations. As I entered into my teenage years, I quit going to church. My grandfather (living about 200 miles away) always wanted me to come see him and study and get saved and baptized. He never got that wish as cancer developed in his body and he was given 6 months to live. I was 19 years old and visiting him at his home about 1 week before he passed away. When it was time for me to go home, both of us seemed to realized it was the last time we would see each other here on Earth. He gripped my hand and I told him I would be alright. After he passed I spent my next 10 years binge drinking and battling depression. I met a truck driver at my work while I was unloading trucks. He was a Baptist preacher and little did I realize he was "working on me" for a few months. He led me to say the Lord's Prayer and I was Baptized in a Church of Christ. I never found a "church home" as I visited several congregations. Not long after that I was clean of cigarettes and alcohol 100 percent. It was not until after that point I met my soon to be wife who was Assembly Of God faith. When she brought me to her church service I wanted to bolt out the door. Anointing with oil, raising of hands and many other "odd" things I never experienced. Once my grandmother found out my girlfriend was not COC she told me I need to convert her before she converts me. She pointed out several "key" scriptures out to me and was very concerned and upset I was going to another type of church. I kindly asked my grandmother, "Are you saying if I am not Church of Christ I'm going to hell?". She never said yes, but she said I must follow scripture. I was so torn because my father,mother and Grandmother seemed against me. I was debating breaking up with her, but I continued to sit and observe what the Assembly of God Pastor was telling us and doing. I looked it up and ALL of it was in scripture. One night I had a dream and I saw my late Grandfather looking at me and smiling. He stated "Son, it's not the name on the building that matters, it's whats in your heart". We have been married over 13 years now with two wonderful kids. God has blessed our family and by the way.......I looked and looked and never been able to find/contact that special "preacher" of Angel?

    ReplyDelete