Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Traditionalism in the Church

One of my favorite musicals is the Fiddler On The Roof. I love the song that is sung throughtout the movie, "traditon". The father is questioning the traditions of his religion, family, faith, and community. Is tradition a bad thing? No. Can it be? Yes. Is tradition in worship a bad thing? No. Can it be? Yes. When tradition becomes the absolute or is as if its ordaned by God it is a bad thing. When tradition becomes law and strips away the heart that God desires of his people, it is a bad thing.
I personally find it interesting that you can walk into a "conservative" (I hate those terms or labels) church of Christ and know what the worship format is going to be. It will consist of usually: 2 songs, prayer, 1 song, communion, 1 song, sermon, invitation song, announcements, closing song, closing prayer. Anything wrong with that format? No. But when it becomes the absolute then it is wrong. For example when you sing 3 songs and a prayer and the song leader gets jumped on because of the change. That is wrong. That is when traditionalism over rules what God desires.
I have also find it interesting that "progressive" churches of Christ who have tried to break away from traditionalism within the church but in their own way have created a traditional format of expectations of worship. You can walk into any "progressive" church of Christ and the worship format is going to be a Welcome, congregational reading of scripture, 4 praise songs (all members standing) prayer, 2 songs, communion talk, communion, songs during communion, shorter sermon, invitation song, announcments, closing song, shephards prayer. Is their anyting wrong with that format? No. But when tradition becomes the focus then it is wrong.
As Christians we need to remember it is God that we are worshiping. God is the focus. God is the reason. Traditionalism can make us loose our focus. Traditionalism can make us loose the heart of the worship. Worship becomes empty. Even in "progressive" churches.
How has the devil used traditionalism to divide the chruch?
Why have we let tradition divide the church?
What can we do to have healthy view of worship?


Blogger Velcro said...

I heard it said once that, "Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living!"

When we base our salvation upon traditions, that's where we go wrong. (although some who believe differently from mainstream C of C, would consider the Lord's Supper and Water Baptism symbols of tradition. While not bad in themselves, making them the point of our salvation could be considered traditionalism.) I'm not saying I believe this way, only that it could be an argument worth defining the correct definition of traditionalism.

This is a good post. I've added you to my VIP List, because your posts are refreshing.

4:21 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

I love the quote.
Wow. That is greatly put.
Thank you for your comments and adding me to your VIP List.

10:17 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I like your blog!

A group of us were talking about this very thing on Sunday morning at my church. I believe that God is wanting us all to be lead by Him in all things, even on Sunday mornings. =)

You are so right in all that you said!

11:33 PM  
Blogger Adam Crawford said...

Thanks for the visit and comment, preacherman. That US/Italy game was out of control! I was so angry/disappointed/satisfied/hopeful/etc. after that game. It all comes down to today! Ultimately, I think Brazil still has a couple levels yet to show us, but when they do, no one will beat them. I read through your blog and I appreciate your posts, thought provoking. Good Blog!

9:44 AM  
Blogger Soren said...


I've enjoyed perusing your blog.


Mike Kjergaard

10:14 AM  
Blogger Larry said...

We're all basically creatures of habit, and enjoy doing things in safe, comfortable, and easy to understand ways.

Many churches have been following the same well-worn "church service" format for decades, and many of these people have become dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists that will not accept anything new, or repackaged in an unfamiliar way.

One elderly woman jumped the elders following the Lord's supper because the lace tablecloth that had always been on the communion table was missing one morning. Someone had took the tablecloth home to wash and had forgot to return it. The elders received quite an ear full from this indignant woman.

One way to keep things from becoming rock-solid tradition is simply to change the preceedings often enough to confuse the masses. Of course the preacher could appear occasionally wearing Bermudas, a bright red Bullwinkle t-shirt, and sporting first century Christian sandals. :)

11:30 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

Preacherman, Thanks for you comments on my blog. I have Abilene ties as well (I was the youth minister at UCC for five years). Thanks for your thoughts. I'll join in from time to time.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Gary W. Kirkendall said...

Very Good Post -- I once saw a sign by the road on an Alaska highway. It read, "Choose your rut carefully -- you'll be in it for the next 200 miles". Ruts happen and will continue as long as we live. But it seems to me that the reality of the ruts are not the problem. We create our own problems when we beleive our ruts arebetter thananyone else's!!

2:14 PM  
Blogger Danny said...

Great post- especially recognizing that traditionalism is not just for traditionalists.

2:56 PM  
Blogger "George" said...

I don't always agree with it, but the spirit of this quotation fits what you have written: "Tradition without reason is but ancient error." Right on, brother!

11:16 PM  
Blogger Velcro said...

What Larry said is so true and brings back memories for me (sounding like an old fogie now).

At one time I led worship for the church I was attending. I tried to keep the worship as blended as possible from contemporary stuff to hymns.

After service, an older lady said, "Why don't you lead worship with ALL the original songs?"

I should've bit my tongue, but didn't. I responded, "I don't know which key David played Psalm 22 in."

But isn't that really what it's about? When you focus so much on traditions and order of service, all things are relative. At one point in time, I'm sure that hymns were the "New Thing" that broke away from the original at one point in church history

9:50 AM  
Blogger Velcro said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Velcro said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Danny Sims said...

Thanks for the prayers for my dad.

The quote is from Yarolslav Pelikan. He wrote Vindication of Tradition.

We have little problem with innovation of material things (no one drives to church in a horse & buggy, unless they're Amish). It's innovation of thought and life that bothers us so much. One key is to think of God as still creating, which is a strecth for some folks...

7:39 AM  
Blogger Katherine said...

Hey Kinney,

Thanks so much for your post on my blog-there are a lot of wonderful things going on and coming out of LCU, and it is wonderful to see!! Looks like we have more than one connection-with LCU and Abilene. I really do feel so blessed to be a part of the communities of LCU and ACU-I love it!!

I know Jarvis-he rocks!! I always remember him from Encounter-especially when he and Fraze would teach a class-those were always awesome.

I enjoy reading your blog and really appreciate this post-there is so much truth in what you are saying, and it can be really frustrating-it is just hard to balance the idea of tradition and what God ultimately wants us to do. I hope we can stay focused on Him and worship Him alone!!

Thanks again for your comments and thoughts-may God continue to bless you as you serve Him!!

5:21 PM  
Blogger Mike Exum said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog. You are always welcome. I appreciate visitors, especially those who let me know what they are thinking...

I read your profile a little. Rocksprings sounds nice, but it sounds like a sleepy little church. I am wondering how God might overthrow the empires of this world and bring His Kingdom rule through a little bunch like RockSprings. I figure someone's got to preach in places like that, and I have done a bit of it myself, but I think I'd go nuts doing it for long.

I think the whole tradition v. traditionalism stuff is nice, but who really cares? I mean, North Korea has nukes, while the US is over extended in Iraq (who does not), and the church is talking about our order-of-worship? I don't mean to argue the politics per se here, but just to put the politics on once side of the balance and the order-of-worship on the other and see which one has weight. Judging by the response from CNN, NBC, ABC, FOX NEWS, NY Times, WSJ, and even the Lubbock Avalanch Journal, our traditions are not making much of an impact no matter where you stand with them.

And I could fill up your comment space with tons of exegetical thoughts on how important worship is for the life and redemption of Creation (look at Brueggemann's ISREAL"S PRAISE for more), but that is not the point being discussed.

Hey, I don't mean to be offensive or overblown here, really. And I apologize if my thoughts come off that way. And I am searching myself. I do not claim to have all the answers to my own concerns. But the same old same old is just the same old same old, and I am tired of it. How about we unite the churches and and bear the image of God rather than our fractured squabbles, and see what God does with that? I literally can sing 2 songs and pray and one song etc..., but I won't. I wont do that stupid dance anymore. And its not because I think its wrong. And I wont not do it because I think not doing it is more wrong. Instead, I will eat bugs on the fringe, wear funny clothes, and preach off color sermons and invite my drug addict/prostitute friend, Elizabeth, to church with me and even bring her a pillow to stretch out on the pew during the sermon and sleep through it with, if she will come. And if that blows the minds of my traditional (and anti traditional) bros and sis's then SO BE IT! At least I will have started a lost sheep on the road back to the sheep fold.

And if I can inspire my rich white bros and sis's to sell one of their cars, sell their fine homes on the glitzy side of town, take all the money they save in mortgages and property taxes etc. pool their resources and begin buying run down fixer uppers on the wrong side of the tracks, move there and invite poor black, white, hispanic and otherwise rejected children to live with them and transform that side of town into something the United States has never seen, then I will have done something worth talking about. In the mean time, I'll live trying, and praying, and pointing and talking and shouting and prophecying it the best I can.

Please, visit again. You are always welcome. It is me who risks not being welcome.

Many blessings....

9:52 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

Rocksprings is a sleepy town but not a sleep chruch. The church is wonderful, a family, growing, and very much awake or alive and I find what you say insultig.
I have been at serveral churches of Christ and most of them have been bad experiencs. I finally found a group of people who are authentiic with their relationship with God and their faith. Rockspring is denfinately alive and showing God's grace to others in our community. We minister to the poor, needy, sick, discouraged, depressed, and downcast in our community. The church here has been a blessing ot me like no other church and vice versa. There is no place I rather be.
As far as who cares about tradition or not? My point is worshiping God and if we worship God and focus is on him He is going to bless us as his people. We can leave worship of our God and go out and live the Christian life 24/7 outside the building. Making a difference in the communities we are in whether it is invisible people you minister to in the big cities or the lost in the small town.
As far as politics, I find it a dividing line in most churches. If your a demicrate then you can't be a Christian, you have to love Bush, support the war, don't think for yourself. (Kind of sounds like some of the churches that are out there today).
I usually don't talk politics but I do find it interesting that the United States is the only country in the world that has used a nuke against another country. We do have nukes and we are telling others that they can't. Would we as Americans let in weapons inspectors into the U.S. and dissarm? Seems like we don't practice what we preach in politics or religion.
My point is that those within churches should understand that our focus should be God not our traditions or format of worship. Both progressive and conservative churches need to understand that worship is all about God. Christianity is all about Him. As Paul says, "It is no longer I but Christ." As we remember that when we worship God will give us the strength to go out of the building and make a difference for the Kingdom.
I believe if Paul were with us today he would write, "There is neither male or female, democrate, republican, rich, poor, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Arab, American, Iranian, for we are all one in Christ Jesus."
As you continue your searching may I suggest a little less pointing and shouting.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Mike Exum said...


As I suspected, my words would stirr up a defense. I knew I was risking offense and polarity as I typed them. I even apologized if I was offensive or overblown. It seems that this, if it is not in fact too late, is a good time to affirm our brotherhood in Jesus. I claim Him as my Lord. I have no doubt you do as well. And that is all I need to claim you as a brother. I am wrong if I mistreat you.

Further, the church at Rockspring is the body I belong to, the Church, the assembly of God. I am part of the body as are you and Rockspring. I take insulting the church very seriously. And so I don’t do it. Thus I argue with you that I did in fact not insult you or the church in my remarks, harsh though I agree they were.

Please go look at my remarks again carefully. Notice that I stated Rocksprings “sounds like a sleepy church…” It was a statement of my perception. I did not pronounce it to be sleepy. You may suggest that I could have made that more clear to you the first time, and that is an error on my part. I could have. I apologize. However, I went on to state that I wonder how “God might overthrow the empires of this world and bring His Kingdom rule through a little bunch like RockSprings.” The intention was that you might demonstrate a good answer to that wondering. Your response was vague platitudes. I trust that there are specific case stories you might back them up with rather than just the platitudes. I would love to hear them.

Rather than finding insult that was not in fact put into the remarks (I called no one names, I pronounced no ill judgments, etc) I suggest you found a wake up call. And since, in my estimation, though you or any of your readers may find the point arguable, I have never found a church, certainly not a church of Christ, in America that is awake to the coming Kingdom of God, I would have expected you to be able to tell me just when Rocksprings woke up – if in fact they have. Is there even one person at Rocksprings that has sold all they have and given it to the church or poor? The whole church in the Bible did. How about where you go? No one ever has where I go. Has anyone in your church ever gone to jail for Jesus? They haven’t where I go. But of course that is the big stuff. Too big to really talk about, and when we do, we always find some way of softening it so that it looks like what we already do. That is homogenization. And the church in America has been thoroughly co-opted by the culture. We are no threat to it; we are it. And I wonder how things are different at Rocksprings. Especially when you are chewing on how to arrange songs in a worship service etc.

Let’s ask some easier questions and see how we do. Because like you, I love the church where I go. It is Vandelia Church of Christ in Lubbock, TX. There are wonderful people here that love God and each other (which is enough to hang everything else on, btw). They do not have big hang ups on piano worship etc. They extend the hand of fellowship to Methodists, Baptists, Pentacostals and Catholics. In fact, Vandelia is the greatest church experience I have ever had in my life, and I have had plenty. They outshine every single church I have ever visited (my opinion to be sure) in every way hands down, and I can give TONS of case history, names and dates to demonstrate this over and over again. And yet, we sleep, most of the time. No one has yet banked on God’s Kingdom Come with everything they’ve got –including me!

And so, I find myself, my brothers, my “church” a sleep and talking about our traditions or Creation v. Evolution, or how gracious God is instead of demanding etc. and tons of good stuff too. And then we pack up, get in our air-condition SUV’s, drive down to the local restaurant, eat, go home to our easy chairs & football games or play golf, getting fatter the whole time, and then ask God to bless our 401k’s and the college funds for our kids so they can grow up and be as well off as us. And for what? How is that life not really selfish? How is that life not really distracting from being salt and light and carrying our own cross and following Jesus?

Here’s a good question: How many times do you and your church in a single worship service ask God to “Keep us SAFE.” “Some one is traveling today, God, Keep them safe…” Some one is having surgery tomorrow, Keep them SAFE” “We thank you God that we live in a country where we can worship You unmolested, where we are SAFE” Where would we be if the NT church prayed that way? “Dear God in Heaven, Peter is slated for crucifixion tomorrow at dawn…Keep him SAFE!” What a crock. That is not even biblical. The church in ACTS asked God to make them BOLD instead. We need BOLDNESS, not homogenization and safety. I need it, you need it preacherman, if you want to speak for God, you need some BOLDNESS.

Now, I have not questioned your validity as a preacher or a church or as Christians in anyway. I have called you brother(s) instead. Hear me carefully. I am critiquing from within. I am you as much as you are. But I got this message: WAKE UP! The Kingdom of God is at hand. It is a radical thing. Mountains are moved, low places raised, crooked made straight, water is walked on and THE DEAD RISE! Let go of the whole tradition thing. Sell what you got and give it to the poor and follow Jesus! God is comin’. Get ready.

The only other moral I can think to offer is be careful who you invite to visit your blog. I came because I was invited. I do not go pushing people around willy nilly. You put up this post and asked folks to comment on it. These are my thoughts. They are harsh. But not insulting.

Perhaps you might argue with my remarks. Perhaps they should be argued. I do not claim to be a no-it-all. I certainly do not claim to be better than you or anyone else. I just shout and point and say WAKE UP!

I won’t continue to harass you either. If we can still be friends, then please come to my blog and say so. If you still find my remarks out of line, then rest assured I will not keep offering them unwanted.

Many blessings…

2:54 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

thank you for visiting my blog! =)

4:51 PM  
Blogger Josh Yaeger said...

Preacherman, thanks for visiting my blog and giving me a comment. I very much appreciate it. As for your discussion on traditonalism, I find it interesting. I agree with the largest part of it. I personally have found spontaneous group worship to be most powerful. When I am driving my church bus to and from area wides, and the kids suddenly break out in song. OR when I was in college on camps and retreats and we would take a midnight stroll together and stop somewhere and sing and pray. Wow! Talk about powerful. No traditions, just pure worship, no strings attached. Sometimes I wish that I had the guts to invite people over to my house to worship. Maybe I will some day. Anyway, sorry for rambling. Thanks for the post.

9:07 AM  
Blogger L.E.Meredith said...

How can Christ change the world using such a small congregation as Rocksprings? The same way as he does using a large congregation;one at a time brother, one at a time.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Steve Puckett said...

Good questions. I want to promote open heartedness in our churches. The condition of the heart is a major focus in Scripture. God can accept anything we throw his way if our hearts are right. I can accept pretty much anything another brother or sister throws my way if I know their hearts.

It breaks my heart when an individual leaves a local body over some disagreement, either "doctrinal" or personal. This action weakens the body of Christ by it's affirmation that we all see everything alike and when we can't or won't, we just leave and go somewhere else. It's a tortured existence since this type of thinking keeps one in a state of misery because it is virtually impossible to find a person, much less a group of people who are alwys going to see everything alike.

I am thankful within my own church family for those who are willing to live by our motto, "The church is a place where everybody has their say, but no one has their way."


1:03 PM  
Blogger Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

You continue to prod and provoke and thus force me to move . . . even when I don't want to!

Bobby Valentine
Stoned-Campbell Disciple

4:15 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

Thanks Bobby, I appreciate your comments.

8:37 PM  
Blogger Royce Ogle said...

An excellent article and wonderful comments. I have enjoyed the read.

Isn't it interesting that most of the squabbles chuch of Christ congregations have had within the local congregation, and with other congregations, has not been caused by disagreements on doctrine or theology. The disagreements are largely over what is done or not done or how it is done between 4 walls for 45 minutes to an hour on Sunday morning.

Unbeliveably, some brothers insist that our very salvation is tied to what we do or don't do and how we do it on Sunday morning in "the building".

It is a dangerous practice to approach the word of God with your mind made up and find some verses to support your presuppositions and then preach and teach the same few topics over and over and over.

If I were pope of the churches of Christ (..I am not wearing the funny hat under any circumstances!)I would require that every preacher preach through books of the Bible chapter by chapter and verse by verse so that he and the hearers would learn it and hopefully apply it to their lives. After all, "All" scripture is inspired and profitable for our lives.

I can't "fellowship" you unless you give up your tradition, or unless I give up mine. This sort of childish logic often is just the display of carnal people whose main interest is not God's best interests but the protection of their comfort zones.

Well, thats the way I see it.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Disunity, Disharmony, Division, And/or Chaos Factors Within The Restoration Movement And A Search For A Modality For Seeking Unity Among Believers.

The churches of Christ, the Christian Church, and the Disciples of Christ are three main branches divided off from a unity movement which arose in the early 1800s.

By 1906 the Restoration Movement (RM) as it was called was clearly divided into these three branches recognized as fully independent bodies. Now after 200 years there has recently been a long awaited (overdue?) but substantial effort at reunification. Praise the Lord! However, that is what any unity movement should do.

Tragically, this is still only a partial or limited reunification effort. This effort at best unevenly embraces some within its family group and the effort itself is rejected in some quarters by others. Finally almost no one within this family tree has reached out to its original taproot, the Presbyterian Church. It was that denomination from which the founders of the RM had arisen.

These stumbling efforts seem to raise some questions. Can such a halting effort truly signal any possible future success? Is there something inherently wrong with the way in which the RM attempts to facilitate unity? Or is there a pattern of delay and missteps, which reflects some unfaithfulness or a resistance to the leading of the spirit of God? Finally is there a more effective modality for unity? If so then what might it be?

The Restoration Movement Arose Over 200 years Ago Seeking Unity Among Believers

Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell lived and ministered in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries now over 200 years ago. Initially their efforts were independent of each other. Still they were each suddenly successful in calling people to unify.

Their methods varied but their results were similar enough. Their followers met and intermingled, compared notes and it was their followers that sought to bring their leaders together. After a period of time and delays Stone and Campbell came to combine their efforts as a joint venture. As a result they became conjoint founders of the Restoration Movement (RM), which quickly declared itself a unity movement. They were however very different men and their efforts while in the same direction always suggested different modalities.

On the one hand, Stone was educated in America. Impacted by frontier revivalism, Stone was himself a key player in the Cane Ridge Revival of 1801, which broke-out at his congregation. His life and ministry would bore earmarks of “being led by the Spirit” reminiscent of the later Charismatic Movement. It might be said that he sought a unity of the Spirit. In some ways Stone’s efforts might have foreshadowed the unifying movement that later arose at Azusa Street nearly a hundred years afterwards and has had a much wider impact on Christendom.

On the other hand and from another direction, Campbell proved to be the stronger force. He was university educated in Aberdeen, Scotland. He was a disciple of the English philosophers, John Locke and Francis Bacon. Campbell greatly admired Scottish Common Sense philosophy. This worldview he rigorously applied to his study of scripture. A powerful debater and logical mind Campbell’s approach was modernistic. His methods were the equivalent of a type of archaeological mining of scripture not for material artifacts but for an ancient ecclesiology or determining the ancient rules and principles for primitive church practices. It might be said that he sought for a basis of unity in understanding the pertinent doctrines and practices of the unadulterated, primitive church.

Both men were reformers from the reform heritage proudly touted by Presbyterians. Both were interested in a return to a simple nondenominational New Testament Christianity as broad as the universal body of Christ. Both were influential leaders of men. Each had a substantial following within the same general area of Kentucky, Ohio, and Virginia. These followers interacted on numerous occasions finally leading to their colluding to bring their leaders together. They did and eventually a union took place. Their approaches seemed to complement each other but in time Campbell’s surpassed Stone’s.

This movement was formulated around two key concepts. First was the unity of believers. The second was the discovery, and restoration of the long-lost, unadulterated, primitive, or true church. Pattern theology emerged from Campbell’s researching scripture using Lockean Logic in his attempt to recover the ancient order of things. In this the movement sought to find and reconstitute the body of Christ without divisions and without any of the latter ecclessiological trappings that had led to division and had denominated the church. This latter concept was thought to be the modality by which people might find a reasonable, common sense, common ground for unity.

It easily seemed to the founders that denominations unnecessarily divided believers. Therefore it reasonably seemed to follow that a return to the true, pure, and primitive church might provide a pathway to unity. That meant that they and their followers would generally embrace a stance that rejected all denominations and all their divisive practices. Some within the movement have been more highly committed and therefore with nobility have more avidly and exactingly pursued doctrinal purity and primitive church practices. This was deemed an essential truth, and a cornerstone or baseline for affecting unity. This view has been held most dear among the right wing elements of the movement. The downside to this dynamic is that it also tends to inhibit diversity.

The Results Are In

Today after 200 years the RM’s efforts have led to almost no bridges to unity except in the earliest times. Instead the movement has spun-off some 80 different groups that are both similar and disparate. In addition except for the effort among these main three branches there has been almost no overtures toward reunification among those within the movement let alone with other believers. Besides the main branches of the RM which include the churches of Christ (CofC), The Christian Church (CC), and the Disciple of Christ (DoC) there are also two generally unacknowledged cults with whom there are ties -- the International Church of Christ (ICC) and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). Like a dysfunctional family some members talk with others within the family but refuse to even recognize other members. This record and traits do not support the claim of being a unity movement.

Ostensibly the Stone-Campbell movement was a unity movement, however, by the time of the American Civil War the movement divided geographically at the Mason Dixon Line and across a continuum from the more fundamentalistic churches of Christ, Christian Churches, to the more liberal the Disciples of Christ. Slavery and musical accompaniment vs. noninstrumental music tended to be among the more obvious issues masking deeper matters. The churches of Christ under the influence of “pattern theology” (as the revival of the ancient order of things came to be known) have resulted in a drive to recreate a pure primitive church. This approach has lead to repeated divisions up to some 80 times..

Background Strains Affecting Unity

The background of both founders shows a period in western culture when progress was the watchword and utopia was thought to be just around the corner. Presuming that the spirit of the times was moving mankind toward God and a biblical period of world peace Campbell optimistically published a newsletter he named “The Millennial Harbinger.” Both men were also educated under the tutelage of the Presbyterian Church. Both had previously served as ordained ministers for that church. Revivalism was spreading like wild fire and people everywhere were open to religious discussion. On a darker note, the Presbyterian Church, itself, had been imported from Europe bringing with it baggage reflecting its prior status as a state religion. In a number of ways this meant that the Presbyterianism lacked a certain relevance to the American religious experience. Instead the Presbyterianism of that era was infected with issues that fueled useless, artificial church wars. In addition, theirs was also a time marked by the rise of theological Liberalism, which intensified the deism that had already invaded the American scene. It was also a time of continuing warfare and conflict. The enlightenment was powerfully impacting the culture and these men.

In late life Campbell personally aligned himself with the Disciples (DoC), which always tended to more deistic and liberal. If Stone’s influence survived it is difficult to trace, albeit the desire for a more Spirit filled experience does continue and, perhaps, at times has facilitated the more nonrational extremes within the movement

The “True Church” Comes Under Fire from Within

History has shown that the “true church modality” as a basis of unity has not brought unity but rather division. Some within the RM have already abandoned that modality. In 1968 the DoC restructured and became the first if not only RM church to acknowledge its own denominationality. Otherwise, the movement has been in denial regarding its denominationality.

Just a few years later the senior preacher in an influential CofC congregation arose and announced from his pulpit in Abilene TX that the CofC “was a big sick denomination.” This, too, sent shock waves through the CofC. A reinvestigation of the CofC’s basic assumptions began to be taken seriously in some quarters.

The LDS and ICC churches are generally perceived as too extreme and unorthodox. They are generally not thought to be relevant to the others.

The modern CofC is experiencing an identity crisis of sorts. Elements like the North West Church of Christ within the Seattle area have combined with a nearby Christian Church to create a combo-church or joint venture church. While they are united they are at the same time they strangely two in one. The NWCofC already had a “church within a church” concept at work prior to this new arrangement

Other CofCs reflect a continuum of responses on the one hand some are continuing from a strict sectarianism stance while others on another hand seem to court other elements within the Restoration Movement including the DoC for the sake of unity. To my knowledge no one from the right wing of the RM has sought to include the original taproot Presbyterian Church back into their unity efforts.

Meanwhile the DoC seriously had marginalized themselves within the RM heritage. The DoC retained its high call to unity but changed its conceptual modality. Now no longer in pursuit of the one true primitive church as their modality for unity they now pursue followed the Ecumenical Movement. However this was seen as a betrayal of the nondenominationalism. Among the RM churches stylized definitions of words like “denomination” had developed which continue to facilitate “plausible deniability,” in regard to the CofC’s nondenominational façade. This is central both to their identity and their vision of their mission.

In fact so dedicated are some of the more traditional RM members that they are unwilling to share in common activities with other believers whose church practices not compatible with their own. A pragmatic unity is in their eyes equates with selling out the true church and the importance of restorationism for unity. In their view doctrinal differences must first be addressed before any sharing can take place. To their mind there can be no unity unless the true church is restored and all believers adhere to that one true church. This purist position seems to block the very unity that they claim to seek.

An Unrecovered or Unrecoverable Model or Pattern

However, differing opinions continue to exist about whether there is or is not a definitive core model for the early church has never been finally determined. In addition, there are also differing opinions about what are the appropriate protocols for the hermeneutics used to ascertain that model. With the departure of the DoC from the true church modality and the failure of the avid restorationists to affect much more than additional divisiveness then seems that the true church modality is a failed model. It seems to have died never finding its true core. These disputes seem to make the task irresolvable.

The Ecumenical Modality Has Also Come Under Fire

The Disciples restructured and became an organized denomination in 1968. Out of their new Ecumenical framework they have resorted to being a part of the Ecumenical Movement. Perhaps as a result they have rejoined with the Presbyterian Church in some quarters for joint ventures. Nevertheless The Ecumenical Movement has itself come under fire for being to rigid and complex a model. While it has facilitated unity in diversity in some quarters it seems unable to reach others.

The Charismatic Renewal Movement Limitations

The Azusa Street Revival and subsequent efforts have been wide reaching and enduring but limitations have arisen around issues created by those that require specific signs of the Spirit, which are not uniformly subscribed to by even all Charismatics. The Charismatic renewal which had some resurgence in the 1960s and 1970s has passed on without the hoped for results.


Each modality discussed has pros and cons. Each has something that may well contribute to a better approach, but that approach has yet to be widely announced and tested.

A Transdenominational Modality

Meanwhile from another direction and sources has arisen a newer modality for reunification, which sidesteps the nondenominational and ecumenical modalities after a fashion. Transdenominationalism might see all churches much like scripture speaks of all believers -- as earthen vessels. That is they all contain a glorious treasure, i.e., the gospel. This view first of all presumes that God in Christ has created unity and that our mission is not to create unity but rather to maintain the unity God has already created. It would also focus on the body of Christ rather than the church and its ordinances. Further, it does not ignore any doctrinal error but approaches churches and people respectfully, calling them to a more radical discipleship. This modality has not as yet been previously published among those within the RM to my knowledge.


9:13 AM  
Anonymous Freda said...

Amen Preacherman. Truer words have never been spoken. To God be the Glory!!!!

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