Since I began a new job in December, I have anticipated what it would be like to visit a country where I was not “at home” but a visitor.How different would my experiences be than other cities I have visited?There are the obvious things I expected to be different: food, money, accents, language, etc.The depth of what my experience could become was driven home not long after I got off the plane in Toronto, Canada when I was passing through “customs.”I quickly realized I was not visiting a country where I would be gauging America versus Canada but where I would experience the difference in the diverse backgrounds of those who were visiting from other places dealing with the same challenges and anxieties I was going to experience.
As a Christian, it is comforting to know that regardless of where I live, God has provided me the ability to understand His word the same as everyone else and we are not left to our own “customs” in order to be pleasing to Him.In worship, organization, work, and other attributes, the faithful churches of Christ in the first century and in the twenty-first century are identical. This is what those who love Christ strive for: to reproduce in our time the church as Jesus planned it and built it through His apostles.Since creation, Satan has done everything in his power to confront, mislead and nullify those who are faithful to God’s word. Sadly, Satan has made his most effective advance in the church during our era. The church today is only a fragment of what it should have been. How could this have happened? The early 1900 – 1930 showed the church had grown over 150%.
“And that knowing the time, that it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is salvation nearer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11). It is a dangerous thing to be asleep spiritually! In the parable of the tares, Jesus stated that “while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares...” (Matt. 13:25). We are admonished repeatedly in the New Testament to “watch” (Matt. 24:42; 26:41; 1 Thes. 5:6; 2 Tim. 4:5; 1 Pet. 4:7). It is impossible to watch and sleep at the same time. The devil and his followers are always awake seeking opportunities to “devour” (1 Pet. 5:8) us through deception. Paul admonished us, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith...” (1 Cor. 16:13). Sin can lull us into apathy, sleep. When we depart from the Truth, sin has a deadening effect. Sin sears our consciences (1 Tim. 4:2) and causes us to sleep spiritually (1 Cor. 11:30). This can happen to individuals and to congregations (Rev. 3:15). To protect ourselves from evil and to keep in the narrow path that leads to life eternal we must be awake, alert.
Knowing that the devil would do all he could to destroy the church of the Lord, God gave ample warnings in the New Testament against his devices. But God also placed within the church a front-line defense to guard against such attacks: the eldership. When they fulfill their Divine obligations, the church can withstand any attack, either from without or within. When they fail, much damage is done.Elders, have a special obligation to be awake and watchful. The Hebrews writer tells us that they “watch for your souls” (Heb. 13:17). Paul tells us that these men are to protect the church from false teachers by “holding fast the faithful word” and thereby exhort and convict the gainsayers.Furthermore, he tells us that these elders have the responsibility to stop the mouths of those who teach things they ought not, subverting whole congregations by their false doctrines (Tit. 1:9–11).
Individual Christians also have the responsibility to examine those things that they are being taught and done to compare them to the teaching of Scripture (Acts 17:11). I am reminded of an article I wrote in June 2010 questioning the elders of the Waterview church of Christ regarding why they offered open fellowship to a man who preached for a congregation that is determined to conduct themsleves in opposition to God’s way. This man should NEVER have been invited and once the elders were informed of some of these issues (which they were), the invitation should have been renounced. This eldership failed in their God given responsibilities to guard the flock and they still need to repent.That elderships response?They were offended by my article, not because what I stated was incorrect but because they don’t like being questioned.
And what of the congregation that man preached for?A short list of their perversions included::
1) Women in the role of ministers over education, technology and students. Can women serve in the role of minister given the charge in 2 Timothy 4:2 without violating 1 Timothy 2:12-13? Of course they can’t. 2) Women as teachers in the adult classes where both “Christian” men and women are present which is in direct violation of 1 Timothy 2:12-13. 3) Women in leadership roles over certain portions of worship. 4) The use of praise teams to “facilitate” the singing in worship. These praise teams perform on stage and are made up of both men and women. 5) Participation and encouragement to participate with “Promise Keepers” though there are many serious doctrinal errors associated with this denominationally originated group.
This congregation is hardly alone.We have those who claim to represent Christ perverting worship through the playing of instruments, partaking of the Lord’s Supper on days other than the first day of the week and perverting the plain teachings of God’s Word. Members of the church must therefore be alert and wide awake. Even if the elders of the congregation of which they are a part are not watching and protecting the congregation from harm, every member has the responsibility to protect himself with the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17).When we fall asleep, movement away from God and the Truth occurs.It comes as a result of neglect more often than as a deliberate radical departure (Heb. 2:3). The warning is clear: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip (lest haply we drift away from them, ASV)” (Heb. 2:1). There is the danger, which is ever present, of wanting to become like those round about us. When we yield to this desire, we can expect change to be slow and the result will always be destructive. The road to ruin is walked one step at a time. Trace the consequences of this desire in ancient Israel. God’s people today are called out of the world to be a people uniquely belonging to God. God’s people are to follow God’s Word and not the people of the world.
That is often difficult because we have some smooth-talking (Rom. 16:18), ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing (Mat. 7:15) within the flock of God today. Instead of their mouths being stopped, their “good words and fair speeches” are itching the ears of multitudes. Brethren will travel many miles to a congregation or to other places just to have their ears tickled with the “feel-good” philosophies of men and to be entertained by the showmen of the brotherhood.Two of the worst offenders are the Tulsa Workshop, and the yearly Christian Scholars Conference (CSC) (hosted by ACU, Pepperdine, Harding, Lipscomb and others).Neither “effort” hides its efforts to smuggle radicalism into the brotherhood of Christ.The CSC, in particular, is a conference assembling an assorted blend of denominational personalities (all of whom they identify as “Christian”), combined with a multitude of digressives who have given up virtually every hint of interest in the restoration of New Testament religion. “Restorationism” is not merely ignored, it is renounced emphatically.The CSC platform affirms that it “is dedicated to the virtue of diversity which expands world-views, fosters collegiality, demonstrates the highest quality of scholarship, and provides opportunity for all Christian scholars.”The Bible plainly teaches that we are to recognize as God's children, and thus as people in fellowship with God, only those who have done what the Bible teaches which is necessary to attain such a status (John 3:3-5; Gal. 3:26-27).
It is high time that we wake up to the fact that it is the Truth that makes us free! The church of Christ is not in the entertainment business; souls are not saved by the teaching of error, even if these lies cause the hearers to feel good. Sin deceives, and error destroys. We need to oppose false doctrine and false teachers, not support them with our money and our presence.We need to stop inviting false teachers into the flock to hold Gospel Meetings or otherwise fill our pulpits. We need to stop buying their books and going to hear them speak.
Many congregations have become like the denominations and are no longer following God’s Word. It is high time that these congregations and their elders wake up and return to the old paths.