Is the Church of Christ Weird?
Justin M. Rogers
“The Churches of Christ Are Weird,” Said a 9 year old classmate of mine. This statement hurt me deeply. The church I attended was weird, according to him. If the church I attended was weird, then I guess I was weird also. How could I handle being so different? Granted my fourth grade classmate had never attended a church of Christ. Being as young as he was and having never attended a church of Christ, then he must have heard others in his family or among his acquaintances calling the church of Christ weird or different. He knew only that “his church” was like most all the other churches in the county. But what made the church of Christ weird or different?
However misguided or misinformed my young friend may have been, he knew that the churches of Christ were said to be different. No, they were not like the denominations around them They were not like the churches, denominations, that t he young man was familiar. Today, however, I fear that the churches of Christ in many places are no longer unique. Perhaps we have grown ashamed of being weird or different. Perhaps we are tired of fighting the criticism of the denominations and have resigned ourselves to live and to worship no differently than they. For whatever reason, many of us have lost what once made us unique.
Being Different Makes A Difference: — Being different is what religion is all about. Every new church that opens its doors claims to offer something that other churches do not. In an attempt to stand out, every church crafts an identity for themselves. Some aim at the identity of service and benevolence. Others claim to offer entertainment and casual environments. Many churches of Christ have also tried to create an identity. And they, in doing so, have forsaken biblical doctrine in order to pursue denominational agendas.
They offer contemporary worship services featuring female preachers contrary to biblical command (1 Cor. 14:34; 1 Tim. 2:12). They abandon a cappella music in favor of a rock band despite the biblical example. (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Their members believe that these changes made them interesting and unique. But they don’t . The “contemporary” elements are standard in thousands of churches across the country. What makes their church any different from all denominations?
If we are truly attempting to seek and save t he lost (Lk. 19:10) we must offer something worth seeking and capable of saving ones soul. If people are seeking the latest religious trend, we cannot offer it. Trends are incapable of saving people. If people are seeking to find justification for their sinful lifestyles, we cannot provide it. We are called to expose evil (Eph. 5:11). However for people seeking biblical doctrine form a church built on the foundation of biblical authority, the churches of Christ must have what they seek. In this respect, being different, truly makes a difference. A difference that will save ones soul if the Bible is their guide.
“Like All Nations” — The call for God’s people to be outstanding in both doctrine and action stretches as far back as the exodus generation. The Israelites were called to be holy as God was holy (Lev. 19:2). They were to consecrate themselves as a kingdom of priests (Exo. 19:6). They were to expel all other gods from their land and to avoid even mentioning the names of other deities (Exo. 20:3; 23:13). These laws made Israel unique.
Shortly after exiting Egypt, however, the Israelites began to acquire an interest in the religions of other nations. They built a calf to be worshiped (Exo. 32). They begain to join themselves to Baal of Peor (Num. 25). They failed to complete the expulsion of the Canaanites and, as a result, revolted against the Lord.
Judges. 2:11-14 reports: “And the people of Israel did waht was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord,the God of their fathers, Who had brought them out of the land of Egypt” They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them.
And they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And He sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies.
This passage informs us that the Israelites attempted to assi-milate into the religious world around them. In essence, they made no distinction between the holy and the common (Lev. 10:10). They had failed to follow God and had fallen into apostasy. As a result, God gave them to their enemies. They had lost their God-given identity.
A further move away from God can be found in 1 Sam. 8. Israel unapologetically demanded a king “like the nations” (vss. 5,20). In God’s conversation with Samuel, He lamented: “they have not rejected you (Samuel) , but they have rejected Me from being king over them’ (vs. 7). The people desired to be like everyone else. They despised divine kingship, which made them unique. They created a new identity for themselves.
In both of these cases, God responded to the religious decay of His people. Also in both cases, the decay stemmed from a rejection of the special status the Israelites had before God.
They were embarrassed to be different. They were ashamed to worship God in the unique way He commanded. They valued their reputation among the nations more than their covenant with the Lord. They failed God, and they fell into apostasy.
A City Set On A Hill: — The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. chs. 5-7) calls us to a revolutionary lifestyle. It challenges us to understand that the prohibition of murder aims more deeply and more importantly at reconciliation (5:21-26). It demands us to not merely avoid adultery but to loathe the lust that leads to adultery (5:27-30) We must rethink retaliation (5:38-42). We must pray for our persecutors (5:44,45). We must bless when reviled (5:11) and rejoice when persecuted (5:12). We must learn to see the world as God sees it, with fields white unto harvest (Jno. 4:35). We must be the city set on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matt. 5:14).
The world needs to see in us a revolutionary life. Christians, in many areas, are no more identifiable in their communities than atheists. Our behavior must set us apart. Our biblical wisdom should be a source of admiration and respect (Lk. 2:47; Acts 9:22). Our love should consume us and define who we are (1 Cor. 16:14). We should take pride in our stand on biblical authority and broadcast the virtues of New Testament Christianity to our world.
The mission of God’s Son was nothing short of remarkable. Deity took on flesh with the purpose of dying on behalf of mankind (Rom. 5:8). His life was dedicated to this singular goal. Without distraction, he maintained His course, which culminated on a cross (Phil. 2:8). This makes Christ outstanding, unique and even, from an earthly perspective, weird. No other man had such a goal. No other death accomplished so much. Are we ashamed of His sacrifice? Are we embarrassed to pledge allegiance to Christ because He is different from anyone who ever lived?
Many churches of Christ have sat by for far too long allowing the world to define who we are. We have allowed dying churches to die and weakened brethren to walk out of our lives.
We gather at lectureships and conferences to lament where we are while praising where we used to be. But we are alive now. Our opportunity t o save souls is now. It is high time that we, as bearers of the gospel and the plan of salvation, shout from the mountaintops that Jesus is Lord. If we are truly t hat city set on a hill, we will use our platform to ensure that no one in our communities dies without the knowledge of Jesus and His Word.
Take A Stand: — American religion today is like a candy store ; lots of tasty treats, but little to offer real nutritional value. Unfortunately, many churches of Christ have fallen into the trap of offering attractions instead of salvation.
If we are aiming to please God in our adherence to His Word and His Will, then we must be people who take a stand. We must found our religion on the teachings of the New Testament, turning aside neither to teh right nor to the left (Deut. 5:32). Finally, we must be vocal, speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
The churches of Christ are unique. With many denominations unwilling to base themselves entirely in the teachings of the New Testament, we can offer something no one else has.
Why would we conceal our identity? Why would we hide what makes us outstanding? If we turn to our lost and dying world, motivated by a sincere concern for the lost, we will take our stand on biblical authority. “And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ez. 2:5).
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