A Southern gentleman who calls himself a “born-and-bred” member of the Churches of Christ “of the ‘everybody’s going to hell but us’ school of thought,” but who personally renounced that thinking 30 years ago, writes to say he is seeking a church home. He lives 100 miles from a congenial Church of Christ. Nearby Christian Churches and Disciples of Christ are “few and basically lifeless.” He loves the “good people and minister” of the Presbyterian church he presently attends and believes they are saved. However, he lacks “peace of heart” and cannot “be comfortable and happy with some of their doctrines and practices.” He asks if I have any advice.
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Good brother, for what it’s worth . . .
1. I am not sure that anyone who thinks and grows will ever “be comfortable and happy with some of the doctrines and practices” in ANY church. And that is no reflection on anyone. We tolerate others — within limits — even as we wish to be tolerated. One option is to acknowledge that, and to be as happy and comfortable as possible wherever you prayerfully choose finally to locate.
2. You might join a Christian church or Disciples church which is “basically lifeless” and ask God to help you bring new life. If that congregation is open to grow and learn, you might find a fulfilling ministry there.
3. You might join a Church of Christ which thinks it is the only one going to heaven, and work to help it learn better — until God changes that church or you get kicked out. Many Churches of Christ around the country are changing, and new ones are popping up all over the place. Those individuals who are willing to speak up in a loving but persistent manner about a better way are finding many other people who have formerly been silent, but who now are also eager to abandon sectarianism and legalism once they have some company. That involves cost and possibly pain, but it might have great rewards in the end.
4. You might keep shopping congregations across the board in your location, looking for some existing structure which preaches the gospel and which is tolerably comfortable otherwise.
5. You might start something new, from scratch, perhaps advertising in the local paper and forming a different kind of Church of Christ from those in which you grew up. If you do that, please be as tolerant and loving toward those more narrow than yourself as you believe they ought to be toward those whom they consider more broad. Love those you leave, whether they want you to or not. And be sure your message focuses on Jesus Christ — the only solid foundation for building a church or a life.
I suspect you will have to decide how much challenge you wish to accept, how much comfort you need to seek, how much flak you are willing to receive, and how much you want to see a different kind of Church of Christ in the place where you are. If you pray, trust God and seek to be obedient to him, I am confident he will lead you into Christian fellowship that will be mutually beneficial for you and for the others who constitute it.