Churches of Christ: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Mike was blogging today about how those of us from churches of Christ struggle to find a way to love our heritage. He says we shouldn’t love it like a three year-old who thinks mom and dad are perfect, but we also shouldn’t love it like a teenager who thinks mom and dad are aliens.

As for myself – I feel like an adult child trying to care for a dying parent who will soon be on life support, and whose financial and business affairs are in a state of chaos. The questions are: how do I show respect for my elders – who like things the way they left them – while also dealing with the issues that have been left behind for me to confront? At what point do I say “Enough. Even though it is sad to move forward – we have to deal with this stuff”?

Here are my good, bad, and ugly for churches of Christ:

The Good: non-denominational Christianity. At our best, we have reminded Christians of all denominations that we are united in Christ – that we should not let human creeds and affiliations come between us. Most believers “get” that now. But I don’t think things were quite the same during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Bad: “Christians Only.” Who were we kidding? We thought we were going to ignore 1800 years of church history and just “go back” to something that existed in the first century.
In doing that, we made it harder to find our own place in our own time as a part of God’s ongoing story. Worse yet, we assumed that the New Testament was trying to teach us a “pattern” that relates to methods of worship and personal piety. But we looked for the wrong things. If there is a “pattern” of conduct that Jesus came to establish, the pattern has more to do with discipleship and social justice than whether we can use a guitar in worship.

The Ugly: “The Only Christians.” At our worst, we managed to become the very thing that we originally set out to condemn – a collection of churches that are primarily known for being exclusivistic, bitter, divisive, and contentious toward other believers. Those days, thankfully, are largely a thing of the past, but we will continue to deal with the consequences of this issue well into the next decade or two.

Anyone else want to offer a good? A bad? An ugly? All three?

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