More feedback from "Secret Life of Discipleship" essay. The last entry below speaks a little more positively of me than I deserve, but this particular older sister's motherly love for me, despite my obvious short-comings and flaws, feels so consistently like Christ's love for me, that I couldn't bear to leave that part of her heart out of it. She is one of those that I can say, "God let me imitate her towards others as she imitates Christ in her actions and attitudes towards me." So sorry if by leaving them in I sound like a blatant self-promoter...
And let me affirm/confess a few things...
(1) I love the Church of Christ. And I love Church of Christ people. And I am one of them (us). And I don't need them (us) to change at all, not one step further into the image of Christ.
(2) I love the Church of Christ. And I love Church of Christ people. And I am one of them (us). And I want them (us) to change constantly, always a baby step further into the image of Christ.
(3) I don't need people to accept me and my convictions, beliefs, doubts, fears, and mistakes in order for me to live a life of following Christ openly and honestly in front of all men (and neither do you).
(4) I really want to be accepted with my convictions, beliefs, doubts, fears and mistakes in order for me to live a life of following Christ openly and honestly in front of all men (and don't you?).
Trying to Follow at His heels, and trying to love it...Brian
"I for one can give an heartfelt "Amen" to your plea. It has been many, many years since I have been a "Church of Christ" Christian. I no longer feel the loyalty you feel to our historical heritage. I appreciate and am thankful for my heritage, and greatly value many of the influences it has had in my own spiritual formation, but consider myself simply a Christian who has been planted by my Father within the Churches of Christ. Should He ever call me out, I am gone. But so far He seems to securely have placed me here to live out my discipleship in this fellowship." - 65ish sister, lifelong member of the Church of Christ
"Brian, you know me, and you know where I go to church. It's the same old Church of Christ you remember. I am the full-time song leader, and I preach occasionally. But I feel trapped. I know that people are supposed to be baptized, and I believe a cappella singing is preferable to the garage band/worship band scenario. But it's seems so clear to me that we have missed the mark by allowing these issues to define who we are. I'm tired of the us-and-them mentality. Do we really believe someone is lost because they have a guitar in their church? Was the Lake of Fire prepared for people who only take communion four times a year? Seriously? I was recently studying about the Mennonites because I work with one at the hospital. There are dozens of factions within that church. The most conservative branch is the Old Order Mennonites, who still use horses and buggies. This branch--and several other branches, respectively--claim they are "the one true church" on this earth. Now get this: the Old Order Mennonites have about 500 members. So they truly, sincerely believe that the Lord's one Church on Planet Earth has dwindled down to a remnant of 500 people. If that were true, would not the devil have won after all? What more could Satan possible want than to have whittled down God's people to a measly 500, driving horse-drawn carriages? But is the mainline Church of Christ's claim any less ludicrous? We have not heeded the Master's warning to "beware of the yeast of the Pharisees." But meanwhile I have an obligation to keep showing up at that little church of 40 people (on a good Sunday), and keep on leading 2 songs and a prayer. I don't know what to do. If I stood up there and said what I truly believed, it would be that last time I stood up there. And yet I'm not willing to rush headlong into these other churches with their speaking in tongues and anything-goes mentality either. I know we are not alone, but everyone's afraid to speak out. It's like were part of an underground society. It's almost like being gay. Well, I don't know what good it has done, but it was good to vent." - an old High School Summer Camp buddy of mine, 35ish, life-long member of the Church of Christ, who still worships/serves where I joined him while at college
"I was struggling with why you needed to write the email. I was asking God, "Is he discouraged? Is he seeing a lack of growth at S.W? Is he giving up on S.W. and the Churches of Christ? Is he just focused on the "sins" of the Churches of Christ? Is his focus on the branches and what they are not?" Does this sound like a mother, worrying about her son? But at the end of all these questions and much prayer, the next morning the Lord brought in my heart this: I knew the deepest desire of your heart, is for us to know Christ and be like Him. The morning after I read your email, the Daily Bible reading was John 15 on Jesus being the true vine. It is such a powerful illustration of what we are in Christ and how He nurtures us, prunes us, strengthens us and in so doing allows us to bear much fruit. Because of His love for you, and yours for Him, Jesus is pruning you, and your pruning is to be patient and to love the others who are not able to accept His trueness in their lives at this moment. S.W. is being pruned also. I have prayed so many times, "Father bless those who leave S.W., but bring those who need to hear this wonderful message and way of life so we can be a light to other churches who are searching for a truer way." So many churches of Christ today are thinking so shallow and saying if we just change the service, we will solve our problems. What you are teaching is our lives are not bound up in the one hour service on Sunday. That is not our true vine, for only Jesus is our true vine. It is an important part of our lives, but only Jesus gives us life. You have taught and teach in your life every day, to be the true church you must get our fullness from Jesus and in so doing we will lift Jesus up and draw others to Him. That is our commission, that will build the body of Christ at S.W and all over the world. We are His family. Let's you and I pray Paul's prayers for the S.W. church next year, and in so doing have great faith, He is going to do far more than we ask or think and know God will form Christ in us. God has brought you to S.W. to share this trueness of being His disciple. There are so many that long for that. Your example and S.W's example can go all over the brotherhood, and just through the foreign mission points at S.W. it can go quickly to Africa, Brazil, Australia and Mexico. The Line of Departure can reach so many here in the States and already is starting that way. Don't be discouraged if you are, God is working mightily. You told me at the coffee shop about a man who wrote about the future of the churches of Christ, and you said you can finish the book. I pray you will one day write that book and it will show that even the churches of Christ when it is connected back to the true vine can grow and produce much fruit to the glory of Jesus. May I end with John 15:9-12 - "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remained in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." May we do that at S.W. and truly we will be His disciples and realize He can do more than we ask or think. We will believe He can do that through our great love for Him and each other. You have come to show us and teach us, and you have done and are doing that so wonderfully. I love you dearly." - a 60ish sister, life-long member of the Church of Christ