Addressing Declining Numbers in Churches of Christ 2 – It is Not a Conservative or Progressive Problem

The progressive side of the church often has an attitude that conservative churches are dragging down the church from the inside out. You hear things about how out of touch they are and how they are fighting battles that are at least 100 years old and the like. I may have even said something similar to that at some time or another. The point in this post is this – It is easy to point fingers at the other end of the theological spectrum and say someone else is to blame. It is also very easy for either side (isn’t that crazy terminology that we have taken sides within the church of Christ?) to build straw men and rip them to pieces with ease and vigor. Progressives are not the only ones who build straw men and point fingers. I have read plenty of that from the conservative side of the CofC as well. When conservatives and progressives do these things what ends up happening is that neither side takes ownership of any of the problem because they are themselves like the Pharisee in the temple who is thanking God that he is not like that tax collector over there.

So conservative churches are not the only problem. Progressive churches are not the only problem either. We are all, individually the problem. We all share in the problem. We also all have to be a part of the solution. We have to be even handed in our assessment of what is going on and take ownership of our own responsibility in our decline. So if you are on the progressive end of the Church of Christ spectrum (which is still very conservative compared to most of the Christian world) don’t think you are blame free because you aren’t legalistic and because you aren’t fighting theological battles from 100 years ago. Instead, be proactive in understanding your own biases and what areas you need to improve to help God’s church grow over the next decade. Again, they are not the enemy. If you are on the conservative side, don’t spend your time analyzing and assessing the words of the progressives just looking for an inconsistency or mistake. Instead, both sides need to see what FRUITS their life and ministry are producing. If it is producing FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT, whether conservative or progressive, then both sides of the aisle need to rejoice with the other and recognize that God is at work.

We can toss around stereotypes all day long but nothing is going to happen until we figure out that we aren’t going to change each other. The only person who can change your mind and your actions is you. So take some time to decide whether or not your life and ministry has been what God desires for it to be and don’t worry so much about what everyone else is doing. And be careful when you start labeling people as conservative or progressive or many other labels we have used. Once we start doing that we again play into being ineffectual.

Just in case I have now offended every single person who read this let me remind you that Jesus sides with me in the need to look at our own problems first and foremost. Jesus said in Matthew 7 – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

0 Responses to Addressing Declining Numbers in Churches of Christ 2 – It is Not a Conservative or Progressive Problem

  1. “Just in case I have now offended every single person who read this…”

    Not this moderate — I bask in it! 😉

    Good series so far, buddy

  2. Hank says:

    But if we don’t point out exactly where they are inconsistent, hypocritical, and/or just plain wrong….how will they know where they need to change? JUST KIDDING.

    You’ve made some very valid points.

  3. K. Rex Butts says:

    Sometimes I think that if a group of deer hunters were giving consideration to inviting a CoC member along for the hunting trip and had to base their decision soley on the way some CoC members (progressive or traditional) treat their own, the hunters would be scared for fear that we would mistake other hunters for the deer.

    -Rex

  4. Darin says:

    Good thoughts. It can be very hard because it is very personal.

    I agree that the problem is not style of worship, if that were the case then instrumental churches would be growing just because they bang on a piano or beat a drum. That isn’t the case.

    People need to understand forgiveness, they need to find a place to belong within forgiveness. That can happen no matter the style of worship.

    You do a very good job on your blog. I have always been impressed with your even handedness. When will I see you at the Tulsa Workshop? I think you would have much to offer.

  5. mattdabbs says:

    Darin,

    I have known so many people on both sides of these things and I have seen how much both liberal and conservative love and serve God the best way they know how. So we have to be careful what we say and how we say it because we are dealing with children of God here. I have been to the Tulsa workshop in the past and it is certainly a wonderful and uplifting event. Thanks for adding to the conversation in a positive way.

  6. Darin says:

    Hey, I’m not looking for you to go there, I am wondering if you will speak/present. I was hoping your name would show up as a new speaker this year. I think you would be great.

    The biggest problem can be that this keeps us from evangelism. If we just had our worship right then we would grow and reach out to the lost becomes a never fulfilled promise. On the other side the call for doctrinal purity becomes the main focus and correcting errant believers around town the only goal all while lost people stay lost.

  7. mattdabbs says:

    But why? Why has attacking other Christians become the agenda? It is because that is what, for many, has been modeled. It has been modeled through preaching, teaching, and debates (thankfully we don’t have many of those any more). The way all this is going to change is through education, getting to know people on the other side of the aisle (and realizing how much they love God too), and through humility.

  8. Darin says:

    Do you realling want the answers from my experience?

    Because they were not viewed as Christians so no one is being attacked, they are being corrected because their soul is on the line.

    Understanding in humility is important, how else could one know that they aren’t doing it to be mean-spirited, tehy are doing it because they are concerned for your soul.

  9. mattdabbs says:

    You make a good point. That is a tough point to counter when that is one some people really think they are doing. I don’t have a problem with people stepping up and saying what they believe to be the truth. I don’t mind people saying they believe someone is in the wrong. I don’t mind if someone disagrees with me on something. I do mind when people get to smashing and bashing and using the Bible as a law book to crush other’s spirit with. If we cannot talk in love with those we disagree with we should just keep our thoughts to ourselves. We do more damage than good when we argue and fight and bicker and in doing so teach the world just how ungodly Christians can act toward each other. You cannot stand up for right and truth and do so in a way that contradicts the very heart and attitude of the Gospel and Jesus Christ himself.

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