Jay Guin’s Article on the Future of Progressive Churches of Christ

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Thought provoking article and comments on Jay Guin’s recent article the Future of Progressive Churches of Christ.

I believe part of the way forward is in us being in tune with how the timeless Gospel intersects the present times. Said another way, how are the eternal truths of the Gospel actually applied and lived out in today’s world?

Part of the answer to that question comes in understanding the shift from modernism to post-modernism and how a new generation listens differently and for different things than previous generations. The modern generations wanted locked-down seemingly irrefutable logic. The post-modern generation is listening for who is telling the best, most impacting story.

Understanding that shift is one thing we need to do in order to move forward in meaningful, relevant and Christ-honoring ways. It means we don’t take narratives and poetry dissect them down into legislation. Instead, we start appreciating the bigger themes of scripture and how the story plays out especially through the Gospels and into Acts. Then we have to figure out how that grand narrative is faithfully told through us in today’s world by today’s people.

15 Responses

    1. Gary, that is our strength but we often miss it because we take the best story and boil it down to something it is not. It is not that PM’s need to get over it…we need to help present it in its original form and context instead of being extreme reductionists.

    2. Sadly, too many people believe that a gospel sermon is too simple. It may sound simple but when modern human nature is mentioned in light of the gospel lesson, it hits home and makes people see themselves asking the same questions of Jesus. That type of sermon does not have to be long with 20 verses supporting it. Twelve minutes and one well-made point can get people’s attention.

    3. The Lectionary is valuable for such. The readings from the Psalms, OT, NT, and Gospels and how they are brought together, make for meaty, meaningful sermons

    4. Matt, the Gospel of the kingdom of God as preached by Jesus is not the strength of the Churches of Christ. The COC derives the bulk of their teaching from the narrative of the Book of Acts, and then they move back to the Gospels to cherrypick verses to prove the pattern they derive from the Book Of Acts.

  1. The command in the Wilderness was to Rest, Read and Rehearse the Word.
    Both Jews and Gentiles were “wise unto salvation” because the Word was PREACHED by being READ in the synagogue each Rest day.

    Jesus exampled by standing up to read and then decently and in order sat down.

    An Episcopalian told me that they LECTIONED through the Bible each year. Could that be true?

    lectio II. A reading, perusal; a reading out, reading aloud.
    lectito , I. To gather or collect eagerly or often
    To read often, with eagerness, or with attention

    Paul’s “gather, assembly or come together” is the synagogue word: the Synagogue was a Word of God only assembly: it had a one piece pattern which does not need to progress: who will be the progresser?

    Paul’s command was always to READ the letters and that is defined as “the cultic reading aloud” of his letters as the Jews did the Old Testament. It is pretty easy to want to come to God’s aid. The unconverted Jews in 2 Cor 3 could neither READ black text on brown paper or even HEAR it when it was being READ by a senior male while everyone else was silenced by command or reverence.

    Lector a reader: an officer in the Christian Church

    This is in contrast to Lectio Divina “The passage itself is not as important. constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase”. In the pagan sense divina is “fortune telling” by the Hag or Old Wives.

  2. I don’t think understanding the shift is actually that difficult. There have always been what you termed ‘modernists’ and ‘post-modernist’ in the Church, right into its pre-history. In Jesus’s day the first group were surely the scribes and doctors of the law that he often got into scriptural wrangles with, and the second group ranged from the ordinary captivated people he told parables to, right thru to his disciples, to whom he imparted a vision of the incoming Kingdom of Heaven. They’ve always been there – the ‘modernists’ attempting to gain a comprehensive understanding while trying to hold to established ways, and the ‘post-modernists’ happy to try something new if it fires their zeal and imagination. Moreover, I’m sure the generation emphasis is an illusion: almost since the day dot the spirit of bucking the system has burned more brightly in the up-and-coming generation, to the chagrin and disgust of their elders, who cannot or choose not to remember the ‘enthusiasms’ of their own youth.

    The shift, on the other hand, looks to be due to culture shock from information overload coming in from the world around. I think a ‘modernist’ needs to filter and contain what he’s bombarded with – too much info on too many fronts, and he’s left reeling, and probably mumbling to himself. So, when the ‘modernists’ fall quiet, you notice the ‘post-modernists’, who have always been there, and have climbed inrto the lime-light from time to time thru their unorthodox opinions, but are now cast as major players, because the ‘modernists’ are still trying to make sense of what has happened. What has happened is very simple, but is darned difficult to fix: the number of communication channels – the number of ways that people get to know things, and the number of people and amount of source material that you can now access – has proliferated well beyond anyone’s ability to handle it effectively. It has the knock-on effect for the ‘modernist’ that he has to spend a lot more time searching out relevant threads on critical issues and is constantly event-driven if he is to stay current. He can’t do what his father or grand-father might have done – mulled the matter over in some backwater for a few decades before getting to the nub of it and puting his bit in. If he does that he’s likely to find that the issue has been determined and disposed of, and other important matters have surfaced and are well-progressed before he can get on-board with them. This is entirely a problem caused by modern networking technology and an increasingly vast literate population – not bad things in themselves. A symptom of this condition is the increasing number of errors in blogs – typos, self-contradictions, poor phraseology, etc – as people find themselves compelled to off-load what’s in their minds before the next post comes winging in. The good news is that we know scripturally that all this freneticism doesn’t get you closer to the truth: that was penned out slowly and methodically some 2000 years ago!

    But, please, remember that Jesus did not come into the world to save the righteous – those who tried to live upright scripturally sound lifes – but to bring on board the castaways and those who had gone overboard. He still directed God’s people towards living in accordance with the Law and the Prophets, but this time in full conscience of heart. The ‘modernists’ are usually always the defenders of God’s righteous ways, even when they seem to be attacking some aspects; too often the ‘post-modernists’ are likely thru zeal, enthusiasm and a lack of proper insight to propel themselves onto steep dangerous ground (like I did a couple of weeks on a walking expedition, and am likely to do on these blogs). I believe you really need both types to implement a Jesus-conscious Christianity.

  3. Jim wrote, “What has happened is very simple, but is darned difficult to fix: the number of communication channels – the number of ways that people get to know things, and the number of people and amount of source material that you can now access – has proliferated well beyond anyone’s ability to handle it effectively. ”

    It might have but how much of this writing consists of pent-up thoughts that now have a way to be released? Also, some people fear too much information because it might be coming from people who are deemed to have the wrong opinion, people of the wrong political persuasion, wrong gender, etc. I know many people who fear new ideas because they might be forced to defend theirs ideas. Too often there is a refusal to accept that their own idea may have some flaws.

    Pre internet, too many ideas were suppressed because there was no outlet other than talking to someone or writing a book. How many people told the preacher the sermon was “good” and they learned a lot when it was neither because their parents told them to say that? Dishonest feedback is worse than no feedback for both parties.

    1. Mark, I’m sorry that you feel that parental pressure could be used legitimately by Christians to enforce dishonest compliance with unacceptable ideas and viewpoints. If such a thing were truly happening then I wouldn’t like to answer for such ‘christians’ when on God’s ‘hot-seat’ at the time of the Judgement, for such behaviour would have nothing to do with the Truth, who all Christians purport to serve. However, no matter how important our views and opinions are to ourselves, and even though God hears the heart-felt prayers in faith of His saints, God is not a democracy but a theocracy. Government policy of His Kingdom is on His shoulders [Isaiah 9: 6-7] alone, apart from what He has chosen to delegate [e.g. Revelation 20: 4], and His will was delivered to mankind thru His chosen servants by the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit [2 Peter 1: 20-21]. If the new ideas don’t comply with our best understanding of the Scriptures, then how can they be of God unless the Scriptures were misinterpreted, and the chances of that especially in matters affecting the salvation of our souls is unthinkable.,God is not the causer of confusion or disagreements [1 Corinthians 14: 33], but that arises from the contentions in people. If you are not willing to accept the truth of the Scriptures, which is the only historic record of God’s interaction with humanity, why consider yourself to be a Christian? You can’t divorce Christ from the Scriptures (i.e. look for Christ to oppose His own revealed word and purpose under special – these days usually humanist – circumstances), which is my main worry about Jay Guin’s so-called progressive movement, If you consider his ‘Do We Preach “Another Gospel”?’ paper, the answer is sure they do, as they are willing to alter the meaning of source Hebrew and Greek to fit their beliefs. I’m just surprised that he chose to quote from the original NIV translation, rather than the pc Inclusive Language interpretation, as that is right down their ‘humanist-NOT’ alley. Perhaps the churches of Christ do have some questions that need to be re-examined, but no movement among men (whether or not they sincerely believe they are in accordance with the Scriptures) can hold that they have the insight into all truth until that Day when it is granted to the saved from on high. Even Christ witnessed that while in his mortal body, he was not privy to the arrival time of the Day that God had appointed to summon the world to Judgement. Probably, the best we can do is to honestly with forbearance re-examine issues that cause dissension, and pray for guidance and accord from the Holy Spirit in getting closer to the truth. Interestingly, the ones that seem to generate the most heat are generally accepted as not being key to the salvation of our souls, when one goes back to the Scriptures.

    2. You proof-texted that response.

      You wrote, “Interestingly, the ones that seem to generate the most heat are generally accepted as not being key to the salvation of our souls.”

      I thought all points of disagreement were salvation issues, even down to a kitchen in the church house.

    3. Sorry, Mark, I can’t see what your problem is: surely, one thing that we are encouraged to do in the churches of Christ is to argue from the Scriptures when it comes to moral and church issues; otherwise, it’s all folk’s opinions and you are attempting to go it your own without God.

      With regard to salvation issues, I believe that the only salvation issue in Scripture is acceptance of Mark 16: 16 – you need to believe in God thru the gospel witness and be baptized as a sign of repentance. If you are sincere, God will do the rest and effect the necessary changes, including developing conduct befitting a Christian. I think the apostle Paul makes the point that, regardless of our opinions on the matter, we are helpless to do more than that, because the Adversary can always find ways to pull us down if we believe only in our own capabilities.

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