A Facebook “preachers” group that I somehow became attached to (you social media types know how easily that can happen) brought a preacher in Tuscumbia, Alabama, named Jesse Winn to my attention. After e-mailing Bro. Winn and exchanging a few thoughts and pleasantries, I decided (with his permission) to include his name and a link to the article in question. You can find the article here. I encourage you to read his article with the same prayer, spirit and consideration I ask when you read mine. The gist of his article was this (his emphasis):
I believe that, generally speaking, as a movement, we (the churches of Christ) need to be less afraid of change when necessary and more willing to question things.
I agree in principle. But it is worth some time and space to discuss exactly when change becomes “necessary” and for what purposes. “Necessary” to maintain our numbers? To grow in a sinful community? To keep the doors open for another generation? Noble principles all, to be sure, but not at the core of our mandate, as I read the text. We are here to present Christ’s body (Ephesians 1:22-23) in all the glory He gave it — at least, to the best of our ability. If we are not doing what we do “to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17), do the details of what we are doing really matter?
He cited numerous examples of where his spiritual journey has led him (most of which I strongly oppose); I will try to deal with some of that in a later post or posts. I want to use this space today to discuss the (alleged) necessity of change for the modern church, as well as the (alleged) unwillingness of my brethren to reexamine their faith as individuals and/or the direction of the church as a whole.
The words “change,” “changed,” and “changes” occur a grand total of eight times in the New American Standard Bible. Paul wrote of wanting to change his tone while addressing his wayward brethren in Galatians 4:20. A change in the law and priesthood are noted in Hebrews 7:12. Our own “change” in the resurrection is prophesied in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. But changing to fit the environment is, to the best of my knowledge, foreign to the text. Rather, we are to be actively trying to change the environment to meet His standards (Ephesians 5:11-13). Yes, Paul writes of being “all things to all men” in 1 Corinthians 9:22, but that is in the context of denying one’s own personal judgments and preferences, not giving in to them. “The gospel” that he continually references in this chapter is the same gospel he preached to the Galatians — the only “gospel” worthy of the term (Galatians 1:6-9).
Galatians 1:10 points out Paul’s motivation in what might be termed “stagnation” or “first century thinking” by today’s progressive element. Being Jesus’ bond-servant necessarily eliminates any effort designed primarily to please other people (or ourselves). This is about Him, not us. We will certainly disagree from time to time on the specifics of how to determine, define and pursue His will for us and for the body. But if we start off the discussion by emphasizing what “the people” like, we have doomed ourselves from the start. This is not a democracy; this is a divine monarchy (Luke 6:46). We are not voters; we are subjects (James 5:7).
If we are to achieve and maintain “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), we must go where the Spirit is taking us. And by that I do not mean a special feeling in my heart that I believe comes from God; I mean the inspired text that gives me and all believers absolutely everything we need “for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We absolutely must challenge our way of thinking; we must know it is “good” before we choose to “hold fast” to it (1 Thessalonians 5:21). But our commitment to His truth (John 8:32) must never waver in the slightest.
Postscript: In giving his consent with regard to his thoughts and words, Bro. Winn asked that I make note that his emphasis was on the overall point of change rather than the specific points he made to illustrate it; also, he emphasizes that his views come “by study, prayer, meditation, conversation, and the Holy Spirit” and that he is not trying to “change the church for emotional reasons to become more appealing to the world.” He also wanted me to share my response with him, which I am happy to do. I link to the entirety of the e-mail exchange in question here.
Addendum: Bro. Winn contacted me later and asked that I delete links to his now-disconnected e-mail address, which I was glad to do.