Apologetics & Outreach

Maybe Churches of Christ Aren’t So Backwards After All

August 14, 2018

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Maybe Churches of Christ Aren’t So Backwards After All

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.” These famous words of Benjamin Franklin continue to resound for the current generation. Too often Christians fall prey to the grumbling and rumbling spirit. One becomes enamored with the problems of the churches of Christ without the sweet reasonableness of grace and forbearance. A mature disciple is not blind to problems, rather she is tempered through a Philippians 4:8 spirit: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Through the years, much negativity has encompassed the churches of Christ. There was this vibe that the preaching and teaching in our pulpits and classrooms were somehow under par to the denominational world. There was a perception that the churches of Christ were a bunch of “backwoods, hillbillies” that could not intellectually keep up with the bright thinkers of the community church movement. Through the years, I have found this mindset to be wrong!

Strong Biblical Understanding

The majority of my formal training in ministry has been completed in schools that are connected to the churches of Christ. But one summer, there was a class that was canceled at Harding School of Theology, so my professor recommended that I take a course at Denver Seminary which is close to my home. For some reason, I assumed that this class about church development would reveal the hidden mysteries of church growth, which the churches of Christ have missed. The professor had us read ten books and write a paper about our local working context. Instead of discovering that the Seminary had all the answers, I realized that my training from our brotherhood institutions was a first-class experience. There were no hidden secrets, no quick solutions, and in fact, the seminary had little to offer me because the teachers did not understand my context in ministry and spent the majority of the time demeaning my faith. These people were not experts in love, tolerance, and grace, but were like a lot of people who are struggling with the ministry as I do.

Strong Biblical Preaching

Sometimes people feel that the preaching in the churches of Christ is second-rate. There is this notion that all of the best preachers are filling denominational pulpits. Fortunately, through the years, my training has taken me to some of the more prestigious universities. I have sat in classes with some of the most famous teachers in the art of preaching and have heard a few of the outstanding orators through the years. But over and over again, the best instruction comes from the men who deliver messages for the Lord’s Church. There are many Ph.D.’s in homiletics who have preached polished sermons, but a sermon by Mike Vestal still ranks a home run each time he speaks. Wendell Winkler preached the best sermon ever about heaven. The greatest communicators of God’s word are those within the churches of Christ. The preachers in our churches have a passion for the word, are in love with Jesus, and are skilled at applying the message to our hearts.

Through the years, I have heard this phrase, “The churches of Christ are on the other side of the tracks.” This always seemed to mean that the church is poor, uneducated, and somehow inferior to other religious groups. As the church, we should not care about looking successful or be concerned with keeping up with other religious groups. Instead, we should be sold out for Christ and his Church. We can be thankful for the blessings within the church, but we must never confuse the need for the aura of success with the power of God. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” Much is right with the church, but the most right thing is Christ is Lord.

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Matthew is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada. He has a beautiful wife named Charity and two precious children named Gabrielle and Noah. He has graduated from the Brown Trail School of Preaching, Heritage Christian University with his Bachelors of Arts in Biblical Studies, Lipscomb University with his Master’s of Arts in Biblical Studies, and Freed-Hardeman University with his Master’s of Divinity degree, and Harding School of Theology with a Doctorate in Ministry. His articles have appeared in the World Evangelist, the Highway to Holiness, The West Virginia Christian, The Christian Echo, The Firm Foundation, Church Growth, the Gospel Advocate, and the Rocky Mountain Christian. Matthew has served as an Associate Minister for the Hartsville Pike Church of Christ, Pulpit Minister for the Waynesboro church of Christ, and presently he is the pulpit minister for the Castle Rock Church of Christ in Castle Rock, Colorado. He is the author of “Mountain Moving Faith” and “Natural Evangelism” which are both published by the Gospel Advocate.
3 Comments

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  1. Joann Larson

    Thank you, that was encouraging. We are not to please mankind but rather to be pleasing to our great God. We just need to keep that in mind. The World does not understand but we must keep trying to help them see their needs. Thank you, brother. God bless you and your family and your work.

  2. Thomas Stewart

    More often than not our minister at the Riverchase Church of Christ begins his sermons with, "Open your Bibles and turn with me to _____ and we're going to look at some things... Call that backwoods, backwards, hillbilly, or whatever. For me it's the place every sermon, study class, devotional, and private study should start and finish. It's how and where we find truth. It how we grow in knowledge and understanding of God's word. And I believe it brings a smile to His face when people desire to know what He has said rather than what mankind has said.

  3. Keith Pitts

    I preach for a small rural congregation in McNairy county, TN. This is such a wonderful encouragement to me, because I don't have a degree. However, I love the Lord and his church, and the truth of the gospel. No one is ever going to say, "You need to hear this man speak!", about me, but I am truly thankful for the opportunity. Thank you so much for writing this! May the Lord continue to bless you and your family in his service.

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