Since the church began, there have been many crises. Someone has said that, at least in this country, serious trouble seems to come about each third generation. Must this be?
One generation, fighting its way out of the last problem, studies the Bible independently and reaches conclusions for which most of the members have sound Bible reasons. The second generation accepts the conclusions, with their accumulated terminology, and holds to them firmly—but doesn’t understand the Bible reason for them. They simply inherit the conclusions, and often have little appreciation of their importance.
The third generation will likely hold to the terminology — by now it represents orthodoxy — but they grasp neither the reasons for, nor the applications of these conclusions. They condone all sorts of changes as long as they are couched in familiar words.
They will accept organizational bondage if they are assured that this is “congregational independence,” and would play a horn if someone could think of a way to call it “singing.” Usually a few members know better than this, or are driven to rebellion by the sheer audacity of the innovators. They begin to make serious, independent Bible studies, seeking God’s answers for the mess; and eventually reach sound scriptural conclusions. But in the process the creed-bound majority (third generation) is antagonized, tempers flare, and we start all over again.
Apposite to sectarian “party-ism”, some folk are horrified if a material “split” takes place; (favorite expression is “torn asunder the precious body of our Lord”) nor would I take such drastic action lightly. But the real “tearing asunder” takes place long before brethren quit meeting together; and is by far the more serious separation.
It is too bad folk won’t be more concerned about the love for TRUTH and Spirituality that binds the body of Christ: together in the first place.
Must this vicious circle of crises (and sometimes apostasy) continue? Are we so destitute of character, so resigned to carnality, we cannot end this devilish maelstrom?
Restrictive clauses in our property deeds will not do it. These creeds only catalog the problems we have had in the past. They are not needed in the first generation, and the second and third generation won’t apply them.
So, we must go deeper than that. Obvious needs are more thorough Bible knowledge and understanding of basic principles underlying our conclusions. We must not be satisfied with stock answers to Bible questions but must demand a rewording — making the answer our very own, and avoiding the development of “party” terminology.
We must ask, “Why?” over and over again; and never be satisfied with a “Church of Christ” (“we’ve always done it that way”) answer.
But more important than all these, we must work on the heart. Within a few years after the massive Wall of China was built; it was breached by the enemy. Note: the Wall did not fail, but the gatekeepers were bribed. Our preparations for the next crisis will fail unless we learn to control ourselves. Except we learn whole-hearted dedication to the Lord, we must taste, again and again, the bitter fruits of the flesh.
Ours is an awesome responsibility, But preparation for future crises cannot wait. Our children are growing; the years fly away; already we feel the gentle pressure of conformity; and — say a prayer — it is soon the second generation.
Robert F. Turner