Friday, June 27, 2014

"Come Outer" Movement

Denominational leaders sometimes label the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ a "come-outer movement." It's not just denominational leaders, though, the accusation comes from within the Restoration Movement, too. The designation "come-outer" means those so labeled focus on calling denominational Christians to "come out" and "join" the Restoration Movement.

There's some truth to that! I don't like to say that but I feel I must. There are ultra-conservatives in the Restoration Movement who believe "we are not the only Christians but we are the only Christians." No, I said exactly what I meant. All too many in "our churches" refuse to acknowledge as Christians anyone in denominational churches. The attitude expressed is, "If they were really Christians they would abandon the denominations they belong to and join us--we are the true church. Do these Christians really believe you can't be saved unless you are part of one of our churches?

In my opinion a legalistic attitude such as that is just as narrow and legalistic as someone who says I have to take a particular end time view to be considered Christian. For generations our movement held out the belief "we were not the only Christians but we are Christians only." We must come to grips with the reality where we acknowledge as a brother or sister anyone who believes without reservation Jesus is the Christ and who submits to baptism for the remission of sin. Jesus said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved." To we believe that or not?

There is a legitimate call to brothers and sisters spread among the denominations to unity. Jesus prayed for his followers to be united (John 17). We can be united with individual Christians wherever they are merely by recognizing them as believers, accepting them, calling them to display a commitment to Scripture, and work with them whenever and wherever we can. Coming out of denominations and coming together to make the Gospel more effective--"so that the world may be one"--is legitimate. But let's admit it, that sort of work can be accomplished in many different ways.

There is another sort of "come-outer movement" seen in contemporary mega churches. It is the attitude that "we have it all together" and "we know how to get the job done" so you need to leave your church and join us. It is the attitude that says, "You need to close down the church where you worship and join us." I've heard that over and over again!

Mega churches are quite effective at getting people to "come out" of their smaller churches and join them--the "true church" because they know how to get the job done.

I suspect mega churches, in spite of their numerous immersions, really do very little 'true evangelism." Instead they "move believers (note my terminology) around from church to church largely because they offer a more exciting or attractive programs and do outstanding branding and marketing. I grant the sprinkled Methodists, Lutherans, and Anglicans who move into their churches need immersion. These believers are a different category from atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and on and on I could go. It would be an interesting research project to find out how many of the hundreds of additions to mega churches represent pure evangelism and how many are denominational believers moving from place to place.

I'm painting with a broad brush here. I know that! The emphasis today is not on evangelism; it is on church growth. Church growth does not equal evangelism.

I love small churches, medium size churches, large churches, and mega churches. I don't care how big they are, what worship style they employ, and the programs they develop as long as they are biblical and teach sound doctrine. I know the hearts of many mega church leaders. They do care about winning the lost. That concern, however, often gets swallowed up in doing what ever it takes to increase the body count. I also know meta church leaders who are engaged in competition with larger churches and that seems to me to be a strange motivation for growing a church.

Well, I've been thinking about this stuff.