Thursday, January 22, 2009

The State of Churches of Christ in America

Here are some interesting links for my COC brethren that were E-mailed to me today. They are each from the Christian Chronicle:

• The 2009 edition of Churches of Christ in the United States has been released, and we are shrinking. I don't know how much of that conclusion has to do with the following story...

• The Richland Hills Church of Christ of Fort Worth and other churches were excluded from the latest edition of the Churches of Christ in the United States due to conflict over instrumental worship services on Sundays.

• Bobby Ross, Jr. wrote asking the question, What will it take to grow the church? He shared some incisive reflections. Quoting John Scott of the Saturn Road Church of Christ, "We simply have to build more bridges and fewer walls."


Anonymous said...

Hi Philip,

Came across your blog because of the mention of the Christian Chronicle. Thanks much for posting the links.

- Bobby Ross

Anonymous said...


You should come back to Philip's blog more often. He shares a lot that is valuable here.

Dan said...

I'm a member of two churches that are right now both trying to start thinking of new ideas to grow and reach the lost. After many discussions and conversations, I'm convinced that the main catalyst for a healthy, growing church is enthusiastic, excited members. The "more bridges, fewer walls" quote I think hits it right on the head. To create enthusiasm, we've got to start creating a positive attitude among our members. We've defined ourselves for too long as "not them," which is a negative message. At some point, we have to learn to be who we are.

Danny said...

Nice blog Philip.

Keep spreading the word.

Jordan said...

Good post, several thoughts.

1. Your second point brings up a good question of what is a Church of Christ? We are non-denominational churches with no central authority. Should we count all churches that want to be identified with us and aren't some crazy cult?

2. The Grace / Community / Bible / Fellowship / Non-Denominational explosion is definitely present in my area. I think that many people have found this movement attractive. They are not that far away from us (sometimes). What are they doing that we aren't that we could learn from?

3. I know that my home congregation has lost significant numbers in the past 2 years. However, I consider our congregation to be in one of its strongest states. The core that we have is now much stronger spiritually, much more active, and frankly much less likely to switch churches whenever the winds change. In other words, we have a much stronger family even though our numbers are down. I think that this positions us well going into the future.

4. John Scott is a really good guy. I graduated with his daughter from high school. He preaches at the church that many of my friends went and go to. In other words, I take his opinions pretty seriously.

III said...

@ Dan

Agreed. I've heard many folks of our generation express that very sentiment: being frustrated with our brand being characterized more by what we aren't than by what we are.

@ Jordan

Point #1 appears to be the greatest point of contention with this exclusion.

In that article, Carl Royster said, “This publication has never been intended to be any kind of an ‘official list of authorized congregations,’ I am saddened when I hear of people attempting to use it as such.” But no one is swallowing that spin & reading it that way. In fact, quite the opposite.

I liked your other points, too. I think that Matt is gonna cover these issues with a lot more depth, and I look forward to dialoguing about it more.

Jonathan Storment said...

This story has been all over my friends blogs. It is a little weird that for the first time in my life I am a part of a church that is not listed in that directory. And I grew up in a church of 10 people.

III said...

Yeah, I thought of you Storment. I know this is bringing you guys a lot of unnecessary attention. Good luck with alllllll that

And when I posted this thing yesterday afternoon, I thought I was posting something unique that no one else had noticed or was going to blog about. I'd almost rather delete it now than add to all the noise.

Jonathan Storment said...

I wasn't thinking you were adding to the noise at all Philip. If something strange is going on in our/now your brotherhood I tend to check out your blog because you know about it and don't mind talking about it.

Anonymous said...

Great blog. It wasn't until today that I read your comment on Cope's blog about the directory. You comment was before mine. I didn't realize that I was basically saying what you had already said (and said well). Your other comment (Why bring up issues about Harding at all?) was exactly the point I was trying to make. It serves no useful purpose except to tear down. I think the speech on his blog makes people feel justified in resenting their church leaders.
I am not a conservative in my doctrinal beliefs. But it breaks my heart to hear people speak with such smugnesss about the conservatives amongst us. And it breaks my heart to see it promoted and perpetuated by one such as Mike. - Joey Tilton jbazf(at)suddenlink(dot)net

Mad Rappin EW said...

I do think the exclusion of Richland Hills from the directory and the reason COC membership has declined recently has a direct correlation. I think the comment I read on the Christian Chronicle article best sums up the issue:

"When the congregational leadership votes to add an instrument they remove themselves from the numbers of the non-instrumental fellowship... To me the sad part is that they wish to add an instrument, thus breaking fellowship with non-instrument congregations..."

The Christian Chronicle says it's an "acapella COC" directory because that's how it's always been but at the root of that is the idea that those who don't have the approved COC doctrine aren't a part of us. The Stone-Campbell movement started as a unity movement and since COC divided over instruments there are sadly hundreds of unimportant non-Biblical doctrinal differences that cause COC churches to sever fellowship with others. I applaud Mike Cope for drawing attention to the very reason numbers are waning in judgemental COC churches. Until these churches learn to follow Romans 14 and not judge others on non-Biblically based traditions the attendance will only decline more.

Mad Rappin EW said...

After reading Matt Dabbs blog entry about this I will give the benefit of the doubt to the Christian Chronicle for not intending to cast judgement on churches that use instruments. But by choosing to exclude a church that has half of their services acapella instead of A. Putting an asterik to explain not all services are acapella or B. Re-thinking how they define what churches are COC - it shows lack of concern for the COC churches that are excluded for 1 aspect of their worship style.

Neither conservative nor liberal COC ideas are the issue. But judging those in conservative or liberal churches as no longer being fellowshipped with is at odds with Jesus and Paul's teachings on unity.