Archives For Church History

Image is from the Political Carnival website.

I am hesitant to write this post namely because I cannot control how people will respond to it.  I also want to admit there is a host of history I am aware of but am not trained in that precludes the issues we will address in this post. However, I am struggling with the ramifications of first century Christianity and how we have done Christianity or, in my particular context, how we have tried to “restore” New Testament Christianity. So for the scholars who read this please know there is a lot I am skipping and I ask your forgiveness for that but I am merely trying to scratch the surface in this discussion.

Question: Why do we have many black churches, white churches, hispanic churches (enter other ethnic group here) but few mixed churches?

The answer is obvious to many as the history in America, unfortunately, has paved the mindset of the church and that we are products of our segregated history. The church should have been the leader in integration years before it occurred (in some places it probably was) but unfortunately whites (predominately in the south) developed an anglocentric view of God’s people and believed anything else was not God’s provision. The Stone-Campbell movement was not unscathed by this as many white churches dodged integration (while still making their conscience stay clean) by starting black churches of Christ in the same city (partially funded, in some cases, by the white church) as the white church.

Fast forward decades and we still have black churches and white churches with few exceptions. Why? Perhaps there is some reconciliation issues that exist between the churches in the town. Perhaps that is just the way some people believe it should be. I talked with a gentleman some time ago about the need for our church to reach someone in the inner-city community and his response spoke volumes to me: “I wonder if this is something the ________ church should do.” In another conversation I had with a person about inviting people from the poor community into our worship I was blown away by their response: “Robbie, I am not sure we should invite ‘those people’ because they do not act right in bible class.” My jaw dropped.

Certainly this is not the way Paul would envision the church. A church that was racially integrated (Jew and Gentile issue in Acts 15) in a racially unstable climate? You had Jews, Romans, Samaritans, women (remember they had no rights), slaves and all sorts of different people learning to be a church together. Yet, we still have churches meeting the needs of each person or, should I say, each race.

But here is a question I have as well: Should integration be the goal of our churches? In other words, is it ok to have rich churches, poor churches, black churches, white churches, if they are at least addressing a certain type of people?

I struggled with this one. Really I did. I believe churches should be integrated so far as communication can be accomplished. There are language barriers in our community that would make Hispanics feel uncomfortable since English is not their primary language. But…it can still be done. I believe that the church should be a warm fellowship filled with different races, socioeconomic levels, nationalities and even people with different beliefs (how can discipleship happen if we all believe the same thing?).

I think there are dangers to integrating churches. One danger a church should avoid is the bigger white church looking like a dominating take over of the smaller black, Hispanic or other church. Perhaps new leadership should be installed represented from both churches and even shared pulpit and ministerial duties. Another danger from this is the immediate confrontation of racism within the body. A move like this would only bring the ugliness of some people in the light which is good though because at least you can see an issue that is in the light.

Again, there is a lot more behind this post that I am unqualified to address but I believe strongly that a church should be integrated based on Scriptures like…well…the whole story! Just think about this: What would it say to a community to see one church uniting rich, poor, black, white, green or purple (gothic too!) under the same name? Do you think it might change the community? Do you think it might unite a community?

What do you think?


We are continuing a series of how people perceive the church and using Proverbs 6:16-19 (7 Deadly Sins) as a framework for our discussion.

16 There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Abraham Lincoln is famous for saying, “No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.”  Lying has no place in our ministries but I am surprised at the temptation there is to do it.  Not so much the blatant lies but it is the lies of omission where we do not tell the full truth of something.  Like when I tell a student I am going to make it to one of there ball games knowing I do not have the time to do it and then when I do not show up telling them, “I was busy!”  No, you should have never committed in the first place knowing you couldn’t follow through.  

Something that was frowned upon in both the Old and New Testaments was the evil of lying.  When a person withholds truth or forges the truth there is a loss of trust between the two individuals.  Growing up, I had issues with lying.  I lied to make me look better in certain circumstances and to pad my ego.  To a certain extent, there has been the temptation to do this in ministry.  Example: people in the church know I have taken a lot of courses on Greek and Hebrew and sometimes they say things like, “Ask Robbie about the Greek of this particular word.”  Now there is the temptation for me to think that I know a lot and so I can probably give them an answer that sounds like I know a lot and if I use enough “scholarly” language I can even dupe people into thinking I am an expert.  

That’s lying.  

So if someone asks me about Greek or Hebrew I will respond by giving them what I think may be the right answer but I try to refer them to people smarter and more capable than I.  I am really just (to use Mike Yaconelli terminology) a klutz in the kingdom of God and a spiritual nincompoop.  The generation we seek to reach is tired of seeing Christian leaders amount to nothing more than liars.  I struggle often with my own hypocrisy knowing I am held accountable even more than those who do not teach.  I am not an expert at what I do and often I struggle with incompetence and spiritual stupidity.  I admit that I am not the greatest at what I do and there are plenty of men (and women) who are more qualified to do what I do.  But I admit that!  I am honest and transparent about my spiritual life which is something churches need to do starting with its leadership and letting this mentality trickle on down.  

Lies can and have killed churches.  How many church splits have started with a lie or a forgery of truth?  It’s a shame.  We need to be truth-tellers and truth-seekers.  “Did you hear about so and so Robbie?”  My response should be, “No, but I am going to go to so and so to see if what you say is the truth!”  

Buy the truth and do not sell it—
wisdom, instruction and insight as well.  (Prov. 23:23)

I am not sure you understand the seriousness of why Christ came to the world and that moment we are to celebrate.  When Jesus came to the world he assumed the full capacity of humans and became the living sacrifice for our sins when he was killed on the cross.  Docetism is the heresy that Jesus only “appeared” to be human but actually he could not be human because all matter, according to Gnosticism, was evil and Jesus could not assume something that was evil.  Irenaeus, Tertullian and Ignatius all spoke against this heresy defending the fact that when Jesus came to this world he relinquished his deity to assume humanity with the purpose of saving mankind.  Jack Cottrell gives three reasons why Jesus had to do this:[1]

  1. Only a person with a real body could sacrifice his life and suffer death (Heb. 2:14; 9:22).
  2. If Jesus was to save us totally from our sin then he must be human to recognize what all of sin is about (2 Cor. 5:21).  In response to docetics Irenaeus is famous in saying “What the Son has not assumed he cannot redeem” (Against Heresies).
  3. Because there can only be one mediator between man and God and the humanity of Jesus depends on this.

Having said all of this I point you back towards Christ’s birth.  The moment Christ comes is the moment where God the Father allows his Son to begin a journey to train leaders, to begin the church but most importantly to sacrifice himself as the appeasement of a debt incurred by all of humanity.  A debt incurred by you and me.  Is it any wonder why the angels and magi were compelled to worship him?  When Jesus came to the earth it became God with us…for his name is Immanuel.

[1] Jack Cottrell, The Faith Once for All, (Joplin, MO: College Press, 2002): 230-31.  There are volumes of material that deal with early century heresies like Gnosticism, Sabellianism and docetism which are available online.  I thank Dr. Harold Hazelip who introduced me to this study and I am forever grateful to him.

You probably know the name of the Titans’ running back who rushed for 2,000 yards last year.  You probably also know the other running backs in NFL history who are in the elite class as those who have rushed for 2,000 yards or more.  Those names are easily recognized by most avid football fans.  However, for every 2,000 yard rusher there is always an amazing offensive line and a stud fullback to pave the way for the running back.  Names you won’t hear mentioned on ESPN are Michael Roos, David Stewart, Jake Scott, Eugene Amano and Kevin Mawae (I had to look them up).  These guys all blocked for Chris Johnson and paved the way for him to have an amazing season. 

We have offensive lineman in the church as well.  In Scripture there was Epaphras, Epaphroditus, Phoebe, Onesimus and Philemon who all had small roles in the Scriptures but they were some of the unsung heroes who paved the way for Paul and his ministry to churches all over the Roman Empire.  In our churches we all have those people who do not get the recognition (they don’t want it either) and glory.  These people will not get mentioned in a sermon, they won’t lead a public prayer, you will hardly know that they are even their but without them the church would miss an important component. 

These people are the ones who will give you a check for hundreds of dollars to help pay for kids to go to camp.  These are the people who will cook you dinner when you are sick and incapable of doing it yourself.  These are the people who will write you a note of encouragement in the most depressing times of your life.  These are the people who spend all night helping with VBS but their name never makes it in a bulletin or an announcement.  Do you have these people in your churches?  Here is what you need to do…write them a letter thanking them for all of the work they do behind the scenes and thank them for that.  Without an amazing offensive line even the best of running backs do not make it to 1,000 yards and without those people in our churches we never grow and we never succeed.

Growing up MLK, Jr. was (and is) my hero.  He was not perfect (find me someone who was) and had his share of flaws but led a revolution in one of the most turbulent times in America’s history.  I am writing my final graduate paper (and the church says?  AMEN!) for my African-America Church History and Theology class this week and the next two weeks.  The title for my paper may interest you, “The churches of Christ and Martin Luther King, Jr.: An Assessment of Views.”  Essentially, I am tracing how members in the churches of Christ viewed the work of Dr. King during the period of the 1960s and all the way up to current views.  I am shocked by what I have encountered.  Not all of it is positive.  I will lead you with one quote then I will ask for your thoughts about Dr. King,

Christianity Today, a liberal magazine, says Martin Luther King Jr., did not believe in the virgin birth of Christ, and that Christ was divine only in the sense that Jesus preached a divine message to man!  Can we praise him in that? Can we praise him for being a Baptist minister and preaching Baptist doctrine?  Can we praise him for his Communist leanings?  Ray Hawk, “Eulogy: Misplaced Praise?” Christian Chronicle 25 (May 17, 1968): 3. 

What do you think?  Understand the above comment is contextual but what are your thoughts about Dr. King?