THAT THE BRETHREN MIGHT KNOW
By Nana Yaw Aidoo
For a very long time, I have felt strongly that the greatest problem facing us as churches of Christ, as we move farther and farther into this century, is a lack of respect and regard for the authority of God's word. This morning, as I reflect on the state of the Lord's people in this country, I see no reason to have a contrary view now. As a matter of fact, I believe even more strongly now that the situation is worsening. Many reasons can be given why this is so. However, after quietly observing happenings in the brotherhood, I have become convinced that chiefest among the reasons that are fueling the lack of respect and regard for the authority of God's word is a two-pronged problem - A lack of love for studying God's word and A blind and cancerous trust in men of repute.
As touching the first part of the problem, I judge that until we come to understand the close link between knowledge and salvation (cf. Hos.4:6; Rom.10:1-3; Eph.4:18), this problem will remain. Most of us know about that blot on the history of the world called "The Dark Ages." A period of time such as this one, came about because the word of God, which is the light of the world (Psa.119:105) was kept far away from people by the Roman Catholic clergy. This the clergy did, because they knew that so long as the people were ignorant of God's word, it would be easy to control them. Never a time has the proverb, "those who fail to learn from history are bound to make the same mistakes" been needed than this present time.
Closely aligned with the problem of a lack of love for Bible study is the blind and cancerous trust in men of repute. Surely, I'm not the only one who has seen this and who believes that this attitude is a cancer that threatens the Lord's church? This problem follows naturally from the first one because after all if I don't know what the Bible says, then why not put my trust in the "intellectuals" in the church? The most worrying aspect of all of this is that, brethren don't think it's wrong. Acts 17:11 seems to be in the heads of most in the churches of Christ. But one thing is certain! It has not yet reached their hearts.
These "intellectuals" whom most brethren blindly trust, are unfortunately casting envious glances at denominations like The Lighthouse Church, The Pentecost Church, Assemblies of God, The Baptist Church, among others. And with such glances comes the desire to "be like all the (denomi)nations" (1 Sam.8:20). So it isn't strange to hear statements like, "The church is no longer relevant or is becoming irrelevant." "The church is not pulling in the masses." "People are rejecting our 'rigid' forms and methods." and many other charges. Congregational autonomy we are told is the cause of all of our "woes" even though when brethren were united on autonomy in the 1980's the church of Christ was the fastest growing church in the nation.
Realizing they have been given on a silver platter, a chance to change the church into their own images, these "intellectuals" are organizing "church growth" seminars at the "drop of a hat," to teach us the "best" ways and methods to grow the church of Christ in the 21st century. Nevermind the fact that the apostle Paul teaches us by inspiration the pattern for church growth when he wrote; "I planted, Apollos watered, but God who gives the increase." (1 Cor.3:6).
"For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.' Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?...Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence" (1 Cor.1:19-29).
Sadly enough, these "intellectuals" are thriving because "the people love to have it so." If in the next 30 years, a generation arises which believes that congregational autonomy, and exclusive acappella and congregational singing in worship are mere traditions of men, the aim of these "intellectuals" would have been achieved. And thrive they would until brethren get back into The Book.
There are some also who believe that these "intellectuals" are in the wrong, but suppose that error is far away from them. Thus, they have become politicians rather than warriors (Eph.6:10ff; 1 Tim.1:8; Jer.48:10). I am always reminded of this quote by the German anti-Nazi and Lutheran Church theologian, Martin Niemoller; "When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent. I was not a social democrat. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out. "
Whether you agree with me or not, I only wrote this "that the brethren might know." That this material would be received in the spirit in which it was written is my humble prayer.