This statement saddens me deeply:
There have been more buildings erected to the honor and service of Jesus Christ in the United States of America alone during the last decade only than were previously erected all over the world in honor of all the kings and rulers who ever lived.
When we use the erection of church buildings as a measure of the church, things have gone terribly wrong.
It is noteworthy that the building the author erected in Manhattan at great expense is now occupied by a group so progressive that he would not recognize it nor have fellowship with it.
Jeremiah Tatum wrote in his article, "The biggest mistake Churches of Christ have made in the last 50 years":
I’m going to be bold now and put the majority of the blame on the common disciple. For the most part I don’t believe that preachers and missionaries who are in the trenches have contributed to the problem. In fact we have often had to run interference. Mostly it is the members of the Lord’s church, who have either not been listening or who have not taught themselves, who use language like “I’m a church of Christ.” Or who use phrases like, “You have to be a church of Christ.” Or even, “Well the church of Christ teaches…” Such Christians who misrepresent the kingdom are doing the church and the world’s population a disservice by turning the body of Jesus into a denomination that follows a creed.
This is not a laity versus clergy problem. This is a generalized problem, a denominational concept of the church. It is leaders who hang "CHURCH OF CHRIST" on their buildings. Leaders have denominationalized the church as much or more than their followers. When leaders take down the names (for that's what it is) from their buildings, maybe, just maybe, the laity will listen to the preachers' rants about their use of language.
I use laity and clergy referring to the brethren, because we got it in most places. Stan Mitchell observed, in his last article on Forthright published today but written before his death last week: "We say we do not believe in the clergy-laity system, but we certainly act like that’s what we want." It's there for those willing to see.
On an alternative social-media site, someone wrote, "No, individuality isn't something we can do as a group".
The exception to that is the church. It is in the family of God that we discover who we are and what are individual gifts and talents are.
(At the moment, I'm social media-ing here and here and here, the latter being an open-source alternative to instagram.)
One more lesson tonight in the "Divine Initiative" series here in Chillicothe OH, on "The Family of God." The Lord's grace gives us community. We cannot survive alone. We need each other. God created us as social beings, as souls who need fellowship for growth and service. The key word is love. The spiritual family deserves greater priority than the physical. It is more important. Let us live in family, and learn to serve and love.
Others will put forth their ideas about how to accomplish the divine mission. We will do our best, also. We are glad for the efforts of each one. In the end, God will judge the work of all and he will approve or find us lacking. Whatever of our work may survive the test, we look forward to salvation.
I am not interested in building up an institution, but only the church of God. My investments will go into the hearts and lives of men and women, for eternal life, and not into the creation or strengthening of a human organization.
The closer you are to the people of God, the closer you will be to God. Arms-length faith is a dying faith. Punch-card religion knows nothing of the Lord. Those who would walk closely and continually with the Lord must often be in the presence of of Christ's church. To love in deed and action is to seek out opportunities to serve and encourage one's spiritual family.
The humble man and woman who act by faith, who walk in the light, who make the Lord Jesus Christ their strength, are mighty and powerful in the will of God. The family of faith appears weak, people whose only link to each other is their commitment to love God with all their heart, soul, and mind. Their number is often small. Struggles among them abound. Differences surface. Sin sometimes leaves its mark. But the persevering church is "powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds" 2 Cor 10.4 CSB. Convinced of this truth, God's spiritual army marches to certain victory. If they lose sight of it, however, they will fall before the forces of evil.
The writer has it right:
A church relying on human wisdom, wealth or resources ceases to be the body of Christ and becomes an earthly society.
Ironically the writer belonged to a denomination that had no existence in the New Testament and no basis for its doctrine in Scripture. Let us not be self-deceived. Among us are churches relying on their own resources, working only as far as their eye can see.
Today's devotional uses the first phrase of Hebrews 12.15. What a great responsibility we have to each other as the family of God!
Christians are compared to a band of pilgrims. While on their journey, they must check for stragglers. Has anyone been left behind? It is easy to wander off the path. In so doing, the believer “turns away from the living God,” Hebrews 3:14-16. He “misses the grace of God,” Hebrews 12:15. Through carelessness, he loses his salvation. Hence, believers are advised to be watchful.
Focus question: How to recognize if someone is beginning to miss the grace of God?