Distinct or Biblical? (Image Vol 10, No 3 – May-June 1994)

By Matt Dabbs

By Denny Boultinghouse

Some are concerned that the Church of Christ is losing its “distinctiveness.” These concerns are sometimes couched in language about “leaving the old paths,” or about the church speeding down the “road to liberalism.” And while the definition of “distinctiveness” is unclear, it is certain that we must guard against losing it – whatever it is.

But I am more concerned about being biblical than being “distinctive.” While entire lectureships are held about the need to be distinctive, this concept is not even in the Bible. I know the Bible calls us to live like Christ, and I know that Christlike living will separate us from people who are not yielded to him, but pleas for the church to be distinctive are just not found in the words of scripture.

I am more concerned with being biblical. I want us to follow Scripture wherever it leads us. If such a path upholds some past belief or practice, fine. But if such a path leads us to lose a “distinctive” belief or practice, that is equally fine. Integrity demands that we go where our study of Scripture leads. What other choice is there than to follow where Scripture leads?

Definitions of “distinctiveness” are imprecise. One segment thinks that when we started supporting orphans’ homes and allowing kitchens to be built in our building, we were conforming to the world and thus losing our distinctiveness. Others disagree.

Yet some among us establish checklists of doctrines (sometimes they even publish them) that define the distinctiveness of the church. If your church varies from their checklist, your church is deemed liberal and has “lost its distinctiveness.”

This checklist mentality is sectarian to the core, as it selects only a few arbitrary doctrines. A church that doesn’t care for widows isn’t seen as “nondistinctive”; nor is a church that isn’t maturing its people or reaching the lost with the gospel. Seemingly , these are not significant matters. Such sectarianism appeals to spiritual pride, the party spirit, and divisiveness (it seeks to make divisions among brethren) and is a work of the flesh. The Bible is clear that works of the flesh are sinful. Such sectarian calls for the church to be “distinctive” are sin!

It is true that confining faith and worship to five steps each makes it rather convenient to be distinctive. Never mind that Scripture doesn’t limit faith or worship to such five-step formulas. Never mind that these five-step formulas can be executed without the involvement of either the mind or the heart. Never mind those small details; just be “distinctive.”

When people are more concerned about “losing their distinctiveness” than about being Christlike – that is sinful. When people ignore the spirit of Christ as they work to call the church back to being “distinct” – that is sinful; and so it should be called.

It may well be true that the church of Christ in the 1990s is losing some of its “distinctiveness,” and must maybe we will become more biblical and more Christlike in the process.

Most among us, both in our pulpits and our pews, take the biblical admonitions seriously. We don’t want to preach a works-based message We don’t want to have a sectarian stance. We don’t care about protecting a Church of Christ denomination. Instead, we want to be biblical and Christlike. And this is healthy and good.

Brethren, God is so good and magnificent that we will never totally understand all there is to know about him. Scripture, too, is beyond our ability to completely comprehend. We must always study and learn.

Our teaching of the Word needs to touch both heart and head. Historically, one of our distinctive qualities has been that we have been much more concerned with teaching the head that touching the heart. I’m grateful that we are learning to appeal to both. One of the reasons some churches are now using drama, worship teams, and overhead slides is to appeal to the heart as well as the head. (It is rather ironic that a preacher can verbally describe a beautiful scene, without objection, but if that same scene is portrayed visually in a slide, some object. Strange.) Nothing could be more biblical than appealing to both the heart and the head, because Jesus certainly did both.

While commitment to preserving distinctiveness may be waning, commitment to being biblical is on the rise; and that brings hops for the future.

categoria commentoNo Comments dataFebruary 6th, 2017
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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1584 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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