Wineskins Archive

January 9, 2014

AfterGlow: Common Denominators (May – June 1996)

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by Phillip Morrison
May – June, 1996

I have happy, small-boy memories of walking with my maternal grandfather the few blocks to the church building, smelling his bay rum shaving lotion, and swelling with pride when he was asked to lead a closing prayer. Though he was a preacher for the Church of the Nazarene, he would plan his visits to our home when he could attend the Gospel Meeting at the Church of Christ. Papa certainly didn’t agree with everything he heard at those services, and the people at that church assuredly didn’t endorse his preaching. But they both understood that people of good will could benefit from the contributions each made to a serious study of the Word. It was a happier time in our history—a time when we were more willing to reach out to people of different religious views.

It all stopped when a visiting song leader took exception, treated my grandfather with disdain, and made him feel unwelcome. He never again set foot in a Church of Christ building, not even to hear me preach.

My home church also hosted some community singings attended by people from various churches. They lasted until someone complained about a Methodist leading a song. What’s a Methodist song leader supposed to do at a community singing? Some may think we were better once freed of those “corrupting denominational influences.” I don’t share that feeling.

As a college history major, I discovered that much of the restoration history I had learned from childhood needed to be unlearned. We tend to know something about our recent history but little about our early history. Almost forgotten are the ecumenical efforts of early restoration leaders who would hardly recognize the church in our time. From Alexander Campbell to Barton W. Stone to David Lipscomb, they would be denied pulpit privileges and even fellowship in many of our churches. The point of all this is not that we need to rewrite our history, but that we need to be concerned about the direction the church will go in the present and the future.

Time magazine cited a study by the University of Akron which described “Evangelical Protestant as the most common religious self-identification in the U. S. (26%), followed by Catholic (23%) and mainline Protestant (17%). Beliefs closely associated with Evangelicalism—that salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ, and that the Bible is inerrant, or utterly truthful—are held by almost half of all Americans.” I have never known a time when there was so much interest in Bible study or so many were determined to be people of God. Issues of eternal import are being joined in the arena. We in Churches of Christ must not spend our time beating up on each other in practice-field scrimmages.

The opportunities we have now are the ones we have worked for and prayed for throughout the American Restoration period. God has heard our prayers, but he will not be pleased if our main contributions are to watch and criticize.Wineskins Magazine

Phillip MorrisonPhillip Morrison was, for many years, managing editor of Wineskins Magazine and wrote the column “AfterGlow” opposite its inside back cover. He was also the former managing editor for Upreach magazine, and worked as a fund-raising consultant and conducted study tours to Bible lands.

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