When I was a student at Harding in the late 90’s, our Bible professors were certain “women’s roles” would usher in the next big split in the churches of Christ — before the turn of the century they predicted. It would be like 1906, and the census report by David Lipscomb. Only now, they said, there’s going to be another branch, one that allowed women to be active in the worship service.
It seems like there’s always something doctrinal people are upset about. Hand clapping. Instrumental music. Women’s roles. Too much ecumenical participation. Really, there are probably more issues Christians have belabored and grieved over, but those cyclical hot button issues seem to be pretty popular.
I think Facebook and other social media sites help spread the fury faster than ever now. This isn’t a critique of social media, just an observation that these squabbles travel faster thanks to Youtube and other ways we share our vastly different opinions.
We are blessed to be part of a church that has studied through the “hot topics,” and has moved forward. The things that people are celebrating or lamenting are non-issues for us these days, and it surprises me often how people still fight some of the old battles. I guess as long as legalism and hard core traditionalism hold sway, people will want to be champions of the truth regardless of the cost. The reality is, you might win the battle, and then lose the war.
We don’t have “Church of Christ” anywhere on our website or in any of our bylaws. The major reason? We didn’t want the people we were reaching to say, “Church of Christ? You are the ones who think you are the only ones going to heaven.” Or, the other reaction, “Church of Christ? Which one, you guys fight all the time, don’t ya?” So, we at New Song dropped the name, but celebrate the rich Biblical heritage of the churches of Christ.
The infighting that happens over the grey areas kills the church. Young people, rightly so, become disenchanted with the church when they see their adults fighting over non-essential doctrines. If they stay in the church through their teen years, they won’t in college. And, how about the message that non-believers hear? As everyone spreads these in house fights all over Facebook, their unchurched friends only comprehend one thing, not who is right in church, but that all of us in church are wrong.
For Christians, one of the most liberating things people can do is to get past the fighting and draw your own conclusions, and then move on. And, to not worry about what other churches or groups are doing. That is true freedom, to not worry about others are up to and to celebrate what Jesus is doing in your congregation. I hope that whatever the next big topic is to fight over, it’s really worth arguing over, because the collateral damage we have suffered tells me our priorities have been in the wrong place.