As you know, I receive The Examiner regularly and I appreciate the efforts of its writers. Often I am in total agreement with observations made, and often I read something new to me which I will proceed to study and think on. The paper is part of a growing trend among Christians to question the status quo and to examine the real concepts we hold behind the euphemisms we dress them with. All of this is to the good.
One thing I have noticed that concerns me, however, is by comparison with the rest a minor point - but important.
In a couple of your editorials I have noticed some references to the "Crossroads" methods that seem naive. You have observed that many "non-Crossroads" Christians are immediately critical or suspicious of any group that is actively saving souls and they unfairly condemn it without further investigation. I have observed this, too, and as far as it goes it is certainly common.
But some people do investigate. When I lived in ___________we had our own Crossroads franchise in town as well as two "mainstream/liberal" franchises and two "conservative/anti" franchises - a full house!) Having heard opinions of all stripes, I decided to see for myself. I went to the soul talks in the dormitories at __________ State on a regular basis. I talked to people who met with the group - and people who used to meet with the group. I attended a couple of services.
Without going into too much detail about it, I can attest to the enthusiasm of the __________ group - at least, as it was four years ago. I can also attest to its youth; time is measured in semesters when church plans are made.
But it was the ultimate Big Brother. Programs were planned by the ministers on every day of the week. A Christian's faith was measured, in his peer's eves by how many of these "church activities" he could attend. Even the evangelizing was done on a group basis ( soul talks I with required attendance; at no time and from no one did I ever hear the idea that souls could be won on an individual, one-to-one basis. I spoke with people who had been pressured to give up friends or sweethearts who were non-Christians; with the frenetic pace of expected church functions, these friends had to be converted or dropped. Some students dropped their degree programs because they couldn't pass classes and attend every function, so, trying to keep their "priorities straight," they abandoned their "secular studies."
In the Sunday evening assembly, the emotional needs of the young members were displayed in the constant references to each other as "family," "brother," "sister," and "baby" (a "baby" is someone baptized this semesters.) There's not a thing wrong with any of that as it stands; I'm all for it. The disturbing thing is that the preacher was "Daddy." They didn't call him that, of course, any more than we call our preachers clergy men - but "daddy" he was. And he loved the work.
I have compared notes with more Christians since then, and it seems that things as they stood in __________ are more or less characteristic of these types of groups everywhere. "Total commitment to the Lord" means total commitment to church activities; "confessing our sins to each other (the basis for the prayer partner system)" means butting into each other's business; "huge numbers of conversions" means many rebaptisms of Christians who want to be "totally committed" .... and so on.
But these people are Christians...Conscientious, dedicated, and joyful Christians at that. You are right in saying that we should regard them as being in our family and we in theirs. And you are right in saying that disagreement with the method of evangelizing should not excuse others from any evangelizing at all.
But the "Crossroads' clergy is doing its laity a big disservice by hyping group activity as somehow more "spiritual" than individual activity - and by saddling that laity with a wearying agenda handed down from the top. "Crossroads" people are fighting the same problems as every other Church of Christ franchise - only more so. No wonder one brother entitled an article on the movement: "Where We'll Be When We Get Where We're Going!"
Keep speaking out against the "Church of Christ Corporation," brother, and God speed you. But please be careful about using "Crossroads" as a positive example - "Crossroads" is as "corporate" as it comes. From a Young Brother in Christ.