This issue of The Examiner completes three years of publication. It does not seem possible the time has passed so rapidly. The circulation has far exceeded our highest expectations. Thousands of Christians all over this nation, and even into some other countries, have read and greatly benefitted from this publication; and for this we are grateful to God.
It is our sole purpose to help saints better understand God's word and recognize the departures from its teaching. Many Christians have been very concerned about what has happened to the Church of Christ Churches (C of C Churches) and Independent Christian Church Churches (ICC Churches) over the last 30 years or more.
Please note that I am talking here about these CHURCH INSTITUTIONS and not about the individual saints. The individual is lost sight of in the great, all-consuming concern for what is called "the local church" institution. Today the emphasis is upon church growth and that means primarily in numbers or headcount (church membership!), attendance at the corporate meetings (they are called "the Services"), more and more $$$$'s, more and more employees like the Pulpit Minister, Youth Minister, etc.; and bigger and more expensive buildings. The role of the church member is to provide the headcount and the money! Some of them, now and then, will be assigned to some role in the ongoing functioning of the church machine, but the ultimate intent is for the growth and advancement of the organization, not for the spiritual well-being of the individual disciple.
This paper is designed for the disfranchized "members;" the rights, importance, and independence of the individual saint have been taken away. That is one reason why I so often refer to them as slaves of the institutional Church. They have no voice and no vote. All decisions relative to the corporate Church are made by the all-powerful Eldership. Members are to do as they are told. The teaching is that they are to obey the Eldership, without reservation, because to obey the Eldership is the same as obeying Jesus Christ and to DISOBEY the Eldership is the same as disobeying Jesus Christ! Hence, they are to sing when they are told to sing, pray when they are told to pray, teach when they are allowed to teach, listen to the Pulpit Minister selected for them and sit under teachers selected for them; and above all else they must contribute "as prospered" into the corporate church treasury upon the first day of each week. That is the law of the Eldership and the Pulpit Minister. They are told that this giving is one of the "five acts of worship" that must be done every first day of the week. And to help frighten them and keep them in line relative to putting their money into the church coffer, they are taught that this money is being given to the Lord, it is "the Lord's money," "the Lord's treasury." It is thought by many to be "sacred money." This is sheer superstition based upon a perverted use and application of the Lord's teaching.
One major purpose of this paper is to awaken, arouse and "free the slaves of men" in these man-made institutions, called churches. That is what denominationalism does to people, regardless of the name by which it may be called. Over and over in this paper I have charged that the C of C Churches constitute a denomination just like, and for the same reasons, that the Baptist Church Churches, Presbyterian Church Churches, and all the others constitute a denomination. I urge you to demand from your Eldership and/or your Pulpit Minister the identity of just one essential requirement of a denomination that is not true of the C of C Churches. They have every essential piece and part necessary to being a full-fledged denomination. Pay attention! It is YOUR eternal destiny that is at stake here.
From the beginning of this paper it has been the plan and hope, that by the end of the fourth year or the fifth, that we could drop our more or less exclusive appeal to the C of C Churches and ICC Churches and reach out to those in the various other denominations with the PLEA that those who really desire to follow Jesus Christ should be ONLY Christians, just Christians only, NONdenominational and totally UNdenominational! I believe that is a powerful appeal if it is set forth properly by dedicated disciples who call people to the Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son and our Savior, and not to some church denomination.
There is considerable evidence that there are many within the various denominations who are concerned about this. Many are sick and tired of the church, their denomination, with all of its politics, corruption, worldliness, emphasis on building larger and larger churches and church buildings, along with the Family Life Center, and all the emphasis on recreation, camps, and other things of this world. They are fed up with the professional staff of the local Church; those who are employed and paid lavish salaries and fringe benefits to manage and build up the church organization. Religion has become all ritual and form. It is empty and without any real spiritual substance.
The problem is that they have been brought up in a church world and can't imagine not having the institutional Church; even though most of them admit it is NOT from God and that it is a denomination created from the wisdom of men. Most realize that denominations mean divisions between and among those who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ. In their heart they want to be free IN Christ. But they are fearful of and intimidated by their church institution and its power.
Hence, our appeal would NOT be to churches/denominations for they will neither hear nor heed this plea. It is diametrically opposed to their whole structured setup. To heed this plea would mean the end to that whole religious mess; and there are many vested interests that they cannot give up. Who is likely to give up his place of power and control over the organizational machinery; or, his lucrative position as an employee? What would be done with all the millions upon millions of dollars worth of property, in the form of Church buildings, Sunday School buildings, church schools and colleges, parking lots, and such like?? People cherish and take pride in these things of this earth. The clergy will oppose this appeal because of their vested interest in the survival of the church from which they derive their livelihood.
We can all rest assured that Church institutions, denominations, from the Roman Catholic Church to the various major protestant denominations, are here to stay; and they will violently fight any and all efforts to overthrow or undermine them. The same is true of the C of C Church and the ICC Church denominations. Hence, our appeal must be to the individuals within these organizations to "come out from among them and be ye separate, says the Lord."
During the past three years we have been and still are trying to reach as many as possible within the C of C Church and ICC Church background with this message of repentance and recovery. These are the people of my religious background and there are many of them who can remember a better day for the Lord's people. They are descendants of a people who in years gone by proclaimed the gospel of Christ with power and success. They came to be recognized as the fastest growing religious group in America. Those were the days when this people were a distinct people in their lives, teaching/preaching, and practice. They proclaimed the Christians only, nondenominational message. Who should be more interested in such an effort or understand it better than those of this religious background? But, sadly, there has arisen another generation that does not know nor care about the simple way of the Lord. Now the concern is with "How To Grow A Church" NOT with preaching the gospel and saving the lost!
Our approach to the C of C Church people has been something like John the Baptist going to preach to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It is something like Jesus Christ who went to this same people with His message to call out of them that "remnant" who truly wanted to serve God. The apostle Paul said that the gospel was first to the Jew, then to the Greek. With The Examiner we have tried to reach the "Jews" the C of C Church/ICC Church people FIRST. It is now time to broaden the scope and take the message to the "Gentiles," those in the other denominations. (Do you understand my analogy? I hope so.) We have by no means reached even a substantial part of those within the C of C Church or the ICC Church background; but we have taken it to several thousand all over this nation and hundreds of them have heard it and recognized it for the truth of God. We praise and thank God for the awakening that is taking place all over the country. We have done the best we could with what little we had to do with; and considering the opposition and disposition of heart that we faced.
In our efforts to reach out to the people in the other denominations, we would treat the C of C Church people and ICC Church people as simply a part of denominationalism at large. They need to come out from their denominations the same as all the others, and simply be followers of Jesus Christ.
As stated in general above, our appeal would have several points of emphasis:
1) The evils of denominationalism would be exposed. This has reference to the human institutions and practices, not to the people therein. We must try to keep this distinction clear. We are not in any way passing judgement upon individuals nor questioning their honesty or motives. Our objections would be lodged against religious institutions, organizations, doctrines, practices, and the clergy (as a system). The evils of institutional religion as seen in the multitude of denominations, alienations, contradictory and conflicting doctrines which are all proclaimed as taught in God's word would be plainly dealt with.
The corporate institution, the Church, local and as a total Church operation, must be exposed for just what it is - an invention of men and the basic source of most problems in the religious world. Jesus did not pray for the unity or oneness of churches, but for the oneness of his disciples!
The corporate institution, the local church and other affiliated organizations (like schools, religious papers, benevolent institutions, etc.) as a total church operation, constitutes a denomination. Let me put it this way:
If there was only one local Methodist Church in existence, it would be a denomination; and all Methodist Churches, along with all the various religious organizations and operations attached to it, make up the Methodist Church as a universal church denomination.
The same is true of C of C Churches. The local church is a denomination! It has a specific, exclusive name (denomination) like Madison C of C or Broadway C of C that distinguishes each from all other local C of C Church organizations. Each has its own governing corporate Board of Directors called the Eldership. Each one operates in its own name in doing business of various sorts. Each one hires employees and carries on its own work.
The claim is made that each one is autonomous (self-governing) and independent in its actions, but this is not true. They all tend to associate and work with those churches of their particular sect. They are aligned with certain other churches under the leading of the Pulpit Ministers (clergy), religious papers, doctrinal stance, and affiliation with certain schools and colleges. Just like every other denomination.
That is the main reason for so many divisions and sects (factions) between and among C of C Churches. It is vital that you understand that the alignment or division into sects within the denomination involves local church organizations, not individual disciples. It is the organizations that are aligned. The Pulpit Minister is the prime determiner of where his church is aligned. He is aligned with certain other clergymen and they "influence" where their churches "stand" on certain "issues;' hence, the alignment or division into sects takes place.
You should note carefully that wherever the church institution is placed in the alignment that is where all the members thereof are aligned, and they have neither voice nor vote in the matter. As Church slaves they go along wherever their "master" leads them. The INDIVIDUAL is not important; only the CHURCH counts.
Those who have the knowledge, faith, and courage to be just Christians only and NON-denominational in practice and teaching must leave their slavemembership in the local corporate church! You can't remain in Egypt and ever reach Canaan! You can't hold membership in a local church institution, a denomination, and call others to come out of their denomination, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, etc. To urge people to leave their denomination and join yours is the height of folly. Why should they change churches? They can read theirs in the same passages that you read about yours, and not one church institution is found therein. Membership in or belonging to a corporate church is totally opposed to freedom in Christ.
History makes one thing clear. You can't reform or correct church institutions, denominations, so as to make them right with the Lord because they are not from the Lord in the first place. Martin Luther tried to reform and correct the Roman Catholic Church and utterly failed; and no other "reformer" has ever succeeded in the task. The result was that another church/denomination was born - the Lutheran Church.
John Wesley sought to reform the Church of England and failed. The result was the birth of yet another denomination, the Methodist Church. Later some thought that the Methodist Church needed to be reformed and revived. The effort to do so resulted in the birth of the Nazarene Church. This is the basic explanation for the existence of most of the denominations. The Southern Baptist Churches, through their giant Southern Baptist Convention organization, are in a life and death struggle about the direction those churches will take and which faction of clergymen (Reverends, Doctors, theologians, publishers, etc.) is going to control these churches!
Notice carefully that all these fights, alienations and divisions have to do with churches - the control and alignment of institutions! They have nothing directly to do with the individual persons, the members of these organizations. The individual is not a factor except incidentally.
The individual is the victim of the whole church institutional system. As his/her local church is aligned so he/she is aligned in most cases. If his local church is aligned with the "liberal" views, so he will be aligned. They are slaves to the Church institution and for the most part they just accept what happens. They are trusting in the Church rather than in Jesus Christ.
So it has become in C of C Churches. The church member is the victim; the slave of the church. YOU are aligned and identified by the position of the local church to which you belong. Hence, you are liberal or conservative, pre-mill or a-mill, anti-class or class, one-cup or multiple-cup, or whatever, by virtue of your membership in a particular church denomination. The individual is not considered; the local Church is the all-important concern.
Churches never "turn back to the Lord," for the obvious reason that churches have never been with the Lord in the first place!
Jesus Christ has no Church/Institution. (But He does have followers, disciples, and servants!) Yet these local churches have the audacity to hang a sign out front that proclaims to all that the building is the C of C! It is a deception. It is false advertising. Not even the organization that meets there on occasion is the Church of Christ. Jesus Christ does not have anything to do with any of these Church institutions! Christ is the Savior and "Head" of each redeemed person, in a One-to-one relationship. He is NOT the Savior and "Head" of some human structure called a "Church." Each redeemed person relates directly to Jesus Christ as his/her Lord and Master with no institution, no body of men, no one man, nothing between the child of God and his Father and his Lord. Do YOU believe that, my brother or sister? If so, then have the courage and faith to act upon it and remove everything else. Get out of that corporate structure, that organizational entity called "the local church."
2) The unity of all obedient believers would be emphasized, even as the Lord Himself so taught. We will set forth the plea that we should become and remain Christians only, only Christians. Institutional religion is divisive and contrary to the will of Christ. By whatever name it is called it is NOT from God. The unity of the Spirit can never be preserved while those who desire to follow Jesus are all divided up and scattered into the multitude of local church institutions and/or in the larger denominational structures. The local church institution means division and separation of the saints from each other into their Church membership pens, where they "belong to" that church institution exclusively and all service is given to it. We would hope to help honest people recognize that they should not be slaves of men in any institutional church of whatever kind.
3) All denomination names are divisive and contrary to God's will; even the formal names like Church of God, Church of Christ, Christian Church, Assembly of God, and Church of God in Christ. These names, like Baptist Church and Methodist Church, represent denominations (named and identified as such) and they are chief sources of divisions among all who desire to follow Jesus Christ. We must call the Lord's people out of such sects and help them to place their faith and hope upon Jesus Christ alone (cf. Acts 18:10). Let us remember that the Lord has "many people" out there who have not yet heard His voice (call) in the fullness of truth as the people on Pentecost did; and as Cornelius, the Jailor, and Lydia did. The gospel in its purity and power must be proclaimed.
4) All authority relative to our relationship with Christ Jesus and the Father resides in THEM alone; not in any man or Board of men, whether pope, priest, preacher, theologian, synod, convention, presbytery, or Eldership. No man or body of men has any authority or rule over other men in the kingdom of heaven. You must repudiate any and all rulers save Christ alone! DO IT NOW.
5) A prime feature of our teaching should be the emphasis upon Jesus Christ as our all in all, Savior and King, who now reigns as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is God's beloved Son and He was sent to die that we might live through Him.
6) We must emphasize the power and authority of God's inspired word; and that it alone is our all-sufficient guide in learning His will for men today. God's word alone is adequate for our instruction in all areas of service to Him and our fellowman.
7) Great effort must be made to reach men of all nations with the GOOD NEWS of salvation through Jesus Christ. Indeed "salvation has been brought down" by God's love, mercy, and grace. It is available for all and is free for the acceptance. It is your responsibility and mine to get this message to them. You can't turn this over to "the church institution" to do for you. Will there be any stars in your crown, when at last the sun goeth down?
8) Absolutely essential to the salvation of those lost in sin (and ALL outside of Christ are lost) is that they learn what the proper response to the gospel/good news is so that they may receive this salvation freely provided. That response is still the same as was given by the Lord Himself: "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved..."
It was also clearly stated by Peter to those believers on Pentecost (Acts 2) who had been convicted by the preaching of Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, raised from the dead, ascended to heaven and is NOW Savior and King. Peter charged them with the crucifixion of the Messiah. They were convicted of their sin and lost condition and cried out to Peter "What shall we do?" The answer came in simple, clear words: "Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Those who "gladly received the word," that is, all who believed the good news, were baptized and that day 3000 "were added." That is the message needed by the lost world today. And the response MUST be the same if people want to "receive the forgiveness of sins."
9) Great emphasis needs to be placed upon plain teaching regarding the responsibility and behavior of the saints in their daily lives and in service to others. Here we fail badly in my view. We are saints, which means that we are "sanctified," set-apart-for-God people. Peter put it this way: "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, THAT you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9). We need to learn our identity, who we really are. We are "God's own possession" a sanctified people, and we must live up to what is expected of us. Others should be able to recognize who and what we are by our lives. We are not of this world; nor are we to be like the people of this world. We are saints, God's holy people. That means we are His possession and we should live as such.
10) The above is but a glance at some of the vital areas that need to be dealt with as we attempt to reach out to all those of an honest and good heart, whatever their religious profession or church alignment, if any. It is my view that many of them are sick and tired of church institutions, the machinery and politics of such, the strife that comes from those who seek to boss and control everything, and the increasing emphasis upon building a worldly church, one that is popular with the world.
The above describes something of what we think needs to be done and IF it is NOT done by the Lord's disciples, then it will NOT be done! It is far, far too large an undertaking for those of us now involved with The Examiner to do alone. But if thousands of Christians over the land would join in and help where they are and in their own way, as well as lend us a hand, we could reach out to thousands more all over the country. In this way we could really do something of significance in saving the lost and building up the saints. The simple fact is that this is exactly what we - as individual saints - should already be doing on our own, rather than running down to the church building two or three times a week to attend the rituals. "Going to church" is never going to save anyone, not even the ones who do it!
If we could just arouse disciples to get involved where they are and in their own way, plus helping us reach an even larger audience (the whole world!), there is no way to know just what great things we could do for the Lord. We might even become the salt of the earth and the light of the world, as our Lord has asked us to be. YOU must be about your Father's business where you are and with what you have.
First, we need to publish The Examiner every month rather than just six times per year. That would just about double the cost and the work involved, but it would give us greater and more frequent access to the readers. [Please remember that no one connected with The Examiner receives any compensation whatever for the work they do! It is all a labor of love and a work of faith. If this is to be done, it means that more of you will have to help financially in a substantial way. Are YOU willing to help us financially on a regular basis? We need your help NOW. Without your generosity we could not have made it this far.
The Examiner is merely a medium for reaching more people with the message in a faster and, in some cases, a more effective way. It establishes contact with thousands of potential prospects and is an excellent method of teaching them. Try to imagine what could be the result if we could send The Examiner free and without obligation, twelve times each year, to 150,000 people scattered among the various denominations. Now try to think of 250,000 receiving it! What are the possibilities? This could be done by dedicated Christians if they set their minds and hearts to do it. Definitely it would cost a lot of money; but if enough saints committed to doing this, it could be done without an undue burden upon anyone. We need your financial help now!
It is important to realize that you should approach the people of other denominations, not as a member of the C of C Church, but as a servant of Jesus Christ; as a non-denominational disciple, not a member of any Church institution. This is the way the early saints did it. Wouldn't you like that? You could talk with them about being a disciple of Jesus Christ, just a Christian. That is a powerful message!
It is especially important that I hear from you about what you think of the new plans for the enlarged effort to reach more people. Should we do it? Will YOU help us and work where you are on your own and with others toward the same objective?
Second, we need more of you to send in additional names/addresses of Christians where you live or anywhere else. We will send them the paper for a trial period and let them determine if they want it to continue. Send a marked Church Directory.
Third, we need more of you to agree to be "contact" people in your area. This is turning out to be a very good arrangement. There is a great response to this and it needs to be implemented more fully. This is merely a way to put concerned Christians in touch with one another. But it does take time and work to do it.
You can be a vital part if you are willing to encourage others to get together in homes to study God's word and encourage one another unto love and good works. Are you willing to have people into your home for such? Invite your neighbors, friends, relatives, even strangers into your home for a Bible study and open discussion on a regular basis. Share with them the good news about Jesus Christ and the salvation offered by Him. Talk WITH them about being Christians only and nondenominational in serving the Lord. Do not talk to them, but talk with them, sharing ideas and concerns. You can do it.
Fourth, you need to decide just where you are in this business of serving the Lord. If you are happy and content in your role as a member of the local church institution, going down to the Church building at the required times to do the appointed things in the appointed way, and you are going to stay there and make no effort to act on your own and with others to serve the Lord, then what I have discussed above is not for you.
If you stay in your church, it will be very difficult for you to impress anyone who belongs to one of the other denominations that he or she should leave that one and come join yours! It is inconsistent to condemn what another does and do the same yourself.
Here I need to make it clear that I am not suggesting to you that you have nothing to do with the disciples who are members - the individuals - of these Church institutions. These are your brothers and sisters in Christ and you should seek opportunities to be with them for social values and for special studies of God's word. Invite them into your home. Talk with them about these matters and the importance of being and doing what individual Christians should be and do in the Lord's service. Just "going to church" won't cut it for His approval. There is a vital difference between the individuals who are church members and the church organization to which they belong. They are your brothers and sisters in the Lord. The people, the individual saints, belong to the Lord Jesus, the institutional church does not. Can't you see that distinction? I know that you can.
The above are some of the things that I would like to see us do by the beginning of the fifth year of publication or sooner if possible. What do you think about enlarging our target audience and adjusting our teaching approach to reach out to those in the other denominations also? Just think about what the Christians only/nondenominational message could mean to them.
What do you think about publishing The Examiner each month? Are you willing and able to help us financially? Will you serve as a "contact" person in your area? Are you willing to make the break with the local church institution, accept your individual responsibilities, and follow Jesus? Do you have the faith and courage to do so? Are you able to recognize the inconsistency in your being a member of a denomination when trying to urge others to leave their denomination in order to be Christians only, nondenominational disciples of Jesus Christ? I hope so and I pray that you will follow through. Please let me hear from you. We need your help.
PLEASE pray often and fervently that we can together attempt these greater things for our Lord and for others. More about this later and about other things we need to consider. God bless you - CAH