Olan Hicks

any important and challenging questions have been raised in The Examiner over the past 4 years. Though some definitive answers have been given, the questions raised out number the answers given. Several other publications going among the same general category' of people are also raising questions and focusing on certain "issues," including my own "News & Notes." Certainly some revolutionary "new ground" is being turned over. Why is this happening and what results are forthcoming?

Every article in The Examiner is the expression of the writer's viewpoint and others who also write for this paper may or may not agree with it. That in itself is revolutionary when contrasted with what has become "standard procedure" among "brotherhood journals" wherein no one writes a word who is not totally lined up with the party stance espoused by the editor. It may also give us a clue as to what is happening and why it is happening. It appears to me that "the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free" (Gal. 5:1) is really the major issue and directly relates to the widespread unhappiness and disillusionment. Jesus expressly ordered His disciples to remain free of, the dictates of men (Mat. 20:25-26; 15:9) and Paul invested the second chapter of Colossians underscoring that. This part of God's plan for His people is evidently much more important than most Christians have realized. When some children of God use these enforcement methods to try and compel other children of God to see everything as they do it becomes wrong in several very consequential ways, not the least of which is that it is disobedience to God's commands on the subject. But it also tends to produce chaos and division among the followers of Christ.

Liberty is not an end in itself but a means to an end. Both the means and the end achieved are vital elements of what Christian discipleship is. The liberty wherewith Christ has made us free is not a freedom from responsibility. It is the opposite, It is not a call to be lawless and undisciplined. It is rather a call to the freedom to serve God altogether and without divided loyalty. Followers of Christ sometimes misunderstand Bible statements. Peter said plainly that in Patti's epistles there are "some things hard to be understood" (2 Peter 3:16). Honest mistakes by God's children, made while trying to please Him, are judged with mercy and understanding (Luke 12:48). But bowing to another authority is a different thing altogether. When we are not free to study the Bible for ourselves and to raise questions about interpretations men have put on it, this results in setting aside the authority of God's word in favor of human rulings about divine things. Even in those cases where the interpretations of men are correct, Biblically accurate, it is still wrong for Christians to submit to them because those men say so instead of because we understand God's word to say so. Having no other "master" but Jesus, having no other "king" but God, and no other director of our lives but the Holy Spirit inspired words of the Bible, is an important concept. It seems to be the way of man to infringe upon this and always with adverse results.

It is one man's opinion (mine) that this is the primary way in which the organized church has fouled up most often and it is the primary thing that has put a riff between so many people and the church. Much is said critically about the ritual of coming together at the appointed time, in the appointed building, to do the appointed five acts of worship and to pray and pay. But what happens when people break away from the church and take charge of their own spiritual lives? All of them I know about immediately appoint a time to meet together on Sunday, appoint a place, usually someone's living room, and at that time they come together to dc) essentially the same appointed acts as are being done at the church building. What then is changed when this break from the church occurs? Not must as far as the group activities of worship are concerned. Neither would it make any sense to assert that the location of worship, meeting in a home, would make these activities right if they would not be right if performed in a building. The ground of incompatibility then is neither the building nor the worship procedure. Yet the incompatibility is very real and so great that large numbers of people are leaving the church all across the country to meet instead with small groups in living rooms.

The driving force behind this action is something church leaders desperately need to understand and to take a long hard look at. These people are not motivated by a knit-picking attitude of fault finding against worship procedures. They are motivated by the clear and oft repeated instruction of scripture to avoid human dictatorships. What they want is a spiritual life patterned after the concept Jesus described when He said, "But be not ye called Rabbi, for one is your master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." (Mat. 23:8) The structured organization wherein men also occupy the office of "master" is the element of incompatibility.

It is one man's opinion (mine again) that where a group of Christians exist who indeed are "all brethren" and there are no "masters" who take away personal liberty, that it is fine for them to meet together in a building at the times they have chosen to do so, have a sign out front saying "Church of Christ or anything else the Bible calls it, to worship God together in song, prayer, communion etc., and to share the financial expenses by way of free will offerings. But if the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free cannot be maintained in that setting then the setting had better be changed.

I believe that too many leaders in the church of Christ of this generation have made serious misjudgments about the caliber of the people who have come to Christ. These are not spiritual infants and they will not be herded and driven like a bunch of mindless cattle. They are committed to the Lordship of Christ and that exclusively. This is their choice, not something forced upon them. For 25 years I did "local work" in the church and I always thought that without the organization and the herding procedures of it, the people would not continue to worship and function as Christians. But I have found that these groups who have become independent have increased in zeal and participation. Now their Bible study sessions usually last for hours and hours. Order them to do that and they will refuse. But because they want to study you can't stop them. Many who used to feel that "the church" would take care of the needy and the hungry now feel a personal sense of responsibility when they know of someone in need.

It is not a rebellious or cantankerous spirit that is in play here. It is a committed spirit, committed to Christ and the Christian way. Those of you who would be leaders of God's people and promoters of the way of the Lord, need to find a way to stop getting in the way of that commitment. It is exclusive.