In the March and May 1988 issues of The Examiner, we carried a series of Letters to the editor from Sam Hill, Jr. These letters were interesting and enjoyed by the readers as Sam told of his experiences in coming to a better understanding of God's word.
I know it has been a long time since I wrote to you and I apologize. I will try to write more often in the future but we sure do seem to be busy all of the time.
All of the folks around here are doing very well and they always tell me to say hello when I write to you. We are still meeting in homes like we were when you were here last. As you know, our numbers have grown to the point that the group is too large for one house and so we just divide up and meet in several houses. Some of the folks wanted to continue to meet as one group but that would have meant that we would have to buy or rent a building and we didn't want to do that at least not on a regular basis.
It seems like if you start to buying buildings and equipment for them that you just about have to keep a treasury and we are just concerned that the first thing you know we will have us another Church and none of us want that. We all get together about four times each year in one big group so that we can stay in touch and sort of take advantage of what everyone is learning in each group. When we do that, we arrange for the use of a community center or if it is good weather, we just meet outside. We spend the full day for those sessions and each group sort of reports on what they have been doing and it sure does stir up a lot of discussion. It is interesting that none of us feels that everyone has to agree on everything that is said. We just discuss our ideas and then we each have a lot to study in our smaller groups. Of course we all stay in touch by letter and telephone all the time so that if there are any real problems, we can take care of what is needed. We have had to help with several situations where there was serious illness. It sure is good to know that there are people who care for you if you happen to have some problem that is too big for one person or one family.
I still read a few of those "brotherhood papers" and I got one the other day that I want to ask you a few questions about. This particular issue of the paper was all dealing with what people in the Baptist Church believe and was telling those people how wrong they are. Well, I got to reading all of those articles and there was a lot that I agreed with, but it seems to me that they sure did contradict each other in a few cases and I wanted to know what you think about it.
Just like you might expect, one of the articles was about which church you should "belong to". The writer said that you shouldn't belong to just any church because "only one church belongs to the Lord" and that a person should "belong only to the church that belongs to Jesus". Well, I think I sort of know what he means, but that seems to be too much belonging. It seems to me that we (people) are supposed to belong to the Lord but I don't see how it got to be a two step situation where we belong to something that in turn belongs to the Lord. If that is the way it is, then there is certainly something between us and the Lord. It's not supposed to be that way is it?
Well, another writer talks about whether the Baptist Church is the church of the New Testament and he gives the Baptist a hard time because there are so many different kinds of Baptist Churches. It seems to me that is sort of like "the pot calling the kettle black" because there are just about as many different Church of Christ Churches as there are Baptist Churches. They all claim to be the right church but they can't agree among themselves any more than the Baptists can. This man also picks on the Baptists because they don't have Elders and he says that "Elders were older men who oversaw or shepherded the work of the local church". Charles, you correct me if I am wrong, but I thought elders were supposed to shepherd people and not a church or "the work" of a church. Am I confused on that?
Another writer talks about religious titles and he says that "Brother" is often used as a title and that it shouldn't be. Then one of his fellow writers says that when people talk to him they address him as "Brother". Now that seems to be just a little inconsistent. Of course you and I both know that Church of Christ people certainly use Brother, Minister, and Evangelist as titles. Wouldn't it be better if they would sweep their own doorstep before they start correcting others? This same man complained about Churches not allowing people to preach unless they have a degree from a brotherhood college or seminary, and again that is also true of the Church of Christ Church as far as I can tell. I know that there are a few exceptions, but they are fewer all of the time.
One of the articles talked about we should be Christians only and nothing else, then another man comes along and says that he was "attending the _______ Baptist Church before coming a Christian and a member of the ____________ church of Christ". Charles, doesn't that sound like he is something besides just a Christian? He goes on to talk about something that happened "a little over two years after becoming just a Christian," but he already said he became a Christian AND something else. Am I seeing this whole thing wrong or is he doing what he accuses the Baptists of doing?
I better end this thing or you won't have time to read it all but I just wanted to get your ideas on some of these things. It seems to me that all of these people whether Baptist or Church of Christ need to understand that Jesus didn't shed his blood to start a Church. He shed his blood for people and that is all he wants, just people who follow him. If they could understand that, it would eliminate all these arguments they have. I sure would like to know what you think about all of this, so until I hear I remain.
Your faithful friend, Sam Hill, Jr.