Recently, I've had some unusual opportunities to talk and correspond with several preachers. In these communications, several common statements keep coming up. A few of the statements need some attention. You may have heard some of them yourself.
First, may I say that The Examiner is not like other papers you may read. The major difference is that this paper is not written for the benefit of preachers. Several papers are. Our basic audience is the "person in the pew". It's for the everyday, ordinary Christian. I've found some preachers who tend to get a little uptight about that. I'm not sure why, but I have an idea or two. (See item #6 for one idea.)
1) A few have a bad misconception that The Examiner speaks with one voice mirroring the views of the editor. I hear it in expressions like: "The Examiner teaches ..." or like, "Charles Holt believes ..."
Let's set the record straight: Writers are not required to agree with Charles.Holt, the editor.
Having talked with him often, I know that he has published some things written by others with which he did not agree. I have read The Examiner when two writers in the same issue, touching on the same subject, did not agree.
God does not require complete agreement among his children. There are some of our brothers who seem to think the Bible says so somewhere. They would enforce agreement upon us. But God never required that of us, did he? Think about it while you read Acts 15:36-41 and Romans 12. Of course, the Lord wants us to be of "the same mind and the same judgment". That "mind and judgment" is to have "the mind of Christ" to "consider others better than ourselves". Surely we can each have the mind of Christ and not agree on every point of doctrine.
It seems to me that those who say we must agree on everything generally want us to settle on their point of view, not ours. Have you noticed that, too?
2) Another error is that The Examiner is leading a "movement," and Charles Holt and its writers are leaders of the "movement".
The definition of that sense of movement is a series of actions or activities directed or tending toward a particular end: i.e., the antislavery movement. Our purpose is not to start a new religious group. Our purpose is not to start anything except some serious examination of scripture. We would like to provoke the people in the pew to study everything all over again for themselves. The Examiner is not attempting to direct anyone's activities. Period. (See item number 3 below).
3) Another erroneous idea is that The Examiner espouses Charles Holt's doctrine.
The Examiner is only a medium for a forum. An exchange of views about spiritual things. The Examiner is not a source of doctrinal authority.
Apparently some editors you know see their papers as such authoritative sources and attribute the same motives to The Examiner.
As evidence, I suggest that all you need do is to consider some of the titles of a few of the religious papers. Many attitudes will be obvious if you consider the words making up their titles. Some suggest that they are either instructing down from a lofty position, or being the source of Truth, or being argumentative, or some other such title which suggests an authoritative source of God's word.
If that's not enough, then compare the tone of writings among papers. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who is handing down dogma and who is examining what God revealed.
I had never received a harsh letter disagreeing with me before a few days ago. A preacher appraised my writings saying, "You raise more questions than you answer." I responded that there was a very good reason for that. Unlike some writers, I just happen to know more questions than I know answers. Besides, I am studying through these topics along with you. I've found that the more I learn, the less I seem to know. Do you have that problem? The more I study, the more questions I have.
Generally, we try to provoke readers to further study, not to provoke them to follow what we say as dogma nor to blindly accept what we write.
4) Some quote from issue #1 or #2 from four years ago and attribute those statements to all the current writers of the paper.
It's important for you to know that each writer may not believe exactly the same things today as when the paper started in 1986.
Several preachers I know have said with obvious pride, "1 have not changed my position in the last 25 years." I've heard it said as though it would be an eternal tragedy to change one's view about something. Have those not understood 2 Peter 3:18? Pray tell, why do we study? What if we should (accidentally, of course) learn something?
I thank the Lord that I have changed! Thank God, I have learned some things in the last 25 years. Some of which caused me to "change my position" during that time. Where I used to be as sure about any spiritual subject as some of the writers you are accustomed to reading, I find that I don't know all the answers any more.
I have found this to be generally true of other writers of The Examiner with whom I have met or talked. As a group, they are the most humble people of God I have ever known. When they learn something new, they give up the old error or ignorance and "change their position". Wise men and women know they do not know it all.
5) One brother I have known for a long time calls those of who write in this paper Pharisees.
I know that he honestly sees it that way. But the comparison he makes between us and the Pharisees is that, in his opinion, we try to determine what the law of God is to the most minute detail, then attempt to bind our opinions as law on others as the Pharisees did. (Also see number 3, above.)
Hey! Now wait a minute! I wonder where we have gotten our "wires crossed"? Isn't it odd? That's what we've been saying about them!
We are each and all trying to point out that for years some of our brothers have been binding their opinions on others as though they are the very law of God itself. Some of us have done it, too. That's what makes Phariseeism so easy for us to recognize. Most of us have been trying to convince you that these are the attitudes that lead to the many divisions among God's people, and that we must not bind our own opinions on you, and we must be tolerant of your opinions, as well.
Now how did anyone get this thing so turned around? How did they get it so backwards?
6) Someone else said, "Charles Holt would do away with the church and substitute Truth and Freedom Ministry, Inc., in its place!
Wow! That's a "heavy" charge. It's also as false as grandma's teeth. I will not attempt here to defend Charles Holt, because he is capable of doing that quite adequately himself, but he has never, ever proposed that idea. He doesn't believe that. To my knowledge, he's never even thought that. And the ones who charge him with it know better and ought to be ashamed for saying it.
The Truth & Freedom Ministry corporation is a legal vehicle for followers of Christ to use to carry out their work. Its corporate charter is no different in purpose from any other non-profit corporation founded to assist in study or in teaching spiritual concepts. Several have been chartered and some are controlled by our critics. Why does such a corporation become a threat when it is not controlled by one of those critical preachers?
You can read for yourself what Charles Holt believes about the church as a word, as a concept, and as an organized entity. You dent need a visiting preacher to come from out of town to preach a "Gospel Meeting" on "What Charles Holt Believes". (Would you believe some preachers are taking good money from their brothers to do that?) You don't need a local preacher to explain him either. You don't need anyone to explain what is taught in The Examiner.
I suggest that anyone who wants to explain what The Examiner examines ought to try a unique approach. Just ask us to send it to each member of your flock so each can read it for themselves with no other explanation. Now, doesn't that sound fair? Or do these preachers and elders not trust their flocks to come to the "right" conclusions? What's wrong with this picture? Can't the people in the pew be trusted to think for themselves?
Apparently not! It seems to me that some folks are afraid for their "membership" to read and consider the topics in The Examiner. A few months ago one eldership (or preacher) had their members fill out identical cards en masse to stop this paper from coming to them. One other apparently circulated a petition. It arrived in our mailroom with the name of each member dutifully signed, requesting that we stop sending the paper to them. (And there are some who tell us that elders in the "Lord's church" are not dictatorial.) I couldn't make up a better example of the kinds of things we are writing about. Brothers and sisters, please wake up before it's too late! Don't let this happen to you.
7) This is really peculiar, but I know one man who read in public from the Truth & Freedom Ministry corporate charter and said, "Why, that's the work of the church. Holt doesn't believe in the church, but he started a man-made corporation to do the church's work instead."
God gave us each individual responsibilities. We can carry them out alone or in concert with others. But He looks to each of us alone to live like Him and to carry out His work.
When we stand to be judged by Him, we are not going to be graded" on the basis of the majority of disciples in our "local area." He's not going to "average" across all Christians and grade "on the curve," either. I must face Him alone. I must account for my own attitude no one else's. I must give account of my own work on His behalf not the church's. And you're probably grateful also, that you don t have to give account for what Art Thompson has done.
I pray to the Lord for more patience with those who criticize the work of The Examiner without giving it a fair reading themselves. If you know anyone like that, I urge you to encourage them to read what men and women are really saying in these pages. Pray with me for God to have mercy on those who misrepresent unintentionally or otherwise what is said in these pages.
8) Someone else has said: "Why you are talking in The Examiner about abuses of the church organization and offices. The church were I am is not like that at all. You ought to put in some kind of disclaimer when you talk about those abuses."
As my wife says, "If the shoe doesn't fit, don't try to squeeze into it." (And she oughta know about shoes!)
I know one of the men very well who has said such as the above. I know there may be a few others who feel much the same way. To those, I issue a serious challenge: I dare you to give the "members" where you attend a little test. Talk to the people in the pews and find out what they are thinking. Find out for yourself what they really believe.
Something I discovered long ago about the churches where I worked spiritual knowledge does not run very deep in most of them. Let me explain what I mean.
Generally, the preacher is quite knowledgeable of scripture (here is my first disclaimer: I don't mean to accuse all preachers of being knowledgeable, because I have known a few who were not burdened very heavily with knowledge). But as a general rule, he is. Also, as a general rule the elders are also. (Do I need to put in my second disclaimer? Of course, I have known some elders who didn't know that Phoebe was a deaconess and who thought that it was their work to control the church building's thermostat.)
In most places where I have been, there is some depth of knowledge, but it rests in just a few of the members. All are not afflicted with knowledge.
Now the reason that a preacher says "those things do not happen where I am a member" is that he really doesn't know. Mostly he talks with the elders and some of the more active members who are where the knowledge lies. When he goes on the road for "gospel meetings," generally, he stays in the home of the located preacher, spends most of the time talking with him. During the five of six days he's visiting there, generally he visits in the home of each of the elders and one or two of the more active members where the knowledge lies. Those are the only people he talks to in any spiritual depth. He never sees the concepts of the people in the pew. He never sees things from their perspective.
Generally those who study independently with open minds end up asking questions in Bible classes that cause a great deal of discomfort when the teacher is either not' knowledgeable of the particular subject; or believes that honest, open questions imply a heretical belief; or is just uncomfortable on their feet in front of a group handling questions they haven't previously considered.
I would suggest making up a questionnaire. Now, don't "load" the questions. Make them very straightforward. Ask about some of the concepts we explore in these pages. Ask for them to be filled out and turned in. Keep them anonymous. Then "grade" them.
True or False:
(Place T or F in front of each question to indicate your answer.)
_1) Preaching is a profession. Our local preacher is a professional.
_2) The local church must have a full-time preacher if it can afford one, but must have at least a part-time preacher.
_3) Having one of the members teach instead of having a preacher is an indication that the local church is weak and not yet scripturally organized.
_4) To be a proper church, the church must have a building to meet in. If they do not have one, they should at least be working toward acquiring one.
_5) If the church is scripturally organized, the elders are the managers of the church. They perform the basic responsibilities that a Board of Directors would perform in a secular corporation.
_6) If the church is scripturally organized, the elders make all decisions and pass them on to the members to be followed.
_7) If the church is scripturally unorganized, the men of the congregation must function as elders otherwise would.
_8) Women must not attend a church business meeting.
_9) I should never question an elder's authority. Such action might cause me to be lost.
_10) Most of the time I am not sure whether I would be lost or saved if I were to die today.
_11) In order to be saved, I must be a member of a local congregation and be in good standing.
_12) In order to be saved, I must place myself under the oversight of a local eldership.
_13) The elders must be aware of what all members are studying in their Bible classes.
_14) Home Bible studies without a preacher or an elder present are dangerous and should not be allowed by the elders.
_15) I cannot understand the Bible by studying it alone. I need the help of a preacher or an elder.
_16) It's impossible to read the Bible and make applications to my own life about everyday problems or decisions. I need a trustworthy preacher or elder to tell me what to do when I have a problem.
17) (The last is not a True/False question. Write your answer in your own words, taking as many pages as necessary.) Why can a woman speak in a Bible class (even if it's in the auditorium), but cannot speak in the worship service?
I would be interested in the test scores. Do you think the Lord would, also? May God bless us all.