In January of 1986 the first issue of The Examiner appeared. It was met with bouquets and brickbats. Perhaps it deserved some of both. Hopefully, the paper has made Christians think, reason, consider and reflect upon the nature and substance of their faith.
Benjamin Franklin stated: "Many of the fashionable and educated, in the highest circles of life, who go to and belong to church, could not tell what they believe if it were to save them from perdition. A reason why such can not tell what they believe is, that they do not believe anything" (The Gospel Preacher, Volume 1, page 87). "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). Do you have your own faith or is your faith in some man, group of men or some church (institution)?
"Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). How many who call themselves Christians read and study God’s word daily? Perhaps one of the bouquets for The Examiner is that it has caused not a few people to think and reason, even if they did not accept all that was written. Members of the churches of Christ used to be considered "walking Bibles." In recent times, like those around us, we have tuned in to TV and materialism and dropped out of spirituality. Many have been told by their preachers and elders that all that is necessary to be saved is to be in the "one, true church." Membership in the "one, true church" required baptism, attending three services per week and paying into the collection basket. This is not faith in God.
Those in the Boston movement have reacted to ungodliness in the "mainline" churches by going out from us. The Bostonians see mainliners as lackluster, uncommitted, self-centered, materialistic people. For example, even though God calls covetousness idolatry, have you ever seen even one person disfellowshiped for covetousness? It borders on the miraculous that in the most materialistic nation in the world we have not even one covetous brother or sister! The Bostonians in their reactions, over react and adopt an even more authoritarian approach to deal with ungodliness. However, much of what they see is present.
Some brothers react to problems by criticism. They point the problem out but then fail to act. It is never enough to only criticize, we must act. Faith requires action. Abraham's faith led him to go, Abel's faith caused him to offer, Noah's faith drove him to build. "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead" (James 2:26).
God recognizes no distinction between members of His body. We are all members of that body and members one of another. "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession..." Who is the royal priesthood? All Christians. We have no high priest except Jesus. What right then does one Christian have to sit in judgment upon another claiming an official position as the minister, or the elder? We must all judge righteous judgments according to the word of God.
How different would churches of Christ be if every Christian believed they were equally responsible with the preacher and the elders for seeking the lost, for hospitality, for visiting the sick, for looking after widows and orphans, for loving their brothers and sisters? Faith and love compel a far different course from attending three services and dropping some money in a basket.
How much good could be done if half of the buildings "we" own were sold? It could be done. In the city of Indianapolis, many of the congregations were started simply because "brethren" could not love each other. "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (John 4:8). We have the capacity to sell 50% of the buildings and dwell together in peace. Think of the money that could then be used to preach the gospel to those who need it. What if we sold ALL the buildings? Far fetched? They met in homes in the first century, why not now?
The lost are all around us. They are deeply immersed in sin and therefore in great pain. When I am in great pain physically, I really appreciate my doctor! I hate needles, yet when I am in great pain I am eager to take the cure no matter how painful.
Jesus looked at the fields and said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Luke 10:2). The harvest is as great now as it was then. God needs us to act as his servants now more than ever. Too many ignore the wails of the lost because it’s the "preacher’s job" or the "elder’s job" to reach the lost.
One observation of amazement is the bitterness that has become part of some who wear the name Christian. They write bitter articles against bitterness. I am content to leave malice and bitterness out of my life. It seems those who follow Christ would be far better off without bitterness and malice in their writing and life. "But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said ‘The Lord rebuke you’"(Jude 9).
Some of my most bitter critics never even bothered to send me their criticisms. Seems a little strange. We know that we all stumble, even the Editor. It is easier to be helped to see the light when the person holding the flashlight is not pushing you into a crevasse. Cled Wallace put it this way: "Maybe the fellow had something who said there's so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us, it behooves not any of us to be too hard on the rest of us." Perhaps I shouldn't be so naive, after all if one as loved and venerable as Homer Halley is subject to attack, it shouldn't surprise me if they rip at a young pup like the Editor.
One of the brickbats tossed our way is that The Examiner was too critical while offering too few solutions. Perhaps this criticism was deserved. However, the solution is simple. Follow Jesus. Wherever Jesus leads I must follow. Jesus did not come to offer complex solutions to our problems. To the woman caught in the act of adultery he said simply, "Neither do I condemn you, go your way. From now on sin no more." (John 8:11).
Christ's solution for sin was to stop engaging in it. Further, the body of Christ should serve as our support group. "But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:13). It is easy to tell people to stop sinning, it is hard to encourage them "day after day." How much encouraging goes on in your congregation? If we would let the spirit of the Master guide us, how different would our lives be?
We are the future. It pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe. I must stay focused upon my mission. I am accountable to God. On the judgment day I must answer to the Creator of this infinite universe and give account. This will be a solo. No preacher, priest, elder, parent or spouse can fill in for me. What will your answer be?