As I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, when I arrived at my new ministry assignment in March of this year I inherited a curriculum for the Adult Education Program. On the curriculum was this class, Restoration History. I’ve done some study of the topic, done quite a bit of reading in the area, and have been affiliated with the Churches of Christ since 1978. I’m not an expert but I think I have a reasonable point of view.

          My approach to things leans toward the analytical. I often come across as being highly critical–a skill that served me well in the practice of law but one that I am constantly having to tone down in ministry. Many (and I do mean many) people find my ministry helpful. Some find it annoying. A few (and I do mean a few) find it incompetent.

          My sense is that looking at ourselves critically is not an appealing process. Trying to discern how we got here and what makes us so prone to splinter and schism is distasteful. As I’ve said, had I the choice I would never have chosen to teach this class this early in my ministry here. After teaching it this quarter I wonder if I will ever teach it again–at least until I can gain a better attitude toward the bigger picture. I really should allow a more gentle spirit to teach this highly emotional material.

           Got an email from a dear friend. He said that his preaching ministry had been terminated after about 8 months of being there. They found out he is a “liberal.” He’s in his 60’s, written several books, believes the Bible is the inspired Word of God with all of his heart.  He is not, in any sense of the term, a liberal. Funny how that term means so many different things to so many different people.

          I was approached by a member of my class last week. This person has a background in Gainesboro, Tennessee. He (or she) showed me in the 2003 Edition of The Churches of Christ in the United Statesthat there are twenty-six (count them: 26) Churches of Christ in Gainesboro, Tennessee. I went to the web page for the City of Gainsboro, Tennessee (http://www.city-data.com/city/Gainesboro-Tennessee.html) and it estimates the population for July of 2006 to be 849 people.

          What causes such division within our churches? How did a movement that started out as a unity movement wind up being one that has splintered and divided with the best of them? Well, I have tried to demonstrate that it at least has something to do with our history. It centers on our hermeneutics—how we interpret the Bible. More specifically, I have tried to demonstrate that our schisms are a direct result of what we do with our interpretations of the Bible–we make them tests of fellowship. This was never intended but it is the historical result that occurred within our churches.

          And, as I’ve said, that is helpful to some, annoying to some, and downright incompetent to one or two.

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