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The assessment seems to be widely accepted: Churches of Christ “stand at a crucial time in our history.” (Glover Shipp, The State of the Church Today). We’ve gone from a rural, lower or lower-middle class, relatively undereducated and unsophisticated group of disciples to an urban, affluent, highly educated, and highly sophisticated group in an alarmingly short period of time. Many of our senior saints lament the fact that they can barely recognize the church of Christ within the Church of Christ anymore.

Our preachers are no longer humble men with fire in their bones for evangelism. Now they are highly-paid, highly-educated specialists who are supposed to deliver the “spiritual meat” to a starving church of uptight, hassled, and frustrated disciples in 20 minutes or less.

Our members are no longer the simple, humble, highly disciplined Bible students, and fervent evangelists of a few, short decades ago. Instead, many of our members are educated and highly demanding. They expect entertaining and provocative messages from their preachers–to be fed with little effort on their part–and very, very few of our members are involved in leading others to Christ. Many of our people, in addition to being increasingly ignorant of the Word of God, are rejecting the authority of the Bible outright.

As a movement we are stagnant. Our net growth is, at best, minimal. Within the United States we are in numerical decline. Without the growth in other parts of the world (Eastern Europe and Africa being the most notable) the Churches of Christ would constitute a dying organization. Many are asking, “Are we then watching the decline and death of a movement? Is the Church of Christ going to disappear?”

I say no. The emphasis must never be on us, the church, but rather on Christ. It is His church. He promised to build it. He asserted that not even hell itself could prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18).

The answer then is to give the church back to Christ. We must appropriate the spiritual resources God has given us. We must continue to reach out to our dying world with relevant answers for today’s complex issues. We must stay serious about the authority of the Word of God in all matters. We must be the church no matter what the cost. With a handful of likeminded disciples the state of the church can and will drastically change.

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