I was not baptized for the remission of my sins until October 2003. At the time, I was 18 years old. Now, I'm 28, so it's been almost ten years. I've been acquainted with the "church of Christ" for just four months longer. Prior to that, I was very involved in a number of denominational churches and before that, I wasn't a church-goer (for most of my life).
When I made the decision to be "re-baptized" in October 2003 and to join the church of Christ in Lexington, my family reacted with confusion and even anger, but more than anything, they were very concerned. In their minds, I had joined a cult. I remember my uncle predicting that I'd soon be shaving my head and preaching in the airport in a purple robe. I had many conversations with members of my family and even with friends from high school and from my former church affiliations. It was clear that my decision had erected a barrier between me and my friends and family. Things have never been the same.
I stay in touch with a lot of these people through Facebook. Former youth pastors and fellow "youth-groupers," friends from high school, and of course, family. For the most part, the concern surrounding my conversion in 2003 has subsided, and I highly doubt that they give it much thought anymore. However, I'd like to issue a challenge, or a request, to all of my friends and family members who, in hindsight, disagree with my decision to abandon "traditional Christianity" for a stricter, more exclusive form of what I consider to be "biblical Christianity."
Here's my challenge, or request: if you are concerned about the direction I've taken these past ten years and if you disagree with my affiliation with "churches of Christ," please make an effort to convince me that I'm on the wrong path. There are a couple of ways that you can do this...
- You have the option of disproving my stance on key issues that have compelled me to leave behind denominationalism in favor of undenominational "churches of Christ." Here are a few of the issues that MUST be addressed in order for me to even consider a change:
- At the top of that list is the true purpose of water baptism. The majority of modern churches teach that water baptism is simply an act of obedience that one does after they are saved. My position now is that water baptism IS essential for salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3-5 and 1 Peter 3:21, just to name a few). Scriptures such as this must be individually addressed, and it must be shown that baptism cannot be a part of salvation.
- Secondly, you need to address the issue of "doctrinal division." In other words, most religious people believe that the doctrinal differences between churches do not really matter. However, when I read verses such as Romans 16:17, 1 Timothy 1:3 and 2 John 9, I conclude that we must not only strive for doctrinal unity, we must not tolerate teachings and practices that are unscriptural. If I'm going to once again embrace traditional Christianity and denominationalism, you have to prove to me that these doctrinal differences don't really matter in the end. Can you do that?
- Finally, you have to specifically address the identity and work of the church. When I read the New Testament, I conclude that Jesus established "one body," or church (Eph. 4:4-5) that has a scripturally-defined identity. I also conclude that the church's purpose and work is primarily spiritual, not social, physical or recreational. Can you prove to me that we have the liberty to redesign and restructure our local churches today?
- If you do not or cannot address these specific issues mentioned above, you also have the option of disproving my general approach to the Scriptures. I approach the Scriptures with extreme care and precision. I believe that we need to seek scriptural authority for all that we do (Col. 3:17; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 4:11; 2 John 9, et al). What we specifically do in worship must be based upon the authority of Scripture (John 4:24). For example, this is why we reject the use of instrumental music in worship; there is no New Testament authority for it. This is why we use the designation, "church of Christ" - it's a scriptural designation (Rom. 16:16). You could avoid a lot of these individual issues by proving that my overall approach to the Scriptures is flawed. Maybe you can prove to me that the New Testament was never intended to be a pattern, or that we don't need authority for how we worship, what we teach, how we structure the church, etc. Maybe you can prove to me that faith and zeal are all that matter in the end, and that such strict obedience has nothing to do with our hope of heaven. Can you prove the fallacy of my approach to the Scriptures?
- Finally, you have the option of proving to me that there is a greater and more current authority than the Scriptures. Is it the Catholic church and the Pope? Is there a more modern revelation such as the Book of Mormon that supercedes the Bible? Should I be putting my faith in some other organization or holy book? This will be tough, but you're welcome to try this route.
Am I just being argumentative or arrogant by issuing this challenge? That's not my intention. I am just THIS determined to practice the truth in my life, and I try to always remain humble and open to criticism or rebuke. If I'm missing something and if I have embraced a religious system that is unbiblical, I sincerely want to know it. At the same time, perhaps this will result in opportunities to discuss the Scriptures with people I have cared about for years. Maybe I can provide some clarity, or maybe they can. Either way, no time is lost when we are opening and studying God's word with the intent of seeking greater unity.
If you'd like to take me up on this, please contact me on Facebook, comment below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to hear from you soon!