Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Lord's Supper: Right and Wrong...

So... remembering this is just my opinion as someone who has spent their lives in the church of Christ fellowship, I thought I would share what I believe we have gotten right and wrong about the Lord's Supper.

Our theology concerning the centrality of the Lord's Supper in worship is right. As is our weekly observance of it. It seems clear from Scripture that this was the practice of the New Testament church.

I do like that we have historically emphasized the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins. I rarely partake of communion in churches of Christ without someone leading us in a prayer of thanksgiving for the saving act of Jesus.

I appreciate our connection from the "upper room" before Jesus died all the way until he comes again.

I have never thought our practice matched our theology. In most congregations I am aware of, the central act of worship is the preaching. We spend more time on it and we seem to build the assembly around the sermon.

We have badly missed the communial aspect of Communion. Traditionally, we have taken the Lord's Supper individually and in isolation from the rest of those in the assembly. It is as if we decided reverence and fellowship are mutually exclusive.

We lost the sense of celebration that the Lord's Supper should provide. I have heard many men say "let's celebrate the Supper together". Then we move into full funeral mode. Much emphasis on the death, not so much the resurrection.

We made it into an act of worship that needs to be checked off on Sundays. So we have people come just in time for communion and slip out after. We even had Sunday evening worship with communion for those who were "providentially hindered" from attending morning services. As if God kept someone from coming to church. Then they had to take it by themselves. Not very reflective of Scripture.

And of course, we have the Lord's "Supper" with no meal attached. We do the Lord's snack. The Corinthians were taken to task for not being truly communial in their practice. We aren't very communial either. We just abuse it in a different way.

I started this little series with posts on baptism and Lord's Supper for a reason. I believe they are the two things identified most closely with the Gospel -- the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. I do gospel (baptized) as an individual when I become a Christian. I then do gospel (Lord's Supper) at least weekly with my brothers and sisters until I go home or the Lord returns. I even tell people the death and resurrection of Jesus is our core belief at Southern Hills and we live it out in baptism and Communion.

So I am thankful for my church of Christ heritage. We nailed the theology. If we only get two things right, these are the two core things. But I hope we will do a better job aligning our practice with our theology. Neither of these are "acts". Not of salvation or of worship. They are the two ways we share in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

So, let me hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Baptism: what we got right... and wrong in churches of Christ

I admit to being frustrated sometimes at those in the church of Christ who want to spend most of their time pointing out what we have done wrong. And I am even more frustrated when I realize they are often right. But there are many things we have gotten right and can be of great value to Christianity as a whole. So over the few posts I am going to share my thoughts on some of these. Today I start with baptism.

What we got right: the core centrality of baptism to the conversion experience. Only in the last 150 or so years among American evangelicals has the idea of salvation apart from baptism been taught. God's Word is clear that baptism is the faith response to God's gift of grace. The emphasis on forgiveness of sins is Biblical. It is the time when God puts His Spirit in us.

We are right to immerse. That is the meaning of the word baptism. We are right to insist it is an act of faith.

There is a real reversal of thought in evangelical circles about the place of baptism. Much of the thought has been initiated by people raised in churches of Christ. I am proud of our heritage and of our faithfulness to what God said about baptism. So I am thrilled to know that lost people are being baptized all over this world by Christians who are not "Church of Christ", tho certainly church of Christ.

What we got wrong: too much emphasis on what baptism accomplished without teaching what it was -- a death. I heard the phrase "obey the gospel" for years before I realized that literally meant being crucified, buried, and raised with Jesus. I thought it was just a code word for baptism. We failed to emphasize that baptism was a death.

We made it one of a five step process: hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. When we taught it that way, it was hard to argue that we did not see it as a work. We called it a step -- we should have called it a death.

We too often treated baptism as the end, not the beginning. Lots of work to get them in the baptistry, not so much after. No wonder so many of our children were baptized -- and so many of them were never faithful. And we put so much emphasis on the act that we baptized little kids because they understood the "act". Lots of them re-baptized when they figured out what it really meant.

We can argue about young people leaving our fellowship and worshipping with groups that do not understand baptism. Maybe it is because we didn't teach it well.

Just my thoughts. Feel free to share yours.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


On hospitals and Jesus

My mother-in-law is in the hospital for a procedure on her back -- compressed vertebrae and a fracture from a fall. She has pain management issues so we are praying this works. And because I look for Jesus, I thought I would share where I saw him in the hospital this week.

I saw him in my in-laws. They hug every nurse. They tell everyone where they go to church. They hold hands after 65 years of marriage. There was Jesus.

I saw him in our Doctor. We go to church with Chad, but you have to love a Doctor who starts the discussion with "God will get you thru this", and ends it with "I love you."

I saw Jesus in the way Marsha takes care of her folks. It was a "God thing" that she retired this year.

I saw him in the way Julie our daughter came to sit with Granny and hold her hand.

I saw him in elders and preachers that came by to visit and pray.

And, not at the hospital but related, I saw him when the Southern Hills elders prayed for her last night.

And I saw him when Julie's husband Bobby mowed Grandpa's yard for him.

The hands and feet and eyes of Jesus were all over the hospital this week. I'm glad I could see him. Thanks Jesus.

So where did you see Jesus this week?

Friday, August 13, 2010


Austin James Ridgell

Our fifth grandchild, Austin James Ridgell, arrived last Monday night at 10:30 p.m. This one has been different than the first 4. The first month of his life, Jamie had some issues early in her pregnancy that concerned us. Then last week, Austin got himself turned around and that caused some concern. Then Monday night, he had some respiratory issues that caused him to have to stay in the Neo-natal ICU. He is fine now -- as are Jamie and Joe Don -- and they are all home. So here are some of my thoughts.

I am so humbled to see the faith of my kids. We prayed lots for Jaimie and for Austin, but both JD and Jamie both maintained a confidence that God would deliver Austin and an assurance that God would still be God no matter what.

It is a helpless feeling as a parent when they take your kid to ICU. It is not any better when it's your grandkid.

Nice to have 4 great grandparents who are powerful prayer warriors and to know they were praying thru this whole process. Also nice to have a small group who pray for your kids as if they were theirs. And good to know my elder buddies were praying.

Watching your son hold his son's hand and talk to him and pray over him is an incredible experience. I couldn't get in to ICU so I snuck right up to the front door and prayed there. No one ever tried to move me away.

Touching to see the steady stream of church friend's coming by to see the new arrival.

Interesting to have one of their friend's recognize me from hearing me preach in Abilene. Said nice things. Told me what a great Bible class teacher JD is. Then admitted she never realized we were father and son. Interesting, but nice to hear. I think someday people will talk about JD, Andrew and Austin's teaching that way.

Jamie's tough.

I am a blessed man.

Thanks God.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Directional Christianity

Thinking about "directional" Christianity lately.

Some Christians are "downward" focused. Everything they do is driven by guilt or fear of Hell. Symptoms include lots of talk about duty and work. Often ends up in legalistic expressions of spirituality because of the fear that we may not get everything right. Key assumption: we can get everything right... and we better. Or else.

Some are "inward" focused. The key expression of spirituality is worship. And by that, they mean worship as they like it to be. Discussion is about how there is a right way to worship, or a more effective way to worship. And they always happen to be the way we like worship to be. Symptoms include lots of buildings, ministry staff, and programs. Often results in active youth groups with multiple ministers and programs. And change (replace staff or find another congregation) if children's needs are not being met. Key assumption: we have to change the church to fit the correct blueprint before we can really please us ... oops, I mean please God.

"Outward" focused Christianity is heavy on evangelism and missions. The hot trend among these Christians today is service projects, seeker friendly assemblies, and on meeting the needs of our communities. It is easy for these Christians to drift into guilt, works, and an endless search for the next sure-fire program to reach the lost. Key assumption: the most important call is the Great Commission, and the truely passionate and committed "get it".

"Upward" focused Christianity is the only one that really lasts. It is manifested by an intense desire to please God, realizing that worship is about Him, not us. It realizes that ministry is about His glory, never ours. It understands the purpose of evangelism is to bring people to a right relationship with God. Key assumption: everything is about God.

I find myself desiring to be an upward Christian, but those of you who know me well know that I can get into the outward focus very easily. And it is obvious that I have little patience for downward or inward focused Christianity. I shepherd in a church that strives to be upward focused, that wants to express that in an outward focus, but I too often find myself dealing with problems caused by an inward focus.

So how about you? Where do find yourself? How about your church?

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