Change, Transition, Abandon
By Adron Doran
On one hand we hear voices calling for change and those who are becoming involved in the movement for transition. On the other hand there are those who fear that the proposed changes will result in abandoning the "old paths."
We can understand full well why some people are disenchanted with political, economic, and educational leaders and systems and are advocating changes in the way local, state, and national governments are being administered. Certainly our tax structure needs overhauling, and our education programs need reforming. These are all parts of our social system and subject to the will of the democratic electorate.
However, the gospel of God and the church of our Lord Jesus Christ are sacred institutions and are not subject to the whims and wishes of our modem society. Just because drastic changes are being wrought in the social order is no valid argument for changing the church that Christ purchased with his own precious blood or that the gospel which came as the will of God should succumb to, change, or be abandoned.
We hear and read much from those who contend for change in the status quo of the economy of grace. But some of us have difficulty in understanding what it is that they really want to change. What changes must be made in the church to bring it from the first century, when it was established, into the twenty-first century where the "baby boomers" will hold forth? Do the advocates propose to perfect change and accomplish transition from the traditions which we have followed through the years? Are there traditions which limit our effectiveness to evangelize or the way we conduct worship when the saints have gathered together?
Many of our traditions have proved profitable, while there are others which could be eliminated with no ill effects. However, we do not believe that the churches of Christ are victims of traditions to the extent that the purposes of the Lord are being stymied. If we stripped the church of all of its "innocuous traditions," it should not change the mission, the organization, the purpose, the doctrine, and the direction which God gave to the church when he made Christ head of the "body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:23)!
I would raise a number of basic questions about changing the administration of the church, the pattern of worship, the conditions of salvation, as stipulated in the gospel, and the relationship between the church and religious denominations in a clamor for unity.
Do the proponents of change really think that God has changed or needs to change (Mal. 3:6)? Do they think that Christ has changed or needs to change (Heb. 13:8)? Do they think that the church was lacking when the Lord presented it unto himself (Eph. 5:27)? Do they think that truth is timeworn and outdated (I Pet. 1:25)? I admonish those who are dead set on leading a movement for change, within the brotherhood, to read and accept the proposal by the apostle Paul to the Thessalonians (2 Thess. 2:15):
So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours.
When I was baptized and began to preach (1928), we never heard preacher, elder, or editor propose to change the church, prepare it for transition, or accept a new way to interpret the scripture. N. B. Hardeman, A. B. Barrett, G. C. Brewer, I. A. Douthitt, H. L. Calhoun, Alonzo Williams, and Coleman Overby, for whom I led singing in gospel meetings, were never afraid nor ashamed to preach the commands of God, nor to point out the approved apostolic examples and the great truths of the Bible based on necessary inferences.
A similar course of change being proposed by modem "scholars" was introduced by the Christian Church and resulted in the formation of the Disciples of Christ denomination and the abandonment of the restoration plea.
Brethren, we must profit by the mistakes of those who abandoned the pleas of the early restorers under the guise of a new theology and commit ourselves to "hold fast the form of sound words which thou hast heard in faith and in love which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 1:13).
As early as 1829 Thomas Campbell proposed that
nothing should be admitted into our churches (congregations) either as to doctrine, or practice, or manner of teaching, or terms of communion, or ministerial qualifications, or government, but what we find taught, enjoined, and practiced in the primitive churches. Now this is the very thing we plead for, neither more nor less!
Let us be careful that change and transition do not result in abandon.