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Cope­ing in Abilene

By Lindell Mitchell

religion, articles, christianity

A sermon delivered by Mike Cope at the Fifth and Highland Church of Christ in Abilene (April 21, 1996) has come to my notice. The sermon is a call to apostasy. Mike has been leading the way to denominational error for a long time.

As co-editor of Wineskins brother Cope published Andre Resner's vulgar article characterizing the Lord's mother as "another sexually questionable woman." In the April 1993 issue of Wineskins Cope wrote an especially shameful piece entitled "Cheers: A Minister's Fantasy Ending." This was shocking because Cheers glamorized illicit sex and perversity from its debut in 1983 through the final episode in 1993.

Apparently the Fifth and Highland elders (including Royce Money, president of ACU; Randy Becton and Glen Owen, of the Herald of Truth) approve brother Cope's writing and sermonizing.

Brother Cope, in his sermon, called for open fellowship with denominational bodies. He confessed to entertaining a simplistic view of church history as a teenager. He says as a child he thought the church was established in the first century, went into apostasy and was later restored. He chuckles now at his youthful naivete, but does not trouble himself to give his present view of church history. Mike commented, "Now I can't conceive of having believed that."

Mike reported that two things led him to enlightenment regarding the propriety of having fellowship with denominational false teachers. First, was attending Harding University. He specifically credited Professor Jimmy Allen's class on the book of Romans with helping him see the light concerning the need to be in fellowship with denominations.

Second, Cope encountered another problem with his "simplistic" view of church history. He says it was his exposure to other people. Mike said:

You see, if you want to believe that you are the only Christians, you have to be very careful about whom you expose yourself to. It's best to go hide in caves, like one group did in the first century. If you hide in caves and don't get around anybody else then you can hold to that belief-that we are the only ones. But what are you going to do with all the wonderful

Spirit­filled, Jesus­like, prayerful believers who don't go to church where we go, weren't baptized like we were baptized, and whose doctrine doesn't line up exactly like ours. That was a crisis for me.

While experiencing this crisis of faith, Mike read church history and found that denominational people were in many instances dedicated, noble, and brave. He learned that they prayed and wrote books on prayer. Mike then began to notice who was having an impact on him. He said Billy Graham was first and foremost followed by Richard Foster, Tony Campolo, and John Stott (these men are denominational false teachers). Mike said that John Stott was the biggest problem of all for him. He said, "As I read more and more works by this Anglican preacher ... I was a John Stott wannabe."

The opportunity arose for brother Cope to attend a gathering where he could spend three days in close proximity with Mr. Stott. Based on three days of association, Mike declared Stott to be a man of

[u]tter holiness. A man in whom the Spirit was powerful. A man of prayer. And yet, on the other hand, a man who didn't share my understanding of baptism. Full of God's Word, full of God's Spirit. And yet ...1 just didn't know what to do with it.

"Then one day it hit me," said Cope, "I needed to come clean on this. Because I believe these are God's people, even though they are not part of my little bunch.... And, it hit me, unity can't come by uniformity."

Cope says the heavy influence of Billy Graham, Richard Foster, Tony Campolo, James Dobson, and John Stott confused him at first. Ultimately it led him to embrace them as brothers in Christ. Mike ignores their denominational error because he decided they are full of God's Spirit.

The Bible says that not all who profess faith are accepted. In fact, many who claim to do great signs and wonders will be rejected. Only those who heed the words of Christ will be saved (Matt. 7:21­23).

Cope must recall that Satan and his disciples regularly present themselves as angels of light (2 Cor. 11:14­15). Frolicking with false­teachers at a prayer­breakfast or a Promise Keepers rally does not validate their teaching.

Brother Cope says brethren need not overly concern themselves with "every little matter." only the central tenants of Christianity are essential. According to Cope "if somebody said 'I don't believe that Jesus Christ really came in the flesh,' that's a biggie." Mike forget to tell us how to tell the difference between "biggies" and "littlellies."

The Bible paints a different picture. Jesus said those who love him keep his commandments (John 14:15). He claims friendship with those who are careful to observe his commandments (John 15:14). He said that the love of God consists of keeping his commandments which are not burdensome (1 John 5:2). The Lord's friends do not qualify his commandments as "biggies" and "non­biggies."

"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).

(For a free printed copy of Mike Cope's April 21, 1996 sermon send your email request to:

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Published January 1997