Seeds of Division

Posted by on April 27, 2008 under Sermons

Please ask Chris Benjamin for permission before reproducing
any of the images, graphics, or charts on this page.

The 1906 Admission

  • S.N.D. North – Director of the U.S. Religious Census of 1906 detected a division in the SC movement.
  • David Lipscomb, editor of the Gospel Advocate, reluctantly agreed that Churches of Christ and Disciples of Christ should be listed separately.

Why Did We Divide?

  • The Issues:
      – Missionary Society
      – Musical Instruments in Worship
      – Professional Ministers

Remember 1832?

No heaven was promised to those who hold one position or the other, and no hell was threatened to those who deny them.
– “Raccoon” John Smith

Why Did We Divide?

  • Unspoken Issues
      – Regional/Political Differences
      – Urban Culture vs. Rural Culture
      – Economic Differences
  • All of these are impacted and magnified by the U.S. Civil War

A Divided Nation
Mort Kunstler's 'Salute of Honor' painting

Secession and Churches

  • Presbyterian (PCUSA)
  • American Baptist Convention
  • Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Episcopal Church in the USA

  • Presbyterian (PCCSA)
  • Southern Baptist Convention
  • Methodist Episcopal Church, South
  • Episcopal Church in the CSA

The Issue of Slavery

  • Campbell was moderate.
      – He opposed the institution of slavery.
      – However, it should not divide the church.
  • Opposing views among Disciples.
  • The war forced the issue.

Can We Divide?

“Indeed, a division of the body of Christ, except in the sense of causing a faction, is impossible. What divine authority makes one, it is difficult for man to make two.”
– Moses Lard (1866)


    1. Estrangement
    2. Apostasy
    3. Heretical Faction (Apostasy)
    4. Slavery is not an issue

Did We Divide?

Seeds of Division

  • Civil War and Reconstruction create regional and cultural differences
      – Economics
      – Slavery
      – National Identity (Politics)
  • Second generation of leaders emerge just prior to, during, and after the War
  • America’s “Millennial Hope” has faded

Across the Street and Around the World

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What is Missional?

  • Not a program or a department within the church
  • Missional describes a community of God’s people that defines itself and organizes its life around God’s mission in the world.
  • We are a product of God’s mission, but also participants.
  • The church acts like church when it is all missional.
  1. Sent vs. Senders

    Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” – John 20:21

    • Jesus is the sender
    • We are the sent

    It is (just) our mission

    It is God’s mission and we are gathered and sent – It’s all Missional

  2. Joining God in His Work

      To read, “The church has a mission” means that the church controls, owns, determines the mission. The mission is the product of the church. The church engages in mission to support the church (recruitment).

      But where did the church come from? What is the purpose and being of the church? The church is the visible sign of God’s work and God’s rule in the creation.

      So it is more accurate to say that the mission (God’s Mission) has a church.

      God’s work in Christ shows us that he is active in our world.
      Acts 10 – the spirit arranged the mission to the Gentiles. We are always catching up to what God is doing.

    • God became flesh in Jesus Christ in order to save us
        – 1 John 4:8-14

    • Acts 10 – Who is running the mission? Peter or Cornelius?
  3. Dress Comfortably

    • Operational, institutional, geographical considerations are not the “church.”
    • People vs. Place
    • Intent vs. Institution
    • Remember the old verse – “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple; open the doors and here’s all the people.” What’s wrong with that? The problem is that the church and the people are different.
    • The church is no more a building, a location, an operating budget, etc., that we are our clothes. (The clothes make the man – Which clothes? We dress for occasions and our dress can be quite varied.)
    • As the mission’s church we need to dress comfortably if we are going to join God in his work. This means that we regard our operational, institutional, geographical, strategic issues as means to an end and not the end itself.
    • Every ministry, every effort, every group and every role of leadership is oriented toward being faithful to God’s purpose.
    • We are not this place. The goal is not to get more folk “in here” – we count nickels and noses, but is that the right set of measures?
    • When the adjuster came to look at my hail damaged roof he didn’t ask me how much the roof weighed. He didn’t measure its magnetic resonance. He measured the area. If we ask someone about the temperature outside they don’t stick a ruler up against the air. What are we measuring?
    • 1 Corinthians 9:21-23, To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Are we building boundaries or seeking Christ?

Being an Example Without

Posted by on April 24, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

The most important issue in people’s lives in any age is being in Christ. Always, many do not want to be in Christ (John 3:19, 20). Christians cannot force people to enter Christ. (Salvation involves a person’s intellect and emotions as well as his/her physical body.)

The challenge is to encourage everyone to enter Christ who wants to enter Christ. Can it be certainly determined who does and does not wish to enter Christ? No. We assume a person wants to enter Christ until he/she declares otherwise, and even then we are careful not to limit future changes in his/her interest.

Paul’s approach was fascinating! He was exposed to situations that were extreme–idolatry, judgmental religion, and atheism. He always assumed interest in Christ existed. He always began where the person was. He was the flexible one. (He did not say, “When you think like I do, I will talk to you.”) Paul found something incredible in Christ. (Have you recently read Philippians 3:8-11?). And he wished to share (1) what he had found and (2) how it changed him. No matter what your past, what wickedness you committed, or who you were at the moment, Paul knew God in Christ had something wonderful for you-no one knew that better than did Paul (1 Timothy 1:12-16)! Paul did not give up on people because God did not give up on him! God’s grace in Christ was greater than Paul’s sinfulness!

The Christian Paul’s approach: (1) Focus on the blessings of being in Christ rather than the flaws of the person. (2) Be an example of change in Christ. To me, nothing demonstrates Paul’s changes as does 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12. The man who held the clothing of those who killed Stephen (Acts 7:58), who dragged Christian men and women from their homes (Acts 8:3), who tried physically to force Christians to blaspheme (Acts 26:9-11), and who was on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians (Acts 9:1, 2), as a Christian evangelized gently, with affection and blameless behavior while exhorting, encouraging, and imploring.

We exist in a visual society. Do not focus on “the rules.” Focus on being. Live as an example. Attract to Jesus by behavior as well as message. As Paul said to a preacher, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

The Gospel Restored

Posted by on April 20, 2008 under Sermons

Please ask Chris Benjamin for permission before reproducing
any of the images, graphics, or charts on this page.

Walter Scott (1796 – 1861)

  • Born in Scotland
  • Educated at University of Edinburgh
  • Arrived in Pittsburgh in 1818
  • Met Alexander Campbell in 1821
  • Appointed evangelist by Mahoning Baptist Association in 1827
  • 1,000 baptisms in his first year

The New Evangelism

  • “What must I do to be saved?”
  • Scott’s answer was found in “the ancient gospel.”
  • He later wrote the book, The Gospel Restored.

Familiar 20th Century Version

Walter Scott’s Version

The Gospel Restored

  • Humans Do Three Things:
    – Faith
    – Repentance
    – Baptism
  • God Has Three Promises:
    – Forgiveness of Sins
    – Gift of the Holy Spirit
    – Eternal Life

The Golden Oracle

  • What kept the exercise from becoming a legalistic formula?
  • Scott emphasized that the central teaching of the gospel was “Jesus is the Christ.”
  • For Scott, Restoration was centered on Christ for the purpose of unity.

A Frontier Success Story

  • Calvinism – Salvation only for predestined
  • At Calvinistic revivals people sought assurance on the mourner’s bench
  • Scott taught salvation was for any who would believe, repent, and be baptized
  • Independent frontier people received it with joy!

The Significance of Walter Scott

  • “The Plan”
    • The step formula
    • The boldness and confidence
  • Growth of the movement
    • Especially on the frontier
  • Emphasis on Christ and the Gospel
    • The Golden Oracle

You Can’t “Retire” From Church

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Story about George – He didn’t believe that he ever retired from church …

I respect George’s wisdom. There is no age that we “retire” from church. It isn’t a job, it is who we are. Sometimes we may think that the older generation needs to give way to the younger generation. That terminology is flawed. The older and younger generations need to work together to continue to be church. That isn’t just George’s wisdom. That is God’s wisdom.

Numbers 8:20-26 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the LORD commanded Moses. The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the LORD and made atonement for them to purify them. After that, the Levites came to do their work at the Tent of Meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the LORD commanded Moses.
The LORD said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”

  1. We Do Not Retire From Church:
    • Everyone has a purpose at every age. No one is old and useless.
    • Our role in service may change, but we are always serving one another and the world as God’s people in some capacity – just like the Levites of every age. 25-50 did the work, but 50+ were also working. And the pattern continued …
    • We should be ministering THROUGH and not just TO senior adults.
    • We can do better than viewing senior adults as poor, sick, and invalid. Certainly there are challenges that come with age – we need to see to those challenges, but we don’t need to put anyone “out to pasture” waiting around for the grim reaper.
    • Our senior adults are a diverse group with diverse needs and just as varied as anyone.
    • Stats: 85 years old and older is the fastest growing demographic. Life expectancy is being extended. At West-Ark we have a growing 90-something’s group.
    • Senior adults are in many cases finding themselves with wisdom, money, time – resources that are highly in demand. It would be a dishonor for them, for us, and for God’s kingdom if they were not given a noble purpose for their lives.
    • I believe we can offer a more noble vision and a greater place of honor for the retirement years than simply earning a discount a Denny’s, watching game shows and soaps, or spending our children’s inheritance at Casinos.

  2. The Importance of Mentoring:
    • Remember the elephant herd? Baby elephants are born without survival skills. The whole herd is involved in some way in rearing the young. Of course, that hasn’t always been realized.
    • (Source: CBS News, Bob Simon) In South Africa’s Pilanesberg Park, rhinos were thriving until an unknown killer began stalking them. The killings clearly weren’t the work of poachers. The rhinos’ horns hadn’t been touched. The park rangers began conducting an investigation. It turned out that young male elephants were behind the murders of Pilanesberg’s rhinos.
    • Why would they do it? Well, like juvenile delinquents, they had grown up without role models. The problem goes back 20 years to South Africa’s largest conservation area, Kruger National Park. Kruger had too many elephants. In those days there was no way to relocate these large adults. So researchers decided to kill the adults and save the children, who were more easily transported to other parks.
    • The rangers decided to bring in some older, larger bull elephants.
    • The bigger, older elephants established a new hierarchy, and that’s good news for the rhinos. And the elephants too. They probably would have been euthanised if the program didn’t work.
    • The juveniles seem to be reading the message loud and clear. Since the big bulls arrived, not one rhino has been killed.
    • God’s instructions in Numbers 8 built in mentoring. When Paul writes to Titus on Crete he encourages Titus to build-in mentoring as a means of evangelism.
    • We may have make Christianity too much of a science or individual effort. We have forgotten that it is a generational journey.
    • I call upon our senior adults to be our mentors. I call upon our young adults and children to be mentored – for one day you shall mentored. I doubt that there are many who will say that I have no need of a mentor. For those who say, “I have made too many mistakes to mentor,” then you are just who we need! Sort out the guilt and regret with God then please share his grace with us.
    • An act of mentoring may be as simple as encouraging a younger person to join you in a simple act of service. Anyone who serves will tell you that they learned what they do from someone who did this before them.

  3. Thank You to Our Senior Adults.
    • Hope Chest and CURE involve many “retired” people who haven’t retired from church
    • Tutoring is a mentoring program. It is about much more than math and reading.
    • Our senior adults are involved in mission work: some go to other nations, and some work right here.
    • Thank you for not retiring from church


The life of a disciple eager to serve others is a life journey. It begins with one’s birth in Christ and the beginning of a new life.

Being an Example Within

Posted by on April 17, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

For whom did Jesus die? For first-century Jewish people in their society? For gentiles then also? For those who lived for the next 2,000 years world-wide? For us now? For people in Fort Smith not in Christ? For those in our world who are not in Christ?

Ask the same questions from another perspective. Is Jesus a “world Savior” or an “us” Savior? Does he prefer my background and concepts? Since he was never American, never ate hamburgers and fries, never spoke or read English, never went to college, does he prefer another background? Does he have any background preference?

Hopefully, if we took a thin slice of the “midsection” of a congregation and placed it under a microscope to determine make-up and needs, we would find visitor needs, new convert needs, young Christian needs, growing Christian needs, and mature Christian needs. Hopefully, we would find a diversity of people with a diversity of backgrounds. Hopefully, we would find numerous people being stretched spiritually to meet a complex situation, and people in Christ using an understanding of God to meet that challenge. These Jesus-led, God-directed people of faith have the courage to walk righteously.

A practical question: What is the newly baptized person learning from me? How to “safely” gossip? How to be bitter and hold grudges? How to “get my way” correctly? How to exploit people? How to “be political” in the church? Generally speaking, how to “play the religious game” to achieve “my interests”?

Or, how to serve? How to sacrifice? How to encourage? How to be godly even if wronged? How to be committed to a Savior’s values? How to be God’s light in an evil world? How to trust in God in hard times? How to endure injustice (which God and Jesus did in Jesus’ cross) and yet remain spiritually true to God’s character?

Or am I a confusing mixture of both?

Nothing is more powerful than a godly example. Effectiveness in helping others spiritually depends on people holding themselves to a high level of accountability that exists because of a love commitment to God. It exists voluntarily, not by force. Mature congregations are filled with individuals who dare to be Christ-like examples. Spirituality is not a veneer finish only surface deep-it is intentional godliness!

Insights From Ephesians (part 4)

Posted by on April 16, 2008 under Sermons

All of us tend to exaggerate our loveableness. First, we exaggerate our personal loveableness by asking what each of us considers a rhetorical question: "Why shouldn’t anyone love a person like me?" We tend to think "everyone should love a person like me!" If I love me, why shouldn’t you love me?

Second, we exaggerate our personal loveableness by citing all our good qualities: "I am this, and I am that; I do this, and I do that; this person is blessed by me, and that person is blessed by me."  Most of us tend to have a very good opinion of ourselves! If I convince you to look at only my good qualities, deeds, and characteristics, I can make you see a pretty good person.

Third, we exaggerate our personal loveableness by citing all the good things we do. "Look at all the good organizations I am a member of! Look at all the good things I do in those organizations! Look what I did for him! Look at the ways I helped her! Look at what I did for that family! Look at how much I give and what I give to!"

By doing those things, I can control the way you see me and all my goodness. Inevitably (if I succeed in determining the way you look at me), when someone else is in conflict with me, you say, "I do not see how anyone could have problems with (him or her). (He or she) is such a nice person and does so much good to so many!"

Do something (honestly with yourself) that likely will make all of us feel very uncomfortable. Honestly list all your worst characteristics (in your mind). Honestly admit to yourself all your weaknesses. Honestly confess to yourself all your flaws. Honestly admit how many times your wife or husband, your children, and your friends had to forgive you last month. Honestly admit to yourself your biggest goofs. Honestly admit to yourself what others would see if they saw you at your worst.

After doing all those things, ask yourself why should anyone love you?

Listen or read with me Ephesians 2:1-10: And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

  1. Paul declared a deadly war raged (which has raged for a long time) and described those who were victims of that war.
    1. Fifty per cent of the war is waged by what Paul referred to here as "the course of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience."
      1. Paul also referred to this force in Ephesians 6:12 in this statement: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
      2. Jesus said in John 12:31-32, Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.
      3. Most of us would refer to this war as the war between good and evil.
    2. Paul said there were two casualties in this war.
      1. We need to understand that many casualties did not consider themselves casualties.
      2. The first casualty was the person who was dead (spiritually) in his trespasses and sins, in context the non-Jewish person that Jews called gentiles.
      3. The second casualty (in which Paul included himself) was the person who lived in lust and indulgence, in this context the Jewish person.
      4. All the Christians to whom Paul wrote were in one situation or the other–they all needed God’s intervention when they were victims of the war between God and Satan.
    3. God rescued all of them.
      1. Their salvation (their deliverance from an impossible situation) occurred because God acted.
      2. God acted for two reasons:
        1. God by character is a merciful God.
        2. This merciful God loved them with a great love.
      3. How did God do this?
        1. God made them alive with Christ.
        2. In Jesus’ resurrection from physical death, God made it possible for all of them to be resurrected from their spiritual death created by their past errors and rebellion.
        3. By what God did in Jesus’ resurrection, in Jesus Christ sitting at God’s right hand, they sit with Jesus–Jesus Christ perfectly represents those who accepted salvation.
        4. And God through Christ will yet do something even more incredible for these people!
    4. The emphasis must be (as it should be) on the fact that all of this occurred because God took the initiative in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
      1. Salvation happened because of the goodness (grace) of God!
      2. Salvation did not occur because anyone obligated God, or deserved God’s kindness, or created an indebtedness that God was forced to respond to.
      3. Our salvation exists because God acted first in love for people–all we can do in any age is to respond to God’s kindness in love for Him.
  2. I ask you to take particular note of some statements in Ephesians 2:10.
    1. First, note Christians are God’s workmanship.
      1. The people of the first-century lived in a day when things were made by the "know-how" and the "patient" hand of a craftsman.
        1. There was no manufacturing, or mass production, or power tools and machines.
        2. The craftsman:
          1. Had to have the "eye" that "saw the possibilities and potential."
          2. The craftsman had to take what was and transform it into what could be.
      2. God had the "know-how" and "patient hand" to craft us into something that did not exist.
        1. Christians are not mass produced–each person is unique with his/her gifts and abilities.
        2. Christians are individually crafted by God in Jesus Christ.
          1. God has the ability to see in each of us our possibilities and potential in spite of our failures, flaws, indulgence, and rebellion.
          2. God has the power in Jesus Christ to transform each individual into what he or she has the potential to become (no matter what I am, God has the ability to transform me!)
    2. Note that God, the Craftsman, has created Christians for good works.
      1. We exist physically and spiritually because of acts of God.
      2. By God’s intent, we who are in "Christ" exist to do good (as defined by God).
        1. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16?
          Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
        2. The focus of doing good is people, people in and influenced by an evil world.
        3. The objective of doing good is the glorification of God in this evil world.
      3. Obedience to God in fulfilling our created purpose in doing good works is not an after-thought of God.
        1. Before Jesus came, God’s intention was that those who accepted the resurrected Jesus as the Christ would do good works.
        2. The lifestyle and focus of life of these people would be on doing good works.
        3. They would be obedient to God in doing good (which involved a change of life focus) because they appreciated what God did for them in Jesus Christ.
      4. The objective of people in Christ doing good works was not to attempt to obligate God to themselves through human deeds.
        1. Those in Christ understand they are saved by God’s grace (goodness) given to them as a gift (an inheritance), not because God in any sense is obligated to them.
        2. Those in Christ are merely showing their appreciation for God’s grace.
        3. These people are merely fulfilling the purpose of the Craftsman who created them in Jesus Christ.
        4. They dedicate themselves to doing good works in order to do what God intended them to do.

The object of Christian obedience is not and never has been earning anything. The idea that humans can place God in any form of obligation through any human act fails to deal with the reality of divine nature.

God is God–He can do what He chooses to do. God does not have to consult with us or depend on us in any divine act He chooses to take. God does not need us. We need God. A basic distinction between an idol and the living God is the independence of the living God. An idol has to depend on a human act for everything–it can do nothing independently. However, the living God is independent–He cares for Himself. We depend on Him for existence–He does not depend on us. That is Paul’s point in Athens to idol worshippers in Acts 17:24, 25 and 28, 29.

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, "For we also are His children." Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.

Christians obey God to express appreciation for what God has done and continues to do for them in Christ. Christian obedience says, "Thank you," to God. It is an expression of faith for those in Christ. It is not some form of hell insurance. If obedience is viewed as a means to obligate God, it is horribly misguided. Nor is obedience a way of getting God to act favorably toward us without our having to place trust in God.

Before we ever loved God, God loved us (Romans 5:8). There are two ways we show God our love for Him in what He did. First is by accepting Jesus as the Christ. Second is by obeying God as His children.

How do you express your love and appreciation for God in all He has done and does for you?

Insights From Ephesians (part 3)

Posted by on April 15, 2008 under Sermons

One of the most powerful negative forces that exist in our society today is discouragement. This force is even more powerful in the church. There are likely more people who worship no where, or have changed to a different kind of church, or who are a loud, negative voice in their congregation because they have been discouraged, than any other negative influence among Christians. If all the discouraged Christians assembled for worship on any given Sunday in their "home congregation" left their discouragement at home and praised God for His many blessings in Christ, attendance in most congregations would increase from one-third to over 100%.

People are discouraged for many reasons. (1) For many, life is just plain hard. Circumstances they never once anticipated descended on them, consumed them, and created a personal crises for them. Unfortunately, these people are in congregations that are unaware–for whatever reason–of their struggle. Or their congregation knows their struggle and either offers no help or no encouragement. Or the congregation is a part of the reason for their struggle. So these people look at life, or at the congregation, or at both, and are disillusioned.

(2) Many look at individual Christians they previously respected, but now they see "feet of clay," and these individual’s weakness or poor choices discourage them. That is why our faith in God should never depend on people. No human is perfect. Every human needs God’s mercy and grace.

(3) Many look at congregations and are discouraged because their home congregation is fractured. They look at "the groups" who are vying with each other for a position of control or ascendency. Their impression is that the church is more an institution than a relationship with God, more political than spiritual, or more about a sense of self-importance than serving. The result: they are disillusioned with the congregation.

(4) Many have a significantly flawed concept of unity, or a significantly flawed concept of God’s purpose in Jesus Christ, or a significantly flawed concept of the objectives of Christianity. The result: these people have significantly flawed expectations. What they expect to happen never happens, and they are disillusioned. Incorrect expectations was a real reason for Jesus’ rejection during the time of his ministry and death–it is nothing new.

Understanding discouragement is not new. Consider today’s text from Ephesians 1:15-23.  For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

  1. The first thing I want to call to your attention is that Paul encouraged an imperfect congregation.
    1. First, I want to produce a perspective–Paul did not write an epistle (letter) to a place just to be writing because he happened to have some time on his hands and nothing better to do.
      1. In Ephesians (and other of Paul’s epistles), Paul wrote about problems that existed at the place where he wrote.
        1. If that is correct (and I am convinced it is), many in the congregation did not understand the significance (importance) of Jesus Christ in 1:3-14.
        2. They did not understand their dependence on God’s grace in 2:1-8.
        3. They did not understand the relationship between grace and obedience in 2:9, 10.
        4. They did not understand God’s gift of unity in 2:11-22.
        5. They did not understand the importance of hanging in there in 3:12.
        6. They did not understand that God’s power had little to do with human expectations in 3:17-21.
        7. They did not understand God’s purpose for Christians in 4:1-16.
        8. They did not understand they were to become the "new you in God" in 4:17-24.
        9. They did not understand that the "new you" deliberately adopted a lifestyle that excluded lying, anger, stealing, ungodly speech, resistance to God’s influence in their lives, and an imitation of Jesus’ kindness instead of negative emotion in 4:25-32.
        10. They did not understand they had to be influenced by God rather than the "movers and shakers" who "made things happen" in 5:1-14.
        11. They did not understand they lived a lifestyle that rejected drunkenness in 5:15-21.
        12. They did not understand the "new you" involved a lifestyle that included the way you treated the people closest to you in 5:15-6:9.
        13. They did not understand the importance of wearing God’s armor in their personal struggle with evil in 6:10-20.
      2. There are a lot of basic things they either did not know or did not know the importance of.
        1. How would you like to be a member of that congregation?
        2. How easy do you think it would have been to get spiritually discouraged in that environment?
        3. Yet, in 1:1 Paul addressed them as saints who were faithful in Jesus Christ.
        4. Do you think we have a lot to learn about Paul’s use of the word "faithful?"
    2. Obviously, Paul did not restrict spiritual encouragement to individual or congregational spiritual perfection.
      1. Again, let me call something to your attention.
      2. First, they did not understand the meaning of unity at all.
        1. That, to me, is obvious in 2:11-22.
        2. They had no understanding of the fact that unity was a gift God gave in Christ, and their responsibility was to preserve that gift, not create the condition (see 4:3).
        3. God made them one in the cross of Jesus Christ, and they did not know it (see 2:16)!
      3. Second, it jumps out at me that some of them were continuing to steal as they did prior to becoming a Christian (see 4:28).
        1. "Steals" is present tense.
        2. Some of these Christians stole prior to becoming Christians and continued to steal after becoming Christians.
        3. They did not even understand that conversion involved accepting a new lifestyle!
        4. They obviously had an enormous amount to learn about Christian existence after conversion–it was not easy to go from idol worshipper to Christian in their social environment!
      4. Even though these people were Christians and received Paul’s encouragement, they had a lot to learn and understand.
      5. How does that fit with your concept of Christian existence?
      6. How does that fit with your concept of Christian encouragement?
  2. There are some things in our text (Ephesians 1:15-23) that I want you note besides Paul’s encouragement because he heard of their faith in Jesus and of their love for other Christians.
    1. First, I want you to note Paul’s prayer for them in 1:18, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints …”
      1. He prayed that they would be able to see with their hearts.
        1. They were too much like us.
        2. They saw with their eyes, not their hearts.
        3. They saw what their society saw.
        4. They had to be trained to see with their hearts.
        5. They had to be trained to see as God sees instead of the way their society looks at things.
      2. Only if they learned how to see with their hearts could they know the hope of God’s calling.
        1. Their environment in their society was pretty hopeless.
        2. Only if they could see as God sees would they allow God to be their source of hope.
        3. The reasons for God supplying hope would not even compute in their society–and so it is with ours!
      3. Only if they learned to see with their hearts could they recognize the riches of the glory of their inheritance.
        1. According to their society, God had no inheritance to give.
        2. Society principally measures an inheritance in terms of money, of valuable possessions, and of property–none of which God offered.
      4. The things God offered were:
        1. A place to belong, to "fit in" for righteous people.
        2. Forgiveness coupled with compassion.
        3. Grace and mercy.
        4. Kindness to people who had nothing to offer.
        5. Those are things the heart sees!
        6. If you cannot see with the heart, those things are impractical and foolish!
    2. Verse 19 talks about the surpassing greatness of His power and the strength of His might.  "… [W]hat is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might …"
      1. God revealed His power and might in two things:
        1. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
        2. The resurrected Jesus being enthroned at God’s right hand–the most prominent place that the One who ruled could give.
      2. In those two things God made Jesus Christ the most prominent human-divine being they would ever know.
        1. He had the most important position they would ever know as humans.
        2. He had the most important name they would ever know as humans.
        3. He is Lord–the Ephesian Christians answered to him!
        4. Jesus is God’s fullness who cares for God’s interests in every situation.
  3. One final thought I want you to see.
    1. Jesus represents God and His purposes, and each of us as Christians represent Jesus and his interests.
      1. Just as people look at Jesus and see God,
      2. People should be able to look at us and see Jesus.
    2. Thus, even if I am a scoundrels, I still represent Jesus.
      1. Because any Christian acts less than ideal, his or her behavior gives none of us a reason to discourage others.
      2. Our imperfections and flaws provide no one a reason to live and act in ungodly ways.
    3. Representing Jesus is a privilege that provides everyone of us a reason to be godly no matter how ungodly others behave.

The challenge for a Christian to be an encourager rather than a discourager is as big as God Himself!

1832: The Union

Posted by on April 13, 2008 under Sermons

Please ask Chris Benjamin for permission before reproducing
any of the images, graphics, or charts on this page.

stained glass
stained glass at Cane Ridge commemorating the 1832 union of Christians & Disciples
with the handshake of Barton W. Stone and Raccoon John Smith

Barton Stone

  • Christian Churches
  • Churches of Christ
  •                 Alexander Campbell

  • Disciples of Christ
  • Much in Common

    • Scripture is the only true authority
    • Ending division among followers of Christ
    • The church depicted in the New Testament was the ideal church, pure and free from all the corruption of the ages
    • Restoring that unified church was important.

    “Why Aren’t We One?”

    • Stone was willing to unite
    • Christian Messenger – Stone gave two reasons for “Campbellite” reluctance:
      1. Fellowship with the un-immersed among Christian churches
      2. Use of the name “Disciples”

    Much in Contrast

    • Campbell was too rigid on certain doctrines.
    • Goal of reform was to return to the ancient gospel and order of things.
    • Restoring NT church order would reform the church and bring Christian unity.
    • Stone was too lax on doctrine.
    • Goal of reform was to create lives characterized by the spirit of Christ.
    • Christian freedom would yield virtues and then unity.

    Christology and Trinity

    • Stone opposed traditional understandings.
    • Jesus was Son of God and Savior; the Father exalted.
    • Christ was not equal to the Father.
    • Campbell held traditional view of the godhead — one deity, yet three persons.
    • Christ had to be equal to God or He could not save us.

    Holy Spirit

    • Stone believed the Holy Spirit freely operated in paranormal ways.
    • Spiritual manifestations and miracles were possible.
    • Stone promoted revivals.
    • Campbell taught the Spirit operated through the inspiration of the Word to convert sinners.
    • Rejected emotional displays without denying indwelling.
    • Campbell preferred rational teaching to revivals.

    Human Nature

    • Stone was pessimistic.
    • Holy Spirit was necessary to convict and convert the sinner.
    • Human society would decline.
    • Premillennial.
    • Campbell was optimistic.
    • Human reason was sufficient to respond to the gospel.
    • America was part of God’s plan to bring about a Christian world.
    • Postmillennial.

    Baptism, Communion, Clergy

    • Unimmersed could be members in Stone churches.
    • Communion service was sporadic.
    • Ordained elders and recognized “official” clergy.
    • Immersion was part of membership in Campbell churches.
    • Communion was weekly.
    • Democratic about leadership and anti-clerical.

    Practical “Barriers”

    • Despite these differences, unity was desired.
    • Practical “barriers” to the unity included:
      • No central offices to make a union.
      • The only governing authority was each local congregation.
      • The union had to happen in each city, town or village throughout the country.

    “Raccoon” John Smith

    • Born in Sullivan Co., Tennessee, Oct. 15, 1784.
    • Died in Mexico, Missouri, Feb. 28, 1868.
    • Raised in Stockton Valley, Kentucky.
    • Strict Baptist upbringing – entered into ministry.
    • Rejected Calvinist doctrine after death of children.
    • Interested in Campbell’s Christian Baptist and the Restoration effort.

    Efforts at Union

    • Conference in Lexington, KY to discuss union [1831-1832]
    • Many favored slow, gradual union
    • Smith and Stone were the final speakers
    • Smith preached that the differences were not part of the gospel

    Smith’s Proposal

    1. Inferences are not barriers.
    2. Love one another.

    “Let us then, my brethren, be no longer Campbellites or Stonites, New Lights or Old Lights, or any other kind of lights. But let us come to the Bible and the Bible alone, as the only book in creation that can give us all the Light we need.”

    The Union

    • Stone had no objection.
    • Shared communion on Sunday, January 1, 1832.
    • Raccoon Smith and John Rogers were commissioned to tell the churches in order to “increase and consolidate the union.”
    • Campbell acknowledged the Lexington meeting in the Millennial Harbinger.

    Unity is Hard Work

    1. Worship styles
      • Stonite churches = emotional and expressive
      • Campbellite churches = rational and reserved
    2. The work of the Holy Spirit
    3. The name of the church

    Some Objected to the Union

    How Was Union Possible?

    1. They believed union was God’s will.
    2. They focused on what was most important.
    3. They loved one another as God’s children.
    4. Put up with peculiarities.
    5. Christian unity may not always mean a merger.

    It Is Possible

      No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.
      – Mark 9:39-40

    Our Neighbor Across the Street: Integrating College Students Into the Life of the Church

    Posted by on under Sermons

    Read Luke 16:1-15.
    It’s been said that this is one of the hardest parables of Jesus to understand. It appears that Jesus is praising the crafty scoundrel who cheats his boss to provide for his own retirement.
    The reason this parable has been misunderstood is the very problem Jesus is addressing in the parable: We’ve gotten our values turned upside down. We’ve made Jesus into an institution and taken the risk out of discipleship. We have substituted sacrifice for safety.
    This has caused us to overlook the opportunities that God has placed before us – in some cases literally. Why? Because God has opened doors and instead of rushing through with vision, purpose and enthusiasm, we’ve tip-toed carefully as if we were entering a haunted house. Why would we be so timid when our Father is the one holding the door open? [Maybe we’ve assumed that Jesus is behind us rather than out in front blazing the trail].

    I don’t think this parable is so hard to understand. Jesus isn’t making an example of this fellow, but he is making a contrast. He’s saying, if the people of the world are so shrewd, motivated, and passionate then how much more should we be creative and motivated about God’s purposes?

    Here’s what Jesus is teaching:

    1. You need to use your resources like children of light
    2. You need to make friends – you need to be neighbors
    3. You need to trust your Master – and he’ll trust you
    4. You need to get God’s values

    Jesus is teaching us this same lesson. He’s delivering it to this congregation. The people of the world “get it …”

    1. Did you know that Wal-Mart has an Emergency Operations Center. They do; and they watch the weather in the entire United States and they pack trucks in the distribution centers accordingly because they have calculated down to details what people consume after a weather situation. Case in point: The company had 45 trucks in Brookhaven, MS full of goods loaded and ready for delivery before Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Wal-Mart gets it.

    2. The corporations are interested in our kids. “You’ve got to reach kids throughout the day — in school, as they’re shopping at the mall, or at the movies,” says a senior vice president at Grey Advertising. “You’ve got to become part of the fabric of their lives.” Why? Because they care or because they are selling something. Are we saying we should adopt their methods? No, I don’t think kids need to be inundated with advertising, but the corporations are shrewd and motivated. The corporations get it.

    3. The crackdown on cold medicine at the local pharmacy has made it difficult for the mom and pop American methamphetamine labs to get ahead. But the meth industry hasn’t been slowed down. They’ve outsourced to Mexico. Crystal meth, known as Ice, is manufactured in superlabs out of the country and delivered to the U.S. That’s shrewd. That’s motivation. Meth dealers get it. (Unfortunately)

    “It is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light.”

    I say all of this so that we might really open our eyes and pay attention to what’s going on all around us. And for now I think it is right for us to pay attention to our neighbor. I mean West-Ark’s neighbor right across the street. For the last 30 years, our congregation has met here at Grand and Waldron. We come together and learn, we eat together, we listen to preaching and we take our communion. In all that time, Westark Community College has grown into the University of Arkansas Fort Smith. They have become a more traditional campus with on-campus housing. UAFS is growing and will be a force for development in this region.

    Is this an opportunity? Don’t you think that Jesus is expecting us to be more creative, attentive, and motivated than anyone else in an effort to be a good neighbor and a source of light to the people who make up the UA Fort Smith community?

    Practical Suggestions:

    1. We already have the facilities (sort of). Most campus ministries build an outreach center near to the campus so that the church will have a presence on-campus. We’re already here. Most congregations would love to have our situation. Some of our well-intentioned efforts to build a ministry off campus have not worked out. Rather than lament that, let’s get creative and motivated. Our challenge isn’t to build somewhere else off site. Our challenge is to rethink the way we use these facilities. Can we invite and integrate others? It means using our resources not just for ourselves, but to make friends – or better yet to use our resources as friends.

    2. Won’t you be my neighbor? – So how can we be good neighbors? What makes good neighbors? People you know and trust. People who show kindness and respect. People who share. Every Monday through Saturday college students and faculty park in this lot. More people from out of town will be moving into Sebastian Commons in the fall. Who will cross Waldron Road and welcome them, help them, show some concern? Who will be here to welcome, chat, have a meal when they come across the street …? The campus minister …?

    3. The congregation is the key. Leaving all of this to the campus minister is a mistake. As much of a mistake as leaving all the evangelism, preaching, teaching, and leading to me. Our CM leads us. He doesn’t do this for us, he is not our proxy. He can coach and guide us so that we can be “smarter” in what we do, but we have to integrate the students into our life here. (Aggies for Christ – What is it that they’re doing? A & M Church of Christ is the key. They have made it a focus of their life and mission to minister to A & M)

    4. Such a Time as This – The goal of college was to develop people who lead noble lives. That has been too much set aside for commercial, market concerns. The main concern now is to graduate people who have a chance at getting a good career. But there’s still something about that transitional stage of life. It is the time when we are establishing our independence as young adults and taking what we’ve been taught and putting it into practice – or it is a time when we are really searching to understand the purpose and calling of our lives.

      • Calvin Chao and China for Christ – China is communist because the missionaries who came to China in the early 1900’s lacked the vision to see beyond individual conversions — “While the missionaries were going to the workers in the field to do their evangelism, at the very same time, a handful of hard core communists had infiltrated the college campuses of China and were converting key student leaders to the atheistic dogma of communism.”
      • [Thus, the ministry to Ram University in Bangkok makes sense! Keep in mind that our neighbor across the street may be a young person from Tahlequah or Tokyo].

    I love to tell stories of churches that get it. One day I want to tell the story of how a church on the corner of Grand and Waldron in the first decade of the 21st got it – and they responded to an opportunity that was placed right before them.