“EX-CHURCH-OF-CHRIST” AND GENTLENESS

Neal Pollard

There are a couple of web sites out there regarding churches of Christ.  While I do not have the time to read every page and all content, I spent some time looking at them in-depth.  These sites have the following in common regarding their view of churches of Christ.

(1) They vehemently affirm that we are a denomination.

(2) They insinuate or explicitly say that we are a cult or close to a cult.

(3) They point out that we defend what we teach and practice with “ad hominem” (i.e., personal and character) attacks or with hateful, abrasive speech.

Given that we have no convention, headquarters, or central, governing body, no one of us can speak on behalf of every congregation or even every member of a congregation.  Thus, I will not say that there are not congregations that have become denominational or even a denomination.  Regarding denominationalism, what I can say is what I believe and teach (and what many others do).  I do not rest my “heritage” in the life and works of Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone, or any other man but Jesus.  What I teach is that we need to get “before” Catholicism and Protestantism, striving to teach and follow what New Testament Christians did.  Is it possible to worship, teach the same way to salvation, and hold the same moral ideals and principles that the New Testament reveals that the first Christians did?

Regarding the charge of being a cult, religious experts on the subject, like Martin or Ankerberg and Weldon, define and describe a cult in great detail.  Their description has been generally accepted as factual and logical.  A cult is defined as a group of people who follow a person or that person’s interpretation of the Bible (Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith, Jim Jones, or David Koresh).  They consider their own writings of equal authority with the Bible.  They redefine the most basic of Bible doctrines of concepts, including the Godhead, the deity of Christ, human suffering, and works.  Their redefinition has no roots or resemblance to revealed scripture. They also work through excessive spiritual or psychological regulation or dependence (A&W, XXII). These do not even come close to describing mainstream churches of Christ.

However, let me say something about that last charge.  Too often, well-meaning, passionate members of the church have been guilty of lacking adequate kindness and gentleness in responding to individuals like those responsible for the aforementioned websites.  I can understand righteous indignation and love for Christ and His church.  But, let us remember that it is never right to do wrong.  To personally attack anyone, to allow righteous anger to become sinful anger, to be insulting, demeaning, ridiculing, or sarcastic is unjustifiable.  Any defense of such tactics falls short of the ethical and moral standard taught in the New Testament.  I have often heard it said, and I agree, that “if you’re not kind, you’re the wrong kind” or “you can be right, but be wrong.”  Let us study more and sting less, being more knowledgeable and less nasty.  Divine truth is powerful enough to stand on its own merit.  Let us “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) and be known for our love (Jn. 13:34-35).  It is our most powerful weapon to fight those first two, false charges.

59 thoughts on ““EX-CHURCH-OF-CHRIST” AND GENTLENESS

  1. Cults and the Bible require mind control. The Bible teaches voluntary mind control, while the mind control of cults is forced on people involuntarily. The apostle Paul never forced Corinth to obey God. He simply taught what they needed to do to please God and they decided to obey. People in cults regulate what they want others to do and then ostracize them for not conforming.

  2. Johnny D. Hinton

    It seems that there are 2 kinds of cults: sociological and theological. Sometimes they merge. The first uses manipulation to break down the convert to submit to their authority and control. The second redefines essential doctrine, usually the nature of the godhead, or of Christ and the Holy Spirit in particular.

    1. The sarcastic, vicious, and unkind comments I have seen bear no resemblance to what the Lord and His spokesmen did. Regarding the OT prophets, we also bear in mind that God gave them their exact message through verbal, plenary inspiration. Some of what I’ve seen has just been rude, caustic, and un-Christlike. I don’t see Christ, Paul, or others doing that.

      1. “Dogs” (Phil.3:2). Inspired words.
        “Brood of vipers” (Mt. 3, 13, 23, etc.). Inspired.
        “Cows of bashan” (Amos 4:1). Inspired.
        How do these examples nullify what I said? Have you never seen anyone go too far or be what you’d consider mean-spirited and un-Christlike in how they’ve handled the teaching of another? Surely you don’t miss my overall point, do you?

    2. Amanda Steen

      One thing Christ was able to do that we cannot do is to know a man’s heart. We cannot judge a person’s heart, only their actions. Too many times, Christians want to judge someone else without even knowing circumstances involved. Other times, Christians want to judge and be ridiculously harsh about non-doctrinal matters. We need to speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent. I’ve seen too many congregations split over non-doctrinal matters, just because people are unrighteously judging others.

  3. I agree with your statments. I only wish, like you said, people could see and understand the plea of the biblical restoration movement. God’s word can create the same “type” of Christian today that it did 2,000 years ago without the addition of man’s thoughts. I just placed a post on my blog that deals with that very idea – http://keltonburgpreacher.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/a-2000-year-ol…at-still-works/

    If you check it out let me know what you think. If you like it well enough to use, by all means feel free. I really enjoy getting Bear Valley’s email letter too. I have used several of your’s and Brett’s articles in our handout bulletin.

    Take care and keeping preaching/writing.

  4. Mick Smith

    One can’t deny that we in the church of Christ have denominated ourselves with our ruthless opinions of each other! We have turned our backs on Romans 14 and faithful brethren because they don’t do what we do and say what we say. We’ve decided that our exegesis of Scripture is the ONLY right interpretation of It.
    Sadly we’ve denominated ourselves over the most insignificant of things.
    To affirm that we are not a denomination is in this day and age, wishful thinking.

    1. Mick, I can’t speak for others. I’m sure some do denominate themselves, but I don’t find it wishful thinking to say that following the New Testament pattern does not produces a denomination. Exegesis is a process that, by its nature (read those outside the church of Christ like Kaiser, Silva, Carson, et al), yields “right” and “wrong,” “inclusion” and “exclusion.” Man has no right to draw those lines, but God has every right.
      I agree that we’ve divided over silliness too often, but I hope we would keep the baby and toss the bath water.
      Thanks for your thoughts, brother.

  5. shawn sprouse

    I think it was a well needed post. I at times have been in converstations (mostly written) where I find myself getting enraged at the illogical thinking of others. When people start to twist scripture to meet their own agendas and then tell you that you are wrong after they just told you that you can’t tell anyone they are wrong. I sometimes think that must have been the way Jesus felt when he turned over the tables with the money changers. I do think I have gone to far at times with one person where I started out trying to talk rationally but after continual berating of me, I started to reply the same way.
    We need to teach with love as you stated and not let it go to far like that. But is it ok to evertually reach a point where you are angry? Would that point be when the situation is like casting pearls to the swine and its time to dust off our feet and move on? I am honestly asking!
    I think that maybe the Church of Christ has the accusation of being abrassive because most Christians in the Church believe you can know for certain some things whereas many demoninations and people believe that you cannot know. Therefore our confidence in our belief is interpretted as being hauty and hateful or arrogant. I would rather be confident in my beliefs moreso than the other option.
    Your thoughts please? (Because I stuggle with this now and then).

  6. Linda

    As an abhorrent sinner, as well as one who formerly thought it admirable to verbally/caustically attack those who walked differently, I am grateful to our Father, His son, grace, forgiveness and family like Neal and his precious wife, for showing loving gentleness.
    Yes, that was quite the run-on sentence. It is important that I am able to convey the importance of a compassionate and gentle reprimand/guidance instead of an emotional beat down with the ties that should bind and not strangle into submission.

  7. “Love one another” inspired words, yet we use them.
    “Jesus is Lord” inspired words, yet we use them.
    Are we limited to only using the “nice” things inspired people spoke or wrote?
    1 Cor. 11:1

    Yes, some can take things too far. I’ve seen it and corrected it myself. However kindness can be taken too far as well. We should NEVER fight sin with sin. Yet I see Christ fighting fire with fire in Matthew 15. And it offended the Pharisees.

    1. Amanda Steen

      I certainly agree that we cannot choose not to fight a battle if it needs to be fought. However, we must treat others as we would like to be treated. If the matter is one of a doctrinal issue, then we must take the matter to the individual first as God instructs us to do. We must do our best to teach out of love. If that doesn’t work, we go on to bring in another party… There is a process.

      Too often, issues such as whether or not to wear jeans to services cause an uproar. I’ve seen people in the church mistreat other members simply because that member does not make the same amount of money.. Gossip plays a key role in this as well.

      There is a balance between standing up for the Truth and being kind to fellow Christians. The key is whether or not the issue is doctrinal. Even then, it must be handled the way our Father wants us to handle it. You bring up the Pharisees. Remember who they were, and what their goals were. They wanted to bring Christ down!

      1. Very well put, Amanda. Thanks for speaking so well. “Balance” is a difficult concept to grasp and practice. I never want to be guilty of compromising God’s Word, nor do I want to be a stumbling-block through mean-spiritedness. Thanks again!

  8. Greet post my friend. How can we ever expect to lead the world to Christ if we do not possess His spirit and how do we expect people to respond to that which would repel us? Remember the golden rule – that would help some of us. Keep being a blessing and remember “if at all possible…as much as is up to you…live at peace with all…” – some folks do not know the Prince of Peace, therefore do not have peace, therefore cannot tollerate those who do or seek it and therefore do not live with or in it.

    1. I’ve often said that the prophets, the apostles, and Christ would have a hard time finding a preaching job in today’s pulpit. Some would consider them too harsh.

      Luke 11:37-54

      1. Lisa

        Shawn,
        All words in the Bible are inspired by God “the key word is ALL” .He inspired John the baptised to say to the Pharisees and Sadducees “You Brood Vipers” God knew what was in their hearts. He gave this insight to his prophets to warn them as you read Phil. 3 He says “Watch out for those dogs,those men who do evil. He is demonstrating the evil of the world and how harsh it can be.
        Shawn I ask you who are you to know a mans heart is it only God who knows a mans heart ?
        Shawn when was it that you saved thousands of people in one day?
        when have you healed a sick person or healed a blind person from their blindness or had so much compassion to raise a women’s son from the dead.
        when have you had a women wipe her tears from your feet and annoint them with oil.
        Have you ever thought about laying your life down for the sins of others??
        For you to say that the apostles or Jesus could not find a preachers job today
        If we had the Compassion that Jesus and the apostles had, in our preaching today their would be alot more saved souls.

  9. Neal,

    Several points need to be made.

    1. As Shawn has pointed out, sarcasm and ridicule is seen much throughout both the Old and New Testaments. It is used by God the Father Himself, Jesus the Christ, His prophets and Apostles (Deut. 32:36-39; Judges 10:12-15; Job 38:3-5; John 3:9-10; Psalm. 2:3-4; 1 Kings 18:27; Psalm 52:1-9; 2 Cor. 11:19-20: 12:13; James 2:19-20). The above verses are by no means an exhaustive list, but will suffice for this point. In fact, sarcasm has helped aid me in winning souls for Christ (just like it aided these inspired men).

    2. You said: “God gave them their exact message through verbal, plenary inspiration.” This is absolutely correct and does not nullify my point, but validates it. In fact, God certainly wouldn’t allow (much less direct) Jesus, His apostles and disciples to preach or teach in a way that was sinful. Yet, without realizing it, this is the implication you have indirectly made. You see, Jesus, John, Peter, Paul, Stephen, etc. were not in violation of Ephesians 4:15 when they harshly rebuked or taught…no…they were speaking the truth in love. Just like we are speaking the truth in love when we rebuke or preach in the same manner as they did. We are to be followers of God, Jesus Christ and these inspired men in what they did (1 Cor. 11:1; Eph. 5:1). God’s Holy Word has been given to us so that we can know what to do and how to do it (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Principal is established by example (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11; Phil. 3:17-19). Your answer to everything was: “that was inspiration…” Could I not just as easily come back on you and say…”When Paul said to be kind, he was speaking by inspiration” thus that nullifies any example of “kindness” Paul might have used? I could, but that would not be a valid nor sound argument. If that be the case, I could not go to the Bible and use examples of love, patience, kindness, goodness, restoration, etc. You have no problem going to these same men to use these examples to show why you do what you do, yet when it comes to rebuking and preaching you claim “that was by inspiration.” Certainly you can see the inconsistency. If we can’t use these inspired examples when it comes to rebuking and teaching, then we cannot use them when it comes to love, patience, gentleness, etc (because they were ALL done by inspiration). If we can use these inspired examples of love, patience, gentleness, etc, then we can use them when it comes to rebuking and teaching.

    3. We expose error so it can be corrected (Eph. 5:11; Mk. 10:17-22).The motivation for these things must always be love (Eph. 4:15; 1 Cor. 13:2; 15:14). But, I can’t judge someone’s motivation (1 Cor. 2:11). I can judge their actions, but not their motivation for their actions (Jn. 7:24; Mt. 12:33). Only God knows the secret thing’s of the heart (Psa. 44:21). Do individuals teach and preach for the wrong motive? We know they do. But, our mindset should be like Paul’s in Philippians 1:18: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”

    4. Sadly, the following phrase has become so popular, it is hard to go to any church of Christ without hearing it: “It’s not what you said, but how you said it.” What a truly ridiculous statement. This is very subjective because “how” I same something is going to come across differently to every individual (2 Cor. 2:12-17). I remember one time when I preached a sermon at a Gospel meeting and one left in anger and another came forward to put on Christ in baptism. The same gospel sermon that pricked some 3,000 in the heart in Acts 2, led others to kill Stephen in Acts 7. My point is this: Each individual is going to handle things differently. We need to handle each situation accordingly (Jude 20-23). Even that being said, this is still going to be very subjective since your aggressiveness may be different than mine. Or my gentleness may be different than yours.

    5. I have spent about an hour writing this because I do believe it is that important to understand the issue. I, along with many other sound Gospel preachers (Ben Bailey, David Fanning, Johnny Robertson, James Oldfield, Steve Baisden, Scott Klaft, Brandon Johnson and a host of others I know are at times referred to as “unloving preachers” because we are aggressive in our style). When going to the Bible to validate our approaches, we are then deemed as stubborn, hard headed or just not willing to listen. This could not be further from the truth. Love is the motivation of us all. If not for the love, we wouldn’t be doing what we are doing. As long as one is preaching the whole counsel of God, regardless of style, I will never discourage him in what he is doing. He may be less aggressive than me….more aggressive than me…but every personality is different and thank God that we have freedom in these matters. Yes. there are individuals not speaking the truth for the right reason, but there are many, many more brethren falsely accusing good, gospel preachers and judging their motivation. If anything, the Lord’s church needs more boldness and aggressiveness than ever in the society that we live in. I beg that we not allow erring members of the church and non-Christians to dictate if we are being gentle enough. Instead let’s let the Bible be the righteous judge of that. As David said: “Let the righteous strike me, it shall be a kindness…” (Psa. 141:5).

  10. Brandon Johnson

    I have to say that I have never seen a gospel preacher be hateful in presenting the truth. You have been around a lot longer than me (I am 26) so I am not doubting that you have seen it. I have seen those that are teaching error make personal attacks on those that are rebuking them. Usually that takes place when they can not answer sound biblical questioning. However I have seen a lot of instances where we have so called gospel preachers that do not preach the whole councel of God (Acts 20:27). They will not preach on issues such as denominations and the fact they are leading people to be lost. Recently 4 people in our area were converted because during the sermon the statement was made “if you were baptized in the Baptist church you are not saved.” The preacher knew there were Baptists in the audience so he addressed their problem. Jesus did the same with the rich young ruler (Mark 10:21). Good and honest hearts want to know the truth. When they are presented with the simple, unsugar coated, unchanged truth they will accept it.

    In regard to sarcasm as stated before we have lots of biblical authority to be sarcastic. Remember Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal (1Kings 18)? We can claim that “Elijah, other prophets, Jesus and the apostles all got their revelation direct from God and since we do not then we do not have to right to reply as they did.” If that is the case then what did Paul mean when he told the Corinthians to “imitate me as I imitate Christ?” Are we to imitate the inspired writers and Christ? The Corinthians were not inspired by the Holy Spirit yet Paul told them to imitate himself and Christ. If we can not imitate the inspired writer’s methods of rebuking and teaching, then who can we imitate?

    1. Brandon, I believe that you and others have riveted in on one single term, “sarcasm,” that I used in tandem with other words I hoped would, contextually, make clear what type of sarcasm was being discussed. Being cited alongside “ridicule,” “insults,” “sinful anger,” and “demeaning,” I hoped it would be clear that the type sarcasm I referenced was that biting, condescending, humiliating sarcasm for which the world is known. Contemporary sarcasm, frequently found in the world, is even a different sarcasm than that employed by American and British Literature writers, where the power came from its subtle, understated fashion.
      I believe there is an “either/or” fallacy afoot here. Either you speak truth using harsh, insulting words (i.e., “You’d have to be stupid not to see this” or “What do you expect from a Baptist coward?” or “He’s just a spineless, politically correct weasel”) or you are a compromising, soft-soaped false teacher. What I am suggesting is a “both/and” approach: Speak the truth unwaveringly, but realize that our wrestling match is not with flesh and blood, but with the devil. He is the enemy. Let us try to approach others in the way Paul instructs the young preacher, Timothy: “But be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Look back over my article and see if I say one never should be direct, plain, and decisive. I have always believed and preached that way. My simple point (in that one portion of a bigger article) is that we should trust that “divine truth is powerful enough on its own merit.”

      1. “But be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

        Amen. Now read what the perfect preacher did (Matt. 23). In that sermon He did not violate ONE thing the Holy Spirit had written in 2 Tim. 2:24-26. There’s a time and a place for insults.Or do you suppose you’re more kind than He?

  11. It seems there is a terrible spirit alive in many folks that cannot be happy without being mean in speech. I’ve know preachers that believe any big sound is sound preaching. That is not true at all. Being mean and using ugly remarks to make a point almost always offends more than we intend.
    I remember one preacher who used to always say “If you can’t understand that then you haven’t the sense to stomp sand in a gopher hole.” Or worse “If you can’t see that you don’t have to worry about going to heaven your ticket is already punched.” Almost always that was met with laughter and a hearty amen! by the crowd.
    I doubt that won many souls to the Lord. I do know of several that it drove away. That terrible spirit in some preachers helps them wear as a badge of honor the “We are a small group because we are the only one’s right.” To these men anything less than what they believe is right is met with hateful, mean spirited vitriol.
    We will see that God was a balanced God “Good and severe.” Preachers seldom have the ability to pull off God’s perfect sarcasm. We use it in the wrong places at the wrong time. Let’s just preach the Bible and let it judge sinfulness. Let us be the conduit of the word of Truth and keep our self loathing spirits out of the message.

  12. Kevin

    Neal,

    Usually, I don’t respond to many post on line because I find it to be a waste of time—it is much easier to online to dodge the issue and ignore valid points. I would rather speak to individuals on the phone or even better-face to face. I spent a good hour to reply to this important topic and so far I have been ignored by you. On FB, you simply just said we “disagree.” Certainly, by now, enough points have been made to show your argumentation invalid. Neal, nobody is or has disagreed on this post or on your FB post that individuals can be wrong when SINFULLY dealing with issues. That is the key: “sinfully.” However, trying to determine one’s attitude based on their approach is unscriptural and sinful itself (as long as the approach can be found within Scripture). When you say things like ” to be insulting, demeaning, ridiculing, or sarcastic is unjustifiable.” Of course you are going to have people refute that because it is false. And in reagrds to the argument of: “they were inspired…” people have dealt and refuted that argumentation as well (multiple times-including myself). If you are willing enough to put something like this out there, please be willing enough to discuss it when parts of your argumentation are shown to be invalid. I would never question anyone’s approach, as long as it can be shown in the Bible. However, I can’t say the same about some of the brethren who have posted on here. Men need to be men and not be afraid to discuss issues. You may preach differently than I do and that is fine. But, please do not discourage those who choose to do it differently than you do. And by all means, don’t brand them as unloving—because I have nothing but love in my heart towards lost souls.

    1. My brother, if we all agree that individuals can be wrong when sinfully dealing with issues, I am not sure where ALL these postings are coming from. I had none of you in mind when I wrote. My article mentions “members,” not “preachers.” The specific members I mentioned were those who responded on these malicious “ex” sites. Take the time to read what they wrote. They missed a golden opportunity to expose error and promote truth because they devolved into a condescending, ridiculing tone (heavy on those tactics and light on attempts at exposing with scripture).
      I have spent the better part of a day trying to figure out why you brethren who have so responded felt that I was targeting you. I’m truly baffled.
      Perhaps we have a semantical issue here. When I say “insulting, demeaning, ridiculing and sarcastic,” what are you envisioning? These are worldly ways of speaking to one another. Colossians 4:1-6 is in the context of evangelism. Paul says that our speech is to be with grace, seasoned with salt. In Ephesians 4:15, the “in love” there modifies the “speaking” that is to be done. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 governs both what and how we say what we do to those “opposing themselves” and being held captive by the devil. An insult, a put down, a ridiculing, or sarcastic remark all are the world’s ways of speaking to others. I don’t believe it false to say those ways of coloring our speech is un-Christlike.
      Here is a pattern in what you have said in response to me that I need you help in understanding. You use terms like “false,” “refuted,” “invalid,” etc. I am not afraid to discuss these matters, brother, but why is it to be assumed that we are antagonists, disputants, and in battle? I cannot see what I said here that makes you seem ready for debate! The BULK of my article was denying the oft-hurled charges that we are a denomination or a cult. Even in the last part, I gave what I thought was a needed caution that we do not act like the world in our speech in trying to teach pure, unadulterated, New Testament Christianity. The firestorm of response riveted in on that truly baffles me.
      I cut my teeth on the preaching of Franklin Camp, Frank Chesser, Winfred Clark, Perry Cotham, Wendell Winkler, Joe Gilmore, Roy Hearn, and men of their stripe. They engaged in debate, they fought denominationalism, and won countless souls to Christ. But, they all did so respectful of the people to whom they preached. They did not degrade and demean those who were blinded by error. They were kind and respectful, making the “issues” the issue. They did not engage in personality attacks. They did so because they felt that scripture contained a pattern for conduct as well as teaching (1 Timothy 4:16). We cannot divorce the messenger and the message. If one can be guilty of good methods and bad message, it seems to me that they might have the right message and wrong method.
      My bottom line is, unless you believe vicious name-calling, ridiculing of people, and James Carville-like shouting down of others is valid, I don’t think we are so far apart on this matter.
      God bless you as you devote yourself to spreading the gospel and saving the lost.
      Your brother,
      Neal

      1. Brianna

        We don’t speak sarcastically, rudely or spitefully to our spouses. Why do we feel so comfortable talking to Christ’s bride that way?
        If your goal is to make people feel obligated to the scripture because they’re afraid of upsetting you and having you lash out at them, then most of you who commented should preach on. If your goals is to help people obey the scripture because they have a love for Christ and the blessing of the Church, then you should probably be taking notes from Mr. Pollard.

      2. Kevin Pendergrass

        Neal,
        In recent years the body of Christ has allowed the world instead of the Word to define biblical phrases and terms (Isaiah 55:8-9; Proverbs 16:25; Jeremiah 10:23; Isaiah 5:20). Among these is “love,” “patience,” “kindness,” “gentleness,” “humility,” etc. In an effort to understand what it really means to “speak the truth in love” we must put preconceived ideas behind us and examine the Scriptures with a good and honest heart (Luke 8:15; Acts 17:11: I Peter 4:11).

        When Paul rebuked Elymas and identified him as a “son of the devil,” there is no record of Paul smiling, but rather an intent look; yet he was speaking the truth in love (Acts 13:9). John, Jesus and Paul all “cried out” at certain times when they taught the truth in love (John 1:15; 7:28, 37; Acts 23:6). Speaking the truth in love means we boldly proclaim the truth because we love the souls we are teaching (1 Corinthians 16:14; Colossians 3:14; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 Corinthians 13:6). Speaking the truth “in love” is not teaching us “the HOW” to speak the truth, rather it is teaching us “WHY” we speak the truth. For example, did Jesus speak the truth in love when He turned the tables twice (1st time: John 2:13-22; 2nd time: Matthew 21:12-17), “name- called” (Matthew 23; etc.) and when He constantly preached the truth that offended and “ran people away” (John 6:60-66; Matthew 13:57; Mark 6:3; Matthew 15:12; Matthew 11:6; Mark 10:17-22)? Sure He did; otherwise, Jesus would have been in violation of the Scriptures and ceased to be the sinless Son of God (Hebrews 4:15; 2 Corinthians 5:21). John also spoke the truth in love when he sharply rebuked the Jews for being a “brood of vipers” and commanded them to repent (Luke 3:7-18). With these examples in mind, it is clear that “speaking the truth in love” is not about “the tone of your voice” you speak the truth in, but “why” you speak the truth. For many people who have a wrong view of “love,” this is a hard truth to accept (compare John 6:60-64; Galatians 4:16).
        Having our speech seasoned with salt and knowing how we must answer each person is all about the content of what is said – not the flavor of our tone or facial expressions. Even in cooking, salt is never a part of the PRESENTATION in food, but rather the CONTENT of the food. When we speak, we need to make sure our content is scriptural (1 Peter 3:15; Titus 2:1; Ephesians 4:29). Salt can be implied as a “negative” just as much as a “positive.” For example, it has been rightly observed that salt does not feel good when poured on wounds (compare this with Hebrews 12:11: “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it”; Eccl. 7:5). To say that “speaking the truth in love” and having our “speech seasoned with salt” means that one must “have a smile on his face and a soft tone in his voice” or to “never be aggressive, sarcastic or ridiculing” is to teach false doctrine and go beyond that which is written (1 Corinthians 4:6).

        What is the real problem with many in the church today? Too many people are looking for an opportunity to get offended. These people are looking for an opportunity to let their emotions run wild and claim their feelings were hurt INSTEAD OF taking heed HOW they hear and WHAT they hear (Luke 8:18; Hebrews 2:1; Mark 4:24). Even leaders in the church, rather than back the truth, will go and “pity” those in sin. Sometimes, even without realizing it, the leaders or members of the congregation justify the “offended” member’s sin (Proverbs 17:15). Instead of “coddling” the sinner who heard the truth and got mad (Galatians 4:16), faithful Christians should “speak the truth in love” by rebuking them with a view toward the repentance and restoration of those who have forsaken the way (Proverbs 15:10; 27:5).The first century church was not persecuted, killed, and given the reputation of “turning the world upside down” by imitating a “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” approach (Acts 17:6). They turned the world upside down by being bold, zealous and showing a true love for lost souls (Acts 4:13, 29; Galatians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 5:9-11, 14). If we will stop worrying about offending others and return to genuine care for lost souls, we will begin to make a difference again for Christ in the world. You continue to reference these letters that you read who were written by members of the church to these websites (yet, you have given no example of it). What did they say that you believe was so unloving? How do you know if they were unloving? Can you judge someone’s motivation? Is there a chance you are misjudging them? If someone has taken the time to write these websites to refute the false doctrine, it has already been an action of love (Prov. 27:5). Yet, those who do nothing sit back and critique those who did something—and not only critique, but judge their motivation. I do not judge the motivation of any man—only their actions. If there actions are scriptural, let’s please abstain from judging motives. This is all I am saying brother. Let God deal with those things…in the mean time, let’s all rejoice someone took the time to speak the truth to these individuals (Phil. 1:18).
        Christianity is not a religion of hate where we threaten and physically beat one into submission (1 Corinthians 4:21; Luke 9:54-55). Rather, Christianity is a religion of love for God and love for one another (Matthew 22:37-39; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 2:17; Galatians 5:15). A person honestly seeking the truth would rather have someone with the wrong intent correct them than someone who “claims to have the right intent” to ignore their sin. Not once in the Scriptures is there a single time when one of God’s faithful apologized for preaching the truth or apologized for “how he said it.” If one’s actions are correct and scriptural, let us abstain from making unrighteous judgments about their intent when only God can know the secret things of the heart (Psalm 44:21). I have spent enough time on this particular blog, and since it is your blog I will give you the last word. If you ever would like to discuss this further, then I would be more than happy to do so. I just ask that you please consider the thing’s said.

  13. I try to never take sides with anyone but the Lord. However, having read the initial post – and understanding it – I do not believe Neal is saying what some of you fine brethren are saying he is. I totally understand where he is coming from. There are some mean-spirited brethren with slashing tongues, and they have hurt the Cause! In the limited commission, Jesus instructed: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” – Matt. 10:16. We need to be mindful as to whom we are speaking, Pharisees or the woman at the well.

  14. Mick Smith

    My point on denominating ourselves has been partly proven in this thread. Cecil Hook has rightly said about us, “And all of our splintered, sectarian divisions claim to be the one true church. We’ve turned grace into law. We’ve decided that salvation depends upon rightly keeping of law. Each point of law must be known and practiced in detail. Unity and fellowship are based on total doctrinal agreement, ruling out any thought of unity in diversity. This mentality will continue to emphasize differences and force those distinctions into dividing issues.”

    1. I think the crux of the matter comes down to exegesis and hermeneutics. We did not invent those. There are commands in scripture–that which was spoken by the apostles are the Lord’s commands (1 Cor. 14:37) and Bible authority is necessary for a religious act to be acceptable to God. The Bible commands by “declarative statement” (Mk. 16:16, Mt. 7:21, 1 Jn. 1:7, etc.; these do not say “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not” but it is necessarily a “must”), “interrogatives” (Rom. 6:1; 1 Cor. 6:9; Rom. 6:3), “hortatory statements” (Heb. 6:1; 10:22-25; 1 Jn. 4:7-8), and “imperatives” (Ac. 2:38, 22:16, 1 Cor. 11:24). That makes us neither narrow nor elitist to stand up for what scripture says. What hurts the cause of Christ is extremism at either pole–not a function of pattern theology but rather a function of worldliness and rebellion.
      Let me ask you, brother. What is unity and fellowship to be based upon? Where, specifically, can we have diversity? I want and desire unity. Our Lord did. But, He placed conditions upon unity through His earthly ministry and through His inspired N.T. writers. Again, I do not buy the “either/or” philosophy. It can be both dedication to Bible authority and a loving, gentle, and patient approach. I don’t think I’m naive or unrealistic.
      God bless, Mick.
      Neal

  15. Mick Smith

    The thread has devolved into name calling of which I won’t participate. Just because you think Cecil Hook was “WAY OFF” on MDR why then would you discount any other opinions he may have had on other subjects? Once again my original point on us denominating ourselves has been illustrated.
    It’s easy to label and belittle a person as a “false teacher” or an “illegalist” or a liberal, etc.
    I certainly don’t agree with everything that Cecil Hook said. That doesn’t mean that everything he wrote and all of his opinions were of no value. He rightly pointed out many positions in the CofC that we have divided over.

    1. That’s why “positions” should be our focus, not “personalities.” We must have an objective standard to help us judge and regard positions, then work to bring the minds of all men to obedience to Christ.
      Splintering and division are sinful, but not the same as denominating. I think there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what is meant by “denomination.” Protestant Groups set about to reform Catholicism, which itself had made so many departures from the New Testament Church. Calvinism and Lutheranism are man-made doctrines that conflict with revealed truth. I insist that we can shun all such teachings and follow pure New Testament Christianity. We should remain ever humble and circumspect, never haughty, working with others to find out “what is right” rather than “who is right.” It’s not us vs. them; it’s truth vs. error. If we cannot trust simple scripture to tell us which is which, we have God authoring confusion by approving conflicting, contradictory doctrine in matters of life and godliness. The God who created the world and all that is in it could give us a perfect, complete revelation binding upon all people for all times. Flaws of method and execution do not nullify the truths God has revealed.
      God bless, brother.

    2. If a man teaches error, that man is a false teacher. Maybe we should not call him such? Was Peter is guilty of name calling? (2 Peter 2:1ff) From what I understand from Scripture on MDR and teach (http://www.thewordofthelord.net/index.php?p=1_120_Who-Can-Marry-and-Be-in-God-s-Will-), what Cecil teaches on MDR is error. It is a lie. People in unscriptural marriages and who listen to him will die in sin. It not only is not nice to teach error; it is ungodly and leads to destruction.(Cf. 2 Peter 2:1ff.) It is not nice to lead people to destruction and “the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7). What would you call a person who teaches error? I know what Peter calls them.
      Jesus called Herod a “fox” because he was. In fact, the Lord said to the Pharisees, “Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold…” (Luke 13:32). Yet, Jude makes a point in Jude 9, “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” I gather from this that we are not seek to revile or be rude to people who teach error. But also we should not want to be guilty of calling a false teacher “a nice guy” or a “promoter of unity,” because they are not. (John 17:20-21; Rev. 19:20).

      1. Good point and distinction, brother. Such an approach is not libel or slander, but indicative of the positions he holds. New Testament writers specify certain people as false teachers, noting them for others to be aware of the false and dangerous things they taught.

  16. From what I see in the scripture the following things should dictate our manner of response to others when presenting the truth. (1) Audience and (2) purpose. I think each dictate how we address people. A few examples if people will humor me for a few moments.

    (A) Apollos…this man was sincere in his belief but was slap wrong (excuse the southern colloquialism lol) on points of faith therefore essentially making him a “false” teacher. Did Aquilla and Priscilla embarrass him in public for making those mistakes. No. The scriptures say they pulled him aside and privately taught him more perfectly. Their audience was a sincere man. Their purpose was to teach him the law more perfectly so he would be saved and so those he taught would be also.

    (B) Peter and Paul…apostle on apostle violence. Seriously though Peter should have known better than to treat the Gentile Christians different than the Jewish converts. Paul called him out on the spot for it. Audience was an apostle. Purpose was to show quickly to both the Jewish brethren and Gentile brethren that they were equal on the spot before damage from Peter’s example spread by word of mouth and caused confusion after all the hubub leading up to Acts 15. It wasn’t done maliciously, spitefully, or defamatorily. It was speedy and it was pointed. This also worked.

    (C) Ananias & Sapphira, scribes, Sadducees, Pharisees, Elymas, etc. Some for lying for praise, some for standing in the way of God’s word and the Messiah’s work, and some for twisting things for personal gain were called out harshly. I agree sometimes there is a place for calling people what they are based on the fruit we can see. Especially when they are purposefully trying to trip Christians up on obeying the truth. Again not with ugly speech but with the truth. This is the harder of the three for me. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt unless there’s no other conclusion you can draw from their actions than they are trying purposefully to lead people astray. We aren’t Christ and as such don’t know the hearts of man nor can we pronounce final judgement on people. We can inspect fruit. After a while rotten fruit piles up to the point where you can make pretty sound judgement calls on motivation. Are there times to call people out. Sure. Should we air such things in full page newspaper ads and hurt the overall work of the Lord in an area. No. There is a big difference in saying something to be right, or saying something to effect change in the hearts of man based on the truth. We need to be prayerful…humble…self-examining our true motivations and purposes…and then with care for the souls of men and the effect our words may have for harm as well as good…open our mouths. Christ was the son of God. I am not. Paul was an apostle. I am not. That doesn’t invalidate my need to stand on the same truth they do, but it is a reality check on humbly seasoning my words.

    In all things as we discuss among brethren: be tenderhearted, do it in love, and esteem each other higher than ourselves.

    I love you guys and thanks for the discussion. I think we can through such talks temper each other to do God’s will. Some brethren who are more forceful, can help me (admittedly somewhat more non-confrontational) to do even the hard things that may sometimes be necessary. To those that are always confronting people, I may be a help to temper their words with kindness and empathy based on the circumstance. If we build relationships with each other as brethren, then each part can benefit the whole and God will be glorified in his body.

    In Christian love,

    Neil Vines

    1. Wow, since I replied back at the top this screen has gotten packed! I think Neal P. has probably spent a lot more time on here than he expected when he posted it and a few of the posts have gotten away from his original meanings. There are several good points on here lilke Cody’s, Kevin’s and several others (I feel like a preacher leaving out visiting congregations at a meeting now). And thanks for your post Neil V. I really appreciate the audience/purpose point you brought out. I believe that can really be seen clearly in the scriptures (OT and NT alike).

      Just a few days ago I put up a post – http://keltonburgpreacher.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/an-aching-heart/
      I think it deals with what you’re talking about and also with what Neal P. had in mind when he originally posted this.

      I came out of denominationalism and I know all about the feelings (many unfounded) that some have towards the church of Christ because I heard it from my own family when I started attending the very congregation where I now preach! It was several years before I obeyed the gospel and a large part of my conversion had to do with the patience that my in-laws (my father-n-law also came out of denominationialism) and their daughter (who is now my wife) had with me even when I threw the same ole’ excuses that I am now given.

      The former preacher of the congregation where I now preach always did a good job of keeping what he preached issue oriented and not people oriented but I can honestly say I never heard him “shy away” from teaching the truth on any subject. When he spotted a wolf he called out wolf, but he did his best (as do I) to not confuse a wolf with someone who just needed patience. Maybe I’ve gotten off task now.

      I must say before I go though that I have learned and even grown from reading everyone’s posts.

      1. Thank you for your article on Jeremiah and the heart that should beat within the heart of a faithful gospel preacher. I don’t think it could have been said better.
        God bless, brother!
        Neal

  17. Megan

    It is important to note that though we are to follow Christ’s example, we do not have the authority he did. We are to be servants of him. As a secular servant has different knowledge, different responsibilities, and different authority, so does a servant of Christ.

    Thank you Neal for following Christ as the Bible teaches and for being a great example for us all.

  18. Oh and back to your original thought. We aren’t a cult, but we do practice mind control. If you count subjecting our will to the will of Christ. 😀 See even adults can use emoticons.

  19. Many folks camp out on Ephesians 4:15 and the idea of “speaking the truth in love.” Obviously we must preach the truth in love, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with emphasizing that point. But, have we forgotten what love actually is? Isn’t true agape wanting the best for another person, realizing their needs and functioning accordingly? Of course it is. We preach because we love the souls of men, and we do not want them to spend eternity in Hell. Obviously the debate is over the HOW instead of the WHY but really that shouldn’t be the case. I believe firmly that if a person has a correct understanding of the WHY, then the HOW will surely follow suit!
    I want to bring up just one passage quickly—“And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 22:23). There are obviously two groups represented here. On the one hand, those who are convicted by a gentle rebuke, and on the other, those who are convicted by a firm rebuke. Of course we understand that each person is different. Nowhere in Scripture do we find specific instruction as to when to be “gentle” and when to be “firm” (I use parenthesis because those two words are obviously subjective).We know that our speech must be seasond with salt, that we must treat people with dignity, and that we must speak and act like Christ. So, the question is this: If I preach because of love why would I intentionally be so harsh as to intentionally drive someone away from Christ and the church? The answer is I wouldn’t!
    No preacher who has the proper motive is ever going to intentionally say something “mean” out of hate, spite, or any other sinful reason. But, there are times when we must present the truth in a way that is aggressive, and that “breaks the rock in pieces” (Jer. 23:29). If someone is literally on fire, we’re going to get them out as quickly as possible. So, if a person is spiritually on fire, we’re not going to have 25 Bible studies with them, smile at them, and make them feel good about themselves before we tell them that they’re on fire. We’re going to pull them out as quickly as possible because we love them!
    It’s not my job to determine whether or not a preacher is preaching with the right motive—its God’s! There are going to be occasions when I can tell if they have the right motive because “by their fruits, ye shall know them.” But, when I begin to adopt the world’s idea of what is “harsh, unloving, unkind, etc.,” and accuse my preaching brethren of not preaching the truth in love based on those definitions, I have basically become a Pharisee and “taught for doctrine the commandments of men” (Mt. 15:9).

  20. I spent quite a bit of time reading this blog post and the comments that followed and I have a few thoughts that I would like to share. First of all, I think it is important to realize that as Christians, we are all on the same team. We are all fighting for the same came and serve the same master. We should not view each other as enemies, but rather as brothers and sisters to love, encourage, and grow towards Heaven with. Secondly, I truly believe that Scripture teaches us that meekness does not equate weakness. Jesus could be firm when needed, and He could also be meek, kind, and gentle. We need to be careful not to “throw the first stone” on our own brethren when sinfulness is not involved. Neil is a good man with a good heart and obviously meant this article as an encouragement and not a point of dissension. As his brothers and sisters, we should support him and if we need clarification, ask in gentleness. Let us not be quick to attack when a brother intends to encourage and edify us. I am young and I have much to learn, but I believe we all do. Yes, Jesus does use very straightforward terms at times, but He was also there for creation. He knows us in a way we could never even know ourselves! Truly, His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. They are higher! He is able to speak in such a way because He KNOWS what a person is thinking, what their intentions are, and what will prick their hearts. We do not know anyone this intimately. I firmly believe in following the Scriptures, holding to the truth, and NOT compromising it. But what good do we do if others cannot get past our deliverance to hear His message? That is the key. We need to preach the whole counsel, with love AND with firmness, being balanced, practicing love, exercising discipline when necessary, and striving to serve in the shadow of Jesus. I am the only Christian in my family and the first time I attended church, I wore a tank top and a miniskirt and I talked through the entire Lord’s Supper. I had also been sexually abused only moths before and was looking for anything to focus on besides what had happened to me. Of course, no one knew this. I just looked like a disrespectful, immature kid and they could have frowned upon me, but the congregation took me in with love. I NEEDED Jesus and I needed others to be patient with me, and they were. I was taught how to dress (and now I am the biggest believer in modesty, trust me!) and how to act and I fell in love with God. I even shared the Gospel with the person who abused me. If I had been attacked when I walked in the door, I would have never come back. I had a hard heart and a lot of pain that needed healing. I have much to learn and lots of room to grow, but from my experience I know that sometimes a soft whisper is needed more than a storm. May we strive to act in love, discretion, and truth.

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