Ask Your Preacher
A number of years ago, a popular series of articles ran in various bulletins and publications and were used in sermons which urged people in the denominational world to "Ask Your Preacher" where the Bible teaches....infant baptism, instrumental music, the doctrine of faith only, etc. The series was designed to raise awareness among denominational people that their preachers could not defend certain doctrines inherent in their beliefs and practices. It was an effective method of urging people to read their Bibles, examine their practices in the light of scripture, and question the preaching of those who could not provide book, chapter and verse for their doctrines.
Is the church of Christ immune to error? Should we not have the same attitude of urging our own brethren to read their Bibles, examine our own practices and question the preaching of those who do not provide book, chapter and verse for what we believe and practice? It was said of the Bereans that they "were more noble (fair minded) than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). Do we get a free pass to believe and practice whatever we want since we are "the church" and "our traditions" are beyond question?
It is evident that a certain mind-set exists among some that refuses to read, refuses to study, refuses to consider whether or not we can be wrong, refuses to consider that maybe, just maybe, the members of the church need to open their minds to see what is going on, where we are headed, what is (or is not) being taught today. We recognize that people in denominations sometimes have their allegiances misplaced: to a favorite preacher, to a college, to a publication, to a certain party or sect. Could that happen among us who are Christians? Could I be blinded to error because "my preacher" is well known and has a reputation among brethren? Do I have a blind allegiance to a college regardless of what it teaches? Am I so satisfied with the people that I associate with that I have become blinded to their drift away from truth?
Many who are members of the church of Christ today were won away from error in denominationalism because you had an open mind in the past. Someone asked you to study the Bible and religious subjects and you were willing to do so. You left denominationalism because you loved the truth and were willing to study to see what the Bible taught. Some of you left institutional churches because they were practicing things for which they had no authority and a friend or fellow Christian challenged you to study "the issues" and you gave up some unscriptural practices.
Is the need for Bible study over? Is there no danger of error among brethren today? Remember the words of the apostle Paul: "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Timothy 4:2-4).
Brethren, is this a present danger or is it only a historical reference without meaning today? Can we have an attitude where we will not endure sound teaching? Can we have itching ears? Will our teachers turn away from the truth and lead us to fables? Do you even consider the danger of drifting away from the truth of God's word?
Maybe it is time for us in the church to "Ask Our Preachers" some questions!
"Preacher, why do you have fellowship with those who teach moral and doctrinal error?" The scripture is crystal clear on the subject: "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them" (Ephesians 5:11). "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds" (2 John 9-11). The church at Cork, Florida used Homer Hailey for years in gospel meetings though it was known everywhere that brother Hailey taught error on divorce that will send souls to an eternal torment. Certainly that congregation has been willing to fellowship error! But, brethren from many places disagreed with brother Hailey, used him, encouraged him and defended his right to teach his error (which he did, as long as he lived). Has the Cork church ever renounced that error? Does the Cork church continue to hold the same views on this error? Fellowship with Hailey and others (who teach different, but equally erroneous errors on adulterous marriages) was defended by Bob Owen, Ed Harrell and other brethren. Christianity Magazine was used in a long series of articles to defend fellowship with brother Hailey under a misuse of Romans 14. Ed Harrell was willing to "tolerate contradictory teachings and practices on important moral and doctrinal questions." Reader, I challenge you to ask your preacher if he agrees with this statement. Does your preacher approve of fellowship with those who teach error on divorce. Please note that they may not teach the error which brother Hailey taught. But do they believe in extending fellowship to those who teach error? Is your preacher willing to "tolerate contradictory teachings and practices on important moral and doctrinal questions?"
"Preacher, why don't you preach more against dancing, drinking, gambling and immodesty?" We need to recognize that sometimes a preacher is known, not so much by what he preaches, but by what he doesn't preach. Many no longer preach sermons against wearing short shorts, drinking beer or wine, or sermons which condemn the evils of dancing. We have a generation of young people who have been raised without ever hearing such things condemned in clear, unequivocal terms. How long has it been since you heard a sermon against mixed swimming and short shorts (immodesty)? How long has it been since you heard about the evils of gambling? The works of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-21; Colossians 3:5-11, et al) are "manifest" and "those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." A number of preachers have decided to allow each member to define modesty for themselves and they poke fun at those who describe exposing the thigh (Exodus 28:42; Isaiah 47:2-3) as nakedness. No, I am not advocating that these kinds of sermons must exclude sermons that edify or that every sermon must oppose something. But one cannot preach the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27) without teaching against moral sins that will send souls to hell. It is not unusual to hear members say that they know other members who drink, who go to proms and dances, who buy lotto tickets and wager on sports. Yes, these things go on among congregations today. Does your preacher sound a clear warning against these sins?
Ask your preacher if it makes a difference what one believes about the days of creation. It has been taught by Shane Scott that the six days of Genesis 1 and 2 "could not be literal." Hill Roberts teaches that the "big bang" occurred and "stellar evolution" took place before the earth cooled enough for man to be created, much later than "the beginning" (Mt. 19:4). When this issue has been discussed, the usual phrase to dismiss the question is, "What difference does it make." Larry Ray Hafley has written explaining it thusly:
Does it matter what you believe about this? I challenge you to ask your preacher to see if he says, "What difference does it make?"
How far have we gotten from old-fashioned Bible study? How far have we gotten from a "thus saith the Lord?" Do we yet speak "as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11)? Do we "speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent?" We have always said that "truth has nothing to fear from investigation." Is this really true or have we been mouthing platitudes all these years while we chide denominationalism for their closed minds? Is your mind open? Will you study these vital issues?
Ask your preacher. See what he has to say.