Someone recently called me and said, "I've been reading your blog and you never have anything positive to say about the Church of Christ, it's always negative." Fair enough.
I can understand how this perception is possible, particularly if you don't see me in my church context or some of my other writings (particularly in my A People's History of Churches of Christ work and my series of Table meditations). I identify with the segment of our tradition who believes that there is deep value and possibility in many of the fundamental convictions of our tradition, among others:
In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, charity; and in all things, love.
Let the unity of Christians be our Polar Star.
I deeply resonate with the metaphor employed by Leroy Garrett about his place in Churches of Christ: A Lover's Quarrel.
He describes it this way:
"I love the Churches of Christ too much to leave, and too much to leave them alone."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
So here are 10 things that I love about the tradition of which I am a part and which I love too much to leave alone.
(1) The desire to read, interpret, and apply Scripture.
We have a long history of exploring, interpreting, and articulating our understanding of Scripture. We have done so with diversity from our earliest days, and we continue to value the place of the biblical text in our life and practice.
(2) An appreciation for congregational singing.
While I do not believe that acappella music is a theological mandate (a.k.a. that instrumental music is a "sin"), I believe that it has immense formative power and should not be changed or discarded lightly.
(3) A desire to make Communion a regular part of the life of the church.
This is a gift that our tradition has given us, and that should not be taken lightly.
(4) An intrinsic commitment to simplicity of worship.
By and large our tradition has sought to engage in worship without an undue emphasis on "production".
(5) The ability for significant diversity by way of congregational autonomy.
Each congregation doesn't need to appeal to a central authority or prescribed set of rules in their decisions of faith and practice.
(6) The desire to engage in critical scholarship across disciplines.
For the relatively small size of our tradition we have produced a disproportionate number of recognized scholars in a wide-range of fields. We are not afraid to love God with our minds.
(7) Our value of the practice of Baptism.
While much of the Evangelical and Pentecostal world has made little of baptism, our tradition has continued to value this central Christian practice.
(8) Our desire for good preaching.
I have heard and seen from others outside of our tradition, that Churches of Christ have some of the finest preaching in the American/Evangelical scene. With people like Mike Cope, Josh Graves, Rick Atchley, Jerry Taylor, Fate Hagood III, Lawrence Murray, Sara Barton, Jen Christy, Noami Walters, and others I am quick to agree.
(9) Churches of Christ have a deep love for missions.
I have seen this to be true both in the congregations that I have been a part of, and in my own family.
(10) That our story is unfinished.
We have a deep recognition that God is not done with us yet, that there is more work to be done, and a new horizon to see. We know that we are to do more than maintain the machine and speak of the "glory days".
Do I love the Churches of Christ? Absolutely.
Will I stay in Churches of Christ? I believe it is my family, and you don't abandon your family.
Are there things that I would like to see be different? Yes. And when God looks at me, there are things he sees which he desires to change as well.
Do I look like I am "always hating" on Churches of Christ? Only if you don't know me.
So if this is your perception of me, send me an email or buy me a cup of coffee. I am an open book, looking to honor God and serve his mission in the world.
And if you and I don't agree on how that is/should be done, let's talk, as brothers and sisters in Christ, for that is what we are.
That willingness to walk together even in our diversity and particularity...I couldn't think of a better way to honor God and the beauty of our Tradition.