Growing up as a boy in Texas half my family (Dad’s) was Baptist, and the over half (Mom’s) were members of the Churches of Christ. Since Dad “converted” to marry mom, I was raised in the Church of Christ. This movement began in the States just a couple of hundred years ago or so and is referred to as the American Restoration Movement. That movement has birthed three distinct denominations in our country, the Churches of Christ, the Independent Christian Churches and the First Christian Churches (known as Disciples of Christ). I have attended and/or ministered in all three branches. The movement’s goal was to “restore” First Century Christianity by better understanding and applying the Bible, thus undoing the 2000 years of “broken” Christianity to date. I was taught as a child, both implicitly and explicitly, that the church had “fallen away” and ceased to exist in any true form shortly after Christ and then was just restored back in our own country. When pressed, my teachers allowed the possibility, and some the probability, that there were always, in all times, people reading the Bible and practicing their faith just we were doing now… they just never seemed to make the news. That was where I started.
For many of you who have traveled a similar road, you’ll know instinctively both the extreme legalism of such a beginning, and yet also the undeniable sincerity of those teaching me. We were the “true children” of enlightenment, basing all our faith on the correct view and interpretation of scripture. No mystery here, folks, we figured it out. Thank you very much, all done. Here are the five steps of salvation and here are the five acts of worship. Here’s the only proper name for a church, and here’s the proper eschatology. Now, go have some fun.
But fun was more than a little elusive. I was a debater in high school and began to see some serious problems with our rational, analytical approach. We completed disregarded the accepted rules of logic and constructed a bent hermeneutic, very much our own. All the while very sincerely believing that we had St. Paul and even the Lord Jesus himself snuggly in our pocket. I asked questions and was shouted down. I challenged the “logic” and was warned of damnation. But where do you go? Here are so many people that I love so much. Here is where my journey began.
Maybe it’s as simple as a spiritual inertia… maybe it’s not. Whatever it is, I stayed on with the Churches of Christ for a very long time. I stayed on as a missionary and as a youth minister. I stayed on through contention and trial, most probably self-inflicted. I stayed on as an outsider/insider. But my journey never stopped, and today I am the outsider/outsider. I am not among the Churches of Christ, nor any denominational affiliation. I suppose on the best days I am in what you would call the “Non-Denominational” church movement that has taken root in our country out of the newer evangelicalism. On the worst days, I might just be rogue. On whatever day it is, I just pray that God holds onto me, and I can only trust the grip of God far more than I trust my own.