Voted Off the Island

The church office just got a new copy of Churches of Christ in the United States. This is the “directory” of our churches listing contact information (address, phone numbers, email). This data was compiled first in the 1970’s by Mac Lynn of Harding Grad and then Lipscomb. The task was taken over some time ago by 21st Century Christian. We buy a copy ever several years so that people who are travelling or moving to an area can have a start on finding a church with which to worship. The directory really has been helpful at times. 

Where the book is NOT so helpful when it tries to decide who is a real Church of Christ. In the 2009 edition, the largest congregation among us is listed as having 2667 members. In the 2006 edition, our largest church had 6414 members? How did our largest church manage to loose over 4000 members? That’s easy-- they were removed from the book. The Richland Hills Church of Christ started offering an instrumental Sunday morning service (at 11:30 a.m.) in addition to its a cappella worship service (at 9:00 a.m.) Because they offer this instrumental service, they are were “booted off the island” (to quote Mike Cope). There aren't in the book.  They didn’t ask to be removed; they didn't want to be removed. They still very much consider themselves part of our fellowship. But “if the trumpet does not sound a clear call…” If you are traveling to Fort Worth, you won't find Richland Hills listed in the book anywhere.   I envision the opening scene of the old Chuck Connors TV show “Branded” where they rip the stripes off his uniform and break his sword as the theme song plays “What do you do when you’re branded…”

You can read more about this at the Christian Chronicle site.  Ironically, the lead story of this same edition of the Chronicle is entitled “Church in America Marked by Decline,” which laments the decline among the churches in our fellowship in America... as reported by the same directory!  We are booting people off the island on the one hand and moaning about getting smaller on the other. It stands to reason that if we keep drawing our circles smaller and smaller, there will be fewer and fewer who fit inside.

Aren’t we blessed that it is God who knows and keeps His own roll book. If some of the brethren kept it, when the roll is called up yonder, very few would be there!