Saturday, March 29, 2008

When You Outgrow Your Church

Cecil Hooks has an interesting article over at

In it, he writes:
A chicken cannot mature in its shell of incubation. It utilizes all that the egg has to offer, but if it is to grow, it must break out of its shell. Its original confinement allows for no eating and exercise for full development. Unless it breaks out it will die.

To compare our association in a congregation to a limiting and confining egg shell may seem inappropriate. At least, no congregation should be like that. But the confining traditional boundaries drawn by the greater number of Churches of Christ definitely constrict spiritual learning, exercise, and acceptance of others in Christ.

An unwritten creed defining doctrine and practice is formed by the sincerest of men as an invisible shield around the disciple intended to guarantee rightness and to protect from misdirection. They presume that full growth is nurtured within their prescribed limits. But the disciple cannot learn, exercise, and grow to the fullest without breaking the inflexible shell of unwritten laws. While great emphasis is placed on study of the Bible, if a student learns some new idea or different practice these must be kept very privately. When taught or practiced publicly, varying degrees of rejection are met usually. The disciple may absorb all that the limiting shell offers and still not outgrow judgmental attitudes or reach full potential.

Many in our congregations of the various groups of the Churches of Christ have outgrown their churches. They would like to remain in them to promote non-judgmental acceptance, but they suffer rejection. So they pip their shells for air and push themselves out into a free world liberated from their sectarian incubation. They have learned to read the Word without being defensive and to accept other disciples without being judgmental. When rejected or expelled for their new concepts, some have been blessed to find a more open Church of Christ nearby with which to begin meeting. So they leave in peace without bitterness or arrogance toward those who sought to restrict them.

What is a person to do when he or she outgrows his or her church? No epistle is written outlining a procedure to follow. As in deciding any issue of life, all principles of holy conduct must be observed. Since each person's situation is different, each person must seek the direction of the Spirit in deciding which course to follow. None of us is qualified to judge the case of the other.

If you find yourself in such a situation, or are just interested in following this line of thinking, perhaps you might want to go read the rest of his article.

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