A Letter of Apology to Christians Outside of the Churches of Christ
Before I say what I need to say I want to preface this by making it clear that I know that many (maybe even most?) of my fellow “Church of Christ” brethren are good-hearted, studious, and God-loving people. Many in the Churches of Christ love every person in this world and would not say what they say if they did not honestly believe it to be true concerning the best interest of those who they think are “outside of the TRUE CHURCH.” I am not bitter towards them. They are my people, and I still consider myself to belong to their heritage whether they accept me or not. They don’t all view things the same anyways. That is important to note. And I can only speak for myself and my personal experience.
That said, as I have mentioned in several articles before, my understanding of Scripture has changed over the years. I did not say that Scripture changed. I said that my human mind is flawed and is in constant need of revival. As a result, many of my views have changed. Some in a significant way and some only slightly. And there are also many views that remain the same as they always have, even after more study. But I want to say that I do not see the Churches of Christ as the “one true church” anymore. I see them as one of many physical assemblies that make up the one true spiritual assembly. But they are not, in and of themselves, the one true church. They are part of the whole. There is the one true, spiritual, universal, and everlasting church that belongs to Christ. In which all Christians belong, regardless of their location on a Sunday morning. But I am from a group of physical locations with a physical sign that says “Church of Christ.” That church is only part of the whole. The kingdom of God is not built by human hands and is not identified by human signs. The denomination with these signs that say “Church” of Christ” has unwittingly lied to many people as they suggest they are the only true church. Many of this heritage don’t even consider themselves a denomination. I am part of that community, and I want to apologize for my part in that lie.
I understand that in the Churches of Christ, there are deep, theological, and logical reasons behind every view. But just because a view is filled with logic and theology and just because a view is valid does not make it sound. Imagine if I said all trucks are green because all the trucks I’ve seen were green. Then imagine that you told me that you own a truck, and my thought was that it had to be green. It would logically be valid for me to think so. The problem is, however, that the premise is incorrect. I think I have information that I really don’t have because I misinterpreted the data. Therefore, while the argument would be valid, it would not be sound (correct). That is how I understand some of the views that the Churches of Christ generally divide over. Let it be known that division is not negative if it is necessary division. So, if they are right, I don’t blame them for being divisive. But if they are wrong, then they are dividing the Lord’s church as a whole. I’d personally rather be too gracious than not gracious enough. After all, our Lord said, “the same measure of judgment will be given unto you.”
While I disagree with some of the things my heritage tends to teach and see them as divisive, this isn’t a bashing of the Churches of Christ. I love them, and I want to make that abundantly clear. Instead, this is a personal apology from me, Jesse Winn, for the many years I used (misused?) my Bible, memorizing arguments, verses, and phrases because I thought I was right and the “denominational world” was wrong. I remember going to school in 3rd and 4th grade telling all my friends why they were going to hell for not taking the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, or for using musical instruments in worship, or for clapping after a baptism, or for having women speak, or for not being baptized with the understanding that baptism is the point when they REALLY were Christians, not faith. I bashed them with a clear mind and a good heart. I told them that because they celebrate Christmas as Christ’s birth, they were pagan and because they had a sign that didn’t say “Church of Christ” that their church was man-made and not from the Bible. The list goes on and on. I lost a lot of friends and family because of this. I ruined relationships. And I selfishly missed out on growing up with a bigger spiritual family by my side to support me. I robbed myself of fully embracing the Spirit’s presence and the freedom in Christ. I was immersed in a legalism that I thought was demanded by a God who made me just to tell me what to do, and so I missed the truth that God created me to be in His family forever as a child of God.
I’ve gotten to the point where I am convicted. I am no longer going to act like things are okay with me living a double life so that I won’t lose friends and family in the Churches of Christ. I already have! I love them, and many who know my views are still good to me. But it is time for me to fully embrace my family as a whole. I love my heritage, but more than that, I love the true church of Christ (little “c”). The universal, spiritual body of Jesus. My conscience will no longer rest without me publicly apologizing in the same way that I used to so easily and publicly rebuke others. I pray that you accept my apology. I know that we won’t agree on everything. Nobody ever will. But I pray that we can focus on the unity and bond of the Spirit through our Lord Jesus Christ!