CHRISTIANITY OR CHURCHIANITY?

    It is believed there were tens of millions who converted to Christianity throughout the Roman Empire within just a couple of hundred years after the church began in Jerusalem around 33 AD (Acts 2). The exponential growth of Christianity from its infancy was absolutely phenomenal! Here in America, the church of Christ experienced yet another remarkable growth period in the middle of the past century. Estimates from the 1960s put the total membership of the churches of Christ at around 2.5 million. That’s an impressive number! Unfortunately, that growth rate has since declined, considerably, since about 1980.

 Today’s Trend

    Today, the fastest growing religion in the world is no longer Christianity – although it still makes up about 31% of the world’s population, more than any other religion. Adherents to Christianity, that is, those who follow the teachings and doctrines of its founder, Jesus Christ, have decreased substantially and at an increasingly rapid pace. The people who obey the Gospel plan of salvation, as clearly outlined in the New Testament, (Mark 16:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 6:1-4) and who are putting on the name Christian (Galatians 3:27; Acts 11:26) are no longer converting at the rates previously seen. There’s a different trend. Instead of converting to Christianity, people are now increasingly converting to Churchianity.
    Churchianity has become the fastest growing religion in America. What exactly is Churchianity? Let’s allow Paul to explain, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Tim 4:3). This is how Churchianity has come into existence; it is attractive to those who do not know their Bibles. Churchianity assures people they are right with God by just listening to some religious leader, attend an entertaining “worship” service, and being involved in church functions. It is a religion more focused on the the social aspect of the church than on the Scriptural aspect based upon truth. Never has there been a lack of religious institutions in the world. But, there continues to be a growing lack of fundamental truth regarding the one true church of our Lord. This has resulted in yet another, new community of faith based solely on traditions, habits, and instructions of institutionalism rather than book, chapter, and verse of the Scriptures.

What about you?

    Are you a Christian or a Churchian? Are you more concerned about what Jesus and the apostles teach through the inspired words of the Bible, or do you prefer to adapt to whatever some manufactured tradition mandates? Are you more concerned about what the church is doing for you, or are you more focused on what you can do for the Lord’s kingdom? Do you come to worship to “get something out of it” for yourself, or do you come to give honor, praise, and glory only to God? Do you see souls all around you who are in need of God’s saving grace, or do you see people who are not lucky enough to belong to your special club? I hope you can see the difference between being a Christian and Churchian. You can’t be both and only one of the two will make it to heaven (cf. Matthew 7:21). Choose wisely!


ANGER BEGETS ANGER

Anger Begets Anger
by Troy Spradlin
   One of my instructors at Southwest School of Bible Studies once said, “A husband and wife should never yell at each other … unless there is a fire!” That is funny, in one sense, but it is also true. Harsh arguments and angry words are never constructive for a marriage, or any relationship. Never! Kind words and wisely used speech will always build a stronger relationship. Solomon teaches this principle in Proverbs 15:1-2.
   A soft answer turns away wrath … Gentleness will disarm those who are angry. When someone confronts us, our natural defense is to shield ourselves. We will often retaliate with angry speech of our own. It is difficult to remain calm and deal with the situation in a loving manner. Hard arguments and disagreements are always handled best with soft words. Gideon’s conduct in Judges 8:1-3 is a good example.
   But a harsh word stirs up anger … A word that causes pain will create resentment. Wrath will produce wrath and anger will beget anger. Using harsh or afflictive words in an argument is equivalent to throwing gas on a fire! Arguments become more escalated when each party continues to use hateful speech. Ephesians 4:26 teaches “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”
   The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly … Knowing what to say and when to say it requires experience and wisdom. This only comes with time. It’s unfortunate when we intend to say something kind but instead, our words end up causing pain because they weren’t applied correctly. There are times when even wise counsel can be foolishly given. Choose your words wisely.
   But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness … One of my favorite quotes is, “Better to be thought of as a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” God gave us one tongue and two ears. We should take the hint that maybe we should listen twice as much as we talk. Learning to listen takes a lot of practice for some of us. It is human nature, but we should remember Solomon’s proverb and do so wisely.
   Once a word leaves our lips in anger, or malice, it is forever out there where it may continue to cause hurt. An older, wiser preacher once told me that if you do allow a harsh word to be spoken to a loved one that you later regret saying, then go to that person and “take back” every single word. Verbalize to them your remorse and retract everything you said. Do not just leave the words with them by offering a simple “I’m sorry.” Part of having agape love for others means looking out for their best interest. Your lingering hateful words are certainly not something that is in their best interest. Take them back!
James describes the power of our speech in a very poetic manner, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell” (James 3:6). He goes on to say that “no man can tame the tongue,” and that “with it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men,” (3:8,9). Perhaps, the most difficult part of being a Christian is watching what we say. If we are to love God with all our being and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39), then, speaking kindly to others is a clear indication of that love in action.


WE HAVE THIS SURE AND STEADFAST ANCHOR

by Troy Spradlin
  Many communities have a certain object, or a landmark, which stands out as an identifying symbol for that city. For example, when you see a picture of a large stainless steel arch, what city comes to mind? How about a red suspension bridge spanning the entrance to a bay, with what city do you identify it to represent? What about the Statue of Liberty, or the Eiffel Tower? These are all objects that have become representative symbols for their associated cities. Now, how about our community? Something I have noticed as being prominent in our local community is the close tie we have with water, such as, our bays and rivers, the US Navy, our history with sawmills, and the fishing, canoeing, and kayaking tourism industries. So, when I drive by that big anchor in front of Milton High School, I am reminded of all those things regarding or community. But, I am also reminded of spiritual things. Specifically, it reminds me of Hebrews 6:19, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.”
  While an anchor is certainly a fitting symbol for representing our physical community of Milton, it is also a fitting symbol for our spiritual community, the Margaret Street church of Christ. I have even heard members describe Margaret Street in such a manner, saying that “it has been an anchor” for them over the years. Why is that? Why would they describe the church in such a way? It is because Margaret Street is a place where they find Jesus! It is a place where they can find and build upon hope! It is a place that has served as a stalwart of the faith for more than 60 years. That makes our congregation exceptional and appealing.
  The context of that verse is about the confidence we can have in the promises of God. Just as an anchor holds a ship in place, by being secured outside of the ship, our hope holds us in place, but it is secured outside of this world. Our hope is in a holier, greater place, because Christ has gone ahead of us to secure our salvation in heaven. With this promise, we can have a “sure and steadfast” confidence and faith. A sure anchor does not drag. It is in firm ground and the ship’s crew may trust it. A steadfast anchor is one that will not break, because it is strong and made of good, tough iron. There is no fear of it failing, no matter what strain may be put upon it. Margaret Street church of Christ places its trust in that sure and steadfast anchor and that is why it is such a special place. Here, we can build our faith together with like-minded people – all helping each other to get to heaven.
  With this in mind, we would like to present to you a new logo for Margaret Street, one that incorporates the symbol of the cross and anchor, placed within an open Bible (pictured below). It not only is an appropriate symbol for representing the basis of our hope and faith, but it is also an appropriate symbol for our community, both spiritually and physically. We hope you like it! – God bless!