By Randy Cavender

For the past several years it has been clear that some are not satisfied with the New Testa­ment church. There has been a concen­trated effort to make changes in doc­trine, practice and worship in order to make the church more acceptable to the world. Those who have spear­headed these efforts generally have been designated as "change agents" because change is their goal. The reason for these proposed changes is that we must have them in order to grow. We are told that contemporary society and our own young people are bored with the worship, bored with doc­trine, bored with preaching, and bored with the church. Even today there are those who are crying out, "...Now make us a king to judge us like all the na­tions." (1 Sam. 8:5) .

One of the most popular changes that is taking place is the "community church" concept. Such bodies have been described as "loosely affiliated with the Church of Christ." (This de­scription was applied by the Memphis Commercial Appeal to the Cordova Community Church, April 30, 1998.) Let's talk about the Community Church Movement.

One of the characteristics of the Community Church Movement is elimi­nating or diminishing the name "church of Christ." Brethren, we need to be careful that we should not insist on one scriptural designation to the exclusion of another scriptural name. However, this is not the view of those in the com­munity church movement. A deacon in the Southlake Church of Christ in Dallas, Texas stated that changing the name to the Southlake Boulevard Church was "removing a barrier to the community" (The Christian Chronicle, April, Vol. 57, No. 4). Brethren, we need to realize that Christ has always been a barrier, stumbling block, or a “rock of offense” to those who disobey (Rom. 9:33; 1 Peter 2:7, 8). Are we ashamed of the name of Christ? It is evident that the term "church" is not the problem, since they have retained that term. Hmm!? Need we be reminded of the words of Christ when He said,

"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful gen­eration, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy an­gels." (Mark 8:38).

Another characteristic of the move­ment is their "market-driven" strategy for growth. They are striving to provide what people want or what they are seeking. As a result, they have "upbeat worship." They stress casual worship, both in style and dress. They have praise teams and entertainment orienta­tion in worship. A greater emphasis is on "self" including one's own feelings and emotions. As a result of these atti­tudes, less emphasis is placed on the doctrine of Christ. Apparently, they do not have faith in the gospel of Christ as God's power to salvation. Their strategy is to "catch fish on their terms." Accord­ingly, these brethren adapt to the cur­rent culture and change the mes­sage by not teaching people what they need, but rather what they want to hear. Brethren, let us be warned, these "agents of change" are all about us.

Denominationalism has tried these for the past several years with much suc­cess (numbers wise). However, our brethren want to be like the denomina­tions around them and compromise the very heart of the gospel of Christ. &

Can We Know God Exists?

By Bob Myhan

Faith differs from both knowledge and opinion. Knowledge is based on experi­ence and/or reason. We know that which we have learned through our physical senses and/or mental faculties. As stated in an earlier lesson, it is by means of his physical senses that man knows matter exists. He can handle it, taste it, see it, smell it, and hear its movements. By means of reason man knows spirit exists; he knows that he is distinct from his body. His body is mat­ter but he is spirit.

Faith is derived from dependable tes­timony. Jurors in a criminal trial, for ex­ample, do not know whether the defen­dant committed the crime with which he has been charged but have to decide—on the basis of evidence—whether a verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt is warranted. What they decide is a matter of faith, rather than knowledge. That is, they either come to believe that he is guilty of the crime or they continue to have reasonable doubt as to his guilt.

An opinion is a position that is held in the absence of sufficient evidence to warrant knowledge or faith. There is no experience to evaluate, no premises from which to reason conclusively, and no reliable testimony to accept. To con­tinue the analogy of the trial, a juror may have an opinion as to whether or not the defendant committed the crime but can neither know nor believe that he did so prior to hearing the testimony or seeing the evidence.

As an example, con­sider the case of Nicodemus. I know the Bible says that he “came to Jesus by night” (John 3:1-2). I believe Nicodemus “came to Jesus by night” because the Bible says so. But I do not know why he “came to Jesus by night.” Nor does the Bible pro­vide testimony sufficient for me to be­lieve he had this or that particular rea­son, though he must have had one; no sane person acts without a reason.

Abraham could not have known that his descendants would be as innumer­able as the stars in the sky. But he believed it because of God’s testimony.

Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations") in the pres­ence of Him whom he believed--God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he be­came the father of many nations, ac­cording to what was spoken, "So shall your descendants be." And not being weak in faith, he did not con­sider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the prom­ise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteous­ness" (Rom. 4:16-22).

Adam knew that God existed for God had spoken to him (Gen. 2:16-17). Cain and Abel, however, did not know God existed. But Abel had faith in God while Cain did not (Gen. 4:1-8). Indeed, Abel is the first person, historically, said to have had faith.

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks (Heb. 11:4).

Cain was characterized by evil works, and therefore was without faith.

In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteous­ness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous (1 John 3:10-12).

Since the time our first parents were expelled from the Garden of Eden it has not been possible to know God, except through faith in His testimony. To illustrate, no person knows [or even can know] who is biological parents are. It is impossible for a newborn infant to know who gave birth to him. It is equally impossible for one to know who fathered him. One is told by a certain kindly couple that they are his parents and, having no reason not to believe them, accepts their testi­mony. Many have learned, after becoming adults, that they were adopted. Others have discov­ered they were kidnapped from their real parents. Like­wise, we cannot know that God exists; we believe it or we do not. One who denies that God has revealed Himself to man cannot even believe that He exists. If He had never revealed Himself to man, no one could believe in Him. &