Category Archives: Church of Christ

When Church Makes You Not Believe in God, There is a Problem.

I’ve found myself wanting to drift off in church.

Not for the typical reasons of it being boring or dull. I mean, I still pay attention during worship. I love corporate worship. I don’t know if it was something that God intended for the church to have, but it really does renew my faith.

But, pretty much everything else about church does the exact opposite.

One of my main issues is preachers.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate preachers, or dislike them in any way. From my vantage point, the problem with traditional preaching is that the person doing it, whether very qualified in theological studies or not, often times simplifies things to the point of ridiculousness. They speak in cliche. They say things that nearly everyone in the church has heard a thousand times. And like I said, boredom is not the problem.

The problem is, that simplifying something that is so obviously mysterious and that requires much faith, makes me doubt. When Christian theology is put in such simplistic and absolute terms, I sit in the pew thinking, “I literally can’t believe that I believe this.”

Just the other day, I was reading about the whole Mitt Romney/Mike Huckabee heresy debacle. I dug a little bit to find out more about the Mormon faith. Lots of stuff about planets where people live, Jesus and Lucifer were brothers, aliens, etc. And I laughed. I was making fun of them in my head.

But when my faith is treated in the same simplistic manner, I look at it and think “I believe there’s some unseen being that decided to create this world, then the world went bad, so he sent part of himself, that he calls his Son, to earth to die, so that we can be saved from another unseen place that apparently is much worse than being in poverty in Africa, or in war torn Iraq. And that those people in those countries have got much worse problems than the fact that they live day to day, not knowing if they’ll survive.”

I think, “How is that not more crazy than believing in aliens, or that Jesus and Satan were brothers?”

I guess church doesn’t really resonate with me much anymore. I can honestly say, if it weren’t for relationships I have at Otter Creek, even though I love the corporate worship,  I wouldn’t be there anymore. Its the developing relationships that I have there that keep me planted in my seat when Sermons make me question what I believe, or when someone prays and it doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. Its the relationships that often times talk me off the cliff when it comes to faith. Its the relationships and the lives of people that really strengthen my faith.

Anyone have any thoughts?


Steve Gill: Quick to judge, quick to speak.

I used to listen to Glenn Beck in the morning on my way to work. I don’t always agree with what he says, but he’s funny and real and he’s not partisan. 1510 here in Nashville decided to pre-empt him recently in favor of Steve Gill “The Talk of Tennessee”.

Besides the fact that he makes derogatory comments about illegal aliens and he espouses his belief in capitalism, yet is a protectionist at heart, he’s just not a good talk show host. And he’s deceitful.

This morning he has been talking about how he is going to talk about a Lipscomb Prof who says that we should deny the Lordship of Christ in order to make peace with Muslims. I knew immediately that this professor was probably Lee Camp and that he probably didn’t say what Steve Gill said he did. I was right.

Steve, I doubt you’ll read this, but if you do, maybe you should learn a little more about what it means to be a Christian. Its not about blowing up terrorists, getting rid of brown people that are here, or making sure that Walmart and Target say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays. Its about loving your enemies in radical ways. Its not about making sure they recognize that your god is better than theirs, its about making sure they see Jesus in your every step.

Update: Lee Camp’s response today in the Tennessean

My Sunday

Today was full of important conversations, time with friends, good food, and amazing community.

This morning, Carrie and I went to Otter Creek. We had planned on going to class for what would have been the first time in two years for me, but plans changed when my new kitten refused to go to bed and kept me awake until 2 in the morning. Class at 8:45 + 45 minute drive to church – two and a half hours of sleep that I had planned on getting = No class for Justin. I still love the kitten though. I’ll post pictures of her tomorrow night.

Anyway, church this morning. A man came forward and confessed that he had been having affairs for some amount of time. I have never been in a church where something like that was confessed in some amount of detail. Normal ‘confession’ at modern churches entails acknowledging wrongdoing without actually saying what happened. This guy said from the beginning, “I have to tell you in some detail what I did or this confession won’t mean a thing”. He was very forthright and apologetic, but also hopeful that Christ would change his heart and he was greatful for the forgiveness he had all ready received from his family. I didn’t even know this guy or the situation, but I started crying today. In a body of 1000 people, there can still be relationship and community, even if you’ve never met a person before in your life.

I went to lunch with Allen Gillespie, the admissions guy (sorry Allen, don’t know your title) at Pepperdine University. He emailed me and mentioned he was going to be in town and he wanted to see if we could have lunch and bounce some ideas off of each other. He’s been reading my blog for some time now, and he has some great ideas about the future. Let’s just say it involves people under the age of 30, the internet, and weekly or monthly columns. We ate lunch at Corky’s. Pulled pork BBQ is stellar. Corky’s makes me miss Memphis.

Carrie went home and studied this afternoon while I sat in my apartment and played with the kitten. I also worked on some music. I am thinking about sitting down and working some stuff out. I’d like to put out a new cd at some point in the near future. I know I have an album in me somewhere. Its just going to take me sitting down and writing with a purpose to get it out there.

Tonight, we had small group at Jessee Eppley’s house. We’re discussing “Life Together” by the one and only Deitrich Bonhoeffer. This week’s discusion was on Chapter 1, entitled ‘Community’. We had an hour and a half of stimulating discussion about how a Christian community is supposed to function. Where lines are drawn in what is acceptable in the community. One of my favorite thoughts for the night was from Carrie’s brother Jon. Discussing God’s plan for us he said that the interesting thing is God created community for us, and told us to be moral. And the only way we can discern morality is through community interpretation of scriptures. However, the quote of the evening came, when I asked about community and disfellowship. Jamie Hooten began talking about how people tend to church hop to places who will accept whatever behavior didn’t jive with the previous community. He said you go from a church of Christ, to a Baptist church, then to a methodist church. To which I added, “then a Unitarian church”. Jon then chimed in and said “I’d like to know what you have to do to get kicked out of the Unitarian church”.

I don’t think its as funny in type. Anyway, it made us all laugh.

But today was a great Sunday. Any day that commences with my feeling more intelligent than I did when I awoke is always a good day.

Caught a Kitten and Hannity v Yoakum

Today, I was going to the bank to deposit a check, and all the sudden a kitten runs underneath my feet an into the  undercarriage of my car.

I pulled it out from under there and took it home.

So, now I have a cat.

In other news, Cole Yoakum, a sophomore student at Harding University who stood toe to toe with Sean Hannity last week, has a blog and has something to say about the event. I respect this kid in a huge way. Its good to see that there are people at Harding who think outside the box and are willing to question things that they think go against the ideals of Christ.

And in that same vein, Greg Kendall-Ball is discussing why the argument that Hannity used against pacifism is not relevant.

All the C of C Blogs You Will Want to Read

John Dobbs has compiled a list of all the top rated c of c bloggers. Yours truely made the list, but he did spell my name wrong. I guess I can deal with that.

Myspace C of C Forum

I don’t know what to do with this place. Wendi Dawn just responded to my comment with this comment.


Just because our name is in the bible doesn’t make us the “one true church”. The only reason our name is in the bible is because 200 years ago, barton stone and alexander campbell were sick and tired of denominational infighting and wanted to seek unity in christ, not in doctrines or creeds. They took the name “christians” or churches of christ or any other name that the believers in the bible were called. You can’t trace the lineage of the c of c back any further than the late 1700s

Wendi wrote:

I don’t understand you… You are a member of Christ’s church, yet you’re one of the biggest hypocrites I’ve ever come across and you even deny that Christ’s church is the one true church.. It’s absurd and sickening.. You need to do some serious rethinking. All you do is drag others into your warped thinking. And to think that the future of Christ’s church rests in the hands of the youth, and sadly many that think as you do.. I’m ashamed of the fact you call yourself a child of God and that you are going around “preaching” to others… It truly worries me and I am worried about your soul’s state..

Really, she just said that. She’s had two email correspondences with me, and came to that conclusion. And I didn’t even tell her I don’t believe in hell.

Highland Street church of Christ

While I attended several churches from birth, since seventh grade (1998) I have considered Highland Street my home church. I’ve met some of my best friends there, I’ve been shaped by youth ministers and interns, and the building blocks of my faith began in that building (even though I was baptized several years before). Recently, HSCOC bought some property on the eastern fringes of the urban area of Memphis after several years of prayer on the part of the congregation and elders brought about by our inability to meet the spacial needs of our church. Like growth projects of many churches, Highland has encountered resistance from ministers and members over the move. There are probably two main camps of people who are against this move.

The first group disagrees with moving for sentimental reasons. Our congregation has been in the same neighborhood for nearly 75 years. Some of the elder members have attended church in that very building for the vast majority of their lives. Their hesitance toward moving is understandable, yet I think misguided. I can empathize with these people, but I believe that staying in a building unsuitable for growth for purely aesthetical reasons isn’t a strong pillar of descent on which to stand.

The second group disagrees with the move because they believe that the church has ambitions of becoming an “East Memphis Mega Church” ie Bellevue Baptist or Hope Presbyterian. They are of the opinion that if the church moves East, our committment to the poor in the inner city will eventually fall by the wayside as bigger buildings are built to attract the wealthy suburbanites. I cannot disagree more with this opinion.

First off, I trust the eldership. I have a hard time believing that they have ambitions for anything other than serving God in whatever ways he wants us to serve. I believe that our committment to the poor is unwavering, and I don’t believe location will affect this at all. The vast majority of our congregation resides in the wealthy East Memphis, Cordova, and Germantown areas of the city, yet they all travel great distances just to be a part at Highalnd. These are the teens that do workcamp and power hour, people who work with the Downtown and Frayser Mission Churches, and those that volunteer at HOPEWORKS. The location of the church will not affect their desire to serve the poor, because many of these people live further from the city than the church is now, and they drive past the church to serve people where they are.

Second, I believe that it is important to have a church like Highland that does have a strong committment to the inner city, be in the suburbs reaching the people who spend and spend their money on themselves but are never filled. If we can convince these people to become part of a church whose mission is serving those in need, rather than a church who is all about having a starbucks in the lobby or a marching band, we’ll be bringing in more money and volunteers to help those who are in desperate need.

Those that disagree with the move often mention that Highland is helping the neighborhood in which it resides. While that may be the case, on the North and East sides of the church are wealthy neighborhoods… some more wealthy than those in which the church is moving. The areas south and west of the church are unaffected by our presence in the area, whether its because our worship services aren’t in the style of those who live there (African American) or possibly just because a poor African American single mother doesn’t feel comfortable around a homogeneous bunch of upper middle class white families. I think the main point in all this is that our worship service and where our building is located are not the main parts of what a church is. Being a christian isn’t about Sunday morning and what land you own… its about how you love other people. If we continue to love those in the inner city, and be committed to helping them in whatever ways possible… our house of worship is secondary.

I’m just sick and tired of the harsh generalizations by members who, for whatever reason, don’t want to go along with what the elders have decided, or who don’t trust, for whatever reason, that Highland Street C of C is committed to the poor in the city of Memphis, where ever their meeting location is.