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Donnie C. Cruz: Letter to Elders Madison Church of Christ, Nashville"Get Over It!" Is NOT the Solution; Only the Elders Can Stop the Disruption by the "Change Agents" -- NOW!
Note: This letter has already been sent to each of the elders of the church of Christ at Madison, as well as to other individuals who needed to be informed. By publishing this letter, it is my hope and prayer that some responsible action will be taken by the shepherds of this body of believers to restore what Madison used to be and have ... before it is too late!
-----DATE: January 12, 2002
-----FROM: Donnie C. Cruz
The Elders of the Madison Church of Christ: William E. Bennett, Dale Bishop, John Broadway, Joe Corley, Norman "Buck" Dozier, Chris Gingles, Howard W. Henderson, Thomas Hoppes, Russ Kersten, Charles E. Link, Ken Rice, Norman Slate, Ray Wilson
J.D. Elliott, Bobby McElhiney, Bill Ruhl, Ben Jones, Ed Blackwell; Steve Flatt, Jimmy Sites, Harold Hazelip, Willard Collins, Jim Bill McInteer, C. Bruce White, Frank Scott, Jim Brown, Jerry Sherrill, Nick Boone; Troy Treadway, Shana Curtis; Keith Lancaster, Kevin Dunnebacke, Tom Haddon, Jim Hinkle
Rick Warren's "Purpose-Driven Church" Growth Program (a.k.a. "Community Church" Movement) is Evident (and a Nightmare!) at Madison.
I recall when not long ago the worship guide suddenly changed its heading from "The Madison Church of Christ Welcomes You" to "The Madison Church Welcomes You." That must have gotten the attention of certain concerned members because such heading was discontinued not long after that. That must have been about the time when the neighboring church of Christ in Hendersonville was plagued by some kind of a "movement" (...wonder what it was...) that resulted in the emergence of the Hendersonville Community Church. At least that minority group of "seekers" did its own separation from the majority of the brethren who did not succumb to the truth-compromising efforts of those "seekers." Let me remind the readers that at Madison, it wasn't until the formation of the third worship service, its fusion into the second service -- now "appropriately" identified as the "contemporary" second service (with its own format of numerous short songs, a short sermon, some lengthy emotion-driven explanation of the communion -- all of which occupying valuable space in the worship guide) -- that I'm no longer able to find the message in outline form where I could fill in the blanks and have enough space to scribble additional notes in. Is the Madison body of believers becoming the next victim of the "community church" movement? Hendersonville has stood the test! Will Madison be able to stand the test?
Pay close attention to the seemingly unnoticeable details of the transformation process going on at Madison, just to mention a few:
I would expect that under many guises and subtle, gradual ways and means, the "future leaders" of the "seekers" having taken over by that time (if it won't be the current group of elders of the Madison congregation), will ultimately drop the name of "Christ" and disclaim its identity as belonging to the head of that body, and will officially call itself the "Madison Church" or the "Madison Community Church." Know what? The transition, gradual as it is by design, has been a nightmare so far. With its dwindling membership, the elders might as well opt for this congregation to be affiliated with or be an extension of the neighboring Cornerstone Church! (The only difference may be just in the frequency of the communion observance. And why not simply give up that one, too?) Should future volumes of the Directory of the Churches of Christ include the "Madison Community Church" (as it is heading towards being identified that way eventually and officially)?
As one of the many concerned members of God's family in Madison, I feel it is my obligation and responsibility to write another letter. (I have addressed and sent to the elders only one copy of my letter of July 20, 2001 and to Keith Lancaster another copy. Has that letter ever reached the elders and Keith? I wonder! So, I am attaching a copy of that letter, as well as a copy of a subsequent email for everyone to review. (By the way, the entire letter has been posted at this website: www.ConcernedMembers.com/Madison.)
Recently, one visitor from another congregation of the Lord's church made an unfavorable comment to me about the second service -- the distraction ... the overall atmosphere of irreverence. At the time, she was unaware of the first service being in a "different format," which would have been just fine with her. And I'm afraid she is not planning on visiting again.
Another individual who attends the second service quite regularly has mentioned to me a few times (and she happens to love and enjoy singing and knows music very well) that she prefers singing songs with notes over reading the words displayed on the screen. She detests hearing unnecessary interjections of phrases in between lines of a song, and the expression "... and the church says, 'Amen!'" at the end of a song, she says, "really gets on my nerves."
A Catholic friend and I have discussed on several occasions various doctrinal differences and issues between Roman Catholicism and the scriptures. Of course, we know that Catholics undoubtedly have difficulty accepting the truth because human traditions, which they claim as church traditions, are no less important to them than what the Bible teaches. The most recent discussion I had with this individual may have been the last one. Here's why. He asked me where I attended worship services. (Of course, he already knew!) He then confronted me with the ongoing problem at Madison. Needless to say, I could not deny it and the best defense I had was that the church of our Lord is "congregational" in scope with the elders being the leaders and having the responsibility to "tend the flock." He was basically reminding me to be more concerned about the Madison problem than the fallacies of Catholicism in light of the scriptures. He had a valid point. Obviously, we know where the blame lies.
It is not the intent of this letter to condemn the "lifting of hands" as a sinful act in and of itself. For example, I can do that "literally" when I pray privately with the act NOT being a distraction to others and with the act NOT giving the appearance of being part of a "religious show." We know there are many examples in the Old Testament in which this act was done for different reasons and in different dispensations. Those who believe in the "lifting of hands" (in the literal sense) as the real indication of sincerity and devotion in New Testament congregational worship often mistake the "lifting of hands" with the "laying on of hands" or with being Spirit-filled -- another controversial issue altogether. Proponents of this act misquote the passage in 1 Timothy 2:8 by stating that "rather we are to lift up 'holy hands without anger or quarreling'" when in fact the key words here are "men" and "pray" and "holy" -- the praying with the lifting of holy hands being restricted to the male leaders. The fact of the matter is that the following verses contrast the role of women by adorning themselves in modest apparel ... to learn in silence with all subjection ... neither to teach nor to usurp authority over the man. So, what does verse 8 really mean when it says "that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands...."? And what does the following verse mean when it says "in like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel..." and in verse 12 that a woman is not "to usurp authority over the man...."? It would seem that the emphasis in these verses is not in the physical "lifting of hands" (i.e., assuming the man still has hands) because "holy hands" definitely is a figurative description, not literal. How can a man possibly literally lift the symbolic "holy hands"? The emphasis is on the men praying "without wrath and doubting," as well as on the women exercising their role of "adorning themselves in modest apparel ... professing godliness...." Ladies, please do not be offended by the truth of differing roles of men and women in this particular passage.
Let me bring up another issue briefly before I pose the BIG questions to the shepherds of the Lord's fold in Madison -- that of hand clapping and associating it with singing in worship. (I covered this quite extensively in my first letter.) Is it really worth it when only a handful of people programmed to perform the act of hand clapping do so in lieu of the "forbidden" use (for now, anyway) of musical instruments ... for such to be an issue in worship? Programmed is such as when this particular song is sung (as perfectly demonstrated by Tom Haddon in a class): "My life (clap) is (clap) in you (clap), Lord (clap); my strength (clap) is in (clap) you (clap), Lord." So, what is this physical and emotional form of expression in worship that can result in dance and body movement? Isn't the "rock" (better yet ... "spiritual 'rock' or spirited 'rock'") music appealing to the senses? What about some sort of erotic ("me" focused) "praise songs" in a "body and emotion worship session"? What about the well recognized "praise team" (another term for a "Church of Christ choir") and its programmed, musical art performance? The "praise team," along with its "musical leader," is now at the front and center of the performing stage to replace and control congregational singing. If the "praise team" is doing the singing for the congregation, isn't that performing? I thought the entire congregation or body of believers should be praising together as the team.
Many of the contemporary songs have come from "spiritual 'rock'" recording artists' CD's and albums. Many songs or chants are short (with a few words only repeated several times) and fast and the harmony too complicated for the untrained to organize and follow -- not worship-material. Whoever stands between the "audience" and God pretending (and claiming) to lead me into God's presence leads me to engage in the "idolatry of talent." Can't this be appropriately called "holy entertainment" -- a Saddleback terminology? The "holy entertainers" resent this program of worship being called as such. If they resent it, should we call it then "unholy entertainment" -- perhaps more consistent with their actions? These "seekers" do not realize that "mature" members are not hard hearted: they simply are highly offended when the elders present them with performance preaching and singing. These "seekers" are not sensitive to the feelings of these members who by nature are not charismatic in the sense of hand clapping as a response to "music." Instead, these members are blamed for sowing discord when they are the ones being forced into "holy laughter" by the commercial seeker system's approach to music. 1 John 5:6 states that the Spirit is truth. We are commanded to worship. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit (mind) and in truth" -- in a collective sense ... in knowledge of the truth. (John 4:24)
This admonition is for you, brother Keith Lancaster. Cool it, dear brother. It may not be your intention to lead others to think that the manner in which you are leading the praise team to such a great, sophisticated musical performance is awesome. But if you're encouraging and causing the young people to be "addicted" to some "favorite person" because they feel you are awesome and have the ability to perform your task, rather than being drawn close to God and meditate upon Him in worship, then that is misguided leadership. It is a form of "musical idolatry." In addition, it would also be less offensive and distracting to other sincere and serious worshipers (and they'd appreciate it) if you kept your constant verbal expressions and interjections to yourself -- they do not need to be reminded of the "pouring out of your 'spirited' emotions." Actually, I would like to listen to more scriptural messages (longer sermons!) and less time devoted to rock music and less time to lengthy testimonies and unrelated human stories that tend to make the observance of the Lord's Supper less meaningful. "Never being able to have a microsecond of silence is not worship but defeats worship" is a powerful and true statement because this is exactly what is happening in the musical worship program.
Too much emphasis has been placed by opposing sides on specific and separate issues: the lifting of hands; the hand clapping during singing; the overemphasis on the observance of the communion; the shortened sermons (in contrast, do you recall what happened to young Eutychus in Acts 20 when Paul preached and continued his speech until midnight...?); the role of the "praise team"; the new role of the "song leader" being that of a "worship facilitator"; the atmosphere of irreverence and lack of order; and a host of other issues. Yes, these are issues! However, the real root of the problem is the manner in which the elders of this congregation have embraced a ministry scheme that promises church growth similar to and as experienced by some "model" community churches.
There are very serious questions from concerned members for the elders of this body. (Thanks to the website www.ConcernedMembers.com/Madison for making valuable information available to many members who really need to know why this process of "innovating" and "improving" (the word "changing" is inappropriate ... we are led to believe) has been in the works secretly. By the way, this letter will be posted at this website in the near future.)
According to the website www.ConcernedMembers.com/Madison, under the section, "WHAT HAPPENED THIS WEEK AT MADISON ... The Timeline," several activities and events that are part of the entire ongoing scheme have already taken place. The information provided by the site has been thoroughly researched and obtained from reliable sources, and I see no reason to question its validity. I would like to offer anyone who reads this letter and disputes any of the items listed below to respond by mail to me or by email to the website. Please note that the sequence of events is a strong indication of the "gradual" changes taking place in this congregation. Hopefully, this letter will warn other congregations of this crafty movement that is plaguing churches all over America, i.e., a movement of imposed conformity to the unscriptural system of church "universality," i.e., centralization ... with some allowable denominational idiosyncrasies (of the Pentecostal or Baptist or Methodist and other religious bodies). Here are some of the highlights from the site:
Watch this! A rough draft of a "Covenant of Membership" written by one of the elders:
COVENANT OF MEMBERSHIP
Fully recognizing that Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, and having publicly confessed my faith through baptism, and being in agreement with Madison's beliefs and practices, I hereby declare my intention to enter into a Covenant of Membership with the Madison church family. In taking this step, I am committing to the following:
If at some time in the future, I find myself irreversibly out of harmony with the fundamental doctrines and essential practices of Madison, I will not be a source of strife and division, but will peacefully leave the fellowship.
The Madison Church of Christ will provide every resource possible through the Dispute Resolution Ministry to assist you in any type of conflict. Every effort will be made to assist you in finding a church home where you will be comfortable and at peace.
Our Body Life is totally accountable to "The Greatest Commandment" that Jesus gave in Mark 12:30-31.
Why are the elders allowing this takeover of the churches of Christ, beginning with the larger congregations such as Madison, by this "community church" movement patterned after the Saddleback and Willow Creek community churches? Do they not realize that the conflict at Madison is not internal but is about change by outside influences and by "seekers" whose motive and determination is to replace the Bible with "Bible in song" and to substitute sentimental stories for the inspired word of God and to introduce the elders to new "doctrines" and "essential practices"? That this movement's emphasis is to target "mega churches" like Madison -- "bait to be taken over by those who had rather capture than build"? Will Madison be able to stand the test so as not to be counted as one of the churches that fall into the community church pattern to remove the name of Christ? As we are already aware, there is "hysteria" taking place, even though by design the group of "seekers" is there to teach and make plan in such a way that change comes slowly. Before long, there is going to be some "covenant" signed, as well as designated "inside members" and "trained missionaries" that will be involved in expanding the intrusive acts to other churches. The Madison church of Christ has been a guiding light to other congregations. If this is not stopped at this "higher level" of membership, then all the churches will be doomed to the "dominant pastor system," instead of being under the shepherding of the flock by scriptural design. For the elders to impose upon the members to "get over it" is not the kind of decision for them to make -- that is not what the scriptures designate shepherds as individuals working among the flock, and that does nothing to resolve the conflict. Leaders have been quick to point out that there's something wrong with the believers when they do not agree with the changes being carried out by the seekers. (These believers are still in the majority considering that many have already left.) But the same leaders refuse to acknowledge the fact that the seekers are indeed the insensitive intruders who have created this conflict in the first place. Is the church headed towards another apostasy in the 21st century?
Beloved elders, please wake up. Only you can STOP this powerful force of the "community church" movement. Christians owe their loyalty and allegiance to Christ, and not to prominent individuals, such as Rick Warren (Saddleback) and Bill Hybels (Willow Creek) or our own Rubel Shelly and others, whose crafty scheme and brainwashing program of selling or marketing Christianity at any cost are designed to "get rid of Biblical Christians to gain numbers."