A NEW BIG PICTURE: “THE CHANGE AGENTS ARE COMING! THE CHANGE AGENTS ARE COMING!”
Some congregations of the church of Christ are getting caught up in the excitement experienced by many previously conservative denominational churches which have “successfully” transitioned to the culture-driven, community-based church growth schemes. Generally, churches of Christ with strong biblical and spiritual leadership and with effective Bible study programs are most resistant to these schemes. However, such resistance is being overridden and overpowered by misdirected, power-driven prominent change agents in operation within the church.
This article is intended to give both church leaders and members a quick overview of the Change Movement, a spiritual disease that’s infecting our brotherhood, even as we speak. Incorporating changes in denominational churches is usually more easily accomplished than in churches of Christ. This is due to these main factors: our heritage, the uniqueness of the church, and the power of the Restoration principles embedded in the minds of faithful members. But complacency and unquestioning acceptance of the change schemes will only hasten another division in the church, if not its extinction, in the 21st century.
I will attempt to present both: (A.1)
a simplified method and (A.2)
a more detailed list of procedures aimed at TRANSITIONING AN ALREADY ESTABLISHED CHURCH. I will attempt to briefly but clearly define (B)
the role of PROMINENT CHANGE AGENTS IN THE CHURCH. Finally, I will provide (C)
a CHECKLIST TO EVALUATE THE TRANSITION IN PROGRESS.
It is an impossibility to include all the aspects of the various change movements at this time, even the evil attempts of the change advocates who are selfishly motivated to seize power within. So, this thread will be dedicated and restricted only to this specific topic and will be updated or expanded in time.
A.1 — SIMPLIFIED PROCESS OF TRANSITIONING AN ESTABLISHED CHURCH
——— SOURCE: http://www.churchtransitions.com/about_cti.htm
The process of transition that we teach is a simple one:
STEP 1—Prepare for change
STEP 2—Define your changes
STEP 3—Plant your vision with your key leaders
STEP 4—Share your vision with the whole church
STEP 5—Implement your changes
STEP 6—Deal with the opposition
STEP 7—Make adjustments
STEP 8—Evaluate the result
Dan Southerland is the founder and director of Church Transitions Inc. Dan developed
this process for change while serving as the pastor/teacher of the Flamingo Road Church
in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. During the thirteen years of his ministry at Flamingo Road, the church
made some major changes:
APPROACH ——— from being program driven to being purpose driven.
TARGET ————— from reaching believers to reaching the unchurched.
WORSHIP ———— from traditional to contemporary.
PASTORS ———— from a senior pastor model to a shared pastor model.
LEADERSHIP——— from a committee led church to being staff led.
MINISTRY ———— from pastors doing all the ministry to pastors equipping people.
SMALL GROUPS — from a traditional Sunday School to a relational cell group model.
SERVICES --——— from one weekend worship service to five weekend services.
He has been teaching at the Purpose Driven Church conference held by Saddleback Church
for the past 5 years as well. About half of the events we do each year are co-sponsored
by Saddleback Church and Purpose Driven Ministries.
A.2 — ANOTHER METHOD: HOW TO TRANSITION AN ESTABLISHED CHURCH
——— SOURCE: http://www.pastors.com/article.asp?ArtID (Chuck McAlister)
The following steps can be applied, I believe, to any church that desires to make this transition.
Our transition involved an eleven year process that continues to this day and will continue….
PLAN YOUR TRANSITION: A PRESCRIBED PROCEDURE IN THE FOLLOWING ORDER
— Focus on preaching for change to set the stage for determining your church purpose.
— Determine your church purpose: must embrace the five NT purposes for a church.
— Emphasize the church’s responsibility to reach the unchurched.
— Launch a New Member’s class.
— Encourage your members to embrace the church purpose as their personal purpose.
— Adopt new church by-laws: organizational concept and structure of the church biblical.
— Implement a covenant process for personal, spiritual growth of church members.
— Enlist the support of your senior adults.
— Transition the church ministry to the people; the maint. of the church to the staff (paid or volunteer).
— Transition the education ministry to make it life-empowering.
— Lead the church to decide to relocate.
— Locate new property for the relocation.
— Pay for property.
— Plan for a new facility.
— Raise funds for the new facility.
— Lead the church to change its name in preparation for the relocation.
— Launch in-home community groups
MULTIPLE STEPS INVOLVED IN EACH OF THE STAGES LISTED ABOVE: STEPS THAT
NECESSARILY INCLUDED OWNERSHIP OF THE CHANGE BY THE PEOPLE OF THE CHURCH
— Work your plan—stay committed … in spite of the challenges … the people who leave your church.
— Communicate your vision regularly—the validity of each stage of the process.
— — We utilize our New Member’s Class to share the process with those coming into our church.
— — We then ask our newcomers to take ownership of our vision by making four commitments:
— — (1) Learn their spiritual gifts; determine where they would like to minister through our church;
— — (2) Tithe;
— — (3) Join a small group (Fellowship Bible Study class);
— — (4) Write out their story (testimony) of how they came to Jesus personally,
— — — - which they are encouraged to share with non-believers.
— Take your time—give people an opportunity to buy into each step of the plan.
— Maintain flexibility—the key word is adaptability . . . the uniqueness of your church.
— Stay put—the transition process takes years . . . cannot be accomplished in a few months.
— Refuse to abandon your process—the distractions will be numerous; problems will arise.
— Become an expert on the process of change—you need His supernatural involvement.
— Stay connected with and enlist the support of your senior adults.
— Continually emphasize your church’s responsibility to reach the unchurched.
— Graciously release those members who choose to leave—it will not please everyone.
— Celebrate the completion of each advance—celebration builds momentum.
— Always honor Jesus—never take the credit when things go well.
— Don’t be afraid to take risks:
— — For that reason, you must wait to construct the new facility only after you have sufficiently
— — transitioned the church, so that it is a new church occupying a new facility. … As you prepare
— — to transition to your new facility, remember that while the new building is important,
— — you must guard against it becoming the defining element of your church’s ministry.
— Keep your sense of humor—enjoy the journey rather than viewing it as a drudgery.
— Constantly pray for God’s wisdom—in each decision you face in transitioning a church.
— Maintain your personal integrity and your walk with God.
SIMULTANEOUSLY TRANSITION YOUR WORSHIP STYLE AS YOU MOVE THROUGH THE PROCESS OF CHANGE.
B. PROMINENT CHANGE AGENTS IN THE CHURCH OF CHRIST—THEIR UNIQUE BEHAVIOR PATTERN
WHAT ARE CHANGE AGENTS?
What is a “closet change agent”? When asked this question, John Waddey responded as follows: “A change agent is a false teacher within the brotherhood of Churches of Christ who is not content to follow the faith and practice of Christianity as set forth in the pages of the New Testament. He or she therefore works to convince our brethren that they should adopt changes in their faith, worship and practice that will be more acceptable to the world of the 21st century. The adjective ‘closet’ means they operate undercover, or covertly to accomplish their evil purposes.”
Kenneth Sublett has stated in a recent post, “End Time Serpents with Horns”: “We have NOTED SEVERAL times that the band of CHANGE AGENTS all WRITE (Scribes) and they all endorse and sell one another’s books. Even events such as the recent “Look to the Hills” are the prophetic TRAFFICKING. This fulfills the first century and the present Satan sending out a FLOOD of waters trying to wash the Word and Church off the earth. [Many] churches are involved in the same thing on a lesser scale: sending out sermonic renderings and new style a cappella praise music to SEDATE. These are Apollo’s LOCUSTS whichever wing they fly on.”
Sublett states further: “There is now a FLOOD of new books. It suggests that the Accusers of the Church are in a TRAFFICKING pattern to make money and ACCUSE the brethren who pay their UNLAWFUL wages. It works, as Paul might say, ‘because fools love to be fooled.’ . . . Purpose-driven CHANGE AGENTS believe that they have the right to lie, cheat, steal, threaten and use the law to steal the church property.”
WHO ARE CHANGE AGENTS?
John Waddey states: “The most prominent of our self-appointed ‘agents of change’ is Bro. RUBEL SHELLY of Nashville, TN.” MAX LUCADO of the Oak Hills Church (formerly Oak Hills Church of Christ) is one of the prominent CHANGE AGENTS in the church today. His website describes him in “UpWords” (his teaching ministry) as a prolific writer “with more than 28 million books in print.” Other influential leaders of the change movement are Joe Beam, Lynn Anderson, Jeff Walling, Mike Cope, Terry Rush, and Marvin Phillips. There are others.
Waddey cites examples of who they are in his article “Little Men”:
--- Men who do harm to the body of Christ while being supported to build it up.
--- Men who claim to be helping the church while fomenting chaos and strife within.
--- Men who rush forward to offer a fix for the problems they themselves have created.
--- --- They offer staff services to help churches resolve the conflicts caused by their changes.
--- Men who seek to build their status and influence by bashing and attempting to discredit the godly …
--- --- preachers who blazed the trail before them and built the congregations where they now serve.
--- Men whose teaching and practice lowers respect for the authority of God’s Word.
--- Men who refuse to recognize and honor the church of Christ as the body of Christ.
--- Men who think they know more about how to worship God than did Christ . . .
--- Men who undertake to change the unchangeable kingdom of Christ.
--- Men who presume that the new is better than the old in the realm of faith.
--- --- They care nothing for the old paths (Jer. 6:16).
--- --- They are like the pagan Athenians, always searching for something new or different.
--- Men who’d rather not speak boldly of Christ as the “founder” of the church of Christ.
--- Men who prefer to speak of Campbell and Stone as founders of their denomination.
--- Men whose favorite word is “grace” to mean salvation without obeying its conditions.
--- Men who love to speak of “freedom” to ignore Bible teachings on worship restrictions.
--- Men who love freedom to fellowship and be accepted by denominational bodies.
--- Men who speak of “patternism” as a sarcastic put down of the brethren true to God’s pattern.
--- Men who thirst for an emotion-based worship in the electronic churches of the televangelists.
WHAT ARE SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF “CHANGE AGENTS” (AS THEY ATTEMPT TO PRESENT
THEMSELVES AS THEOLOGIANS WHO HAVE DISCOVERED NEW TRUTHS)?
Change agents operate on faulty assumptions, John Waddey avers:
--- That they have discovered a more spiritual kind of religion now than before.
--- That only they know, understand and appreciate the grace of God.
--- That only they understand the blessings/benefits of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling.
--- That our concept is “restoration” of a specific congregation from 1st century.
--- That they have discovered a new and superior approach to Bible interpretation.
--- --- With that they claim to have found the true nature of the church.
--- --- In reality, it is the old, emotion-based, subjective approach of Protestantism.
--- --- Their Bible is a story book, serving only as a source for quotes for sermons,
--- --- --- but not for regulating/guiding the faith, worship & practice of the church.
--- That we are only interested in the doctrines and practices of the church.
--- That we are not truly dedicated to Christ and trying to be like him—they are.
--- That we are narrow, bigoted, and legalistic—they’re not.
--- That we claim that we are a perfect church. (Do you claim that?)
--- That we claim that we have attained complete compliance with every aspect
--- --- of Christ’s will for us. (Do you claim that?)
--- That we have misunderstood the way men are to be saved.
--- That we should be labeled “traditionalists” for our unwillingness to change.
--- --- When the truth is this: it is not change that we reject; . . .
--- --- --- Rather, we reject unlawful departure from God’s authorized Word and way.
--- --- When we are willing to change non-essentials (NOT substance or nature), as:
--- --- --- The hour, the length or the order of services …
--- --- --- Trying new songs or new hymnals …
--- --- --- Considering different methods of observing a communion service …
--- --- --- Accepting names for the church as long as they are all biblical …
--- --- --- --- without dismissing or discrediting the name of Christ, its head
--- --- When we do not consider “apostolic” traditions such “other” traditions as:
--- --- --- A tradition of a one hour worship service—that can change
--- --- --- A tradition that calls for half hour sermons—that can change
--- --- --- A tradition that expects a preacher to wear a coat and tie—that can change
--- --- --- A tradition that we wear shoes to church—that can change
--- --- --- A tradition that our meeting houses are built accordingly—that can change
--- That they can promote their changes without making one realize that TO DO SO:
--- --- The concept of restoring the original New Testament church is abandoned.
--- --- The changes advocated were not a part of the original church.
--- --- Ties are severed with those noble saints who went before us.
--- --- --- The faith and preaching of those predecessors would be incompatible with
--- --- --- --- the advocates of change … Like oil and water they would not mix …
--- --- Changes proposed will make the congregation one of 1200 denominations.
--- --- You are alienated/out of fellowship with simple Christians—churches of Christ.
--- --- The faith once delivered to the saints is abandoned.
--- --- Participation in causing division in the body of Christ is a fearful thought.
Change agents are committed to change the church of Christ
The third major segment below is a detailed list of changes that will reveal more of the characteristics and activities of change agents infiltrating, subverting the truth, fostering schism and acquiring your congregation. A careful examination of the list of changes will help pinpoint or isolate the SPECIFIC CHANGES that have caused “casualties”—expected or unexpected—in a particular congregation.
C. EVALUATION OF THE CHANGE PACKAGE IMPLEMENTED IN THE TRANSITIONING CHURCH OF CHRIST
Below is a compiled list taken from various sources, especially from various articles written by John Waddey. The list of changes will reveal more of the characteristics and activities of change agents infiltrating, subverting the truth, fostering schism and eventually acquiring your congregation. The purpose here is to have a means by which a congregation in transition or “transformation” stage may be evaluated in terms of the extent of progress made or the lack thereof. Churches vary in the level or depth of implementation of the Community Church scheme for church growth. For example, a congregation may adopt only a small segment from the list. But that segment may pinpoint or isolate the factors that have caused a church to grow or dwindle.
May I suggest that you print the list and mark only the items that, to the best of your knowledge, are applicable to your congregation’s situation. An honest personal evaluation may assist in determining where your congregation stands on particular conflicts and issues.
AGENTS ADVOCATING CHANGE: THEIR OBJECTIVES AND ACTIVITIES
[_] Agents of change are busy rewriting our church history to: . . .
[_] --- Paint a different picture of the goals and intentions of our forefathers and
[_] --- Wish to cast their efforts as a “unity movement” and
[_] --- Depict them as seeking fellowship with and not rejecting denominationalism
[_] Prominent change agents are invited by churches and schools as guest speakers:
[_] --- Rubel Shelly, Max Lucado, Lynn Anderson, Jeff Walling, Joe Beam, etc.
[_] Interlopers must be resolved not to leave; others against change must leave
[_] Interlopers are not obligated to start their own from scratch
[_] Young people are the future of the church; their needs must be met with urgency
[_] Homebuilders (parents in their 30’s & 40’s) are the key to a successful program
[_] Transition is a long-range mission accomplished after passing of older generation
[_] Their goal is conquest and dominance of the entire brotherhood
[_] Their scheme is to first transform large congregations
[_] They insure that buildings, facilities and property are not acquired until fully paid
[_] They insure that the subverted will not overthrow their schemes and plans
[_] They are never to admit being false teachers so as not to be rejected
[_] They resort to warning the non-accepting brethren to “get over it”
[_] They claim to be helping the church to disguise their fomented chaos and strife
[_] They rush forward to offer a fix to disguise problems they have created
[_] They send a team to resolve conflicts caused by their changes
[_] They advocate that leading and guidance emanate from the Holy Spirit
[_] They label the unwilling to submit as narrow, bigoted, legalistic and Pharisaical
[_] They label the unwilling to submit as “traditionalists” and them as “progressives”
[_] They accuse the unwilling to submit as claiming to be the perfect church
[_] They claim to have found the true nature of the church
[_] They abandon the concept of restoring the original New Testament church
[_] They preach that the absence of a “thou shalt not” means a practice is condoned
[_] They sever ties with our predecessors as much as possible; discredit their efforts
[_] They label the unwilling to submit as the ones inconsiderate and without love
[_] They emphasize “fellowshipping” [among the sects]; “brotherhood” is exclusive
[_] They share fellowship with denominational preachers, churches and events
[_] They do not refer to “the Lord’s church”—that is being exclusive of others
[_] They do not refer to the church as the kingdom and also to the reign of Christ
[_] They refer to the church only as “our faith tradition” just as others have theirs
[_] They define “freedom” as a way to ignore Bible teachings on worship restrictions
[_] They feel extended “brotherhood” should encompass the Christian Churches
[_] They implement a market-driven program to provide what people want or seek
[_] They divide an existing congregation so as to implement the “community” model
[_] They have less contact and fellowship with mainline churches of Christ
CRITICISM FOR EFFORTS OF THE PAST: EXAGGERATED AND ENCOURAGED
[_] A superior way of “doing church” has been discovered
[_] Those over 50 are stubborn, close-minded and impervious to change
[_] The church of Christ of the Restoration Movement is just another denomination
[_] Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone founded the “Church of Christ”
[_] The church of Christ is a real, bona fide, but pitiful denomination
[_] The church of Christ is the poorest of the evangelical denominations
[_] Ties with those noble saints who went before us are severed
[_] The faith and preaching of predecessors are incompatible with those of change
[_] Men of Restoration were imperfect men and often taught erroneously
COMMUNITY CHURCH: MODEL FOR CHURCH OF CHRIST IN TRANSITION
[_] Dismiss or discredit the biblical name “church of Christ”
[_] Despise and ridicule Christ’s church and make it irrelevant
[_] De-emphasize the glory and honor to Christ, the head and founder
[_] The name “church of Christ” is offensive to denominational groups
[_] Crave acceptance with neighbors of the evangelical churches
[_] Do not want to bear the stigma of being exclusive from the denominations
[_] Mask from the community any affiliation with other churches of Christ
[_] Choose the model of being a “non-denominational” community church
[_] Prefer to identify with other groups rather than with your own brethren
[_] One motive is to place little or no emphasis on doctrinal loyalty
[_] Open to exchange, substitute or employ ministers from other denominations
[_] Allow acceptance of denominational churches as in good standing with God
[_] Encourage fellowship with denominational bodies
[_] The trend or direction is away from New Testament Christianity
[_] Transform congregations into charismatic, denominational churches
[_] Accept the new status of the church of Christ as a denomination
MODERNIZE THE CHURCH: THE SECULAR- OR CULTURE-DRIVEN APPROACH
[_] Celebrate Jesus’ birthday, like it or not; observe the Christmas pagan holiday
[_] Celebrate the “special” annual resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday
[_] Make Valentine’s Day a church event—apart from but similar to a social event
BIBLE TRANSLATION & OTHER SOURCES: NEW TESTAMENT PRINCIPLES DEVALUED
[_] Do not be publicly identified as a church with exclusive beliefs
[_] The Saddleback manual, “The Purpose-Driven Church” is a must-have resource
[_] Bible study materials may be obtained from denominational sources
[_] Be not concerned about the NIV version—a translational dialogue to consensus
[_] Church leaders should choose the NIV translation of the Bible for public reading
[_] Teachers should choose the NIV translation of the Bible (if used) in studies
[_] The New Testament is not the ultimate and absolute authority in faith matters
[_] Question the Bible’s inerrancy, its verbal inspiration and its authority
[_] The New Testament should not be viewed as a law to be obeyed
[_] The New Testament should be viewed as a love letter from God to His children
[_] Church leaders should implement a Covenant of Membership—Saddleback model
[_] Use drama as a learning tool with made up (non-factual) stories to entertain
[_] Do less teaching directly from the scriptures as that would be too boring
CHURCH LEADERSHIP, ORGANIZATION, GOVERNMENT: EXPERIMENTATION
[_] “Shepherds” rather than “elders” is the preferred way to identify the leaders
[_] New concepts of leadership for the congregation may be experimented
[_] One approach to a new and improved leadership is by “hierarchical” design
[_] Use a different kind of leadership model than “authoritarian” elders
[_] Define the role of women in the larger context of the biblical witness
[_] Dispute the passages that relegate women to a silent role
[_] Allow women to assume leadership roles and positions in the life of the church
[_] Allow women to serve as deaconesses, as ministers or preachers
[_] Allow older women to teach classes with baptized young men present
WORSHIP: THE TRENDING “MUSICAL” WORSHIP CONTENT AND CASUALNESS
[_] It is not necessary to worship according to the New Testament pattern
[_] Change in worship content is excusable: because people like it
[_] Change in worship content is excusable: because young people demand it
[_] Change in worship content is excusable: because it feels so wonderful
[_] Change in worship content is excusable: where does the Bible forbid it?
[_] It should be an entertaining experience
[_] It should be based on emotion and popular opinion or practice
[_] Model emotion-based worship from the electronic churches of televangelists
[_] Use the excuse of “the audience of one” when musical worship is criticized
[_] Emphasize casualness in worship as a sign of being accepting
[_] Greatly emphasize “self,” including one’s own feelings and emotions in worship
[_] The Old Testament with its old laws is no less important to us than the New
[_] Provide the “traditional” and “contemporary” worship service alternatives
[_] Shorten the sermon; include more “religious” jokes or irrelevant funny stories
[_] Sermons may now end with an invitation to accept Christ by faith to be saved
[_] Tithing in Old Testament is binding on New Testament Christians
[_] Applaud the new convert after baptism as an outward show of rejoicing
[_] --- It won’t be long when there’s applause after the Communion
[_] Musical worship must be strongly emphasized
[_] The human-designated WORSHIP LEADER is now a high-level position
[_] The worship leader should initiate the handclapping on stage after a song
[_] The worship leader should encourage rhythmic handclapping while singing
[_] Allow the use of musical instruments in worship
[_] Allow the use of choirs, solos, duets, trios, quartets
[_] The choir must dominate the musical worship with excellent performances
[_] The choir must rehearse all parts of the musical worship in order to perform well
[_] The choir—not the congregation—must learn the new songs first
[_] The choir must deliver the music; the congregation may join in the singing
[_] For the transitioning church of Christ, the choir should be called “Praise Team”
[_] Music should be sometimes so complex that only the Praise Team can perform
[_] Praise songs and choruses should be “upbeat” to induce handclapping
[_] Use rhythmic, programmed handclapping to convey message of joy
[_] Use lifting of hand in prayer and singing to signify reaching up in praise
[_] Applaud after an exciting and cheering song has been sung
[_] Discourage the use of a hymn book and focus attention to the worship leader
[_] Discourage the use of a hymn book by not giving enough time to open it
[_] Avoid hymns unless there’s a “praise” song for the communion
[_] Avoid hymns unless there’s a “praise” song for the invitation
[_] Avoid hymns unless they’re new and hymn books may be opened then
[_] Avoid hymns unless they’re new and the Praise Team can perform them then
THE LORD’S SUPPER AND SOCIAL FELLOWSHIP—MORE THAN JUST A MEMORIAL
[_] The sacred meal can be mixed with a common or fellowship or pot luck meal
[_] The feast may be observed on another day not ordained by God
[_] Frequency of observance may be monthly, quarterly as the denominations do
[_] It is not only a sacred memorial of the death of Christ
[_] It is also to be observed as a “joyful celebration”
[_] It is also the occasion or a means of “fellowshipping” one with another
[_] There should be some story telling and human testimonies to be meaningful
[_] Praise Team members must be skilled during the partaking of the Communion:
[_] --- while singing or humming, clapping, holding the microphone and sheet music
[_] --- and remembering Christ’s suffering, crucifixion and death
DOCTRINES DERIVED FROM DENOMINATIONS: BIBLICAL TRUTH BEING PERVERTED
[_] Salvation is by grace through faith or by faith alone
[_] Deemphasize and deride the steps necessary for salvation
[_] De-emphasize the importance of baptism
[_] Baptism is no longer for the purpose of remitting sins
[_] Accept the Baptist doctrine of baptism as an after-the-fact ritual
[_] Baptism is the first act of obedience after being saved by faith
[_] Only accept the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior and be saved
[_] Follow the confession by praying the “sinner’s prayer” and be saved
HOLY SPIRIT and SPIRITUAL GIFTS: TEACHINGS IMITATED BY THE AGENTS
[_] Worship “in spirit” should mean being “charismatic” in today’s language
[_] The holy Spirit of God or of Christ “directly” influences the individual Christian
[_] The holy Spirit of God or of Christ “directly” influences “the congregation”
[_] We must listen to the Holy Spirit for a call or whisper
[_] The indwelling of God’s Spirit makes a Christian “charismatic”
[_] Being “spirit-filled” means being “charismatic” in today’s language
[_] Music, although not listed in the Corinthian letter, is considered a spiritual gift
[_] Miracles, similar to those performed during the apostolic era, still exist today
[_] Speaking in tongues, contrary to I Corinthians 13, has not “ceased” yet
[_] Hold the Pentecostal view of another baptism—that of the Holy Spirit
[_] Perform “speaking in tongues” in public prayer as a testimony