In This Issue...
THE COMMUNITY CHURCH
It is an honor and privilege for me to know and serve with Gary
McDade. He and I, along with John Shannon, the evangelist for the
James Road Church of Christ, have labored together on the
"Friend of Truth" television program for several years in
Gary is a Christian gentleman who speaks the truth in love (Eph.
4:15). I appreciate Gary for being faithful and fearless in the
proclamation and defense of New Testament Christianity (II Tim.
4:1-2; Phil. 1:17). He earnestly desires to speak "the
oracles of God" (I Pet. 4:11). And, his willingness to preach
"the whole counsel of God" serves as a great example to
all who preach or aspire to preach (Acts 20:27).
While the Community Church concept is garnering attention and
gaining momentum among some of our brethren, Gary has done an
invaluable service by analyzing this movement in light of God's
holy and inspired word (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:3-4; I Thess.
5:21). In compliance with Romans 16:17-18, Gary marks those who
are propagating the movement and isolates their pattern for change.
This monumental work seeks to stem the tide of digression among us
and uphold the pristine beauty of the New Testament church, the
body of Christ.
commend this publication to all who read it. May God be glorified
and his church unified through the truth (Eph. 3:21; Jn.
The Community Church has invaded churches of Christ as a
movement permeating into the body of Christ from market-approach
driven denominational churches weary of lagging attendance and
faltering financial support. The models being followed by those
enamored with the Community Church approach to church organization
and methodology being Willow Creek and Saddleback have become well
known within denominational circles, but the churches of Christ to
this point in time have seen little in print on them. Reviews of
the Community Church movement have fallen behind in regard to
biblical refutation of the error it presents. This tract attempts
to fill that seeming void.
This material has been placed into tract form for ease of
disbursement. Much of this material earlier has appeared in
lectureship books, brotherhood papers, and bulletin articles, but
the compact size and focused content of a tract may be more easily
handed out to those who question what the Community Church movement
is within churches of Christ. Already requests have come for
information to give friends and relatives in other states
experiencing the drastic changes which attend the movement that
shows something of its origins and dangers.
The names of those leading the brethren into the Community
Church movement have been supplied without trepidation. It is not
enough to acknowledge the disturbing of the brotherhood in general
and faithful congregations in particular by the Community Church
movement. In order to expunge its evil influence from churches of
Christ someone needs to be specific about the people, institutions,
and congregations of the churches of Christ who are advancing the
departure from heaven's way. This task is lovingly undertaken in
the pages which follow. Ample endnotes document the evidence
presented so the reader personally may investigate the exposure.
Perhaps the departure, especially of the younger Christians,
into the Community Church movement can be stemmed by making the
information of its origin, nature, and current expression within
churches of Christ available. Whatever the future holds for the
Community Church movement among churches of Christ know this, a
valiant army of faithful brethren, preachers, teachers, elders,
deacons, and members alike, who follow no captain other than Jesus
Christ (Heb. 2:10) unflinchingly are standing in defense of the
soul saving gospel of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:17).
THE COMMUNITY CHURCH
In New Testament times doctrinal error tended to crystallize
around specific groups like the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Judaizers
and around specific individuals like Hymenaeus, Alexander,
Phygellus, Hermongenes, Alexander the coppersmith, and Diotrephes.
It is no different today. This investigation will expose the
doctrinal error that has crystallized around the Community Church
as this form of religious expression is being adopted by some
churches of Christ and some specific congregations and individuals
who are the source of the problem. Additionally, an approximation
of the current size and apparent strength of the movement will be
God inspired men to warn the church of imminent danger in the
first century. Today, those who follow the apostles' doctrine will
too. The Ephesians' elders were told, "Take heed therefore
unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy
Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he
hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my
departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the
flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse
things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and
remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn
every one night and day with tears" (Acts 20:28-31). The Holy
Spirit has informed the church that in the latter times some will
depart from the faith. Paul wrote, "Now the Spirit speaketh
expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the
faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a
hot iron" (I Tim. 4:1-2). It is particularly sad when many of
the ones departing from the faith have been friends, co-workers,
acquaintances, and even family members. This pain should yield
voices of concern not sheepish silence.
A pattern is "a form or model proposed for
use of the word as it appears in the New Testament received
twenty-five pages of attention in Goebel Music's book
Behold The Pattern.(2)
A summation of the pattern as used in the New
Testament suggests, "The gospel is the mould; those who are
obedient to its teachings become conformed to Christ. . . .
Christian teaching as a mould and norm. . . . In context, the
teaching can be described as the mould and norm which shapes the
whole personal conduct of the one who is delivered up to it and has
become obedient thereto." In short, it is "an example to
be copied."(3) The apostle
Paul urged conformity to Christ not the world in Romans 12:1- 2,
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable
unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed
to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect,
will of God."
THE CORRUPT PATTERN
The Epistle to the Romans not only affirms that a pattern or
form exists which God has carefully planned and announced through
the gospel of Christ but that this pattern must be obeyed. Paul
said, "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants
to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto
death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked,
that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart
that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made
free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness" (Rom.
6:16-18). In the life of a faithful Christian, a "pattern of
good works" must emerge (Titus 2:7). An abiding conviction of
these truths should promote the proper response of earnestly
contending for the faith which was once for all delivered to the
saints (Jude 3).
Instead of accepting and following the Divine pattern, the word
of God, the manmade Community Church pattern has been substituted.
In most cases the same brethren who consistently have rejected
following the word of God as a pattern, stressing that strict
conformity to it constitutes legalism, ironically have replaced the
word of God with the Community Church pattern and are meticulously
loyal to it. In following the false pattern of the Community
Church these brethren have espoused that which they formerly
renounced, that is, the validity of following a specific form of
doctrine or teaching.
THE CONCEPTION OF THE CORRUPT PATTERN
One of the sources from which this departure from the truth
comes is a book written in 1992 by Rubel Shelly and Lipscomb
University professor Randy Harris entitled, The Second
In a review exposing this diatribe, Curtis Cates wrote under
the heading, "No Pattern Exists For The Church:"
THE CENTER OF THE CORRUPT PATTERN
This latest philosophy of brethren Shelly and Harris demands
that one abandon the "deep rut" error that the New
Testament is a pattern for the church; they reject that pattern.
They write that man seeks a "paradigm for imitation,"
which they will give in their book, they say (p. 5); yet, they
write, "We reject a rigid 'pattern theology'" (p. 31).
Anyone can see that this is double-talk. I take it that they feel
that putting such self-contradictions far enough apart in their
book will disguise these opposing, irreconcilable, and unbelievable
statements from the readers; however, one recognizes that the word
pattern! Are they saying God will not/does not give a
pattern but they will? How
presumptuous! We are not fooled; we will not
follow these blind leaders in rejecting the New Testament pattern
to concoct a "paradigm" of their own.(4)
The catechizing effect of The Second
Incarnationby Shelly and
Harris is proven by an example which appeared in the church bulletin
from "The Family of God at Brownsville Road, a Church of
Christ." The pulpit minister there, Mark Claypool, wrote an
article titled, "A Tale Of Two Churches" in which he
contrasted two imagined churches, one called the "Institutional
Church of Christ" and the other called the "Incarnational
Church of Christ." In the article, following the New Testament
pattern of organization is castigated while following the
incarnational model as suggested by such heretics as Shelly and
Harris is elevated to sublime heights. "A Tale Of Two
Churches" is a story told in epic tradition, but the caustic
criticism of the New Testament pattern is painfully
it becomes clear that brethren are following some form of doctrine
as a pattern to be imitated. Whether the pattern followed is the
New Testament or a manmade pattern, a discernable, identifiable
system of teaching is being followed. In the former instance, the
churches of Christ are emerging; in the latter case, denominational
churches are emerging.
Handbook Of Denominations In The United States
written and edited by the late Frank S. Mead is a classic
work on the subject and was revised in 1995 by Samuel S. Hill. The
entry on the Community Church bears the heading, "Community
Churches, International Council Of."(6)
Community Churches began around the mid 1800s and
nationally were organized first in 1923. The historical Community
Church presently has about 250,000 members in about 400 churches.
says, "...Each church is adjusted
to the needs of a different community," so "... there
is much variety among Community Churches...." What is of particular
interest in searching for the background of the Community Church
pattern that is the source of much unrest in churches of Christ
today is the stated purpose of the historical Community Church.
Again, the Handbook says,
THE CONTEMPORARY CORRUPT PATTERN
are a result of the desire to eliminate overchurching [sic] in some
communities and solve attendant economic and staffing problems; to
replace the restrictiveness and divisiveness of denominationalism
with self-determination and Christian unity; to refocus primary
loyalty from organizations outside a community to the community
itself and, by addressing specific needs there, to effect a more
It appears that a historical Community Church is a freelance
denominational church which may or may not have national or
international ties with others of the denomination. Therefore, the
earliest traceable roots of the Community Church pattern are sunk
deep in unrestricted denominationalism with a needs-based approach
that seeks "to effect a more relevant religion" than is
offered in mainline denominationalism. However, the historic
Community Church lacks the glamour and appeal of the megachurch
model furnished by the contemporary pattern for the Community
The danger and propensity of preferring and following man's way
over God's is a theme thoughtful students of the Bible readily
recognize. The Messiah was mandated because man has a tendency to
go astray from God's way. Isaiah wrote, "All we like sheep
have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the
LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6).
Jeremiah said, "O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in
himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps"
(Jer. 10:23). And, the Proverbs teach, "There is a way which
seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of
death" (Prov. 14:12). Down through the history of man one
truth is consistent and that is that man is not consistent in
obeying God's will.
THE CORRUPT PATTERN CLOSE BY
A reminder of a well-known departure from the truth will help
establish the reason for the concern at hand over the Community
Church pattern now being espoused. Two decades ago a movement
threatened the churches of Christ on a worldwide scale. Today it is
known as International Churches of Christ which is the Multiplying
Ministry of the Boston Church of Christ. Then it was first known
as the Crossroads movement out of Gainsville, Florida. Now it is
headed up by Kip McKean, then it was spearheaded by Chuck Lucas.
The hotbed of the movement was college campuses across the country,
especially those where local churches of Christ drew attendance
from the respective student bodies. Young people displaced from
their families were subjected to nothing less than rudimentary mind
control tactics from savvy Campus Ministers. The hurt suffered by
the bride of Christ is now legendary. But, the source of the pain
was discovered and revealed just as the Community Church pattern is
now being exposed. Perhaps informed brethren will recall
The Master Plan Of
Evangelism written by Robert E. Coleman. It was first
published by this Nazarene preacher in 1963 and by 1982 boasted a
circulation of more than three million copies and translation into
more than seventy languages. It provided the basis for the
movement. It is the essence of the writings of Milton Lee Jones,
a member of the Church of Christ whose little books have brought
"The Master Plan" into the Lord's church far and wide.
Coleman's little 126 page book has been sufficient to inject the
body of Christ with a poison lethal enough to kill entire
congregations in various places around the world. Just as the
source for the Crossroads/Multiplying Ministry or International
Churches of Christ error was isolated in the early to mid 1980's,
even so the source for the Community Church pattern needs to be
isolated today so the error it espouses can be fully exposed and
The background development of the Community Church pattern
emerges out of the so called new hermeneutic or unity-in-diversity
movement that has enjoyed widespread acceptance. The new
hermeneutic was discovered to be nothing more than a rejection of
understanding that the Bible authorizes by means of direct
commands, apostolic examples, and implication. Those who became
embroiled in the new hermeneutic had no standard to follow.
Dominant personalities set the pace. But, even among the likes of
Rubel Shelly, Randy Harris, Carroll Osburn, Mike Cope, Jeff
Walling, and Lynn Anderson no system to tie the movement together
was suggested to replace the one they rejected. These men knew
that just as soon as their new system of supposed Bible
interpretation was presented to the brotherhood that allowed the
things for which they stood, such as open fellowship with the
denominations, corruption of the worship, and a virtual eradication
of evangelism, they would be taken to task just as scholars among
us like Curtis Cates have done in refuting Shelly's Second
Kingdom to name only two. It does not take long for
departures from the truth to crystallize around personalities or
favorite teachings. Paul illustrated this in First Corinthians
chapter one at verses twelve and thirteen, "Now this I say,
that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I
of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified
for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" To young
Timothy Paul said, ". . . Charge some that they teach no other
doctrine" (I Tim. 1:3b). John wrote of "the doctrine of
the Nicolaitanes" in Revelation 2:15. At least part of this
new hermeneutic or unity-in-diversity movement has now crystallized
into the Community Church pattern.
The model or pattern for the contemporary Community Church
advancing beyond the historical Community Church is the Willow
Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. The pastor,
promoter, and prelate of this megachurch is Bill Hybels. It has
been featured on the Public Broadcasting Station as the wave of the
future in religion. Its methods are promoted in seminars which
broadly are advertized across the nation. Prominent preachers in
churches of Christ like Wayne Kilpatrick have visited Willow Creek
Community Church and returned to sing its praises.(7)
"Change agents" within
the churches of Christ today publicly have stimulated interest in
the Willow Creek model. (The term "change agents" aptly
was coined by brother William Woodson in his book exposing their
agenda titled Change
Agents and Churches of Christ, A Study in Contemporary
Problems with Change Agents Among Churches of Christ; Athens,
Alabama: School of Bible Emphasis, 1994). How prominent are these
"change agents?" Dr. Gary Holloway is Director of
Graduate Bible at David Lipscomb University, now Lipscomb
University, Bible Department in Nashville, Tennessee. J.E. Choate,
who has performed a valuable service in utilizing his vast
historical knowledge of the restoration movement to provide both
accuracy and truthfulness in articles which challenge the perilous
putrefaction of the "change agents," wrote in the
September 16, 1996, about a paper Holloway read in May of 1995
before the Disciples of Christ Historical Society which later was
published in Discipliana. He said,
Dr. Gary Holloway presented his proposals for this new
denomination before an assembly of the radical Disciples of Christ
whose pulpits are open to gays, liberals, etc. Does Holloway think
to gain favor with DLU alumni and patrons when these facts become
know [sic] to the rank and file of the churches of Christ?
option: The Willow Creek Community Church model based in the
Chicago area is presented as the first of three options proposed to
replace the apostolic pattern. This is the "razzle dazzle
hoopla" type of high
church entertainment with brass bands, special music, dramatic
J. E. Choate further has written, "We
are familiar to some extent with the contemporary 'church
growth' models which are finding their way into post modern Churches
of Christ in Nashville. They are the number one choice Willow Creek
Community Church...."(9) In this same article
written in April of 1998 brother Choate said,
Only the Hendersonville Community Church elects to fly aloft
the "Community Church" banner first lofted by Bill
Hybels. However, the worship and practices of the Woodmont Hill
[sic] Family of God more closely imitate the worship spectaculars
of Willow Creek. Other Nashville churches in the contemporary
worship services also feed at the trough of Bill Hybels' Willow
Choate also suggested an insight into the meaning of
contemporary worship and its source:
The best way to understand what goes on in the
"contemporary worship services" in post modern Churches
is to look again toward Willow Creek. Whatever the popular
evangelical theology of the Chicago based Willow Creek church is,
a major emphasis is on entertainment.
The singing, dancing, and dramatic skits performed at Willow
Creek have all the color and pizzazz of a Broadway show. Rubel
Shelly's church has recently employed a minister responsible for
planning and presenting dramatic skits for the worship services of
the Woodmont Family of God. Ruble's [sic] church is a
"bootleg" version of the Chicago denomination. His
insufferable ego drives him to leave the impression that he is the
"genius" who has created this new model
The presence of the Community Church in Memphis is directly
attributable to two institutions: The Harding Graduate School of
Religion and the Highland Street Church of Christ. Mission:
quarterly newsletter for the Memphis Church Planting Ministry which
is sponsored by Highland Street Church of Christ, in the winter of
1997 told of its beginning,
In the spring of 1994, a group of leaders from Highland
Street church of Christ studied the need to establish new churches
in Memphis. The result of the two and a half year investigation
was the forming of the Memphis Church Planting Ministry (MCPM)
whose purpose is to reach the spiritually lost in Memphis by
forming new, reproducing congregations.
So, Highland Street's two and a half year study of the need to
establish new churches resulted in the establishment of a new
organization called the Memphis Church Planting Ministry (MCPM)
which is led by a full-time coordinator/church planter by the name
of Ron Cook. Ron Cook's unabashed affinity for denominationalism
is presented in Mission: Memphis when he said,
denominations are planting churches; denominations that have
reached a plateau or are on the decline are not planting
churches." When denominations are used as the pattern, it
sounds like the way of the MCPM is the only way to keep from
declining. It certainly is a wonder that any churches ever came
into existence in Memphis before the MCPM was organized. Observe,
the way the apostles "planted" churches in the first
century was by preaching the gospel of Christ as is recorded within
the inspired Book of Acts, but the Coordinator/Church Planter of
the MCPM has a better model after which to pattern. And, what is
that pattern? Growing denominations. Is an undisguised
appreciation for denominationalism really present within the MCPM?
Hear the Coordinator/Church Planter once more from the pages of
Memphis, "Thank God for . . . the Frayser Christian
Church who have provided free use of their classrooms for three
months of weekly group Bible study." What churches has the
MCPM "planted?" The Raleigh Community Church of Christ
was the first plant and the Frayser Community Church of Christ was
next. The MCPM is not essential to the emergence of these
denominational Community Churches because Highland Street had
already "planted" the Downtown Church. Perhaps the
reason the MCPM does not claim the Downtown Church as its own
creation is because that is a "planting" also conceived
by the Harding Graduate School of Religion.
The details of the origin of the Downtown Church in Memphis were
applauded in Harding, public relations magazine
Harding University, in the summer of 1995. The abstract for the
article in the table of contents read, "The church in the
'hood. Plant a church in inner-city Memphis? Six students from
the Graduate School of Religion have done just that--and they've
moved in to make a difference." Scott Morris wrote the
article which said, "The impetus behind the forming of this
congregation in downtown Memphis is Dr. Evertt Huffard, professor
of missions at the Graduate School. . . . Most recently, Huffard
has helped to oversee the development of a new master of religion
degree in urban ministry for the Graduate School." The
Downtown Church has borrowed from denominationalism by employing
the use of a praise team to replace the song leader, the clapping
of hands during the singing, the presence of icons in worship, and
testimonials from the congregation. Again, Morris said in the
Offsetting the harsh realities they face in their world, the
church members recently joined together to add a touch of serenity
to the inside of their building. They painted a mural that
represents to them the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
It serves as their focal point during worship services. Designed
by a young child, the mural features a 25-foot cross on which hangs
the crucified body of Christ. The body is painted a variety of
colors, symbolizing that Christ was a man for all people.
Morris added, "The worship assembly includes a time of
testimony during which members express their thanks for things most
people take for granted." The Lord's supper (I Cor. 11) is
given by Christ through the apostles' doctrine to remind and
represent the death of Christ, not a 25-foot mural like the
Catholic Church has promoted to the elimination of the truth of God
for centuries. The word of God is to be preached in the worship
(II Tim. 4:2), not the personal testimonies of the people like the
denominations have used for years to heighten the emotions of those
assembled (II Cor. 10:12). The pattern followed by these churches
clearly is not the New Testament but the Community Church pattern.
The fact that the intention to continue to follow the Community
Church pattern is present may be realized in yet another article in
Raleigh Community Church was started through the cooperation
of churches. Boulevard Church made a financial contribution and
offered volunteers. An area-wide fundraising [sic] dinner, also
organized by the Boulevard Church, was attended by Christians from
numerous congregations. Southeast Church offered advice from
church planting experience. The Downtown Church loaned folding
chairs and helped with a workday. Highland Street Church, the
sponsoring congregation, provided oversight, some working fund and
supplies. Highland's Women's Ministry donated resources through a
baby shower for the "baby church." Singers from the
Chelsey [sic] Avenue Church held a special concert to encourage
Raleigh Community members and inspire seekers. The story of the
new Frayser church plant will be the same.
While it is disturbing that such activities could ever once take
place by those who were affiliated with the churches of Christ, the
foreboding is exceeded in the promise contained within the last
sentence, "The story of the new Frayser church plant will be
the same." The collection for the saints (I Cor. 16:1-2) was
augmented by "an area-wide fundraising [sic] dinner."
The apostate Southeast Church offered its corrupt advice from its
sad experience in departing from the truth. Highland's Women's
Ministry gave a baby shower to the "baby church." And,
the church choir from Chelsea Avenue supplanted the congregational
singing the word of God ordained (Eph. 5:19) for the purpose of
encouraging and inspiring seekers to follow them into
denominationalism. Then the grand announcement, "The story of
the new Frayser church plant will be the same."
Six Community Churches that remain affiliated with churches of
Christ currently have a presence in Memphis and vicinity. They are
the Downtown Church, the Southeast Church, the Raleigh Community
Church of Christ, the Frayser Community Church of Christ, the
Cordova Community Church, and the Wonder City Church of Christ in
West Memphis, Arkansas. The Cordova Community Church illustrates
a point that was made earlier. The presence of the Community
Church in Memphis is attributable to two institutions: The Harding
Graduate School of Religion and the Highland Street Church of
Christ. It was begun by John Mark Hicks, professor of Christian
doctrine at the Harding Graduate School of Religion, and Gary Ealy,
member of the Highland Street Church of Christ in October of 1997
with its first worship for the public April 12, 1998, on what was
billed as Easter Sunday following denominational doctrine. The new
group meets in the facilities of Harding Academy, which is
sponsored by churches of Christ throughout the Memphis area. Hicks
and Ealy authored "A Theological and Strategic Statement for
a New Church Planting" for this Community Church which
contains overall fourteen items of their unique creed. Like almost
all creedal treatises written by men, theirs contains some elements
of truth and many elements of error. Jesus Christ said, "But
in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments
of men" (Matt. 15:9). Two excellent, scholarly articles
recently have appeared in the Yokefellow published
by the Memphis School
of Preaching and written by Mike Hixson, preacher for the Macon
Road Church of Christ in Memphis, which devastate the error
advocated by Hicks and Ealy (Sept. 4, 1998; Oct. 21, 1998).
One service Ealy and Hicks unwittingly have rendered is to
reveal the source upon which they are dependent for their Community
Church. It is the wildly popular book written by Rick Warren, a
Southern Baptist preacher, titled The Purpose Driven
Church. This book is to
the Community Church Movement what The Master Plan of
Evangelism was to the
Crossroads/Multiplying Ministries Movement or International
Churches of Christ. The "Foreword" indicates what may be
produced from following the pattern of The Purpose Driven
In 1980, Rick graduated from the Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and moved with his wife
to southern California to begin Saddleback Church in the living
room of their home. He began with just one family. Now, fifteen
years later, Saddleback Valley Community Church is recognized as
the fastest-growing Baptist church in the history of America. It
averages over 10,000 people in worship attendance each week on a
beautiful, spacious seventy-four-acre campus. This is sufficient
evidence that Rick Warren knows whereof he speaks. In 1995,
Saddleback was selected as the Key Church of the Year by the Home
Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.(11)
In the rage for large numbers of people and dollars, perhaps the
motivation to follow as a pattern a book like The Purpose
is suggested in its "Part Four: Bringing In A Crowd."
The heart of the success of the model is to target the type of
people desired in the church and stylize the church to fit them.
For your church to be most effective in evangelism you must
decide on a target. Discover what types of people live in your
area, decide which of those groups your church is best equipped to
reach, and then discover which styles of evangelism best match your
target. While your church may never be able to reach everyone, it
is especially suited to reaching certain types of people. Knowing
who you're trying to reach makes evangelism much easier.(12)
Notice how the pattern of The Purpose Driven
Church breaks with the
pattern of the word of God. Jesus Christ taught that the word of
God is the good seed of the kingdom that is to be sown
into the hearts of men (Luke
8:4-18). God is the one who determines the increase, and the
sowing of the seed places one as a "laborer together with
God" (I Cor. 3:6-9). The great commission is preaching and
teaching the gospel to every creature not just to those who fit a
preferential "demographic" and "psychographic"
profile. James taught, "But if ye have respect to persons, ye
commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For
whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he
is guilty of all" (James 2:9-10). The type of people Rick
Warren's church is trying to reach are described in his book.
. . . We've named our composite profile "Saddleback
Sam." . . . We discuss him in detail in every membership
class. . . . His age is late thirties or early forties. . . . He
is well educated. He likes his job. He likes where he lives.
Health and fitness are high priorities for him and his family.
He'd rather be in a large group than a small one. He is skeptical
of "organized" religion. He likes contemporary music.
He thinks he is enjoying life more than he did five years ago. He
is self-satisfied, even smug, about his station in life. He
prefers the casual and informal over the formal. He is
overextended in both time and money.(13)
While the Saddleback Community Church in Orange County,
California is desirous of drawing that sort of smug individual, the
word of God teaches, "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he
saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will
flee from you" (James 4:6-7). And, Jesus spoke of the
essentiality of humility for those who would entertain the notion
of eternal life, "And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye
be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter
into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3).
The word of God transforms the life of the believer. Paul
strongly made this point when he said, "I beseech you
therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your
bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your
reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye
transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is
that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say,
through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you,
not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to
think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure
of faith" (Rom. 12:1-3). No one is added to the kingdom of
God who will not willingly submit himself to the righteousness of
God. Again, observe the teaching of the Bible on this point,
"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is,
that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a
zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being
ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their
own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the
righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:1-3).
But, proof that brethren Ealy and Hicks have patterned the
Cordova Community Church after The Purpose Driven
Church model needs to be presented. First, in their
"Strategic Statement" they wrote,
This new church plant will target the younger generation of
Baby-Boomers (1955-61) and the whole of "Generation X"
also known as the Baby-Busters (1962-82). This is the first
"Post-Christian" generation. They have experienced the
breakdown of their homes, corruption in government, and a
materialistic society. Cordova is populated by this generation and
they are mainly married couples with young children.(14)
The Purpose Driven Church is not unique in
suggesting targeting a group to evangelize, but clearly it is
integral to the pattern it proposes.
Second, in their "Strategic Statement" they follow
The Purpose Driven
Church model which calls for structured levels from large
groups down to "cell" groups. Again, they wrote,
The first level is the celebration
the church gathers weekly as a whole body to worship. It
celebrates the work of God in Christ and it laments the fall [sic]
of the world.
...The second level is the
fellowship level. . . . The third level is the cell. This is the
heart of the "cell
church" structure, and it is where the intimate ministry of
the church is conducted. This is a small group of 8-16 adults who
gather weekly to share, pray and study the Bible. The group serves
both the relational and spiritual needs of its members, and it
seeks to evangelize friends and acquaintances through their group
meetings. This would serve as the primary point of entrance into
the body, and it would be the primary environment in which
Christians would care for each other.
The church plant will begin with a set of trained core
members who will lead various home cell groups. These cell groups
will provide the context for and means by which new members will be
assimilated and equipped for ministry.(15)
The Purpose Driven Church discussed "The
Core" members, "The 'Core' is the smallest group, because
it represents the deepest level of commitment. They are the
dedicated minority of workers and leaders, those who are committed
The Purpose Driven
Church's explanation of the "cell" groups with
the "Strategic Statement" of Ealy and Hicks:
One of the sayings I quote to our staff and lay leaders
repeatedly is, "Our church must always be growing larger and
smaller at the same time." By that I mean there must be a
balance between the large group celebrations and the small-group
cells. Both are important to the health of a church.
Large group celebrations give people the feeling that
they are a part of something significant. They are impressive to
unbelievers and encouraging to our members. But you can't share
personal prayer requests in the crowd. Small affinity groups, on
the other hand, are perfect for creating a sense of intimacy and
close fellowship. It's there that everybody knows your name. When
you are absent, people notice.(17)
Third, in The
Purpose Driven Church Rick Warren gave a copy of a letter
he sent out to the Saddleback area of Orange County, California.
This letter is reproduced in its entirety followed by a letter Ealy
and Hicks mailed out to the Cordova area. The letters are the
same, only the names have been changed thereby proving the Cordova
Community Church's dependence on The Purpose Driven
Church as a pattern or
model to be followed.
March 20, 1980
A new church designed for those who've given up on traditional
church services! Let's face it. Many people aren't active in
church these days.
Too often . . .
- The sermons are boring and don't relate to daily
- Many churches seem more interested in your wallet than
- Members are unfriendly to visitors
Do you think attending church should be enjoyable?
- You wonder about the quality of the nursery care for your
WE'VE GOT GOOD NEWS FOR YOU!
SADDLEBACK VALLEY COMMUNITY CHURCH is a new church
designed to meet your needs in the 1980s. We're a group of
friendly, happy people who have discovered the joy of the Christian
At Saddleback Valley Community Church you
- Meet new friends and get to know your neighbors
- Enjoy upbeat music with a contemporary flavor
- Hear positive, practical messages which encourage you each
- Trust your children to the care of dedicated nursery
WHY NOT GET A LIFT THIS SUNDAY?
I invite you to be my special guest at our first public
celebration service EASTER SUNDAY, April 6 at 11:00 a.m. We are
currently meeting in the Laguna Hills High School Theater. If you
don't have a church home, give us a try!
DISCOVER THE DIFFERENCE!
Now, compare the letter Ealy and Hicks mailed to the Cordova
March 26, 1998
A new church designed for those who've given up on traditional
church services and stuffy settings! It's true, isn't it. Many
people aren't active in church these days.
Too often people feel . . .
- sermons are boring and don't relate to daily living
- many churches seem more interested in
your wallet than in you
- members are unfriendly to visitors
- uncertain about the quality child care activities
WE'VE GOT GOOD NEWS FOR YOU!
- churches are self-centered
CORDOVA COMMUNITY CHURCH, a church of Christ, is a new
church designed to meet your needs into the 21st century. We're a
group of friendly people who have discovered the joy of the
At Cordova Community Church you will:
- meet new friends and get to know your neighbors
- enjoy meaningful worship with a contemporary flavor
- hear positive, practical and relevant messages of
- involve your children in various activities
WHY NOT GET A LIFT ON EASTER?
- serve the disadvantaged in our city
We invite you to share our first public celebration service
Easter Sunday, April 12 at 10:00 a.m. We are currently meeting in
the Cordova Harding Academy gym. If you don't have a church home,
give us a try! Nursery provided.
SHARE THE EXCITEMENT!
Gary Ealy (firstname.lastname@example.org ; 737-9330)
John Mark Hicks (email@example.com ; 761-1350, ext. 124)
The format of the letter which appeared in The Purpose
Driven Church has been retained by Ealy
and Hicks with only slight changes to the wording to accommodate the
identity of the Cordova Community Church. These brethren are brazen
in following the pattern of denominational preachers while dealing
disparagingly with the Lord's pattern in the New Testament for the
churches of Christ.
THE CONSENSUS CLOSE BY
recent development that has passed by unnoticed by most members of
the church in Memphis is a clear statement of general acceptance of
fellowship with the Cordova Community Church by several local
congregations through announcement of and participation in a
"Day of Praise." The "Day of Praise" was held
Sunday, April 2, 2000 at Harding Academy on Cherry Road Ken Young
and the Hallal Singers were the featured praise team. A statement
within the published announcement that should be of particular
concern in this present study is: "Sponsored by White Station,
Highland Street, Sycamore View, Brownsville Road, and Cordova
Other area churches which
participated in promoting the "Day of Praise" in addition
to those sponsoring congregations already mentioned were: The
Goodman Oaks Church of Christ,(20)
the Great Oaks Church of Christ,(21)the Park Avenue Church of
Christ,(22)the Raleigh Church of
Christ,(23)and the Ross Road
Church of Christ.(24) This marks
the coming out event of joint participation among the churches of
Christ in Memphis with the Community Church. The precedent has now
been set; all who now speak out against the Community Church may
expect to be anathematized by the majority of the congregations in
THE CURRENT COLLABORATION OF THE
The Christian Chronicle is published by Oklahoma
Christian University. It is Edited by Bailey B. McBride. Glover
Shipp is the Senior Editor. It is published monthly and has a
worldwide readership. In the March and April 2000 editions a
four-part presentation strongly favoring the Community Church was
given. A summary of the Community Church movement shows that
currently the best known expression of the Community Church is the
model of Bill Hybels out of Barrington, Illinois near Chicago
called The Willow Creek Community Church. Along with his wife,
Lynne, Hybels has written "the story and vision of Willow
Creek Community Church" titled, Rediscovering Church.
However, a Baptist
preacher named Rick Warren while denying cloning Willow Creek has
built The Saddleback Community Church in Orange County, California
which closely parallels Willow Creek and has written a more
understandable guide for duplicating the Community Church titled
The Purpose Driven
Church. These works are acknowledged within The
articles as the sources from which the Community Churches are
finding expression among churches of Christ today.
THE CRUSHING OF THE CORRUPT PATTERN
However, in the four articles there is not one word of
refutation of their erroneous origins. As evidence, read the
inflammatory opening statement where The Purpose Driven
Church is introduced
written by Flavil Yeakley, who is a "professor in the College
of Bible and Religion at Harding University, Searcy, Ark. He
directs the Harding Center for Church Growth Studies. He began
preaching 50 years ago and has been involved in church growth
research for 30 years." He wrote:
Then the big one--Rick Warren's book The
the story of the Saddleback Community Church, Orange County, Calif.
Rick is a Baptist, and his church is a Baptist church, but he
wanted to reach out to the unchurched and felt that the name
"Baptist" might be a barrier.
This approach is a step in the direction of
non-denominational Christianity, and I think that Stone, Campbell
and other Restoration Movement pioneers would rejoice to see this
development. It is not enough, but it is a step in the right
"Non-denominational Christianity" has now been
redefined by the church growth expert to mean increased subtilty
through hiding denominational doctrines and practices by
generalizing the name from Baptist to Community Church. Truly,
anyone seeking "the salvation which is in Christ Jesus"
would be hard pressed to be drawn to a church wearing the name
"Baptist" which is nowhere found in the Bible. Surely,
an imposing barrier has been erected by those who wish to advance
their cause under that unscriptural banner. Why would anyone
familiar with God's word or in the process of examining God's word
accept the Community Church name which likewise is absent from the
pages of inspiration? How easily some are toppled from the correct
and eminently Scriptural name "the churches of Christ salute
you" (Rom. 16:16). The name Church of Christ has been
opposed by denominationalism all across the years, and one of the
apparent reasons for it is due to pride on the part of those
wearing unscriptural names in religion. Simply put: They cannot
find their names in the Bible. It is a mark of undisguised
compromise to retreat from the name of the Lord Jesus Christ which
inspiration has applied to his blood-bought church. What an
egregious oversight since the church is the Lord's bride and since
for the church he died, if he failed to give her his name. That is
one obvious nightmare with which denominationalism has been
struggling since its inception.
These are denominational churches loosely affiliated with the
group from which they came which merely have shrouded themselves
with the name "Community Church." The cardinal rule
among them is to appear non-traditional. They are characterized by
a casual dress code, "contemporary" music,
non-distinctive public speeches which endeavor to focus the
attention of the assembly on a celebration-type atmosphere,
inter-denominational acceptance, small group organization, personal
testimonies, praise teams, and in their beginning stages a brazen
acceptance of financial support from churches they intend to take
The Christian Chronicle speaks in the most glowing and
favorable terms of the Community Church with only the exception of
a very few scant references to the contrary. Of the six articles
on the subject in the March edition only one writer ventured to ask
a few questions and even he dared not speak one word of criticism,
just alarm while advising a "wait and see" posture.
Also, of the writers selected one has helped plant a Community
Church in Searcy, Arkansas, another presented the view that
"this change is our historical commitment to nondenominational
Christianity," another said he believes their purposes to be
"God-given," and yet another currently is the minister
for a Community Church in Amarillo, Texas. In the April edition no
less than fourteen Community Churches are referenced not counting
multiple references to Willow Creek and Saddleback. Among the
names are Christ's Community Church, Oak Tree Church, New Covenant
Christian Fellowship, Servants of Christ, and Grace Church. States
in which the churches mentioned in the articles are located are
Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Michigan, Tennessee, and Texas. A more
complete listing of Community Churches may be found in Mac Lynn's
directory of churches of Christ for the year 2000, but Lynn has
dropped "Church of Christ" from the individual listings
making the number of Community Churches difficult to find. Also,
he has not offered a designation in the front of the directory
noting those who are Community Churches like he has with
non-institutional, one cup, etc. An array of preachers following
the Community Church pattern were promoted in the April article
including those who split a church in the Dallas Metroplex.
Additionally, the editor of the feature, Lindy S. Adams, provided
the web site addresses for Willow Creek and Saddleback facilitating
their use. Two of the writers are professors at Harding
University, one is adjunct instructor for Harding Graduate School
of Religion in Memphis, one is president of Rochester College in
Michigan, one is connected with Lipscomb University, one is a
retired faculty member of Southern Christian University, two are
self-styled church growth experts, and, as mentioned earlier,
several are ministers for Community Churches. The selection of
people with connections to schools supported by churches of Christ
who will not oppose the Community Church to write the articles
facilitates the movement by lending the impression of acceptability
to the articles.
The editor of the features is laboring under at least two
misconceptions regarding the Church of Christ. One, in the
introduction Adams wrote, ". . . the church they worked
diligently to create. . . ." Men did not create the Church of
Christ; it is of divine origin (Eph. 3:9-11; 4:1-5; 5:23-25).
Without doubt this misconception is why such liberties are being
taken with regard to the church. The view seems to be if men
created the Church of Christ and it is not now what men want it to
be, then just simply change it to fit the wishes of men today. Two,
denominational church growth models can be adapted and altered to
cause the churches of Christ to grow. The Church of Christ is not
a denomination (I Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:4). The one responsible for
its growth is God himself (I Cor. 3:6-9). The method of its
expansion is the preaching and teaching of the word of God (Mk.
16:15; Acts 6:7). The church growth expert who teaches at Harding
and has helped start Covenant Fellowship Community Church wants the
readers to believe these Community Churches are "still within
the 'Church of Christ mainstream.'" How can anyone expect that
to be so when they do not even so much as retain the name Church of
Christ? Their attempt at worship and congregational organization
is a departure from the truth, yet they demand their followers to
insist that they are center of the strait and narrow road. A
Christian may have no fellowship with the unfruitful division of
denominational darkness (I Cor. 1:10; Eph. 5:11). Their means and
methodologies have nothing to offer the Lord's people (I Thess.
5:5). Light and darkness have no communion (II Cor. 6:14).
Brethren need to wake out of sleep, get back to teaching and
preaching the word of God, and Christ will give all the light
needed to advance his cause (Eph. 5:14).
Four suggestions are offered on how to defeat the Community
THE CLARION CALL TO THE CORRECT PATTERN
One, expose the error of the Community Church and those
favorable to it. It is right to be "set for the defense of
the gospel" (Phil. 1:17). Paul left Titus in Crete to set
things in order, hold fast the faithful word, exhort and convince
the gainsayers, stop the mouths of the gainsayers, and rebuke them
sharply (Titus 1:5-13). Jude 3 still calls for an earnest
contending for the faith.
Two, refuse to fund the Community Church movement by withdrawing
personal and financial support from those congregations and schools
promoting the Community Church. Philippians 1:5 and 4:15 proves
that those whom we support financially we are fellowshiping. If
one is contributing into a church treasury, he is in fellowship
with that which is supported out of that treasury. When the
leadership of a local congregation is dedicated to the planting of
Community Churches all of the members of that congregation are
responsible for the planting of the Community Churches. By
withdrawing personal and financial support from that congregation
the movement will be thwarted. The Community Church begins as a
parasite feeding off a thriving organism. A paradoxical phenomenon
is occurring with the Community Church. Older, established
churches of Christ are funding the vehicle of their demise when
they support the Community Church. It is very sad to note that if
this continues, the children and grandchildren of members of the
churches of Christ will not know the truth about the church of the
Bible because the Community Church advocates are changing
everything about it under the pretense of church growth.
Three, evangelize the lost (Matt. 28:19, 20). No matter what
the problems and challenges faced by the churches of Christ, the
gospel of Christ must continue to be preached to a lost and dying
world. Many problems and challenges besieged the early church, yet
the gospel was advanced to the point that Paul could write in
Colossians 1:23 that every creature under heaven had the
opportunity to hear it. The method authorized by God to reach lost
souls is preaching (I Cor. 1:18-21). Imagine if The Christian
dedicated to such a noble purpose instead of promoting the latest
denominational craze. The millions who could be taught the Bible
through that paper who are instead being coaxed into error make
these developments all the more a shame.
Four, edify those who are Christians (Eph. 4:15-16). Paul said
that by edifying "That we henceforth be no more children,
tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine,
by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in
wait to deceive" (Eph. 4:14). Through edification the
Christian dons the whole armor of God in which he stands against
the methods of the devil (Eph. 6:11).
God has always had a pattern he has expected faithful men and
women to follow. Hebrews 8:5 reads, "Who serve unto the
example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of
God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he,
that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee
in the mount." The apostles' teaching must be followed as a
pattern of righteousness. Paul wrote, "Howbeit for this cause
I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth
all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter
believe on him to life everlasting" (I Tim. 1:16). Even the
righteous living of the Christian must conform to God's revealed
pattern. Again, Paul said, "In all things shewing thyself a
pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity,
sincerity" (Titus 2:7). Christians must obey God rather than
man (Acts 5:29; Heb. 5:8, 9; Gal. 1:10).
The Community Church pattern with its erroneous doctrine poses
a threat to the churches of Christ. At a time when society in
general seems to be moving farther and farther away from
receptivity to the Scriptures, some brethren are appealing to
denominational successes to glean numbers and dollars in the false
assumption they are thereby bringing glory to God. Perhaps this
exposure of the pattern now being used and some of the brethren
following this false way will serve as a call for some to return to
God's way and a solemn warning for all to "speak as the
oracles of God" (I Pet. 4:11).
1. Webster's New
Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, MA: G.&C. Merriam
2. Pages 18-43.
3. Ibid., pp. 38, 39.
4. The Restoration: The Winds Of
Laws, ed. (Pulaski, TN: Sain Publications, 1993), p.
5. FOCUS, church bulletin
of the Brownsville Road Church of Christ in Memphis, Tennessee
better known as The Family Of God At Brownsville Road, A Church Of
Christ; October, 1998.
6. Pages 122, 123.
7. Heaven's Imperative or Man's
Innovations: Shall We Restructure the Church of Christ?,
Curtis Cates, ed. (Memphis, TN: Memphis School of Preaching
Publication, 1995), p. 711.
8. Page 3.
9. J.E. Choate, "Hendersonville
of Christ Celebrates Yom Kippur," The
Plumbline, Wayne Coats, ed. (Vol. 2, No. 9), p. 1.
10. Ibid., p. 3.
11. The Purpose Driven
Church, Rick Warren (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan
Publishing House, 1995), p. 11.
12. Page 157.
13. Pages 169, 170.
14. "A Theological and Strategic
Statement for a
New Church Planting," Gary Ealy and John Mark
Hicks (Unpublished, October 5, 1997), p. 2.
15. Ibid., p. 3.
16. The Purpose Driven
Church, p. 134.
17. Ibid., p. 326.
18. Ibid., p. 194.
19. Server, A Weekly
Publication of the Church of Christ at White Station, Volume 47,
No. 13, March 29, 2000, p. 1.
20. The Oak Leaf, Vol.
XVIII, No. 13, March 27, 2000, p. 3.
21. Notes, Vol. 9, No. 13,
March 29, 2000, p. 3.
22. Park Avenue News, Vol.
XXII, No. 7, March 27, 2000, p. 4.
23. Raleigh Memorandum,
Vol. 37, No. 6, March 15, 2000, p. 3.
24. In Touch, March 2000,
25. The Christian
Chronicle, Volume 57, No. 3,
March 2000, p. 18.
Editor's Note: This lesson on the Community Church
was delivered by brother Gary McDade at the 15th Annual Seek The
Old Paths Lectureship in July, 2000. This material needs to be
spread far and wide. For that reason, it is now available in a tract.
You may order it from the Getwell Church of Christ, 1511 Getwell
Rd., Memphis, TN 38111. Ph. (901)
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