In the fall
of 1997, the researcher began working with a small mainstream church of
Christ. As part of the welcoming process for the new minister,
the congregation hosted a pot-luck luncheon in the newly renovated
basement. However, an active couple, whom the student shall call
the “Smiths,” was absent that Sunday. The church’s elders asked
the candidate to call upon the couple, which he did the following week.
When the student met with the
couple, the Smiths stated clearly that they had no intentions of
returning to the congregation. The couple believed eating in the
church building to be without biblical precedent, and they had already
placed membership in a congregation of the independent Christian
churches/churches of Christ. The student relayed the information
back to the elders. In meeting with the elders, the candidate
asked the shepherds to go meet with the Smiths along with him.
The elders, however, refused. The student encouraged the two
elders to go, but they became aggravated and said that visiting with
the Smiths would do absolutely no good.
The elders never explained their
refusal to meet with the Smiths. What caused their reluctance to
call on these inactive Christians? Were they afraid that the
Smiths had a solid, biblical rationale for their view? Did the
elders have a sufficient grasp of the Scriptures to refute the Smith’s
objections? Did the elders simply want to avoid conflict?
The student wondered if other
ministers in churches of Christ experienced similar situations.
If so, why do elders not readily approach inactive Christians? Do
the elders feel unqualified to approach wandering sheep? Do
elders lack communicative skills to work with inactive
Christians? Do elders fear the anger? How might elders be
encouraged to work more with inactive members? This project will
begin to lay groundwork to understand elders’ attitudes toward inactive
Statement of the Problem
Several Doctor of Ministry
dissertations have been written within the churches of Christ examining
the inactive Christian problem; however, none of those dissertations
specifically explores the attitudes of elders in local churches of
Christ. This project will explore that deficiency by
investigating elders’ views regarding their responsibilities, their
qualifications for the task, their communication skills, their ability
to deal with anger often expressed by inactive Christians, their fear
of legal repercussions, and their desire to learn how to work with
inactive Christians more effectively.
This project-dissertation will explore the
1. Elders are aware of
their responsibilities toward inactive Christians.
2. Elders do not feel
qualified to work with inactive Christians.
3. Elders believe they
lack communication skills to work with inactive Christians.
4. Elders fear anger
which inactive Christians often express.
5. Elders fear working
with inactive Christians exposes them and the congregations they serve
to legal jeopardy.
6. Elders desire to
know how to work with inactive Christians more effectively.
Need for the Study
Need for the Study and God’s Nature
deeply about individuals who have wandered away. The opening
pages of Scripture present God as seeking the wanderer. After
Adam and Eve sinned, they heard the LORD God walking in the garden and
hid themselves from his presence; the Lord called out to Adam and Eve
saying, “Where are you?” (Gn 3:8-9). Granted, “the Lord God is
depicted as the Judge calling, as it were in court, for an
explanation;” however, the Lord immediately held out hope for these
two wanderers when he said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between
you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush
your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gn 3:15).
The book of Jonah demonstrates
God’s concern for the undesirable wanderer. Jonah did not want
to go to the Ninevites, for they had threatened the Israelites at least
three times in the past. Jonah viewed the Ninevites as the
enemy of his people rather than people for whom God cared. When
Jonah became angry that God had spared the city and angry that God
provided a worm to eat the vine he had caused to grow, the Lord said to
Jonah, “Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who
cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as
well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jon
4:11). Concerning that question, Ray Bakke, professor of ministry
at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote,
This question still hangs over those
modern Christians who minister in cities which they do not love, and
who are unwilling to accept people and forgive them. The book
pricks the conscience because it is about the superiority the
Israelites felt to every other race—a feeling which led them to turn
God’s love, which was intended for other people, upon themselves in
self-congratulation. Much of the church is in this condition
today. We need to reread the Jonah story and see the theology
behind it—of a God who is struggling to make us go beyond our
boundaries, values and natural affiliations to love the people he
Indeed, modern Christians need to see God as the
God who loves all, the faithful, the wanderer, and the reprobate so
they will share God’s love with the faithful, the wanderer, and the
Christ’s advent brought the hope
God offered to the first man and his wife to fruition. Paul
wrote, “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a
woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive
the full rights of sons” (Gal 4:4-5). Redeem refers to buying
something or someone enslaved or delivering something or someone;
the preposition ek before agoradzo is perfective, meaning something
like “to buy out” or “to redeem completely.” God’s giving
complete redemption to the wanderer through the Son illustrates his
care for the wanderer.
The Son understood his mission as
the reclamation of the wanderer. After Jesus announced that
salvation had entered Zacchaeus’ home, he declared, “The Son of Man
came to seek and to save what was lost” (Lk 19:10). Luke 19:10
“expresses the heart of Jesus’ ministry as presented by Luke, both his
work of salvation and his quest for the lost.” Some of those
whom the Son of Man came to seek and save had never enjoyed a divine
relationship, but others had experienced such a relationship and
Jesus spoke regarding his concern
for those who had wandered away in his parables of Luke 15.
Concerning Jesus’ portrait of God in Luke 15, William Barclay, former
professor of divinity and biblical criticism at Glasgow University,
No Pharisee had ever dreamed of a God
like that. A great Jewish scholar has admitted that this is the
one absolutely new thing which Jesus taught men about God—that he
actually searched for men. The Jew might have agreed that if a
man came crawling home to God in self-abasement and prayed for pity he
might find it; but he would never have conceived of a God who went out
to search for sinners. We believe in the seeking love of God,
because we see that love incarnate in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who
came to seek and to save that which was lost.
If a shepherd is caring for one hundred sheep when
one wanders away, “Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open
country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” (v. 4).
Surely no shepherd would dare leave his sheepfold unattended; Eliab,
David’s eldest brother, became infuriated when he thought his brother
had left the family’s sheep unattended (1 Sm 17:28). Since
shepherds often traveled together, this shepherd could likely leave
his sheep in the care of a trusted co-worker until he
returned. The shepherd’s willingness to leave the ninety-nine
to find the one who had wandered demonstrates Christ’s concern for the
Jesus also expressed such concern
when he spoke of the lost coin (vv. 8-10). When a woman realized
she has lost a coin, she got a light, cleaned the house, and searched
carefully until she found her coin (v. 8). The New International
Version clearly implies that the coin became lost because of the
woman’s actions, not its own, and reads, “Or suppose a woman has ten
silver coins and loses one.” Jordan V. Corbin, a doctoral student
at Drew University commented:
The coin may be representative of
people who have experienced problems caused and initiated by other
people. Occasionally a person leaves the fellowship because
another person of great importance to him has disappointed them [sic]
or wounded them [sic] with word or act. The result may be
Many wander from the flock because others wounded
them. In a study of four suburban United Methodist Churches, John
Savage, a United Methodist pastor and a psychotherapist, discovered
45.5 percent of inactive members had conflict with the pastor, 54
percent had conflict with other church members, and 63 percent had
conflict with family members. In fact, 95 percent of bored or
inactive members interviewed “could tell quite clearly what the event
was, when it happened, and could express strong feelings about
it.” Along these lines, Corbin noted, “It may be necessary
for the one who seeks the lost to be forgiven,” a sentiment Jesus
both the parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, Jesus clearly
established the worth of individuals. The shepherd could have
been content with the ninety-nine sheep he still had in his flock, and
the woman could have been content with the nine coins she still
possessed. However, both the shepherd and the woman went to
extraordinary means to find the one item which had been lost.
Likewise, the church needs to go to extraordinary means to find the one
member who has been lost.
Jesus spoke not only about the
one who wandered away and the one who was lost through the actions of
others but also about the one who purposefully decided to leave.
Jesus told of two sons; the younger said to his father, “Father, give
me my share of the estate” (v. 12). While the father was under no
obligation to honor this request, he chose to do so. The son
took the one-third of the estate which would have fallen to him,
and he went to a foreign land and “squandered his wealth in wild
living” (v. 13). After his money was gone and famine had struck
the land, the young man “came to his senses” (v. 17) and returned to
his father. The son returned to his father in repentance, just as
inactive members need to return to their Father in repentance.
The Need for the Study and the Nature of
provides three levels of responsibility toward inactive members.
Actually, all Christians have a responsibility toward inactive
members. To the Galatians, Paul wrote, “Carry each other’s
burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”
(6:2). Previous research indicates inactive Christians leave the
church because of several burdens. If the church as a whole were
to assist one another in carrying burdens, more members would
undoubtedly remain faithful.
A higher level of responsibility
rests upon those who are spiritual. Again, Paul wrote, “Brothers,
if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him
gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Gal
6:1). The adjective pneumatikos (spiritual) occurs twenty-six
times in the Greek New Testament, and only one use falls outside the
Pauline corpus. Pneumatikos in biblical literature can refer
to the inner life of man or to the divine; in the substantive (as in
Gal 6:1), the adjective refers to spiritual things or individuals
possessing the Spirit. Paul uses the adjective to describe
Spirit-filled people in 1 Corinthians 3:1; 14:37, and Galatians 6:1; 1
Corinthians 2:13 and 12:1 possibly use pneumatikos in this sense.
In the context of 1 Corinthians 14:37, pneumatikos obviously refers to
those who were endowed with miraculous gifts, a meaning quite unlikely
in the present context.
In the context of Galatians 6:1,
pneumatikos certainly means “spiritually mature.” There are two
important reasons for this understanding. First, “spiritual”
operates as the antonym of “immaturity” in 1 Corinthians 3:1; Paul
wrote, “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as
worldly—mere infants in Christ.” Second, Galatians 5 speaks of
the mature as “led by the Spirit” (v. 18). Those who live by the
Spirit do not gratify the flesh’s desires (v. 16). The apostle
enumerated acts belonging respectively to the fleshly existence and to
the spiritual existence (vv. 19-23); sinful behavior differs from
spirituality (as in 1 Cor 3:1). Those who “keep in step with the
Spirit” live “by the Spirit” (v. 25); being spiritual means living
attuned to the Holy Spirit of God.
Thus, those who have obtained
Christian maturity ought to seek those who have wandered. Because
restorers will likely face temptation, they need a level of Christian
maturity to recognize temptation and to deal appropriately with the
temptation. Temptation could easily entangle immature Christian;
therefore, they are not the most appropriate seekers of the
A still higher level of
responsibility rests upon the local eldership. Paul exhorted the
Ephesian elders, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which
the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the
church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
J. W. McGarvey, a scholar in the Restoration Movement among churches of
Christ, notes that caring for and shepherding the church “required such
watchfulness as would allow nothing in the condition of the church to
escape [the elders’] notice; and . . . required them to do for the
church all that an eastern shepherd does for his flock.”
Since Jesus pictured the shepherd as going after the wandering sheep,
could he expect elders to do anything less than seek the wanderer?
Elders know which sheep wander,
for God entrusted the flock to them. The author of Hebrews
exhorted the Christians to whom he wrote, “Obey your leaders and submit
to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give
an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a
burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb 13:17).
Whether the phrase means “keep watch over you” or “keep watch for your
souls,” the author certainly spoke of spiritual care. “The
leaders are concerned for the deep needs of their people, not simply
for what lies on the surface.”
Need for the Study and the State of the
mature Christians must go to the inactive Christian, for the inactive
Christian’s spiritual state is precarious, to say the least. Some
claim that once a person comes to Christ, he cannot abandon his
salvation. John Calvin, the well-known theologian of the
Protestant Reformation, advocated such a view; he wrote:
It daily happens that those who seemed
to belong to Christ revolt from him and fall away: Nay, in the very
passage where he declares that none of those whom the Father has given
to him have perished, he excepts the son of perdition. This, indeed, is
true; but it is equally true that such persons never adhered to Christ
with that heartfelt confidence by which I say that the certainty of our
election is established: “They went out from us,” says John, “but they
were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would, no doubt, have
continued with us,” (1 John 2:19). I deny not that they have signs of
calling similar to those given to the elect; but I do not at all admit
that they have that sure confirmation of election which I desire
believers to seek from the word of the gospel.
In other words, Calvin argued, those who appear to
fall away were not truly Christians from the beginning.
Contrary to Calvinistic claims,
the New Testament teaches that one can indeed fall after being a true
Christian. To the Galatians adopting the Old Law as their guide,
Paul wrote, “You have fallen from grace” (Gal 5:4). These
disciples did not fall from a state of perceived grace, but they
actually fell from grace. After reminding the Corinthians of
God’s judgment upon unfaithful Israelites, Paul admonished them, “If
you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1
Cor 10:12). The admonition that one should be careful about
falling seems strange indeed unless Christians actually fall from grace.
Those who fall from grace find
themselves in an unsafe situation spiritually. “No one who puts
his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom
of God” (Lk 9:62). The Lord has declared, “My righteous one will
live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with
him” (Heb 10:38). Because of God’s displeasure with the one who
shrinks back, he punishes the backslider more severely.
Peter speaks of such punishment in the context of false
teachers. The apostle wrote,
If they have escaped the corruption of
the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again
entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they
were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to
have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to
turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to
them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its
vomit,” and “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the
mud” (2 Pt 2:20-22).
Peter spoke of true Christians and not pretenders,
for he said “they have escaped the corruption of the world.”
Jesus’ blood cleansed the individuals of whom Peter spoke, but those
Christians chose to abandon that position. Because they had
escaped the world’s pollution and had become overcome by such filth
again, “they are worse off at the end than they were at the
beginning.” Peter likely alludes to Jesus’ teaching concerning a
man who has been cleansed of an evil spirit but overtaken again by a
demon (Mt 12:45; Lk 11:26). Because “a Christian who forsakes
his first love becomes more and more insensitive to the voice of God
and of conscience,” he is worse off than he was at the beginning.
Why else might Christians who
fall away be worse off “at the end than they were at the
beginning?” Jesus made a distinction concerning punishment for
those who mistakenly disobey and those who know better but choose not
to obey. The Lord said, “That servant who knows his master’s will
and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be
beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does
things deserving punishment will be beaten with few stripes” (Lk
12:47-48). The one who knows the right thing to do will face more
severe punishment than the one who disobeys ignorantly.
Additionally, Christians who turn back from their first love crucify
“the Son of God all over again and [subject] him to public disgrace”
(Heb 6:6). “The author is saying that those who deny Christ in
this way are really taking their stand among those who crucified Jesus.
In heart and mind they make themselves one with those who put him to
death on the cross at Calvary.” What a horrible group with
which to cast oneself. In addition, those who abandon
Christianity and continue to sin deliberately have nothing to expect
save “a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will
consume the enemies of God” (Heb 10:27). To prevent such
expectation, James admonished his readers, “My brothers, if one of you
should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back,
remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will
save him from death and cover a multitude of sins” (Jas 5:19-20).
Christians need to seek their erring brethren that they might “cover a
multitude of sins.”
Need for the Study and the Decline of Churches
Approximately 7,000 persons leave organized religion every
day. However, the Gallup organization has found that since
1939 church and synagogue attendance has not declined; 41 percent
responded affirmatively when asked if they had attended church or
synagogue in the past seven days in 1939 compared with 44 percent in
April 2005. What might account for an actual increase in
church attendance as measured with Gallup compared to the results
showing a decline of 7,000 daily? Obviously social desirability
bias could easily play a role in such acceptable behavior as church
attendance; social desirability bias refers to the answering of a
question “through a filter of concern about what” the researcher wants
to hear. Two researchers who studied a large, white,
middle-class church in the Deep South found overreporting on telephone
surveys of who attended services to be around 59 percent.
While the candidate lacks data to
draw conclusions of overreporting among churches of Christ, the
available data are somewhat mixed. Between 1990 and 1994,
mainline churches of Christ showed a 9 percent increase in
membership. However, between 1994 and 1997, Mac Lynn, a
researcher in the churches of Christ, noticed a small numerical decline
in churches of Christ. In 1997, Lynn noticed a significant
number of youth leaving the church. Between 1997 and 2000,
Lynn found that membership in churches of Christ had risen by
approximately nine thousand, but those claiming to be adherents fell by
roughly 1,500. Studies show that churches lose between 40 and
50 percent of those they baptize within five years. Gary
Bradley, minister for the Mayfair Church of Christ in Huntsville,
Alabama, fears that in most churches of Christ dropouts exceed the
number of converts.
In West Virginia, where this
study took place, the data look less mixed and more ominous. In
the South Atlantic States, Lynn found that West Virginia led in
membership per capita. All states in the South Atlantic
region have shown consistent gains in members of churches of Christ
since 1990, except West Virginia, which “has been declining in
membership since 1980.” Using Lynn’s census, churches of
Christ have decreased in West Virginia by 15.06 percent since
1980. Although the data do not allow the researcher to know
how many members died or have moved out-of-state, they do show that
West Virginia churches of Christ have declined in membership.
Purpose of Study
This study will have the following purposes:
1. To assess the
attitudes of elders in churches of Christ in Kanawha and Lincoln
Counties of West Virginia regarding inactive Christians
2. To assess elders’
views of their ability to work with inactive Christians
3. To assess elders’
willingness to learn how to deal with inactive Christians more
This study will have the following limitations:
1. Since the study will
explore the attitudes of elders within churches of Christ, the results
may not be generalizable to leaders in other religious heritages
2. Since the study will
explore a small number of elders in churches of Christ, the results may
not be generalizable beyond the elderships studied
3. Because the student
preaches in the area of study, social desirability bias may blur the
This study will have the following assumptions:
1. The participants
will honestly answer interview questions
2. The interview
questions will allow elders to portray accurately their attitudes
3. The student’s
interview skills will allow for good collection of data
4. At least ten elders
will be willing to participate in the study
Definition of Terms
purpose of this study, inactive members refers to “individuals who have
chosen not to participate in the worship life, financial support, and
program activities of the” congregation for a period of eight
weeks, except for special events such as weddings or funerals or
for special days such as Christmas or Easter. This definition
would exclude those who cannot participate in the work of the
congregation due to health or who have moved to a new location.
Restoration means bringing “back
to a former position or condition.” In the context of
inactive Christians, restoration will refer to bringing inactive
Christians back to their former condition of active participation in
the church’s life.
Elders function in a specific
manner in the local church. The New Testament views them as
men who are honored, recognized as examples, preserve traditions,
interpret Scripture, settle disputes, assign discipline, manage the
local congregation, and have the responsibility to care for the
well-being of other Christians. Congregations recognize the
men interviewed in this study as elders.
Mainstream churches of Christ
hold the following doctrines to be non-negotiable: “faith in God; the
certainty of the virgin birth, atoning death, resurrection, and
ascension of Jesus Christ; baptism for the remission of sins; and
correctness in worship, which includes the Lord’s Supper each Sunday
and a cappella music in worship.” Their willingness to use
multiple cups at the Lord’s Supper, to use Sunday schools, to cooperate
with one another in carrying out benevolent work, and to have kitchens
in church buildings delineates them from other churches of Christ.
the study will include an introduction which will explain how the
student came to be confronted with elders’ attitudes toward Christian
inactivity, a statement of the problem, assumptions of this study,
limitations of this study, the importance of the study, and the
definition of important terms in this study.
Chapter II ofthe study will
review the literature relevant to the study. The chapter will
provide the theological basis for elders’ working with inactive
Christians, examine reasons individuals leave active participation in
the church, explore why inactive Christians return to the church, and
discuss practical steps elders can take to work with inactive
Chapter III will explain the
methodology used in the study. Included will be a description of
the sample, selection process, the instrumentation, data collection
methods, and data analysis procedures.
Chapter IV will present findings
from the interviews. The chapter will first provide case studies
of the participants and then give a holistic understanding of the data.
Chapter V will discuss the
study’s results. Included in the discussion of results, the
reader will find a summary of the dissertation, an examination of how
well the data fit the hypotheses, other findings from the study, and
recommendations for future research.
1. Halverstadt provides numerous reasons
some Christians prefer to avoid conflict at all cost. See Hugh F.
Halverstadt, Managing Church Conflict (Louisville, KY: Westminster John
Knox Press, 1991), 19-33.
2. See Gary M. Bradley, “Restoring Inactive Members of Churches of
Christ” (D. Min. dissertation, Southern Christian University, 1998);
Dana L. Gill, “A Study of Church Dropouts in the Merkel Church of
Christ, Merkel, Texas” (D. Min dissertation, Harding Graduate School of
Religion, 1983); Mark A. Henry, “A Model of Training for Outreach to
Soldiers at Fort Lewis, Washington, Who Are Inactive Members of the
Churches of Christ” (D. Min. dissertation, Abilene Christian
University, 1996); David M. Malone, “Assessing Patterns of
Disengagement and Re-entry in Two Local Congregations of Churches of
Christ” (D. Min. dissertation, Abilene Christian University, 1992); and
John Frederick Roberts, “Closing the Back Door: Developing a Strategic
Model of Identification for Preventing Church Dropouts” (D. Min.
dissertation, Abilene Christian University, 1993).
3. For a detailed treatment of why elders might fear lawsuits see pp.
4. See Lawrence O. Olson, “Understanding and Ministering to the
Inactive Member” (D. Min. diss, Fuller Theological Seminary, 1996),
4-9, and Gailyn Van Rheenen, Missions: Biblical Foundations and
Contemporary Strategies (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House,
5. Quotation taken from the NIV. All subsequent quotations will
come from the NIV.
6. David Atkinson, The Message of Genesis 1-11, The Bible Speaks Today
(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 88.
7. Ray Bakke, The Urban Christian With Jim Hart (Downers Grove, IL:
InterVarsity Press, 1987).
8. Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., Expositor’s Bible Commentary, New Testament
(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976-1992).
Accessed as a CD-ROM.
9. Bakke, The Urban Christian, 67.
10. F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon
of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed.
(Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1979).
11. Cleon L. Rogers, Jr. and Cleon L. Rogers III, The New Linguistic
and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan Publishing House, 1998), 426.
12. Gaebelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Accessed as a
CD-ROM, s.v. “Luke 19:10.”
13. See Jordan V. Corbin, “The Inactive Member: A Reclamation Strategy”
(D. Min. diss, Drew University, 1987), 31-37 for a discussion of
how these parables show God’s concern for the wanderer.
14. William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, rev. ed. (Philadelphia, PA:
The Westminster Press. 1975), 203.
16. Barclay notes that “many of the flocks were communal flocks,
belonging, not to individuals, but to villages. There would be
two or three shepherds in charge.” Barclay, Luke, 200.
17. Craig S. Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary, New Testament
(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993). Accessed as a
18. Corbin, “The Inactive Member,” 33.
19. John S. Savage, The Apathetic and Bored Church Member:
Psychological and Theological Implications (Reynoldsburg, OH: LEAD
20. Ibid., 56.
21. Corbin, “The Inactive Member,” 34.
22. Matthew 5:35-24 – “If you are offering your gift at the altar and
there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your
gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to
your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
23. Corbin, “The Inactive Member.”
24. “To ask one’s father for one’s share of the inheritance early was
unheard of in antiquity; in effect, one would thereby say, ‘Father, I
wish you were already dead.’ Such a statement would not go over well
even today, and in a society stressing obedience to one’s father it
would be a serious act of rebellion (Dt 21:18-21) for which the father
could have beaten him or worse. That the father grants the request
means that most of the hearers will not identify with the father in
this parable; from the start, they would think of him as stupidly lax
to pamper such an immoral son.” Keener, Background
Commentary. Accessed as a CD-ROM, s.v. “Luke 15:11-12.”
25. Deuteronomy 21:17 required that the firstborn receive a
double-portion of the inheritance – “He must acknowledge the son of his
unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he
has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength.
The right of the firstborn belongs to him.” Since Jesus’
parabolic man only has two sons, the elder would have received
two-thirds of the estate, and the younger would have received one-third.
26. John R. Kohlenberger III, Edward W. Goodrick, and James A. Swanson,
The Exhaustive Concordance to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids,
MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 819. The non-Pauline use
occurs at 1 Pet. 2:5.
27. Gingrich and Danker, Greek-English Lexicon.
28. Jesus recognized that some new converts would be entangled with
temptation. Speaking of the seed thrown on rocky ground, Jesus
said some “hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But
since they have no root, they last only a short time. When
trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall
away” (Mk 4:16-17). Paul also recognized this difficulty.
Concerning appointing new converts as elders, Paul admonished Timothy,
that an elder “must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited
and fall under the same judgment as the devil” (1 Tm 3:6).
29. J. W. McGarvey, New Commentary on Acts of Apostles Vol. 2 (Delight,
AR: Gospel Light Publishing Company, n. d.), 191.
30. Gaebelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary.
32. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.24.7.
33. Although Peter has been speaking of false teachers, he says at v.
19, “a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” Kelcy
argues, “Peter’s reference to ‘a man’ in verse 19 seems to make his
present reference somewhat general so that it might refer either to the
false teacher, or his victim, or to both,” Raymond C. Kelcy, The
Letters of Peter and Jude The Living Word Commentary (Austin, TX: R. B.
Sweet Company, 1972), 150.
36. Gaebelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, accessed as a cd-rom.
37. John C. Robertson, Jr., “The Challenge of Secular Humanism to
Christianity,” Journal of Dharma 20 (1995): 352.
38. “The Gallup Poll: Religion,” Available at
39. Allen Rubin and Earl Babbie, Research Methods for Social Work, 4th
ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Books, 2001), 179.
40. Penny Long Marler and C. Kirk Hadaway, “Testing the Attendance Gap
in a Conservative Church,” Sociology of Religion 60 (1999): 175-186.
41. Flavil Yeakley, Jr., “Recent Patterns of Growth and Decline Among
Heirs of the Restoration Movement,” Restoration Quarterly 37 (1995):
42. Mac Lynn, Churches of Christ in the United States, 1997 ed.
(Nashville, TN: 21st Century Christian, 1997).
44. Mac Lynn, Churches of Christ in the United States, 2000 ed.
(Nashville, TN: 21st Century Christian, 2000).
45. Clayton Pepper, Church Growth Today (Abilene, TX: Quality
46. Bradley, Resorting Inactive Members.
47. Lynn, Churches of Christ in the United States, 2000 ed.
48. Ibid., 19.
49. Stanley E. Granberg, “The Growth and Decline of the churches of
Christ in the United States: A Visual Review, 1980-2000,”
http://www.kairoschurchplanting.org/default.asp?id=5 (accessed October
50. Kenneth C. Haugk. Reopening the Back Door. (St. Louis,
MO: Tebunah Ministries, 1989), 17.
51. Although several studies provide a longer time frame (e.g., six
months), Savage has shown that after eight weeks of inactivity,
individuals re-engage their energies, Savage, The Apathetic and Bored
52. Roberts, “Closing the Back Door,” 14.
54. Thomas H. Holland, Entreating the Erring (Brentwood, TN: Penmann
Books, 2000), 32.
55. Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for
Today (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 324.
57. Lynn, Churches of Christ, 2000 ed., 24.
58. These distinctions between mainstream churches of Christ and other
congregations are outlined in Lynn, Churches of Christ, 2000 ed., 24.