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Chapter One

        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?[1]
           
        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 Christians.
Statement of the Problem
           
        Several Doctor of Ministry dissertations have been written within the churches of Christ examining the inactive Christian problem;[2] 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.

Hypotheses

  
This project-dissertation will explore the following hypotheses:

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.[3]

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

        God cares deeply about individuals who have wandered away.  The opening pages of Scripture present God as seeking the wanderer.[4]  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).[5]  Granted, “the Lord God is depicted as the Judge calling, as it were in court, for an explanation;”[6] 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.[7]  Jonah did not want to go to the Ninevites, for they had threatened the Israelites at least three times in the past.[8]  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 loves.[9]
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 reprobate.

        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;[10] the preposition ek before agoradzo is perfective, meaning something like “to buy out” or “to redeem completely.”[11]  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.”[12]  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 wandered away.

        Jesus spoke regarding his concern for those who had wandered away in his parables of Luke 15.[13]  Concerning Jesus’ portrait of God in Luke 15, William Barclay, former professor of divinity and biblical criticism at Glasgow University, well commented:

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.[14]
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).[15]  Since shepherds often traveled together,[16] this shepherd could likely leave his sheep in the care of a trusted co-worker until he returned.[17]  The shepherd’s willingness to leave the ninety-nine to find the one who had wandered demonstrates Christ’s concern for the wanderer.

        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 departure.[18]
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.[19]  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.”[20]  Along these lines, Corbin noted, “It may be necessary for the one who seeks the lost to be forgiven,”[21] a sentiment Jesus himself taught.[22]

            In both the parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, Jesus clearly established the worth of individuals.[23]  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,[24] he chose to do so.  The son took the one-third of the estate which would have fallen to him,[25] 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 Elders’ Work

        Scripture 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.[26]  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.[27]  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 wandering.[28]

        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.”[29]  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,”[30] 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.”[31]


Need for the Study and the State of the Inactive Christian

        Spiritually 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.[32]
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.[33]  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).[34]  Because “a Christian who forsakes his first love becomes more and more insensitive to the voice of God and of conscience,”[35] 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.”[36]  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.[37]  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.[38]  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.[39]   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.[40]

        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.[41]  However, between 1994 and 1997, Mac Lynn, a researcher in the churches of Christ, noticed a small numerical decline in churches of Christ.[42]  In 1997, Lynn noticed a significant number of youth leaving the church.[43]  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.[44]  Studies show that churches lose between 40 and 50 percent of those they baptize within five years.[45]  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.[46]

        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.[47]  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.”[48]  Using Lynn’s census, churches of Christ have decreased in West Virginia by 15.06 percent since 1980.[49]  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 effectively

Limitations

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 data

Assumptions

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

        For the 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”[50] congregation for a period of eight weeks,[51] except for special events such as weddings or funerals or for special days such as Christmas or Easter.[52]  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.[53]

        Restoration means bringing “back to a former position or condition.”[54]  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.[55]  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.[56]  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.”[57]  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.[58]

Organization

        Chapter I of 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 Christians.

        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. 33-36 below.

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, 1996), 14.

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.

15. Ibid.

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 CD-Rom.

18. Corbin, “The Inactive Member,” 33.

19. John S. Savage, The Apathetic and Bored Church Member: Psychological and Theological Implications (Reynoldsburg, OH: LEAD Consultants, 1976).

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.

31. Ibid.

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.

34. Ibid.

35. Ibid.

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 http://poll.gallup.com/content/default.aspx?ci=1690&pg=2&VERSION=p (accessed October 14, 2005).

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): 45-50.

42. Mac Lynn, Churches of Christ in the United States, 1997 ed. (Nashville, TN: 21st Century Christian, 1997).

43. Ibid.

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 Publications, 1998).

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 14, 2005).

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 Church Member.

52. Roberts, “Closing the Back Door,” 14.

53. Ibid.

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.

56. Ibid.

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.



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