In 1981, I visited a cousin on an out-of-state trip. He had abandoned the church of Christ which seemed incredible to me. To illustrate one of the tell-tale signs of problems in the CofC, he pointed out that the church of Christ skipped third verse in songs because they talk about the Holy Spirit. I thought that was crazy and I’m not sure even today how true that is/was, but it did raise a valid question. Do we give the Holy Spirit his due credit in our Christian life or in the work of the church?

In the 90s, I was blown away by the discovery that a fellow teacher at church did not believe that the Holy Spirit indwelled Christians except in the form of the written word of the Bible. I was further flabbergasted that someone with such a strange doctrine would be accepted as an elder. Certainly that is a close second to the anti-Christ doctrine that denies that Jesus came in the flesh, especially considering Jesus’ statement in Luke 12:10, “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”

When I traveled to Africa in 2004 on a mission trip, I learned that many African Christians thought of us American Christians as one-third atheists because we downplayed the Spirit’s involvement in our lives and in leading the church, thinking that the Holy Spirit more-or-less went away after the 60 or 70 AD.

Two quotes from The Worldly Church by C. Leonard Allen et al shed some light on the historical context for an anti-Spirit position found in many churches of Christ.

“Steeped in the Lockean perspective, [Alexander] Campbell rationalized the doctrine of the Sprit, stressing that in conversion the Spirit worked only through the clear and rational language of the Bible.”

“… many of the preachers who allied themselves with the [Campbell] movement virtually banished the Holy Spirit as the living presence and power of God in this world.”

So, is this really a problem anymore? I don’t find many that will deny the indwelling of the Spirit anymore though I don’t really ask the question that much. But we don’t really rely on the Spirit for leading in a meaningful way. Frankly, this is an unfamiliar and uncomfortable concept for me, and I’m not sure how it is really supposed to work. But I am pretty sure that the Spirit is still active and leading today. I’m sure that God is doing mighty things by the leading of the Spirit. I’m confident that we are much better off waiting to hear/see/sense God’s direction instead of pounding out a plan to accomplish goals that we’ve concluded, by our own reasoning, are God’s goals.

Is this a valid reason for leaving BRCC? Yes and no. My brothers and sisters at BRCC are very spiritual, and they are devoted to prayer and seeking God’s guidance. But I think there is still that persisting self-reliant, “God helps those that help themselves” slant to the way we do things. To the way we decide how to create and run programs. I need to redouble my attention to God’s guidance through the word and through the Spirit as I spend time in prayer and study. And I need to spend less time in figuring things out for God and just listen to him, to see doors open. I’m hoping that if I fling myself out into the “wilderness” I will learn to rely on God, Jesus, and even the Spirit more than if I stay in a program-focused fellowship.

Roland Allen in Missionary Methods hits me square between the eyes with his comment: “We are accustomed to do things ourselves for ourselves, to find our own way, to rely upon our own exertions, and we naturally tend to be impatient with others who are less restless and less self assertive than we are.”

I know… No big news in all of this.