“Hybrid Churches” and “Their Ministries” – Jerry C. Brewer

Jerry C. Brewer

In assessing the errors of Phil Sanders, speaker for the television program, In Search of The Lord’s Way, brother Johnny Oxendine described the departure of what may be called, mainstream churches of Christin the last few decades.

For years we have mentioned Phil Sanders as the type of brother who would come to exemplify the mass movement from the church of the New Testament to a new hybrid conglomerate that seems to be familiar, but is entirely different from what Jesus, Paul, and Peter describe (Bulletin of the San Mateo, Calif. Church of Christ, April 13, 2014).

Brother Oxendine describes the emergence of a foreign entity—a “hybrid conglomerate”—that has been gradually emerging from the fellowship of Christ in the last several years. Merriam-Webster says a hybrid is, “something heterogeneous in origin or composition: composite,” and heterogeneous as, “consisting of dissimilar or diverse ingredients.” What we are witnessing today in the work, worship, and language of “mainstream churches of Christ” is a religious body “that seems to be familiar, but is entirely different.”

Mainstream churches of Christ” are counterfeits of the one Jesus established and the unsuspecting are easily fooled by them. (After all, the sign on their building says, “Church of Christ”). Counterfeit money is passed every day because it bears a resemblance to genuine currency. So it is with hybrid churches. Presenting themselves as the church of Christ, they only resemble it. While retaining many of the church’s characteristics, they have piled layers of heterogeneous elements onto it that find no basis in God’s word.

The mission of the church is to preach the gospel (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 8:1, 3), but hybrids have changed that. Even a cursory look at their bulletins and websites reveals a skewed terminology. An obvious departure from the mission of the New Testament is seen in the almost universal use of the word ministries (plural) among them. The word ministry is used 18 times in the New Testament and not once is it used in the plural. The Greek word diakonia, translated “ministry” is used in Acts 1:17, 25; 6:4; 12:25; 20:24; 21:19; Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 16:15; 2 Cor. 4:1; 5:8; 6:3; Eph. 4:12; Col. 4:17; 1 Tim. 1:12; 2 Tim. 4:5; and 4:11. The Greek word leutergoia, also translated “ministry” is used in Heb. 8:6 and 9:1, describing Christ’s function under the new covenant and the function of priests under the Law of Moses. The New Testament church has only one ministry—preaching the gospel.

From whence, then, are all of the ministries practiced by hybrid churches today? They are products of the Social Gospel, a hybrid of socialism and religion that arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Of that, Wikipedia says,

In the United States prior to World War I, the Social Gospel was the religious wing of the progressive movement which had the aim of combating injustice, suffering and poverty in society. Denver, Colorado, was a center of Social Gospel activism. Thomas Uzzel led the Methodist People’s Tabernacle from 1885 to 1910. He established a free dispensary for medical emergencies, an employment bureau for job seekers, a summer camp for children, night schools for extended learning, and English language classes…The Baptist minister Jim Goodhart set up an employment bureau, and provided food and lodging for tramps and hobos at the mission he ran. He became city chaplain and director of public welfare of Denver in 1918. Besides these Protestants, Reform Jews and Catholics helped build Denver’s social welfare system in the early 20th century.

The Rev. Mark A. Matthews (1867-1940) of Seattle’s First Presbyterian Church…built a model church, with night schools, unemployment bureaus, kindergarten, an anti-tuberculosis clinic, and the nation’s first church-owned radio station.

Another of the defining theologians for the Social Gospel movement was Walter Rauschenbusch, a Baptist pastor of a congregation located in Hell’s Kitchen. In A Theology for the Social Gospel, Rauschenbusch states that the individualistic gospel has made sinfulness of the individual clear, but it has not shed light on institutionalized sinfulness: “It has not evoked faith in the will and power of God to redeem the permanent institutions of human society from their inherited guilt of oppression and extortion.” This ideology would be inherited by liberation theologians and civil rights advocates and leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rauschenbusch articulated the false notion of “corporate guilt” and that “the individualistic gospel” must be redirected toward civil institutions and government to rid the body politic of social ills. To him, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) is not the church’s mission, but religious socialism “ministering” to society’s material needs.

Hybrid churches have adopted Rauschenbusch’s religious-robed socialism whole hog today. Take a look at their websites, and you will find an inexhaustible array of Social Gospel works listed there—usually under the tab, “Ministries.” Those sites would lead one would believe that the Lord established a social service organization instead of His church, and incorporated the works of The Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, The Lions Club, the WPA, Little League, and the Make-A-Wish Program into it. Illustrating this are the following “ministries,” gleaned from websites of so-called “Churches of Christ.”

Youth Ministry,” “Children’s Ministry,” “Education/Internet Media Ministry,” “Outreach Ministry,” “Discipleship Ministry,” “Family Life Ministry,” “Worship Team Ministry,” “Service Team Ministry,” “Whiz Kids Ministry,” “Employment Assistance Ministry,” “Our Town Ministry,” “Celebrate Recovery Ministry,” “Technology Ministry,” “Disaster Relief Ministry,” “Impact Worship Ministry,” “Divorce Recovery Ministry,” and “Park and Garden Ministry.” The Canyon View Church of Christ in San Diego, Calif. relegates evangelism to last place in what they call their, “Five Pillars of Ministry”—which sounds vaguely like the “Five Pillars of Islam.” Those are listed in this order: “Education, Fellowship, Worship, Service, Evangelism” (www.canyonview.org About Us, Our Mission).

The above list reflects the extent to which “mainstream churches of Christ” have embraced the Social Gospel. In brother Oxendine’s words, they have become “a new hybrid conglomerate that seems to be familiar, but is entirely different from what Jesus, Paul, and Peter describe.” Unless, and until, they return to the New Testament pattern, the remnant of churches of Christ who still heed the call to, “Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths…” (Jer. 6:16) do not, and cannot, have fellowship with them (1 John 1:7; 2 John 9-11).

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Author: Editor

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