Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fourth Avenue Church of Christ: A commendation with exhortation

It was about five years ago that I was led by the Holy Spirit, rather unexpectedly, to an understanding concerning the royal priesthood of believers. Prior to that time I could and did, at best, maybe parrot some vagaries and at worse, teach ignorantly what I did not understand. This term, royal priesthood, which God used, not of the as-yet nonexistent Aaronic priesthood at that time, but of Israel is taken up by Peter to refer, not to men, not to women, but to the saints in Christ.

The time of that understanding was not a place of comfort where the Holy Spirit led me back then, but I understood and accepted this truth; He does not lead us where we would like to go. Although I am not going to go into the details of the results of that study and examination and will refer those interested to my article, Artemis and the Royal Priesthood of Believers, I do want to make some brief comments concerning the decision of the Fourth Avenue church of Christ to bring a woman intern preacher on their staff. Here is the video.

I do commend the saints for their decision even if it does make me uncomfortable. Certainly, the reason for my discomfort is not to be taken as a reason as to why the decision or practice are wrong or a departure from the authority of the scriptures. My discomfort is not unlike that of five years ago or that discomfort, to seriously understate it, of thirty seven years ago when I came to be crucified with Christ. My discomfort has nothing to do with Lauren King or any of my sisters preaching. Knowledge and understanding may preclude discomfort, but its presence in the heart of the believer is not the true indicator, the heart being more deceitful than all, of the believer’s commitment to God and his word. I understand the video is not intended to convey the details of the decision or Lauren King’s preaching talents, I do believe the glimpses are purposeful and intended to capture and convey the message of the church for the saints in Christ who see this video. Here are a couple of reasons for my discomfort and they do not concern Ms King, but rather the leadership as represented by Patrick Mead and Nancy Baughman.

  1. Patrick Mead’s pop view which pins Paul against Jesus with Jesus emerging triumphant is the stuff expected from the unlearned and nonbelievers; not from a teacher of Israel.
  2. I could be mistaken about what I infer from Nancy Baughman’s words that “sometimes we don’t walk that out very comfortably,” but here’s what makes me uncomfortable what I hear from these leaders. No, this is not a condemnation, but it is a call for something more than for the benefit of the saints and the glory of the Father.

I am not exactly heartened to hear the euphemism from Mead that he thinks “the churches of Christ are getting this.” I am reminded of the change of terminology in the matter of weather when the message and the evidence did not match up. It went for “global warming” to “climate change.” I hear something similar in Mead’s new terminology. The standard default explanation in the past from both the pulpit and in the classroom about matters either not understood or taught inadequately has changed from being “a culture thing” to a “history” thing. If we only knew our history and about temporary things we would understand, says Mead. Yes, the study of history is important, but it would appear that the past use of culture as a gloss-over is the new gloss-over of history. I would be really interested to hear Mead’s further elaboration on his understanding of his use of that expression.

Especially grating is Mead's pop-speak about not reading Jesus through Paul, but rather that he reads Paul through Jesus. This reflects a forgetfulness or dismissal of what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit and the work of the Spirit in the apostles:

 "But when He, the Spirit of truthcomes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 "He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.

Paul and all the other apostles did not speak anything but what was given to them by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit only spoke and disclosed to them as He took from Jesus.

I am not saying the Fourth Avenue leadership did not teach the congregation on these matter, but I am saying that what I hear and see in the video clip is what I have seen and heard in detail, and there is never much by way of detail, in other similar accounts concerning the teaching and preaching ministry of our sisters. So, with such understanding, if it can be called that, the leadership of the congregation often introduces to the congregation their latest decision without much more than we hear from Mead. This manner of informing the saints is often in the form of catchy phrases, sound bites, and negatives as to what the scriptures do not state and rhetorical questions which are often taken by the listeners as a mistaken indication that the questioner must surely understand the matter.

This, too, is what I infer, and possibly mistakenly perhaps, from the brief clip of Nancy Baughman’s words. It is hard enough for the saints to walk where they have not walked before but for them to stumble because they were not prepared is the neglect of those who have take up the responsibility for the burden of teaching them. Speak and disclose the things of the Spirit, not merely by peppering a message with choice, catchy words, but with those which the saints with confidence can themselves affirm through the written testimony of the Holy Spirit. Peace to the saints at Fourth Avenue and those who lead them.

peace to all.


  1. In I Cor. Paul states that what he says is from "him." Chapter 7 I believe.
    When Paul told Timothy to get his coat and some parchments, was that from the HS?

    The issue of Ms. King is ultimately one of our fundamental presuppositions about the nature of God, his word, and how both are to be understood. We ALL know what the Bible says, it is what it means by what it says that is the area of our discussion. What is transgenerational and transcultural in scripture, and what is immutable for all time?

    Not an easy fix, is it?


    1. I appreciate very much your comment.

      True, it may not be an easy fix to read and understand the meaning of the scriptures AND whether the particular point is applicable to only the first century and/or the twenty first century.

      I concur with your statement that the issue(s) is the nature of God. Even more specifically, and as I have stated in some of my articles on the indwelling of deity in the believer, is that until we can understand how deity indwelt Jesus we will continue with our vague and uncertain assertions regardless of how true and biblical these might be such as, "the Holy Spirit dwells in us."

      As an example of the two instances which you mention about Paul states in I Corinthians 7 (check my blog index for my article) as being from "him" and asking Timothy to get this coat these would seem to be immutable. The reason I say that is because, quite simply, Jesus did not state what Paul goes on to say. This is not, as some would explain, a matter of dismissing Jesus over Paul or Paul over Jesus, but to be reminded and understand that what Paul does say is with the knowledge and approval of Jesus because Jesus said the Holy Spirit would take from him, that is, Jesus, and reveal to the disciples. I believe one probable reason why Paul clarifies that this is from "him" and not the Lord is to confidently assert by way of a reminder to his readers that HE DID meet the Lord and Paul does know what the Lord said and what the Lord did not say.

      I say it without malice and with all due respect, but the matter of the coat and parchments strikes me as one of countless instances which the saints have cited over the years in wonderment as to whether that is from the Holy Spirit. This goes to what I have observed as what is nothing less than the trump effect. The tactic of posing or rapid firing questions which no one can or do not answer often produces the desired effect that the questioner must surely understand what no one else understands.

      Lastly, and to go back to where I began, however easy it might to read a passage or how difficult it may be to understand is what God has full confidence that the Holy Spirit in us is able to lead us through the struggle to understand. In the end even if we do not understand what will be evident is if we have maintained love towards one another and glorified our Heavenly Father.

      Thank you for your comment.