Same Blog, New Home (Or, Goodbye to Blogger)

For over seven years, The Doc File has been hosted on Blogger. Blogger has several strengths, but also some shortcomings, and I considered switching to a different blogging several times over the years. Well, finally I have done so.
For the foreseeable future, you can find The Doc File at this www.lukedockery.com. Please update your links and bookmarks accordingly.
This new blogging service makes it easier for readers to share posts in a variety of social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and will also provide a lot of other features and functionality that I hope to introduce over the next several weeks.
Over the years, the readership of this blog has grown and I hope that will continue—I appreciate all of you.


The Problem with the Church is ______.

I swear, someone must have declared 2013 to be the year where people would use their blogs to solve the “problems” of the church.1

I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve read this year which purport to explain what is wrong with the church or why certain people are leaving it. Many of these blog posts have come from within the fellowship of Churches of Christ (a relatively small group of people), but that fact has not prevented the analyses from being all over the place.

Depending on whose blog you’re reading, the main problem with Churches of Christ is that we are too left-brained—we are out of touch with our emotions and therefore unable to relate to our culture. Or, if you read someone else, the problem with the church is that we aren’t catering to the millennial generation (people who are roughly my age, give or take a few years). We aren’t valuing their perspectives and ideas, so they are leaving. Or, if you stumble upon a third blog, you’ll hear that people are leaving (especially preachers and ministers) because our practices in the area of church music, the role of women in the church, and leadership, are unacceptable and thus, driving them away.

After a while, reading these sorts of posts tends to frustrate me. Not because the church is problem-free (it isn’t), but because over and over again, the tone in the posts is that the author has discovered the problem in the church and is now proposing the solution. Of course, if they really had discovered the problem, you would expect there to be a little more overlap in the different posts rather than so much disparity.

Also, these posts tend to frustrate me because they are usually not based on real research, but rather on one person’s observations. I don’t mean to discount the relevance or importance of a person’s experience, but I do think we should be careful about making broad generalizations about an entire fellowship of churches based on one person’s (inherently limited) point of view.

Having vented these frustrations, I want to end this on a positive note by highlighting a couple of genuinely good things that I think posts like these indicate:

(1) People care about the church. If people didn’t care, they wouldn’t spend time and energy identifying problems and thinking up suggestions on how to fix things. Even if I disagree with some of the suggested problems or proposed solutions, I can still appreciate the authors’ intentions and the concern for the church which lies beneath them.

The alternative to this is people not caring, which is never a good thing. Apathy never solves anything, whether about politics, a football team, a business, or in the church. Generally speaking, even with people I disagree with, I can find some common ground  with people who are passionate about the church. On the other hand, there’s no point in even trying to work with people who don’t care.

(2) The Restoration spirit is alive and well, at least in one sense. People who work and worship in Churches of Christ will know this already, but for others who might be reading, Churches of Christ, while desiring to follow the teachings of the New Testament and emulate the church of that time, also have direct historical and theological roots in the American Restoration Movement of the 1800s. This movement was an attempt to unify people of different denominations by cutting away the manmade traditions and creeds which had accumulated over time in an attempt to “restore” the church of the New Testament.

That movement was only made possible by the fact that people were willing to take a hard look at church practices of the day, identify problems, and go about trying to fix them. Clearly, we still have men and women today who care enough about the church to do the same (I added the qualifier “at least in one sense” at the end, because while many of these folks are quick to point out problems in the church, they are not turning to the model of the New Testament church as the solution…but that’s a post for another day).

Restoration is an ongoing process. We should always be willing to examine what we do and make sure we’re not confusing traditional practices with biblical ones. And for those things which are just traditions, we should be willing to consider changing them if such a change would help us to better reach out to the lost or care for those who are already saved.

1By putting “problems” in quotation marks, I am not suggesting that there aren’t problems in the church. There certainly are, and this spat of bloggers have hit upon some of them. Rather, I am suggesting that not all of the issues proposed as “problems” by these bloggers are, in fact, genuine problems.


The End of Greek

So, as you may have noticed, it has been a rough semester for blogging for me.

I always have to carve time out of my schedule for blogging between the demands of work, grad school, and family, and this semester an even heavier-than-normal school schedule has simply left me with little leftover time.

Having said that, I hope things will improve in the near future, as just this week, I finished one of my classes. That, in and of itself, probably isn’t worthy of a blog post, but this was my last Greek class!

I have enjoyed studying Greek in many ways over the last two and a half years and have learned a lot that will be helpful for me as I continue to study, teach, and preach from the New Testament. At the same time, I must confess that it will be nice to cease my formal study of the language.

Of course, in one sense, my most difficult task with regard to Greek will begin now, which is trying to keep up my Greek skills without being in a class that is forcing me to do so. Those who have studied languages before know how challenging this can be.

Okay, that’s all for now—I need to go study for a Hebrew exam.


“Packaging” the Good News of Christ

In the marketing world, packaging is the “science, art, and technology of enclosing or protecting products for distribution, storage, sale, and use.”

I am sometimes hesitant to apply business principles and metaphors to the church, because I think that can lead to unhealthy practices, but in this case, the parallel easily applies. When it comes to evangelism or sharing our faith with others, all Christians, consciously or otherwise, take part in the process of packaging. We store our beliefs in a certain “package” which we can then share with others.

Unfortunately, on the whole, I think Christians have a major problem with packaging, and often fall into one of two problem areas:

The Not-So-Good News Package

(1) Honestly, I think some Christians don’t want the Kingdom of God to be as large or expansive as God Himself does. Of course, they will affirm that God loves all people and that Christ died for all, but by their actions they suggest that God’s grace is really only intended for the good, moral, “churchy” people. And so, perhaps to reinforce this idea, or to make the inherently appealing Good News a little less appealing, they wrap it up in a package of arrogance, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy. 

And sure enough, people of the world—those who are lost in sin and desperately need what the church is “selling”—take one look at the Not-So-Good News package and easily decide it’s not for them.

The “Better” News Package

(2) Some Christians have just the opposite problem though. Unlike the first group, they really, really want everyone to hear the Good News and accept the grace that God offers, made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But here’s the problem: Jesus and his disciples actually taught a lot of demanding, exclusive, hard-to-obey ideas, and a lot of the people in the world (and in the church!) don’t want to follow those teachings. So these good-hearted people, wanting to be as appealing to as many people as possible, water down the teachings of Jesus here and there and leave out some of the most objectionable material.

And for some people in the world, this Better News package (“better” because it involves little moral correction or personal sacrifice) looks really good, but when they buy it, they end up settling for a substitute rather than the real thing (which, when you think about it, isn’t good news after all).

The Solution

If we want to be faithful Christians, we need to avoid either extreme. To put it another way, Jesus was characterized by grace and truth (John 1.14), and so our presentation of the gospel should be too. The Not-So-Good News package emphasizes truth at the expense of grace, while the “Better” News package emphasizes grace at the expense of truth. Neither of these alternatives are acceptable. Instead, we need to “package” the Good News as Jesus Himself did—with grace and mercy and love, but also with clear teaching on the personal sacrifice required by real discipleship. 

Some people will look at that package and snatch it up immediately, while others will leave it on the shelf. But that shouldn’t surprise us—they did the same thing with Jesus. Ultimately, as a follower of Jesus, it is not my task to present Christianity in a way that tastes good to others. Rather, it is my task to present it faithfully, and let others decide if they want to swallow it or spit it out.

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