Something Special

By Mark A. Taylor

It happened again, this time on the campus of Lincoln Christian University on a cold Friday night a couple of weeks ago. Mark Mittelberg, a best-selling author, widely traveled speaker, and well-known Christian apologist, was speaking to leaders about LCU’s initiative “Room for Doubt.” But before he talked about the materials he’s helping to develop for this ministry, he paused to speak about the movement of churches that will promote and use them.

Mark Mittelberg was the featured speaker at the leadership conference sponsored by Lincoln Christian University February 21.
Mark Mittelberg was the featured speaker at the leadership conference sponsored by Lincoln Christian University February 21.

Mittelberg is something of a celebrity in general Evangelical churches; his résumé includes stints on staff at Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago and Mariners Church in California; his books include collaborations with Bill Hybels and Lee Strobel. His experience has not been as a member of our fellowship of nondenominational Christian churches and churches of Christ. So it’s interesting and valuable to hear the assessment of this “outsider,” a verdict far more positive than some of us would render on ourselves.

Mittelberg said he’s “amazed at what’s happening in the Christian Church movement.” It’s “something special,” he said. “Somebody should do a doctoral dissertation,” he said, to figure out how and why Christian churches are growing, serving, and reaching as they are.

I say “again,” because Mittelberg’s comments echo statements Strobel made at the North American Christian Convention last summer. “This movement of churches is nothing short of miraculous,” he said when I interviewed him there. “God is doing amazing things,” he added. “What’s really cool to me is that the leaders of these larger churches are all friends.” He spoke of their concern for evangelism and their willingness to share ideas with each other.

These two fellows have analyzed our movement in pragmatic terms: what we’re doing is working, a fact we highlight here at CHRISTIAN STANDARD as often as we can. But it’s also important and valuable to pause and propose the “why” behind the vitality among us.

Here’s my take: our commitment to nondenominational independence has left us free of the bureaucracy and hierarchy that eats up resources and stymies innovation. But the wisest among us have understood that independence without fraternal ties puts one in a lonely, dangerous place. Instead, we’ve chosen the encouraging cross-fertilization that comes from voluntary association and the strength that comes from mutual support.

And with Mark Mittelberg, we can agree that what we have in the Christian churches and churches of Christ is, indeed something special.

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6 Comments

  1. March 3, 2015 at 9:43 am

    I’ve noted this same growing sentiment. As a movement, we have much work to do, but it’s encouraging to see that the good God is doing through us is evident to others. Thanks.

  2. Marshall Hayden
    March 3, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Ah! Encouraging! Even to those of us who cheer now on th sideline.

  3. Earl Winfrey
    March 3, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    With all of the drama that exists within the movement, it is nice to read that we are still admired from the outside. I just pray that we will one day be thankful for all the good that comes from our movement and quit being so pessimistic about our future!

  4. March 3, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    Thanks for sharing! Great perspective – looking forward to where the Room for Doubt program/material leads!

  5. John c. Samples
    March 4, 2015 at 8:52 am

    Mark, your role in sharing these kinds of reports and observations are crucial. Thank you for being that source of connection between what we hope to be our ministry effectiveness and the reality of it from outside observers.

  6. March 4, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Mark, thanks for sharing and for your work to keep us in the loop. I have prayed and worked for the younger guys, and gals, to embrace the richness of our fellowship. Hope this helps.

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