JUNE 2004

Like many of us in the conservative wing of the Restoration Movement" "[1] I was exposed to biblical preaching for several years before I moved to the Boston area. There I entered graduate school and also became part of the Lexington Church of Christ. I was starry eyed and mesmerized with the ministry" hoping in my heart one day to become an effective preacher myself. Whereas I had been accustomed to very textual and often dry preaching in Boston the messages were dynamic challenging and motivating. The two years I spent there were a time of spiritual growth which eventuated in my relocating to London as part of the first foreign planting. In Boston although the Bible was certainly taught " the emphasis was more on the practicals. Theology was a bit suspect.[2]

The preached messages often featured spiritual meanings in the biblical text—meanings that I had never seen before. Hermeneutically speaking" " eisegesis[3] was probably more common than exegesis.[4] Everything seemed to be interpreted to support a few vital refrains: all church members must be committed to the body; the purpose of a Christian is to win others to Christ; we are all called to be discipled by more mature Christians. These doctrines were discovered in even the most unlikely passages. I remember one of the first messages I heard" in 1980. It was a message on 1 Samuel 15 where Samuel challenges Saul " ""Did not the Lord send you on a mission?"" The mission" at that time was to annihilate the Amalekites. Yet the point made was that the Lord has sent us on a mission—the Great Commission. Was that really what the Spirit wanted us to take home from the study? Not a bad point but it hardly flowed from the morning s text. Yet because the church was growing rapidly I dared not question the questionable or doubt the dubious. Growth was seen as a clear sign of God s presence and his blessing seemed to be on the church. After all " could it really be that wrong to force a fanciful interpretation out of a passage when so many people were being helped?

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