Grimes Honest Report
- Date: November lO, 2003
- To: Members of Hohenwald Church of Christ
- From: Mike and Jo Ann Grimes
- Subject: Why we no longer attend the Hohenwald Church of Christ
- Added blue notes to point out that this letter is totally correct.
We have had phone calls and visits from many of you who are wondering why we are no longer attending church at the Hohenwald Church of Christ. There have been many rumors and much speculation and the purpose of this letter is to let everyone know why we no longer attend the Hohenwald Church. We want to end this speculation and the rumors that are circulating. As most of you know many immediate family and extended family worshiped at the church in Hohenwald and were considered faithful leaders. My grandfather was an Elder and song leader and my dad was a deacon and song leader. Both my mother and father's funeral were conducted in the building. It has been comforting to me to worship God in spirit and truth with people I have known and loved all my life. However, we can no longer worship at Hohenwald because we do not agree with the position that the elders and preacher are taking on several important issues which will be addressed in this Jetter. We have met with three elders and the preacher on three different occasions to discuss issues that we have with the direction they are taking the church
We believe the Bible to be the complete, inspired word of God and the final authority on all spiritual and moral issues. It not only tells us the history of Christianity, it tells us how to live our daily lives, about God, how to worship and please him, how to obtain salvation, and the reward of obedience and the consequences of disobedience.
The following are the issues discussed with the three elders and the preacher and the conclusions we have drawn from those discussions. What you will read may shock you, but it will not be any greater shock than we had to hear these things first hand.
I. Meeting with Elder 1
This elder explained to us that while the eldership and preacher would continue to encourage people to be baptized, they did not believe that it was essential for salvation and would accept people into the fellowship who had not been baptized for remission of sins and who did not believe that baptism was for the remission of sins. If people who have an honest heart and Christ-like attributes die prior to haptism, God will save them. To state any thing differently would be limiting the power of God because we can not know when God saves a person. God can save a person anytime he chooses (before baptism, without baptism, or anytime along the path of salvation).
We were told that we can and should join forces with our denominational firiends to evangelize Lewis County. There are 12,000 people in Lewis County and only 2,000 go to church someplace. It is better to go to some church than no church at all. We believe 95% of the same things that our denominational friends believe and therefore we should minimize the differences and concentrate on the similarities. People who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved and therefore these people are New Testament Christians, even though they have not obeyed the gospel plan of salvation. Grace reaches all people. We can worship with them and our worship will be acceptable to God.
We were told it is a consensus of the elders that instrumental music is not a salvation issue, since the Bible does not say, "Thou shall not use an instrument in worship". However, the congregation is not ready for the addition of an instrument at this time so no instrument will be added.
We were told that the name of the church is unimportant. We could remove the narne church of Christ. While he would prefer it to be a name fiound in the Bible, it could be simply the Hohenwald Community Church.
When asked for chapter and verse to support the above statements, he stated that he did not have to have chapter and verse for all his beliefs. The Bible is a guide book and that it could not cover all the situations that develop. That is where faith takes over and guides. The Bible would have so many pages in it that our house could not possibly hold them.
II. Meeting with Elder II and the preacher, September 23, 2003
This meeting was scheduled because we were very upset because of the meeting we had with Elder 1. The purpose of this meeting for them was and we quote "We do not merely come to study scriptural differences. We come to bring about reconciliation and to study together in order to help each other grow in faith". The topics of conversation were to be the role of baptism in salvation and who can we fellowship and worship with in the denominational world.
We stated that a penitent believer was in sin and unsaved before baptism and it was at the point of baptism that sins were washed away and the believer rose from the watery grave to walk in newness of life, a new creature. (Mark 16:16; Acts 2 :38; Acts 22: 16). The preacher and elder immediately protested and said we were limiting the power of God to save with those statements. Friends, this biblical doctrine for the necessity of baptism for salvation is fundamental and has been preached at the Hohenwald Church of Christ since the establishment of this congregation in 1896. Our reaction to their statement was no less restrained than theirs and a stirring discussion ensued in which we spent several minutes trying to convince a Church of Christ preacher and elder that baptism is absolutely essential for salvation. Never in our wildest dreams did we think that such a conversation would be necessary. We ask you, members of the Hohenwald churcb "In what direction is the leadership taking this congregation?"
We discussed the salvation of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16). We asked, "At what point was he saved?" Was he saved when he was told to believe or when he was haptized? The preacher's answer was "It would seem that it was when he believed". In other words, his salvation from past sins took place before baptism. In no conversation with the preacher did he indicate that a person's salvation was dependent upon baptism.
Following this meeting we sent a letter to confirm our understanding of this conversation. This is our statement:
A. When is a person is saved? Even though you believe in the concept of baptism, you stated that God will save people who have not been baptized for the remission of sins. If a person, who has an honest heart and Christ-like attributes dies prior to baptism, God will save them. To state anything different would be limiting the power of God because we can not know when God saves a person. God can save a person anytime he chooses (before baptism, with out baptism or any time along the "path of salvation").
In response to our statement the preacher wrote and we quote: "I firmly believe that a faithful response to the God who saves us involves:
1. believing that God ]oved the world so much that he sent Jesus Christ that we might be saved,
2. repenting and turning from our sins;
3. confessing that Jesus is Lord and Savior and calling on his name;
4. being baptized
a. for the remission of sins
Zwinglians also believe this: they believe that FOR means BECAUSE of.
b. to receive the Holy Spirit,
In Acts 2:38 Peter said for the GIFT OF the Holy Spirit. Walter Scott and most of church history says for the gift of A holy spirit meaning your own spirit is made holy or sactified so that God can dwell in it by faith. Peter in 1 Pet 3:21 says that at baptism we REQUEST A good conscience or consiousness which means A holy spirit.
c. and to be united and clothed with Christ,
5. and living our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit,
6. carrying on the ministry of Jesus Christ,
7. and joining the church in carrying the gospel message to the world.
In response to the question: can a person who has never been baptized for the remission of sins be saved, he answered: "I do not decide who God saves. God decides. He never asks me to sit on the throne of eternal judgment. I have decided to help people to be faithful to God who saves, not to decide what God cannot do."
When you read the first part of his answer to our question, it is very scriptural. We have no issue with it It is the second question concerning a person who has never been baptized that we have issue. You can not have it both ways. Baptism either saves us or it does not. Which is it'?
B. When asked for chapter and verse to support the statement that salvation can occur at anytime God chooses, we were not given any. The statement was made that we did not want to get into a situation that would pit scripture against scripture.
C. This elder stated that as long as he and the current elders were in office that there would not be a musical instrument introduced into the church.
D. It was explained to us that since we were having so much problems grasping the fundamentals of salvation and baptism and it was getting late, the issue of fellowship with the denominational world should wait until the next meeting.
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
3. Turn your heart around. Acts 2:38 -- You know you are doing wrong--stop doing it.
4. Accept God's free gift. Confess to yourself and others that Jesus is Lord, that he is truly the son of God. Romans 10:8-10--Salvation comes through Jesus Christ.
5. Be baptized into Christ. Matthew 28:18-20--Jesus said to do it!
> The Hohenwald Group is goint to Winterfest.
We try and splain how it makes sense folks. That water makes sense. That water is an important symbol and it shows, and the uniting, and going down and going up.
> Therefore, the eye-witnesses are proven to be honest.
III. Meeting with Elder 3 and the preacher, October 8, 2003
A. We reviewed the salvation and baptism issue one more time. Jo Ann told the story of her grandfather. He walked five miles with his young children to the Baptist church on Sunday moming. He returned home, fed the children and then walked another 5 miles to the Methodist church. They prayed and read the Bible every night. However, her grandfather went to his grave never having being baptized. If ever there was a man who was devout and loved the Lord, it was he. When he discussed his soul and salvation, he said he would be saved like the thief on the cross. We asked what the Bible stated concerning his salvation. We were told that it would be in God's hands and if God choose to save him, he could. We asked in Acts 2:38 would apply in this case and it was said, they could not say, because they did not want to be put in the situation of making a judgment. We asked if any conclusions or parallels could be drawn from the Philippian Jailer and were told they did not know.
B. We were told that decisions to fellowship with denominational churches will be made as a situation arises. National prayer day was one example that was acceptable. The prayer breakfast for ministers that is conducted each Tuesday is another acceptable fellowship. The formation of the prayer group that will be meeting at the school for the teenagers is another acceptable fellowship Our young men preaching in their congregations is another.
One of the preacher's final statements to us was that he would continue to preach that baptism was for the remission of sins even though he would not rule out the possibility that God could save one who had not been baptized for the remission of sins. He called this a paradox. Confusion might be a better word.
Of course God is all powerful. God can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. God can save anyone at anytime if he chooses. The question is, will God save outside his inspired revealed plan? Since no one can answer this question, then we should not, and must not be implying or teaching that which has not been revealed to us in his Holy scriptures. Teaching this type of doctrine may very well cost the teacher and his students their souls.
If the preacher and elders of the Hohenwald Church of Christ are willing to teach their positions on the issues that are outlined in this letter in the homes of individuals, how long will it be until these teachings surface in the Bible classes and the pulpit?
It is our (the Grimes) opinion after these conversations, much study, reading of materials of Rubel Shelly, Max Lucado, Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Church and other controversial authors and their works, that the elders and the minister are leading the Hohenwald church toward the "community church" concept. The community church movement is in progress in many areas. This movement allows for inclusion of some Baptist, Methodist, Church of God, and other denominational teachings and practices. It usually means temporary numerical growth. This movement is never fully announced, is slow to happen and is done in a less than open fashion until it is too late. The tactic subscribed to by the purpose driven church is advance and retreat. Take it slow. Try a desired change and if too much criticism is received from the members of the congregation then back off or retreat. Advance or try it again a little later when the guard is down. These changes usually allow for denominational preachers filling our pulpit and our preacher and other church leaders preaching in denominational churches. This is done under the guise of an opportunity to teach them the truth but their participation is a compromise and adds credibility to religious error. To fellowship denominational churches is to say that one church is as good as another and it really does not matter as long as one has faith. It always includes a diminished importance of baptism and an inclination towards a faith only, Calvinistic belief.
Are the above statements what you really believe and want taught to your children and their children? Your physical presence and financial contribution supports the work of thls congregation. Would you go to Pro-Choice meetings and financially support the Pro-Choice movement when in reality you are against abortion? These are very serious issues.
The direction the elders are taking the church is in direct conflict with the Bible. As a result, we (the Grimes) can not worship with the Hohenwald church or make any kind of contribution. To do so is to state that we approve. To give of our means would mean that our money would be used to promote these beliefs. Our physical presence at any service would state that we support these beliefs when we do not.
What can you do? We suggest that you either as individuals or in groups confront the elders about these issues. Demand an answer. Hold the elders accountable. Take back your church. Tell them that you want taught what God has said in his revealed word, not what God could do if he choose. Ask them why they have taken the direction that they have chosen for the church. Ask them why change is necessary. Tell them that you do not want to hecome a community church that is really just another denomination. The worst thing that you can do is to do nothing.
We are not angry at anyone. We want more than anyting to return to Hohenwald Church and worship God as we did before the month of September 2003. We pray that the elders will reverse the direction that they have embarked on and will retun to the truth they once held dear.
We realize that we will be called troublemakers, fault-finders, judgmentai, unloving, uncompromising, and generally people who need an attitude adjustment, and who need to be avoided. If we are labeled in this way for standing for the truth of God's word or for denouncing error when we see it, then we will gladly accept such labels.
If you have any questions, our address and phone number is on the first page. Please feel free to contact us at any time. We love you and pray for you and hope that one day we will again be able to worship with you in spirit and truth. In Christian love.
Posted without authority because these fine people are being slandered all over the county in the belief that if Mike and Jo Ann can be discredited then THE HOHENWALD CHURC will automatically be pure and holy. However, in the same breath they label them as liars and slanderers they CONFIRM that they believe what they are charged with believing. Ken Sublett.