John T. Willis

Friday, July 04, 2014

One Man's View of the History of Churches of Christ

In this and future blogs, I want to share my own story about the history of Churches of Christ as I have lived it almost 70 years. Now, this is ONLY MY OWN STORY, and there are many things which I am unaware of. I am NOT a historian, just a Bible student. I do hope that others will chime in and join the discussion. I am fully aware of the hard work of several Church of Christ historians who have written much on this topic. As I read all this material, I cannot find a lot of information which I will share in these blogs. I hope this will be helpful. Like everyone else, I am very biased. Everyone thinks and writes from his or her own background and experiences.

I was baptized in 1947 at the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas. I went through Abilene High School and graduated in 1951. I entered Abilene Christian College in 1951 and graduated in 1955, and then received my Master's Degree in 1956. As an undergraduate, I majored in Greek, and was a fellow-student of people like Everett Ferguson and Abe Malherbe and Earle McMillon and Roy Bowen Ward and many others. As a graduate student, I majored in the Old Testament [now Hebrew Bible]. In 1956, I was invited to become a teacher at David Lipscomb College in Nashville, Tennessee. I taught Old and New Testament from 1956 to 1971. In 1971, I returned to my alma mater and began teaching at Abilene Christian College. Several years later, the authorities changed this to Abilene Christian University.

I cannot begin to tell YOU how much I have changed in beliefs, feelings, understandings, relationships, and everything else in 70 years. I am still growing by leaps and bounds. My teachers at ACC started my serious studies. Vanderbilt University had wonderful professors who helped me understand the Bible much better. The practice of preaching for thirteen years and teaching now for 58 years has made a great impact on my thinking and life. My wonderful wife Evelyn and walked right with me in good and very difficult times. We have four children, 14 grandchildren, and 5 great grandchildren. I have been a member of the Highland Church of Christ since 1973 and an elder at Highland since 1976. Everyone knows all the changes that we have experienced at ACU and at Highland.

In future blogs, I will deal with issues which I have confronted over 70 years of study and experience. My views may be right or wrong, but I will be as open as possible to share what I think has taken place and where we are in 2014 and 2015 A. D. YOUR ideas and experiences will be helpful to sharpen our beliefs and backgrounds. Proverbs 27:17 is a great reminder:

     Iron sharpens iron,
          and one person sharpens the wits of another.

In this blog, I want to make only one simple point. By now, most people are aware of this point. Here it is:

The Churches of Christ are VERY DIVIDED. In any city or town of any size, groups of people will disagree on many topics and backgrounds and ages and feelings. Let's face it. The Churches of Christ are NOT a unified people. Some would like to pretend that we are united, but this is just not true. This does not trouble me at all. At least three times a year [some years more often] I attend national and regional meetings about the Bible and religion. As I attend various presentations, the speakers are VERY DIVERSE. Diversity is NOT necessarily a bad thing. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Paul carefully describes the nature of the church. The church is a group of people which is like the human body. The arm is DIFFERENT from the foot; the eye has a VERY DIFFERENT capacity from the ear; etc. So when YOU or anyone else champions a certain idea or belief, this does not bother me at all. What bothers me is that we cannot appreciate and espouse and love other people's views and beliefs. The Churches of Christ are a very limited group of godly, Christian people. The first step we need to take is to have genuine fellowship with all believers.

In coming blogs, I will deal with specific issues which I have personally encountered and tried to deal with in almost 70 years in the church.

Share YOUR ideas and thoughts and beliefs and reversals and shortcomings with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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