In the same way, God our Creator has not only given us involuntary physical reflexes, but mental and emotional reflexes as well. These help to avoid physical and psychological harm. The classic example is the fight-or-flight response. Sometimes it's more difficult to attribute these feelings to impeding or perceived danger, but in some circumstances, especially when they're told to an external observer, these "gut feelings" turn out to be absolutely correct.
In April of 2013, a member of the Cincinnati Church of Christ posted on the ICOC/ICC Discussion Forum on Delphi. His initial post gave typical defenses of ICOC doctrines and practices in the post-McKean era. One part did stand out (underlined emphasis mine):
I'm not thinking about leaving, and my goal isn't to "silence the criticism." I have issues myself sometimes, but I am not afraid to give voice to them, talk to leadership etc. Sometimes my issues get good answers that put them to rest and sometimes they don't. So far I don't have big enough issues with stuff to leave and stop trying to help the church grow, and I don't think there is abuse. There was a sermon a while ago that i did feel was waaayyyy [sic] strong and made me very uncomfortable (not "ouch, convicting" uncomfortable, but "this is wrong" uncomfortable) but a few weeks later he apologized to the whole congregation and said it was uncalled for and too much. Overall i don't usually feel like manipulative control is our issue.Upon reading this, I responded to his post and affirmed that his instincts were likely correct. I also encouraged him that this was an opportunity to think and confirm that his instincts were correct. Was it just the delivery of the sermon that made him and many other members of the Cincinnati Church of Christ uneasy or was it the delivery and the contents of the delivery? I also asked him which sermon it was so I could listen to it.
He responded again:
He let his emotions about the subject cause him to go on a rant, and lost the love aspect of "speak the truth in love." That's what i mainly found wrong with it, and this was the only time in my 4 years here that I felt like I was hearing something similar to the bashings I've read about in the past.This response didn't contain the response to the request I had made in the previous post for the sermon he was concerned about. After I had mentioned it to him again, another forum member graciously gave me the information. The sermon was based on Mark chapter 4 and was entitled "Seeds and Soils". It was delivered by Evangelist and Youth and Family Minister John Cleghorn. I wasn't surprised in the least that it was Cleghorn that went on a rant!
In the next post, the contented member of the Cincinnati Church of Christ explains the content of the sermon:
We were going through Mark, and that sunday [sic] was the parable of the sower. When talking about the worries of the world that choke our faith, [John Cleghorn] used an example of teens spending too much time on sports and got carried away, ending up saying parents were enabling it and would get to heaven to find their kids didn't make it, but hey at least they got a college scholarship.I responded:
There are many better ways to say ["]Why gain the world if you forfeit your soul?["] but that is all he was trying to say, i [sic] think.
The scriptures clearly teach that it's the responsibility of parents to teach and model the faith once for all delivered to the saints to their children and the responsibility of the children to decide to follow Christ, whether it be early in their lives or many years later. Parents may enable their children to prioritize other things above Christ, but John Cleghorn is wrong to directly blame (and presumably lay guilt upon) [Note: keep reading this blog post because my presumption was correct!] the parents for their children not making it to heaven.Although what Cleghorn was teaching from the pulpit was not obviously violating any primary Christian doctrines (as he and his cohorts have done many time in the past), what he was teaching was both clearly incorrect and highly manipulative.
I would ask Cleghorn about those Kingdom Kids who grew up in the ICOC and whose parents made the Kingdom of God a priority, but those children are now no longer interested in Christianity whatsoever. Who's to blame there?
Several days later, I listened to the sermon and posted a full analysis. The following is the section in question "preached" by John Cleghorn that made everyone uneasy:
"And I think in this area, I get a little scared because we've watered that down. We often don't water it down for ourself [sic], but we're OK missing church to go to something, to some sporting event, to some dance-thing, or some something and you think, 'Well, I'm committed.' But what are you teaching your KIDS? [My wife] Shannon and I made a decision with our children, they can play one sport. (And I think it's good to be in a sport or dance or something like that. I think that's GREAT. There are things you can learn on a team that you can't be taught unless you're on a team. I think that's great.) But my kids aren't going to join a sport that's going to get in the way of seeking the Kingdom first. Period! Maybe on our minds we're thinking, 'Well, they can be a pro athlete. Or they can get a SCHOLARSHIP and SAVE US MONEY.' I KNOW WE'RE THINKING THAT. WILL THEY GET A SCHOLARSHIP? SO WHAT?! WHO CARES IF THEY GET A SCHOLARSHIP IF THEY [pounds the pulpit] DON'T MAKE IT TO HEAVEN?!?! WHO CARES!?!?!? YOU'RE GOING TO BE IN HEAVEN AND GO, 'MAN, MY KID GOT A SCHOLARSHIP AND I'M FIRED UP, BUT THEY DIDN'T MAKE IT TO HEAVEN.' NO, YOU'RE GOING TO BE LIKE 'I BLEW IT!!!!!! [pounds the pulpit] I BLEW IT!!!!!!' [some clapping from the audience] 'MY KID'S EDUCATION WAS MORE IMPORTANT THAN GOD'S WORD AND THEM BEING A CHRISTIAN.' It drives me crazy when I hear about parents that talk about if their kid did homework or not, but they didn't have a quiet time with them. They asked them more if they did their homework or if their homework was complete than if they ask they're walking with God. That STUFF DOESN'T MATTER! (Now you still need to get good grades, amen? [laughter from the audience]) But that stuff doesn't matter! 'Well, John's being hard.' No, I'M NOT BEING HARD, THAT'S WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS!! AND IF YOU THINK IF YOU'RE FRUSTRATED, GET MAD AT GOD BECAUSE HIS EXPECTATION IS THAT!! AND I KNOW SOME OF YOU ARE BLARING AT ME, LIKE 'HE'S TALKING TO ME!' YES!!!!! I'M TALKING TO YOU, AND IT AIN'T JUST ME, IT IS GOD TALKING TO YOU THROUGH HIS HOLY SPIRIT, THROUGH HIS WORD: DON'T WATER DOWN GOD'S EXPECTATION BECAUSE WE WANT THESE KIDS TO BE FAITHFUL!!! ['amens' and applause from the audience]"His "gut feeling" was correct, as well as many other members of the Cincinnati Church of Christ. Sadly, as this follow-up post details, he did not want to accept the facts that were exposed and the conversation came to an end. As of early July, he hasn't posted much, if at all, on the forum. And why should he? From what we can tell, he recently graduated from college, is in a "sharp" ministry of young professionals (as opposed to a "weak and weird" ministry of the "unsharp"), and all is smooth sailing. He's likely on the track of good graces with his peers and the leadership to date and marry as well. Why take direction from a "fall-away" who has confirmed that his instincts are correct and risk losing everything he has in Kip McKean's Christ?
The truth hurts. Leaving the International Churches of Christ over six years ago was one of the most difficult things I've done in my life. But seven years ago I woke up and realized that I was burning. The authentic Jesus Christ of true Christianity has healed me of the spiritual, emotional, and psychological burn wounds I've suffered at the hands of their demonic system. But what will happen to those today who remain burning and who continue to will themselves to ignore benefits of common grace in order to avoid what they perceive as inconceivable pain? You can only ignore your "gut" for so long before it gives out.