May 28, 2004

To the Elders, Deacons, Teachers, Evangelists, and Members of the Denver Church of Christ:

It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
 ______________________________________________________

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:3-8)
 ______________________________________________________
 
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? (1 Corinthians 12:4-30)
______________________________________________________

I grew up in the Churches of Christ as a child.  As a young adult I attended the Boulder Church of Christ and was baptized in 1981, and I was one of the original team members to help plant the Denver Church of Christ (DCC) in 1986.  I have seen many things go on in the church.  I have been a faithful follower of Christ for many years and am grateful God granted me salvation through the gift of His Son.  I met my husband at DCC and we had our children during our time here.  I have had the privilege and honor of serving as a leader here in a few different capacities over the years because different individuals believed I could serve the church in this way.  I have been incredibly blessed to have obtained my Master’s degree in Counseling from Denver Seminary over the last three years.

Since being a part of the Denver Church of Christ over the past 18 years, I have supported many teachings and concepts and have accepted them as true and right, blindly and without question.  I am ashamed to say that I have acted on some of these teachings that have turned out to be harmful to others, such as being inflexible to the needs of others, harsh in discipling others, dogmatic in my evangelism, and prideful in thinking the International Churches of Christ were the only movement God could possibly work in, bless, save, etc.  Thankfully, God has molded me and matured me (yes, matured!) in many ways and I think very differently about many of these issues now and try to conduct my life in accordance with those values.

For many years now, my husband and I have been aware of many of the issues that have plagued the church for years, both externally and internally.  We have not solicited people’s opinions about these issues, but many across the country and around the world have voiced these concerns to my husband for several years now.  We have tried to speak the truth in love, we have encouraged many to persevere and to pray for changes, we have let people know where we stand, both in Denver and outside of Denver, and, most of all, we have loved the church.  When Henry Kriete’s letter came out, myself and others felt hopeful that for perhaps the first time in many years the church would take many of these issues to heart and important changes would be made in the heart of the church.  Many of the older Christians were eager and hopeful for more biblical study, theological depth, and new direction in the church.  Unfortunately this was short lived and with some of these proposed changes came new challenges as well.  Many people have reacted out of confusion and fear, both leaders and non-leaders, to the various issues on both sides.  Both sides have misinterpreted and both sides have misrepresented each other (i.e., “discipling”, “evangelism”, “accountability”).  On an individual level, we know some of the leaders at DCC and they are terrific people who love God.  On a leadership level, though, there seems to be a resistance that comes through with changing our paradigm and accepting input from older members.  

For years I have been concerned about the foundation the “movement” has been built on.  While “being committed” and being a “disciple” are good and right things, they cannot replace one’s relationship with God and the grace of forgiveness through Jesus.  One of the major problems in the foundations of the International Churches of Christ under Kip McKean and under Chuck Lucas has been a very unhealthy and unbiblical role and authority of the evangelists.  The evangelists have been given way too long of a “leash” and they have been exalted in unhealthy ways.  I cannot find this exaltation of the evangelists in the Bible!  In fact, I see the gifts of many people necessary to mature the body of Christ. (Romans 12:3-13, 1 Corinthians 12:4-13:7, Ephesians 4:11-16)  Perhaps this is why the Denver Church is still so stunted in its growth, but this is just my opinion.  This dynamic still appears to be present in the DCC today even with the elders in charge.  This has hurt countless members throughout the years and is an unbalanced, unhealthy model of leadership to continue to follow.  Personally, I believe this is the number one reason for many of the problems in the church in the past and present.  While many older Christians have expressed their concerns, the evangelists are protected at all costs, regardless of the damage to the older members.  It seems that if people “encourage” the evangelists then they are picked to be deacons or leaders or “special” people.  John and I have always tried to steer clear of kissing up to leaders in any way, yet we have been accused of isolating ourselves.  
    
The evangelists have very little, if any, training in the Scriptures or public speaking.  Yet, week after week members must endure their flat and self-centered sermons.  The evangelists seem to think that the members are bad and they must be convicted of how bad they are in every sermon.  The evangelists come across as though their words are weightier than the Bible’s!  Teaching directly from God’s Word is more than convicting and more than enough to get us to heaven!  I've failed to see the spiritual benefit of being yelled at during sermons to pray and to have more faith.  It seems to me that perhaps the evangelists need more faith and prayer!  Some members don’t want to come out of Kid’s Kingdom to hear the sermons.  Some have walked out of sermons to go pray because they couldn’t take it any more.  Some have told us they have not been happy at church for ten years or more.  Many people have wanted the town meetings, but the leaders seem to be scared of them.  The beauty of the town meetings was that leaders had to look at the truth of things rather than go along acting as though they had everyone figured out.  Are leaders interested in the truth or just protecting their egos?    

Older members in the congregation generally feel disregarded for their “opinions”, perceptions, and general life experiences.  Many of us have to endure the “opinions” of those who lead us and that without much Scriptural backing.  Regular members, mostly older Christians, have not had their needs met for so long, although they have voiced them for years, and even more so over the last few months, but to no avail.  Many are looking elsewhere, on a quest to grow spiritually, and wanting to be useful for God.  Evangelists have been free to stand in the pulpit and ridicule those who are older in the faith (those who think they are “mature”) rather than finding out what these backbone members have to bring to the table.  What will the church do when most of the more “mature” members leave?  Who will you lead but only those who do not question the leaders or the ways things are done?  

My husband and I have heard about many things said from leaders and members in the church about those who have left the church in the past few months to find healing for their tortured souls!  Things have been said like “stoning those who left” (jokingly, of course), “Some in the church are false brothers”, “We got rid of the squeaky wheels”, “We can’t change for just a few”, “If anyone wants to leave, let them leave!”, or “I’m glad they’re gone!”  A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  (John 13:34, 35)  Where is the love for your brothers and sisters who are struggling in their faith?

This brings me the issue of how the leaders have labeled people “good heart” or “bad heart.”  What is a “good heart?”  “Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)  And yet, this congregation has taken it upon itself to label who is good according to how they may serve particular people or leaders in particular ways.  This is ungodly and damaging to all members, including those doing the serving.  It seems that when someone disagrees with the leaders, now they also have a "bad heart".

When some members left a few months back, many remaining members were in shell shock, dazed and confused about what happened.  Some encouraged the leadership several times to meet with the South region to just talk and pray, but this was never done.  Many innocent people had their faith damaged by this lack of caring for their needs.  Is this how you would treat your own children and families in a time of crisis and turmoil?  You turned your back on many hurting people and did not shepherd them!  Personally, I think an apology for not tending to their needs better would go a long way in healing people, but again, that is only my opinion.  

Why have so many older Christians across the country left the ICOC to go to area Churches of Christ or local Christian churches for healing?  Why have many felt shut out by the elders and staff across the country?  Something is not right.  John and I have been repeatedly told how much people appreciate the way we have expressed our issues.  We have trusted some in leadership, but we have not felt trusted.  You want us to trust you, but you will not trust us!  This too does not add up.  We feel exasperated!  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)  I wonder if this applies to elders leading the church as they would their own families.

My husband has been a Deacon of Teaching but has been shut out by many of the leaders in the DCC.  When he has suggested trying to come up with a basic Statement of Faith for the Church and looking at things with more theological depth, he was regarded with mistrust and was part of a special meeting by the elders and evangelists to find out what his intentions were!  He has not been able to use his God given talents and passion here in this church because of the huge amount of mistrust and control by the leaders.  How long has he been a member here that people do not know his intentions?  He has not been able to even give a communion talk or anything for months on end, while other deacons are able to.  We can see something is up.  My personal opinion is that some evangelists feel threatened by him.  Someone recently asked an elder whether we would have more involvement from the teachers, including John in particular, and the comment was that the teacher up North was being used and we would see what Chris Reed wanted to do in the South!  The elders have said they want different perspectives, and yet we have felt very shut out when we have expressed different perspectives.  We are mistrusted for speaking up.  Gordon Ferguson used John as an example at the teacher’s workshop of someone who was brave enough to speak out, even before Golden Rule Leadership and the Kriete letter, trying to encourage other teachers to do the same.  

My question is what is the crime here of the older members?  What are we asking for?  Deeper worship of God?  Deeper Bible study?  More talk of God’s grace in our lives?  More ways of getting involved with changes in the church to help it grow and contributing to the needs of others?  Yes, these are what we are asking for.  None of this resistance, labeling, and ignoring members pleas even makes any sense to me or many others for that matter.  Are these “bad hearted” requests?  No, rather these are good and right requests for members who have moved into a stage spiritually of needing more depth in their walk with God.

While I understand leaders not wanting to change everything around for one or two people, but for the many, why not, if it is good and right?  Many have already expressed their needs, many more will express their needs, and the younger members will when they reach our age.  You cannot always have only young Christians to lead.  This is our church and we were all baptized into the body of Christ.  God has given elders, deacons, and evangelists authority in the church, but that does not mean that members have no part or say.  You cannot say you don't need us or that only certain members are important.

While some can still grow spiritually here in this congregation, I cannot.  I no longer feel confident that this congregation will help me and my family to get to heaven.  We must look elsewhere for spiritual comfort and to be fed by God’s Word.  This has been a hard decision that we have not taken lightly or been hasty about, but rather have tried to wait and were eager to help things change, along with many others.  I have tried to honor what my theology teacher taught many of us at school.  He encouraged us to not leave when we get discouraged with our congregation, but rather to stay and help change things as long as we could.  John and I have done this to the best of our ability for many years.  We have always wanted good for this church and not harm.  

After much study, prayer, patience, and talking with leaders about these issues, my family and I will no longer attend this congregation, but we will look elsewhere on our quest heavenward.  God's church is universal, yet local; invisible, yet visible; and spiritual.  God's church is not contained in a building or with any one congregation.  Christ is the head of the church and He will do with it as He pleases. (Revelation 2:1-3:22)  May God help us all!  Even with all of our frustrations and disappointments, we hope and pray God will bless this congregation again in the future.

Patricia Engler

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. 
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)



Link to John Engler's letter

Copyright © 1999-2007 John Engler. All rights reserved.

Send a letter to the editor concerning this article