Max Lucado's emphasis on second chances is prompting changes at his church—not least shortening its name from Oak Hills Church of Christ to Oak Hills Church.
"Some people find the name of 'Church of Christ' to be an insurmountable barrier," Lucado writes in the church's new vision statement. "Scripture urges us to remove cultural hindrances while remaining scripturally true." The name change is part of a bigger plan to become a multi-site church—one church, many campuses—in the next eight to ten years.
In addition, Oak Hills is one of a handful of Church of Christ congregations that include musical instruments in their Sunday evening services, as well as at "20-to-30 something" morning services, which Oak Hills holds in its fellowship hall. The three Sunday morning services in the main worship center will remain a cappella.
Most Church of Christ congregations have used only a cappella worship music throughout their history. The denomination, first recognized in 1906, is the most conservative of the three Restorationist streams (the other two being the Disciples of Christ and the Christian Churches). Other distinctives include an emphasis on New Testament Christianity, congregational independence, weekly observance of the Lord's Supper, and the necessity of baptism for salvation. Lucado, like many Church of Christ ministers, no longer believes that last teaching.
The recent changes at Oak Hills have drawn mixed reviews in the denomination. Some believe Lucado is compromising the denomination's distinctives, even though they understand his motives.
Such changes are rare in the Church of Christ, says Charles Siburt, associate dean at Abilene Christian University, where Lucado earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees. "I can only think of a handful who have done so," Siburt says. "While most leaders in Churches of Christ do recognize that some of our churches consider their Church of Christ identity as an unnecessary obstacle to their ultimate priorities, we cannot help but feel a sense of loss when a Church of Christ chooses another identity—whatever the reason."
The president of Abilene Christian University, Dr. Royce Money, says he and Lucado are good friends, and he respects Lucado. "To understand Max, one must realize that he has the heart of a missionary. He will do whatever he thinks will reach the most people for Christ," Money says. "I personally regret that his church leaders have decided to change their name and worship format, but I understand their right to do so as an autonomous congregation of God's people."
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