Mike Cope's blog

Friday, October 15, 2004

Somewhere along the line I failed in one area of parenting. Last night Chris and I watched the play-off game. I assumed, naturally, that we would both be cheering on the Cards. But that wasn't the case. I was born in Missouri; he was born in Texas. He's an Astros fan! (Actually, I am too . . . but not when they're playing St. Louis.) Then I talked to Matt on the phone and told him we were watching the Cardinals' game. He said, "You mean the ASTROS' game!" He's lived in Houston only four months, and he's already turned. I will say this: neither of my boys--at least to my knowledge--roots for the Evil Empire. Minnesota couldn't stop them, and it doesn't look like Boston will. Could it be a rematch of my first World Series game in 1964: the Cardinals vs. the Yankees? - - - - A friend wrote me recently to tell me about a message he'd heard expressing fear that we (in Churches of Christ) might lose our distinctiveness. And my buddy pointed out that the distinctiveness this minister was concerned about wasn't in relationship to the world--i.e., distinct in holiness--but rather in relationship to other denominations. Where did this obsession with distinctiveness come? Why so much time worrying about whether we are different from others? Does our identity and worth come from being unlike other Christ-followers? What if our identity came from following the Way of Jesus Christ? We wouldn't have to worry about how distinct we are from others; rather, we could rejoice that there are others who are seeking to follow the same Way. Sometimes I've heard people make it sound like we ought to do (or not do) something because it preserves our distinctiveness. Is that really a good reason? It worked pretty well for the Qumran community (who could reduce the world into "sons of light" and "sons of darkness" with their own little odd group as former), but I don't think that's what we want. Yes, let's be distinct. But not as many have meant it. Let's be distinct: - by receiving with joy our identity and the sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ; - by recognizing that the Spirit of God continues to indwell and guide us; - by pouring our minds and bodies into following the Way that Jesus has charted and led; - by participating in the mission of God in this world; - by continuing to pray, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven"; - by encouraging one another rather than competing with one another; - by living with radical hope amid a world of despair; - by praying for all the people of the world--allies and enemies; - by refusing to let money dominate us, opting instead for constant giving and sharing.


  • Amen to distinctiveness. I am so tired of being part of “The Church” and so ready to be a part of “HIS CHURCH”. The Church that embraces all believers who are striving to let Christ live in them.

    By Blogger DJG, at 10/15/2004 04:47:00 AM  

  • In recent years I have turned a corner on this issue and agree that our identity is in Christ. I think that when He changed our name He did not do that to give us various labels, but rather one true identity. I struggle with whether this is void of gratitude for the cloud of witnesses that got me here, but in the final analysis, that is obviously secondary to the One we are witnesses to.

    Also, as someone with both Missouri and Texas ties, I have been sitting on that fence but finding myself more hopeful for the Astros (I think it's the underdog thing). Connor, however, is solidly for the Cardinals. He also opposes me when the Angels are playing the Rangers by rooting for the Angels. The rest of the time he supports the Rangers. However, he falls in line when it's important. He also hates the Yankees.
    Go Boston!
    Go Houston!
    Go St. Louis!

    (So much for one true identity...)

    By Blogger Val, at 10/15/2004 05:18:00 AM  

  • Would you mind re-posting this as two separates blog entries? There are lots of people I'd like to forward this to, but they might not get past the first part about baseball.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/15/2004 05:48:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Steve Duer, at 10/15/2004 06:20:00 AM  

  • Cut and paste brother (or sister) anon! Asking Mike to take the baseball out of his post is like asking him to take the Mike out of Mike Cope. You have to have both parts to know his true identity. Just highlight the parts you want and email away!

    By Blogger SG, at 10/15/2004 06:27:00 AM  

  • I would suggest the two post are loosely related. Mike your tongue in cheek chagrin that your soon as already "turned" is a comment about him loosing a part of what you see as your identity. It is part of what makes a Cope. You’re mature enough to understand that which team he roots for in a playoff game is really insignificant and doesn’t fully define you as a person.

    My mother has used this distinctive phrase in conversations with me about changes in the C of C. It is about identity. We need to recognize that if we push for being distinctive by emulating Jesus (which by all means we should) we will lose some of our worldly identity. That will impact people differently. Some will relish the loss of a burden, some will mourn the loss of a security blanket. We need to be patient with the “weaker brother” who ever that is.

    All this said. If my kids start rooting for Tennessee (our current state of residence) over Auburn (my childhood team) or Alabama (my wife’s childhood team). They are out of the will (that means they will miss at least 3 happy meals).

    "Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples--when they see the love you have for each other."
    (Joh 13:34-35 MSG)

    By Blogger Steve Duer, at 10/15/2004 06:43:00 AM  

  • Mike, great post. I believe these are the ways Jesus wanted us to be different and distinctive. Amen, brother.

    By Blogger Greg, at 10/15/2004 06:52:00 AM  

  • Great thoughts, Mike. Thanks! Wonder who the "buddy" is . . . :-)

    I'm working thru 1 Corinthians now in a class and currently thinking about how we are NOT distinct, but are buying into the "wisdom of the world" -- power, greed, arrogance . . . What can we DO to be distinct and people know that we are distinctly CHRISTIAN?? Any ideas anyone??

    AND --- looks like fellow Christians would be viewing this apocalyptic war between good and evil (the evil empire) and WOULD HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF FAITH!! We in Boston are KEEPING THE FAITH -- what else can we do -- maybe the "good" will overcome the curse this time!!! We'd appreciate all the SUPPORT we can get!!!

    By Blogger vtc3po, at 10/15/2004 07:00:00 AM  

  • We had a crusty old neighbor when we live in the northeast who seemed to hate everyone. His foul language and constant gossip revealed a heart that was set on making enemies. One day, as I was in the yard, I overheard an exchange between him and two door-to-door evangelists. In an obvious effort to hurry them along, my neighbor said, "I was born a Catholic, and I'll die a Catholic."

    Many of us in the blog community, at some time in our lives, have said, thought or implied, "I was born a Church of Christer, and I'll die a Church of Christer"...thinking that was indeed a noble thing. I have come to the conclusion over the years, that there is a great difference between the fruits of religion and the fruits of walking in a personal relationship with the Father through His Son. True religion, as we all have heard and read, is seen in one's morality and how one cares for others. These things and more must come("must: in the sense of impossible without) only from a personal relationship with God.

    I am convinced that after a certain length of time (which varies from person to person), a walk with God becomes evident in startling ways. Surely, someone who has tasted the mercy of God and lived 20, 40, 60 years in the light of his grace has put aside some destructive attitudes and behaviors. I mean, how can one who has experienced grace hold on to prejudice? How could such a person slander his brothers and sisters in Christ? Would such a personal relationshp with God allow a father to take his family for granted? Or a woman to pursue a "meaningless" affair? Or a preach to focus more on law than on grace? Or a couple to never offer hospitality to a homeless person? Or a church to forsake its responsibility to the imprisoned and otherwise disenfranchised? How could these things continue in the light of the cross on which my sins were once and forever nailed?

    I want my identity to be established on what God might choose to do in me and through me. I already know, what he's done in me; He's still working miracles through me.

    Religion or the cross? The Church of Christ or Christ alone? No contest!

    By Blogger MarkS, at 10/15/2004 09:03:00 AM  

  • Mike,


    Your comments this morning reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Way of the Heart, by Henri Nouwen. Nouwen describes the way of the heart as Silence, Solitude and Prayer. Please permit me to offer a quote that I believe is apropos to this discussion:

    "If you would ask the Desert Fathers why solitude gives birth to compassion, they would say, “Because it makes us die to our neighbor.” At first the answer seems quite disturbing to the modern mind. But when we give to others we have to die to them: that is, we have to give up measuring our meaning and value with the yard stick of others. To die to our neighbors means to stop judging them, to stop evaluating them, and thus be free to be compassionate. Compassion can never coexist with judgment because judgment creates the distance, THE DISTINCTION, which prevents us from really being with others."

    It seems that that there are some Church of Christ folks that are wound to tight. Pass around the “chill pills” and let us all take a deep breath! (:

    By Blogger David Michael, at 10/15/2004 09:40:00 AM  

  • Alright, the points about distinctiveness are great, but the Civil War ended long ago. Who won? Missouri? Texas? I don't think so. GO YANKEES!

    A Texan with an open mind :-)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/15/2004 09:46:00 AM  

  • Hey Mike,

    I was hoping for a Braves v Red Sox series. I'm still hoping for a Sox v Cards but I believe the Evil Empire is too tough for the Sox. I think your Cards can beat either of them, though. I just wish AOL would sell the Braves back to Ted!

    Your thoughts on distinctiveness just confirm my belief that you should write a book. As usual, you're right on!

    God Bless

    By Blogger Ed Harrell, at 10/15/2004 09:54:00 AM  

  • Great thoughts from everyone -- BUT are the answers really so SIMPLE?? Living out what you are saying is WAY more complicated!!

    I hope everyone knows that there should have been a little smiley face :-) at the end of my entry today -- I don't REALLY think "they" are "evil," but I do really think there is a curse. Really, people, can't I get SOME support for my Red Sox?? :-) It's a true exercise of believing in something that doesn't seem possible with any common sense . . . sound familiar??!!

    By Blogger vtc3po, at 10/15/2004 10:40:00 AM  

  • Mike,
    Great thoughts here. There have been several times when I've heard someone complain to a church leadership that "we're just trying to be like those Baptists," or "those Methodists" or "Max Lucado." And they meant it in a harmful way. My response is simple...if they are going in the same direction that we are going then hopefully we're all stumbling in the direction of Jesus. We get so caught up in being "distinctive" sometimes, but like you said, I think we're called to be distinctive from the world more than from one another.

    Blog on!

    By Blogger ourgreenroom, at 10/15/2004 10:47:00 AM  

  • Distinctiveness? As a goal?

    Teacher," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was NOT ONE OF US."
    "Do not stop him," Jesus said... "No one who does a miracle IN MY NAME can in the next moment say anything bad ABOUT ME, for whoever is not against us is for us.

    Sounds like it's not about US, but about HIM.

    By Blogger mchristophoros, at 10/15/2004 10:53:00 AM  

  • vtc3po - not to worry! I've been on the Red Sox's bandwagon since the season began. We may have to cry on each other's shoulders - but keep the faith - we can still do it!!

    However, you might want to worry about this - I'm still backing the Astros against the Cardinals too. However, in that case, I only jumped into the great state of Texas' fan club when my beloved Padres were eliminated. LOL

    I'll be thinking of you when the Sox get back to Fenway to do battle against the "evil empire". LOL

    And, to add to the Greenmachine's comments - it reminded me of one of the Pepperdine lectureships on Mark. At noon, as I sat alone at a window seat watching the citizens of new Jerusalem walk by ;) - there was a large table to my right that also was very noisy with comments such as, "If we keep teaching Grace this way, we might as well change our name to "Baptists." And I say, Hooray, when all the Body of Christ, His Church, comes to a point that the name on the church building will again be a location indicator, as in the NT, rather than a denominational one.

    Mike, you've got to stop this!! You're making me use too much grey matter and heart muscle with your comments. ;)

    By Blogger Kathy, at 10/15/2004 11:24:00 AM  

  • Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord!" will inherit the kingdom of heaven. But he who does the will of my Father, who is in heaven.

    What do you say we just do God's will?

    Sign me,

    Another Bible-thumpin' Weak Brother

    Please have patience with me as I drag my feet along the Way.

    BTW... Go Cardinals. (Although they'll have to talk Gibson out of retirement to beat the hated Yankees.)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/15/2004 12:00:00 PM  

  • Marla,

    I usually pull for the Red Sox in the American League, but since the Cards may be in the WS against them (if they break the curse), my only fear...if they CAN beat the Yankees...is that the rest of the world would root against St. Louis. Beating the Yankees in the world series would be magical for any Cards fan; beating the Red Sox would be bittersweet (at best). God bless.

    By Blogger Malibu Librarian, at 10/15/2004 12:50:00 PM  

  • Commenting on baseball is to comment on spiritual things:

    For fans... it is a spiritual experience! I have learned humility and patience watching the Astros losing to the Cards. I just wish I could convince my wife that my time spent watching a game was not a waste, but a spiritual enlightenment.

    Do not worry Mike, your son will experience these valuable lessons more with Houston teams than any other.

    (Disclaimer: I am just kidding!)

    David Bizaillion

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/15/2004 07:53:00 PM  

  • That's it. I'm never using a front door again. I have never seen a 'denominational person' use anything but the front door. I want them to know we are different!!! Can someone give me a boost to the window?

    By Blogger JD, at 10/15/2004 08:23:00 PM  

  • That's it. I'm never using a front door again. I have never seen a 'denominational person' use anything but the front door. I want them to know we are different!!! Can someone give me a boost to the window?

    By Blogger JD, at 10/15/2004 08:23:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger WDS, at 10/15/2004 09:03:00 PM  

  • ·I went to work today. One coworker swore all day long, condemning everyone and everything. Another wanted to move ethical boundaries when dealing with people. The Christian in the group went ballistic over a matter that showed little compassion to all individuals involved in the incident. As in any workplace, most people are amibtious and are jockiying for position against one another. It is quite distinctive in such an environment to have a thought like "[God's] will be done one earth as it Heaven." Or even the verse the Bible thumper brings up, "He who does my will" is a novelty in such an environment. I don't see labels of people at work. I just notice their actions. Some actions are distinctive, most are not.

    By Blogger WDS, at 10/16/2004 09:58:00 AM  

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