Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

An Open Letter to Harding Faculty and Staff: Two or three years ago, a Harding board member attacked me at a Harding faculty/staff presession. Several of you called or e-mailed to tell me. Thanks. I immediately called this board member. To say he was a bit surprised when I said, "Hello, this is Mike Cope" is an understatement. We had never talked before. It's funny, really, because I'm not that hard to reach. My phone number and the Highland Church number are both listed. But rather than call me ahead of time to make sure he was right, he just went on the attack. I told him that he was, of course, wrong. He had said that I don't believe in baptism any longer. I read to him the part about baptism in our church's "Foundations of Faith" statement. He said that that sounded good to him but I couldn't believe that because I believe there are Christians who don't understand scripture the same way. Ah. It's tough to live with that paradox: a high view of baptism and a belief that God has other followers who don't interpret the passages the same way. But the best of our tradition has always had that perspective. "Christians only, but not the only Christians." Christianity isn't about following us and our interpretation of scripture; it's about following Jesus. Just because they don't fall in line with us doesn't mean they aren't followers of his. It's what I was taught at Harding and Harding Grad. Of course, no apology came. That's fine. I've never met him before and probably won't in the future. But it bothered me that something false had been stated in front of you--especially since I'm an alumnus of the university and the graduate school. And since I preached for seven years at the College Church and care deeply about you and the school. So I wrote the board and the administration, asking for a chance to reply. After all, the public statement about me was made before all of you. I just asked for an opportunity to correct the misinformation. I got a letter from the man who was the chairman of the board at the time. This is an incredible guy; I've known him for a long time and have always liked him. But he said that it would be inappropriate for me to respond because this board member had spoken for himself and not for the board. But someone either invited him or approved his request to speak! Eventually I got a letter from an administrator, telling me that I should be grateful for men like this board member because he's given generously through the years and that money helped pay for my scholarship while I was a student at the graduate school. All right. So I can't come tell you the truth. But here it is. I have a higher view of baptism than I've ever had. Read the statement on Highland's site. Or check out what Jeff Childers wrote about baptism in UNVEILING GLORY (an incredible book all the way through). That's what I believe. But does someone have to agree with me on all the particulars of baptism in order to follow Jesus? No. For too long, we've thought of our salvation depending on getting everything right. But there are devoted Christ-followers who disagree on lots of important things. I appreciate so much what you're doing. My frustrations with my alma mater have nothing to do with your selfless service. Most of you are working for less than you could make at a state university. And you profs are teaching greater course loads (like they do at most other Christian universities) because you believe in the mission of equipping students for the service of Christ. I love knowing that a large number of students come out of Harding excited about mission work--whether that is mission work in Africa or mission work that is around them as they work in Memphis. My frustrations with my alma mater right now -- for example knowing that Ann Coulter can come speak while Jeff Walling (and many others) can't -- are not with you but with the administration. Thanks so much for your selfless work of ministry.


  • "Christianity isn't about following us and our interpretation of scripture; it's about following Jesus". I've never heard it put this simple, but it's great. I hope I can remember it and share it for a long time.

    By Blogger Tommy, at 8/23/2005 05:01:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Thank you for sharing Highland's Foundations of Faith. What beautiful theological prose! So many churches have a cookie cutter mentality when it comes to articulating purpose statements, what we believe, etc. Highland's are refreshing.

    The Harding lectureship has some excellent key note speakers this year and the focus is on Jesus. Imagine what can happen when "Christ is lifted up!"

    By Blogger David Michael, at 8/23/2005 05:15:00 AM  

  • Thanks. Here is a link to the most exciting thing happening at my alma mater that I know about: www.harding.edu/cwm. Lots of students who did their undergrad work at Harding are now doing their Master's work at ACU, and they talk about how impressed they were with the Center for World Missions led by Monte Cox and the Vocational Ministry led by Ross Cochran.

    By Blogger Mike, at 8/23/2005 05:38:00 AM  

  • Great job Mike. Is there a sin greater than pride? Certainly God detests other sin as well, but pride is one of few sins that fellow believers over-look (or could care less about) -- we simply view it as more of a character trait than a sin.

    Pride cometh before the fall -- praise God when the fall is simply one's admission that pride has hindered his/her ability to discern scriptural truth.

    By Blogger KentF, at 8/23/2005 05:40:00 AM  

  • Mike,
    Always enjoy reading your post. As a former student of the University It appears to me that the University is so fickle about some things. There really isn't a statement of faith they hold to. For a long time that bothered me but now looking back I see that as a blessing. I am confident there are men and women who teach at the university who hold your same convictions. The diversification of the Bibloe faculty is what served me best. At some of our brotherhood universities every bible major comes out thinking the same thing. Not so at Harding where we were taught how to think for ourselves. God Bless!

    By Blogger David Cook, at 8/23/2005 05:58:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    I am glad you wrote this. I think that many, especially older people, are afraid. I am not sure that they really see a way to hold firmly to important beliefs and at the same time to be open to others who hold different beliefs. I think that there are some real parallels between us and what happened a few years ago in the Southern Baptist Convention. I am glad that you care so much about Harding and are willing to seek a dialogue with those who differ from you. I am a graduate of Freed and have long since felt abandoned by them. Some of the best minds in our fellowship have ties to Freed (Lynn Anderson or Rubel Shelly are just two examples.), but would never be asked to do anything there. Freed can have Walter Cronkite, but not Rubel. Go figure.

    By Blogger RC, at 8/23/2005 06:07:00 AM  

  • Some of these administrators are going to have to answer some day for the old "well, they give a lot of money, so it's o.k." business. That chaps me big time.

    By Blogger Brad, at 8/23/2005 06:15:00 AM  

  • Mike-
    What a wonderful letter. I appreciate your honesty and your humility. Thank you for leading by example. It means alot to this HU ministry alum. Keep leading!

    Micheal Felker
    Campus Minister
    Alabama Christian Academy

    By Blogger Micheal, at 8/23/2005 06:27:00 AM  

  • I don't understand. Either you believe what the Bible teaches, that baptism is necessary for salvation, or you don't.

    If you believe that it is necessary for salvation and a requirement for membership in the body of Christ, then how can people who DON'T believe it is necessary for salvation be considered part of the body of Christ?

    You can e-mail me privately if you want at lgraves65 AT up-link DOT net. I don't mean to hijack your comments.

    By Blogger Lisa, at 8/23/2005 06:31:00 AM  

  • Mike, thanks for your gracious comments and encouragement. I, too, like the way you said that it's about following Jesus, and not about following us. I am glad to hear from your own mouth (pen, keyboard, whatever) an attempt to clarify your position on baptism. Whether people want to hear it or not is, I guess, up to them, but I suspect there are many that are hearing it, who wouldn't had your response been one of escalating the noise level.

    By Blogger don, at 8/23/2005 06:32:00 AM  

  • Rick, being one of the 'older people' you refer to, I can appreciate your thoughts. When I returned to the US after nearly 30 years in Mexico it was to hit a theological culture shock head on.

    I'd never heard of Rubel Shelly, nor Rick Atchley nor, sorry dear pastor/teacher, Mike Cope and had only recently been introduced to the writings of Max Lucado. So imagine my shock and then relief to find a refreshing breeze of deeper delving into scripture and a questioning of some 'sacred cows' that had always caused me spiritual problems.

    Bless Oak Hills and later, in my experience, Highland's elders for addressing some of those problems in such a loving way.

    Also, for nearly nine years I worshipped in an evangelical congregation in San Diego - so have been exposed to both the heavy emphasis on "baptism saves you" and "the sinner's prayer" does. Both have, imho, grains of God's truth in them. Highland's Foundations of Faith seems the closest to touching the depths of the mystery of God's grace in baptism of any - it is our FAITH IN Jesus that opens the doors of salvation and both baptism and the 'sinner's prayer' are external expressions of that faith and obedience to God. God does all the saving, our faith and acceptance of Jesus as LORD and Savior walks us through that door to salvation. This is by no means a complete statement of my belief in baptism and heart's prayer for Jesus to save me, but will do for a blog, especially one that isn't mine. ;)

    Mike, I've defended Highland's and your position and belief on baptism right here in Abilene. First I ask if they have attended Highland and heard you state your disbelief in baptism, which is followed by my suggestion that the person(s) hear for themselves rather than accepting third party gossip of an untruth.

    I'll repeat what I wrote earlier this week, how I pray and wish God's children would quit carping at each other and get about the outreach to lost souls. But then Max's devo for today hits me up beside the back of the head; lol

    "From our perspective, the church
    isn't so pretty. We see the backbiting, the squabbling, the divisions. Heaven sees that, as well.

    But heaven sees more. Heaven
    sees the church as cleansed and
    made holy by Christ.

    Heaven sees the church ascending to
    heaven. Heaven sees the Bride wearing the spotless gown of Jesus Christ."

    Fear not, dear friend, Jesus has got your back and so do we. (((((MIKE))))) :o)

    By Blogger Kathy, at 8/23/2005 06:39:00 AM  

  • Lisa -

    Wonderful question. That would make a good post for me in the future. I've talked about it in the past, but not at length. For now, let me point you to a couple resources: Alexander's Campbell's famous "Lunenburg Letter" (http://www.bible.acu.edu/stone-campbell/Etexts/lun16.html) and the chapter "Transformed Unimmersed Believers?" in DOWN IN THE RIVER TO PRAY by John Mark Hicks and Greg Taylor. I think THE JESUS COMMUNITY by Rubel Shelly and John York would also be helpful. What tends to happen is that we hold to a high view of baptism and become exclusivistic, or we lower our view of baptism in an effort to find common ground. The best of this tradition has always held the two in tension: a high view of baptism and a recognition that there are other Christ-followers who reach different hermeneutical conclusions about certain passages. I take your question seriously, and will try to get back to it.

    By Blogger Mike, at 8/23/2005 06:43:00 AM  

  • As I work on a sermon for Sunday, I'm struck by the familiar phrase in Hebrews 11 that says we MUST believe that God rewards those who earnestly seek after Him.

    It reminded me of your conversation with the HU board member who attacked the idea that God might accept people who don't understand scripture the same way. Is it so difficult to agree that God would accept people who earnestly seek after Him yet come to different understandings on issues? Hebrews (a favorite CofC text) offers that God accepts EVERYONE who earnestly seeks after Him as fundamental!

    I know that it is historically proven to be that difficult, but that phrase stuck out today anyway...

    Thanks for sharing...

    By Blogger Al Sturgeon, at 8/23/2005 07:19:00 AM  

  • Something that struck me in my Bible readings this week was in Acts 10 when Peter went to speak to the Gentiles. Scripture says "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.", vs.44. Later "Then Peter said 'Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.", vs. 47.

    So these people received the Holy Spirit BEFORE a water baptism. Doesn't that lend to the fact that listening to Peter changed their hearts, and therefore they received the gift of the Holy Spirit? A water baptism was a part of the process, but not a requirement for receiving the Holy Spirit?

    By Blogger Beaner, at 8/23/2005 07:32:00 AM  

  • Excellent letter written in a good spirit. Having worked for a Christian college in the past, it is a fact of life that money makes the world go 'round. It shouldn't make the kingdom go 'round also.

    By Blogger JD, at 8/23/2005 07:39:00 AM  

  • It makes me sad to see that witch hunts continue to plague our churches and Christian universities. I don't even really understand the question "is baptism necessary for salvation" or worse "do you believe in baptism?" What does that even mean?
    God, when did we lose sight of baptism as a gift of grace and transform it into a work to be performed or an intellectual concept to be assented to? God, when did we lose sight of salvation as a process of dying to self and allowing Christ to live instead of us and turn it into a get out of hell free card? God, forgive your people for hijacking the romantic, poetic love story of the gospel and replacing it with a judgmental, exclusive mathematical equation.

    By Blogger Preston, at 8/23/2005 07:48:00 AM  

  • I am not a part of the "blogger" world (although I will need to become a part to post this message)
    I teach
    in a public school in Houston, and don't have time. I have a friend I keep up with through
    a blog that led me to this current discussion regarding ACU being blasted for casting a caucasian in a certain roll and Harding being blasted for allowing Ann Coulter to appear on campus. To me one is 6 and the other 1/2 dozen. There are two sides to each and every coin. . .so while we blog away (and I am embarrassed to admit that this has taken quite a lot of my planning time today)let me throw this out. . .

    I graduated from Harding in 1991--I attended College Church for four years while Mike was there, his wonderful "Peak of the Week" class in the Benson, the devo's on the front lawn. I also lived and taught in Abilene for a year immediately after leaving Harding and attended Highland for awhile.
    I now attend what some would classify as a "conservative" church in Houston.

    I am saddened to see the disdain, anger, pride, and nastiness displayed in various posts by various people on various sides of various fences. Who has the time? I teach kids who know living hells that most of us could never imagine, and we, brethren, spend our time tearing each other apart over a white girl playing Aida and Ann Coulter even knowing where Searcy, AR is located. These are not life defining events. This is Satan having a field day. We need to get over ourselves, people.

    I may not see eye to eye with Mike Cope, or Rubel Shelley, or Burton Coffman on every point of doctrine. But each brings his own slant on scripture and is worth listening to.

    One of several things I DID get from Mike at one of his Peak of the Week classes is this awesome quote. I have used over and over when speaking to "liberals" and "conservatives" alike,and it is this, "Some of what we read, and see, and discuss is like eating fish. We need to eat the meat, and throw away the bones." He said this to a group of students one Wed. night when he was about to show us a clip of a sermon being preached by a Baptist minister.

    It made an impression--an indelible one. Maybe we should all be treating each other more that way. Let's eat the meat of brotherly love and kindness and throw out the bones of contention, hatred, and idleness that make useless hurtful discussions part of Christianity.

    Thank you Mike for making a lasting impression on a young girl at Harding. My prayer is that all of this anger can go away. That's why God sent his son. He knows we are ALL only human. And his mercies are new every morning.


    By Blogger Roxanne, at 8/23/2005 08:22:00 AM  

  • Mike, I'm glad the chairman of the HU board told you this other board member wasn't speaking for the board that night. You know that if he wasn't speaking for the board, he also wasn't speaking for a lot of other people. I'm also glad that you called him. I love you!

    By Blogger David U, at 8/23/2005 08:30:00 AM  

  • It always amazes me how people will argue and try to prove themselves "right" about things that God is going to take care of for us.

    By Blogger goldlenlocks, at 8/23/2005 08:33:00 AM  

  • Amen, Roxanne.

    By Blogger Val, at 8/23/2005 08:36:00 AM  

  • Lisa,

    May I take a stab at addressing your very appropriate question? Jesus came to call sinners into kingdom living. In the kingdom there is forgiveness, blessing, hope, peace, etc. It's a choice, enter or don't. Free will reigns supreme with God. Some will accept, some will not. For those who will accept, God established baptism as the acceptance response. Baptism does not earn you a place in the kingdom. It does not demand from God that He save you. 1 Peter 3:21 says that baptism is an "appeal", a simple way of asking God for what He is offering. Paul said in Acts 22:16 that baptism is the way we "call on the name of the Lord" to be saved from our sins. It totally points to Christ and what He has done for us if we will accept it. So I believe the correct teaching for those who want to be saved is to be baptized, for it invites Jesus to do for you what you have been unable to do for yourself. And it seems every person in Scripture who wanted what Jesus had was baptized. (Except for that thief guy. Praise God he was saved without baptism in a time when baptism was required by God for righteousness. John preached baptism as essential. Jesus was baptized to fulfill the righteousness of God. Interesting.)

    But for me, for the person who is willing to give their heart to the Lord but calls on the name of the Lord in a different way than what is prescribed, I have to ask the question, "How will God respond?" This person is sincere in his or her seeking of the Lord, but they might have been taught wrong, they might have understood scripture wrong, but still want to follow the Lord. How will God respond to their crying out for mercy?

    My kids make that one easy for me. They fix me breakfast in bed on Father's Day each year. Many times it is not edible. They mess up the ingredients. They burn the toast. The milk is warm. All things I really don't prefer. But do you know what? I eat every bit of it. I hug them and kiss them and tell them thank you because of what they are trying to do for me. They are trying to honor me as their father and I completely accept them in spite of their failed attempts to cook everything just right. Their hearts were pure and loving. That is what I am interested in most. I believe God is the same way. Baptism is important to Him, but way more important to Him is the heart that is sincerely seeking Him. That will trump every time whether someone was baptized the right way, if their foot was sticking out, if they were sprinkled instead of being immersed, maybe even if their ignorance caused them to believe that the act of baptism doesn't save and therefore they might not have to do it to be saved. (Not a far jump for many to make)

    Saying that someone might be saved that hasn't been baptized is not a rejection of baptism on our part. It is the acceptance of an idea that God can save people who truly want to be saved and who want to serve Him, even if they may not get all details right. Our God is that big, that good, that loving, that passionate about saving lost people. And I just bet, maybe, possibly, there is some ignorance He is going to have to overlook in my life in order to let me in. Praise God that He does that!!!

    By Blogger Brad, at 8/23/2005 08:50:00 AM  

  • Mike, thank you for challenging the "sacred cows" and why and how we make them sacred. I appreciate your words about Harding. It truly is a great place where God is moving through this great faculty to positively impact lives. I have to constantly challenge and ask myself...What am I more committed to, The "Church of Christ" or Christ's church?

    By Blogger TDSmith, at 8/23/2005 09:19:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 8/23/2005 09:34:00 AM  

  • Paradox: a seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true.

    That might help some in this never-ending, "you're either for or against it" debate, et. al. ;-)

    Or as KeyLife's Steve Brown says of his dream of going to heaven and God says... "some of you were wrong, and some of you were REALLY wrong..."

    By Blogger Jeff, at 8/23/2005 09:38:00 AM  

  • Mike,
    Thanks for you thought-provoking post.I dont always agree with you but my thinking is always challenged.And though I am not taking the same direction in leading our congregation,and do not agree with all positions you have taken(or not taken),I have still had you to speak and challenge our people(which you did in an excellent manner,I might say),and I will again in the future,if you will come.
    I am concerned about the hostile spirit in our fellowship toward those who disagree on matters not pertaining to the seven one's listed in Ephesians 4.My prayer is that one day a greater unity centered around Christ,not people,will prevail.And by the way,I am thankful God answered many prayers and spared your son.May God continue to bless him and you. Randy Simmons,Gulf Coast church,Ft Myers,FL

    By Blogger Randy Simmons, at 8/23/2005 09:40:00 AM  

  • Thanks for your thoughts, Mike. As a Harding Grad, I care deeply about the school and I appreciate the impact it had on my life. But I don't always agree with the direction of the administration.

    I have a nephew who began his freshman year at Harding last week. I'll have to ask him how the students feel about what's going on there.

    By Blogger Jeff Slater, at 8/23/2005 09:46:00 AM  

  • Randy -

    You have lots of success in getting people to come there. But of course you live in FT. MYERS, FLORIDA. Not quite as easy to convince them to take a week in the summer to come to, say, West Texas.

    Of course, the other drawing card is that wonderful congregation that you have given so much of your life to nurturing.

    Thanks for your spirit.

    Thanks to others, too, for your notes. Good spirit -- whether you agree or don't. There may be some former Harding grads who don't like the university. I'm not one of them!

    By Blogger Mike, at 8/23/2005 09:48:00 AM  

  • Mike, after reading your blog (without comment) for quite a long while, I now take a deep breath and jump into the fray. I am typing from the Highland Church of Christ bulletin of last Sunday, August 21, 2005 the following paragraph:
    "You are invited to the baptisms of ___ _______, ________ _______, and _______ ______ this Wednesday evening, August 24, immediately following Oasis."
    Could you explain how these scheduled baptisms relate to a high view of the importance of baptism?

    By Blogger LuJan, at 8/23/2005 10:37:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Thank you for your words and your heart of service to the Kingdom. This issue is so difficult especially in the brotherhood of the Churches of Christ. I think much of the tension comes from so many people in our brotherhood refusing to accept that there are tough issues in scripture. There is a belief amongst many in the C of C that we have every thing already figured out and that further study is only required to reinforce what we already know.

    When someone comes to me and asks me how they might be saved I will always teach them that baptism is part of the plan, that faith is the over-arching requirement, and that Grace is God's tool that he uses to cleanse me. I believe that Baptism is exemplified time and time again as the act through which we offer ourselves to God to be cleansed of our sins.

    That is how I interpret scripture. As much as I would like it to happen, God has yet to part the heavens and explain whether or not my interpretations are right or wrong. Therein lies the problem; I could very well be wrong. I really really really don't think I am but in humility I have to acknowledge that I in fact be incorrect in my reading of scripture.

    After all so many people in this world who also claim to love Jesus and seek his truth think that I am mistaken. They see our view of Baptism as legalism and trying to earn our way into heaven. To these Christians our view of Baptism is as sinful as we think their views are.

    So is God going to choose sides in this debate. Is He going to save the people on the "baptism is essential" side of the debate or is he going to save those on the "faith only side". If we have the "my way or the highway" mentality we leave God no other choice. He has to choose me or the Baptists.

    I earnestly pray that God is not going to choose sides in this debate. If he has chosen a side then there is a 50/50 chance that I am going to end up on the losing side. I don’t like those odds when it comes to gambling with my eternal soul. I want to KNOW that I am saved and I want to KNOW that grace covers me. So I choose to believe that God’s grace covers my sins and mistakes even if my mistake is in misinterpreting scripture. At the very least I can extend the same belief that his Grace will cover other people’s misinterpretation.

    By Blogger Kile, at 8/23/2005 11:54:00 AM  

  • Mike, you have such a gift for taking difficult ideas and stating them simply. I know that there are long, detailed arguments to be made for and against the "necessity" of baptism. And I share your high opinion of it while recognizing that many people with whom I fellowship have not been baptized...and I'm quite sure we'll be fellowshipping together long after we are dead. With that in mind, let me make my own attempt at simplifying my stance.

    When people ask me why they should be baptized, I ask them, "Why not?"

    By Blogger Thurman8er, at 8/23/2005 12:01:00 PM  

  • Mike, thanks for being an example of what to do when in disagreement. Thanks for not ditching Harding - it's got some good stuff going on.

    The good happening at Harding reminds me of a great movie, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." No matter what is done to erase the good work of the Kingdom, it will emerge some way, some how, because it is unsinkable.

    By Blogger Fajita, at 8/23/2005 12:12:00 PM  

  • I'm actually of the opinion that scheduling baptisms can help us have a higher view of baptism. Many Churches of Christ sure believe baptism is essential, but that doesn't give them a high view of baptism. Often it gives them a transactional, legalistic view of baptism ("well, we've done it, now they're saved"). Is dunking someone in the water as soon as we can possibly get them to agree to it really helpful?

    Since I try to think about salvation in relational terms, I often ask people this question: "If you meet somebody, begin building a relationship and decide that they are the person you want to marry, is the best thing for your relationship always going to be to run fly immediately to Vegas to tie the knot? Or might waiting be a better choice?" I'm not advocating waitng a year or two before baptism, but baptism is a HUGE commitment, maybe we should give it more thought.

    In Paul's writings, more often than not, he refers to the transformative aspect of baptism rather than the equally real aspect of forgiveness. (new creatures, died to sin, etc.) Maybe we should teach people to give it some thought and ask themselves if they are ready to be transformed, if they are ready to give up the sin in their lives. I think a total transformation deserves some preparation.

    Plus, there's another scripture that keeps popping into my head when I study with people. It that one that says that people who accept Christ and then later reject him will be worse off than if they hadn't accepted him. If I pressure someone to be baptized quickly, am I considering them or wanting another notch on my belt? Have I prepared them for the step they are taking or am I preparing them for failure and a worse future?

    And one more thing, if we want to have a truly high view of baptism, we need to celebrate baptisms in a bigger and better way than in the past. We make such a big deal out of the issue of baptism, let's make a big deal and make some noise when baptisms actually happen so that the new Christian will always look back with affection on that formative moment. Scheduling baptisms can allow us to celebrate them better.

    By Blogger Neal W., at 8/23/2005 03:10:00 PM  

  • LuJan -

    Thanks so much for that question. It's insightful and important.

    Part of a high view of baptism is understanding the communal nature of it. Yes, one person can be baptized with no one around.

    But ideally -- especially with teenagers who've grown up all their lives in a church (as in this instance) -- one's baptism can be in the context of the family of believers.

    These are students in our youth group who have been nurtured by spiritual mothers, fathers, uncles, and aunts in the faith. So they give people a chance to arrange to be there where it can be witnessed and celebrated together.

    Perhaps you're asking, "Why not on a Sunday morning?" And, of course, that's always my preference. But with 2200 people, that's a bit TOO large a family for some teens.

    Does that help?

    Not to belabor the point, but the resources I've mentioned earlier (especially the chapter by Childers -- along with his tapes from last year's Tulsa Workshop -- and the book by Hicks/Taylor) can provide some helpful context.

    Blessings on you!

    By Blogger Mike, at 8/23/2005 03:56:00 PM  

  • Thank God that we have people in our Brotherhood like you Mike. It's not about defending a set of rules to find favor with God. It's about falling in love with Jesus and wanting to please God, and knowing that we'll fail at times and that's O.K..

    I’m amazed at how mean spirited some of our brethren can act in the name of “stamping out error.”

    By Blogger cwinwc, at 8/23/2005 05:24:00 PM  

  • Something for all of us to think about:

    Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable —if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. —Philippians 4:8 NIV


    Something for you, dear brother Mike (courtesy of Fernando Ortega):


    Take heart, my friend, we’ll go together
    This uncertain road that lies ahead
    Our faithful God has always gone before us
    And He will lead the way once again

    Take heart, my friend, we can walk together
    And if our burdens become too great
    We can hold up and help one other
    In God’s love and God’s grace

    Take heart my friend, the Lord is with us
    As He has been all the days of our lives
    Our assurance every morning
    Our defender in the night

    If we should falter when trouble surrounds us
    When the wind and the waves are wild and high
    We will look away to Him who ruled the waters
    Who spoke His peace into the angry tide

    He is our comfort, our sustainer
    He is our help in time of need
    When we wander, He is our Shepherd
    He who watches over us never sleeps

    Take heart my friend the Lord is with us
    As He has been all the days of our lives
    Our assurance every morning
    Our defender in the night


    May many take up the call of this song. We can walk together! We must hold one another up!

    By Blogger Bill, at 8/23/2005 09:16:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    I appreciate what you have written. As an HUGSR alumnus, it disturbs me that you were publicly criticized and not given a fair chance to respond. It reminds me of how people have historically been treated at Freed Hardeman's lectures and open forums. I fear that Harding University is heading in this direction. I also know many people in the Harding community and the College church who will be apalled at the way you have been treated. God has used you in powerful ways. Keep up the great work!

    By Blogger Richard, at 8/23/2005 11:06:00 PM  

  • Mike -
    Your letter is a blessing and your leadership in the Kingdom is powerful and effective. Thank you for your example.

    I have been accused by (former) members of my church as a "blasphemer" and for "calling Jesus as liar" for suggesting that we ask questions and seek insights such as you have about baptism. In the ensuing weeks that we and the elders attempted prayerful reconcilation with this family, I was convinced of a mighty truth in this regard:

    There is only one element necessary or essential to salvation: Jesus. Jesus is the only "necessary" or "essential" means to salvation. Baptism is not essential to salvation; Jesus is. Communion and prayer are not necessary to salvation; Jesus is. He has given us the grace of these sacraments, these disciplines, these tools of expression and devotion to move us nearer to him, but only Jesus is essential and necessary.

    May God bless us all as we stumble in the light.

    By Blogger JRB, at 8/24/2005 07:50:00 AM  

  • Mike, first of all Tiger WILL pass Nickalus with most major golf victories. He's only 29 and is driven like no other. Look how good Vijay is playing at 42+-! He's just getting warmed up.(Didn't know you were a golf fan. Do you play? Free round on me when you come to town...soon I hope!)
    Guacomole-no comment
    You will be invited to speak in Searcy real soon, I am convinced. May not be at Harding(right now) but maybe at an emcampment, seminar, something. I know you love this place and how impacting it is for students and faculty alike and it,(it-meaning Harding students currently and alums who know your heart)loves ya back. Thanks for being so forthright in approaching the brother who did the attacking to try and set the record straight. Sounds to me like the scriptural thing to do. You continue to bless those who read your blog and commune with you at Highland, and who sit at your feet in a classroom. "Keep on keeping on."

    By Blogger Keith, at 8/24/2005 09:41:00 AM  

  • Love you and love your heart, Mike. You are such a great example to all of us. Sorry for the way Harding has chosen to treat you.

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 8/24/2005 10:00:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    I am sure you feel betrayed and it sounds like rightly so. Peace man. Now let's go protest in the street of Harding during the Ann Coulter speech.

    I'm hanging out in Crawford on Thursday. Please pray we all will understand the will of God in all this.

    By Blogger happytheman, at 8/24/2005 12:52:00 PM  

  • Mike and others,
    The other day when I was reading the BLOG about Ann Coulter, I really felt that you all were not "rightly dividing" the speaking situation at Harding. It is a hugely different thing to be asked to speak in the ASI series than to speak at Lectureship or chapel. The basic idea surrounding ASI is to promote Harding as a place to get your education. Certainly they aren't going to have anyone come in that they believe is against the spiritual and more important aspect of the school.

    It is a separate issue to be a speaker at Chapel or Lectureship. I understand that it is a sad thing that certain people are not allowed to speak. However, Harding feels it is upholding basic Bible principles. A view that baptism may or may not save us is at odds with the scriptures that says "baptism doth also now save us" (I Peter 3) The idea that we should all fellowship together regardless of our views, is to say that it is unimportant to believe the scriptures say one thing and that the scriptures are our basis of faith. There is no need for mission work if we are all okay just finding our own way. I also understand that at times a parent accepts inadequate attempts at love and praise. There are also times the parent must say, "I told you to do _______ . Because I didn't list everything you shouldn't do doesn't make it okay."

    As to the idea that it is important to wait to make a commitment to God til you know what you are getting into, I believe this is a very bad idea to be teaching others. I believe that it is not a good idea as you said to "pressure" others into becoming a Christian. But at the same time, all spiritual blessings are in Christ. (Eph 1:3) If you are not in Christ (Gal 3:26-27), then you do not have the spiritual blessings that God provides exclusively for his followers. Why on Earth would you tell someone it was better to wait, and risk that they might never make that step.

    Thank you for all your insightful comments. I read BLOGs like this in order to continue to study and learn. I pray to always have an open mind and a willingness to re-evaluate my position on many issues. I hope that you all will continue to do the same.

    As for Harding and the example they set for the community, I left Searcy approximately 2 years ago, and at that time there was more emphasis being placed on serving the community than was ever available when I was a student there. The community service days were reported on the Little Rock TV stations with footage of students helping others. The reports I heard made it sound that Harding promotes helping others and that helping others is more important than classes which were canceled so that students could go help others.

    By Blogger Cricket, at 8/24/2005 01:03:00 PM  

  • As a ten-year-old girl I sat in Mike Cope's office, trembling, as I told him that I wanted to be baptized. He came around the desk and sat across from me, smiled warmly and said that he was so happy to hear of my choice. Then, he asked me to write down the reasons why I made this decision and we discussed them. I believe, because of the love and teaching of my parents, and because of the example of Diane Cope and others, that my biggest reason was because Jesus died for me and I wanted to be with Him. I wasn't motivated by thoughts of "hell," or "eternal damnation." I, yes, at 10, felt compelled to response because of the gospel I had been taught, and I believe, again, that it was because this longing to draw near to the Father was modeled for me, at this young age, by Mike, Diane and others. After our discussion something Mike did made a huge impact on me: he filed my paper in his filing cabinet. I can still picture it to this day. I thought, "this is very important because he is FILING it." We went on to discuss the logistics of getting baptized: how the ladies and my mother would help me dress, how I would walk through a door and Mike would be waiting in the water, how I should hold my nose to seal off the water. But these were minor details compared to the attention that had just been given to my decision. Even though I was young I felt both the joy and weight of my decision--I was declaring to our church community that I believed and wanted to live each day within and among that belief.

    Though I realize this story is anecdotal in nature it illustrates the value of and commitment to the ceremony of baptism that Mike holds. And I know that this story has probably been repeated hundreds, if not thousands of times.

    Thank you, Mike, for valuing my baptism. I believe it to be a deeply defining event in my life, and one that continues to shape who I am as I work with MCOC and Shiloh here in NYC.

    As for Ann Coulter, no comment :).
    As for the Yankees, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em--we would love to have you and Diane up here in the Big Apple!

    By Blogger Allison, at 8/24/2005 05:13:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    I love Harding. Those four years I spent there were the richest and best of my life. My daughter also spent four wonderful years there. I am deeply grateful for what I learned at Harding and the joyful memories I cherish to this day.

    You are one of the greatest gospel communicators to come out of Harding. I love to hear you preach. There is something deeply wrong when people like you and Jeff are no longer welcome there.

    My prayer if for spiritual leadership to rise up and chart a new course for Harding that favors spiritual growth over political interest. Surely there is a small minority working that angle. Surely someone can right the wrong. Surely God has a message in all this for us.

    Keep the faith!

    By Blogger Paul, at 8/24/2005 09:16:00 PM  

  • Allison,

    I can see Mike doing just what you said. He certainly has that kind of heart. I enjoyed reading about this wonderful event in your life.

    I clicked over to your blog and still can't stop laughing. That "Hey, hey, ho,ho, lactaphobia's gotta go" post is hilarious. It's about time!

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 8/25/2005 05:27:00 AM  

  • Mike, your ability to write and explain well your positions in love are a blessing to me. I remember you preaching at College Church and at Peak of the Week when I was at Harding, and I echo your sentiments that the faculty and staff there continue to do great, great works, in spite of certain decisions of the administration.

    God bless your continued plea for us to see the "forest."

    By Blogger Cole, at 8/25/2005 09:54:00 AM  

  • Mike,
    Thanks so much for your comments. I remember as a student I was asked to have lunch with the current President of the school. That was his way of staying in touch and listening to the students, although I don't think there was much listening. I asked why we couldn't have Christian concerts or have someone like Max Lucado come speak. I never received a direct answer, but it all came back to $. Really quite sad...Anyway, as a Bible Major at Harding and even President of Alpha Chi Malachi, I appreciate many of my experiences and a couple of my teachers (Neller, Eddins, Fortner, Richardson, Cochran..all great teachers and wonderful men of God). Monte Cox was in Chicago or I would include him as well. However, there are too many other classes/teachers I wish to forget. One (who is still there) actually said Foy Wallace was one of the best restoration leaders our movement has seen. I could give many more similar examples. In my opinion, I would encourage all students who want to study Bible in the Restoration Movement to go somewhere like Ozark Christian, Cincinnati Christian, or ACU.

    By Blogger Aaron, at 8/26/2005 09:04:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    I know you know what I am about to post, but I wanted to say it anyway. Jesus was misrepresented and misunderstood, more often than he was properly represented and understood. To his contemporaries, he was someone who ate too much food and drank too much. He was a man where his contemporaries called him a demon, because of what he taught. And what did he teach? He taught grace and truth.

    The same thing that you are teaching. In this case the truth about baptism, and grace for those who misunderstand it. And what happens...you are misunderstood and misrepresented. (One brother put it to me this way..."Just as man wasn't made for sabbath, but sabbath for man...So man wasn't made for baptism, but baptism for man.")

    I want you to know that you are an inspiration to all of us who came from a legalistic, sectarian background. You give us hope that we can come out of that background and move to what God has called us to be. You give us assurance that no matter the troubles we have to deal with (from brothers, sisters, friends, etc.) that there are others like us out there, willing to cross the "lines" with us and live our lives with grace and truth. Instead of pretending to believe all the same things or hiding our beliefs, because of fear of being disfellowshipped or "cut off" from the "faithful" brethren.

    I want to tell you thank you. Thank you for being one of the leaders in our churches to show us the way to a life of love, grace, and faith.

    God bless!

    By Blogger Robert, at 8/27/2005 04:00:00 PM  

  • There are two people that I truly miss in my life: My dad, who passed away in 1994, and Mike Cope, who moved away from me a few years before that date. I miss you, Mike, and I miss our conversations that we had together. I am sorry that you've had to walk through a gauntlet like this, especially when that gauntlet was created by some of my brothers and sisters in Christ. The gauntlet is wrong, and my prayer is that some day, they will see the error of their ways. I had to hit rock bottom before I could see more clearly the Throne of God because when you are lying on your back, the only place to look is Heavenward. That's my prayer for them, too, to hit rock bottom.

    Love you, man.

    Zac Muncy

    By Blogger Zac Muncy, at 9/01/2005 12:13:00 PM  

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