Who We Are and Why We're Here

2 Timothy 1:5

"I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also." (2 Tim 1:5)  Paul takes the time to remind Timothy of who he is and where he came from.  It puts things in perspective, it helps us see ourselves in a new light. This morning, I want to remind us of where we came from – our spiritual roots.

One part of being a member of a church is knowing a little bit about who your family is and where you come from.  The Glenwood church hasn’t always been here and it’s made quite a journey from our earliest beginnings.

The Church of Christ here in the valley had its beginnings 65 years ago.  And I say, in the valley, because we have always been a church that has drawn from all over – up valley, down valley, from Eagle to Parachute, from Glenwood to Redstone to Aspen.  In fact, the very first meeting was down in Rifle in 1949.  So, while we are the Glenwood church, we represent every community within 50 miles in any direction.

What brought the Glenwood church to this community?  The short answer, of course, is people.  Several families moved to this area for business reasons and began meeting together as a church in the home of E.R. Anderson on July 23, 1950 in Glenwood Springs.   In August of 1950, Walt and Eleanor Bostick from Sudan, TX, along with Eleanor’s brother Elmer Landrum and his wife Dollie from far east Texas, moved to Glenwood after reading an advertisement in a church paper encouraging members of the church to move to the Glenwood Springs area to help the church grow here.  Elmer and Dolly’s son and his family, Ken and Emmie Landrum and little Marilyn came five years later in 1955.

Walt Bostick became the first regular preacher for the congregation and served the church for six years in that capacity.  Walt and Elmer moved here with the intention of  supporting themselves through construction work.

In the late fall of 1950, the church rented a large building on what is now South Grand Avenue.  Located directly across from Berthod Motors, it had a large room for an auditorium and space for two apartments which the Bosticks and the Landrums lived in. 

A very important turning point for the church took place in the spring of 1951 when the West Berry Church of Christ in Ft. Worth, TX began supplying Walt Bostick with full support in his work as a minister with the church.  It was also the West Berry Church that purchased the land at 9th and Bennett for the construction of a building for the church.  With Bostick doing much of the work, the building was completed and the church held its first meeting there on August 9, 1953.  104 were present for that first Sunday.  One lady was baptized that morning and a young couple were baptized that afternoon.

The West Berry church continued to be a source of financial support as well as sending speakers who came to encourage and build up the church here and help us reach out to our community. 

Some of those earliest families who helped establish the church and support it included  Olyn and Virginia Parker, who ran the Swiss Village Inn up the Crystal River valley.  You probably know it as Avalanche Ranch today.  Wallace and Naomi Parker were also an important part of those founding families.  Wallace served as one of our first elders, along with Jim Hauptli and Ed Neimann. Those three began serving as elders in 1969.  Additional elders who have served the congregation include Pat Dowdy, Lu Lewis, Darrell White, Paul Kite, John Strickland, Jim Barnett, Greg Lough and Dale Hawkins.

Several ministers have served this congregation over the past 65 years, beginning with Walt Bostick, some served for only one or two years, some for 10or 20 years:  Wayne Nation, Don Michael, Bill Hamilton, Maurice Ethridge, Dale Cole, Jack Hicks, George Butterfield, Don Woodruff, Jack Hicks (a second time), then Mark Hauptli.

In time, the church outgrew the building on 9th and Bennett and in 1997 it was decided to relocate to West Glenwood to the location where we are now sitting.  When you look around and think about the uniqueness, beauty and functionality of this building, it is impressive to realize what a homegrown project it was. Our own Brad Jordan was the architect who designed the building; Brent Lough was the general contractor; many of you put long hours of labor into helping with the various building aspects and details of the construction, and I should mention the huge role the Sojourners played in helping with the construction of the  building.  This building was completed in two phases:  downstairs was built first and the congregation met in the fellowship room for the first year while the upstairs auditorium and classrooms were completed and the church finally began meeting up here in February of 1999. 

And what a blessing this building has been to this congregation, and throughout the community as we have made it available for so many groups such as Youth for Christ, Boy Scouts, SIRA men’s group, NAMI, as a distribution center for Lift Up’s Thanksgiving and Christmas food giveaways, and each winter for the past six years we’ve teamed up with Feed My Sheep to house the homeless during the cold winter months.

Just as the West Berry church did for us years ago, we have also reached out to faraway places to help support missionaries and churches who are taking the gospel to the lost.  We have supported kingdom work in Tijuana, Mexico; Mbarara, Uganda; Rio de Janiero, Brazil; as well as some of our own homegrown missionaries, including Russ and Jo Anne Licht with Campus Crusade for Christ; Glenna Schultz, Alex Loter and Neal Schultz who have all gone through the AIM missionary apprentice program, and Jessica Medsker, who served in Guatemala with International Justice Mission.

A few years ago, we spent considerable time working with elders, deacons, ministers and congregation to define more precisely who we are and why we’re here.  In that process we put together a mission statement that says how we see our purpose and place in God’s kingdom.  You’ll find it frequently on the inside of the bulletin to remind us why we’re here:

The Glenwood Church of Christ exists to

       Introduce people to God and

          Bring them into His family,

            Grow them to be like Jesus and

               Place them in ministry, that we might

                 Honor God with our whole lives.

Almost seven years ago, when I first arrived on the scene, I tried to paint a picture of what kind of church we should strive to be.  Here’s what I wrote – you can find it on the front of the bulletin:

The Glenwood Church of Christ is a church where you can

Experience God’s love

Grow in God’s family, and

Serve in God’s kingdom.

There’s nothing magical in the words themselves, but as they help us mold our thinking about who we are and shape the kind of attitudes and values that we hold, they give us a sense of direction and purpose.

To really understand who we are and why we’re here you have to step back in time a little further than 1950. 

Our spiritual roots, of course, go back all the way to the day of Pentecost, when Jesus established his church through the coming of the Holy Spirit, and those early Christians set about being the church that Jesus had died for.

But several centuries later, the religious scene had become so muddied and convoluted that many wondered what had become of the purity of the church that we read about in the New Testament.  These wonderings came from many quarters in many different religious faiths:  Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregational, Methodist.  Men with names like Raccoon John Smith, Walter Scott, Barton W. Stone, James O’Kelly, Abner Jones, Rice Haggard and Thomas and Alexander Campbell – all independently of each other, in different parts of the country, from different religious backgrounds began to come to the same conclusion – we need to get back to the simplicity and purity of the New Testament church.

One of those, Thomas Campbell, who had recently immigrated from Ireland in 1807, was a preacher in the Old Light, Anti-Burgher, Seceder Presbyterian Church.  He immediately found himself in trouble with his Synod for allowing other Presbyterians, not of his Synod to participate in communion.  He was censored and disbarred from ministry.  He began to seek out other Christians with whom he could worship.

Meanwhile, Thomas had left his family back in Ireland until he was settled and then have them join him.  That reunion was delayed by a shipwreck off the coast of Scotland.  During the year that they were delayed, his son Alexander began to have his own doubts and came in contact with people who also thought the church should go back to its roots in the New Testament.

When, finally, Alexander and Thomas were reunited, they came to the surprising realization that, independently of each other they had come to the same conclusion – they must go back to the Bible and become simply Christians without the baggage of the religious confusion of the day.

As they began to go about preaching this restoration of the primitive church, they began to meet others who shared their beliefs. Soon, this message began to spread across the American frontier like wildfire, and the American Restoration Movement was born. 

This was a movement which believed wholeheartedly in going back to the simplicity of the Bible.  In fact, their slogan was, “Let us speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.”

From that principle they came to a number of conclusions about what the church should look like:

·         They believed the Bible alone should be our sole authority, and that no man made creeds should be allowed to be bound on Christians.

·         They pleaded for a return to the Bible as the basis for Christian unity among all the denominations of the day.

·         They rejected any structure beyond the local congregation, and believed any ecclesiastical hierarchy was unscriptural.  This means that all congregations are  autonomous – meaning independent, self-directing, self-supporting, and self-governing.  There are no formal connections between churches of Christ, no denominational hierarchies having authority over them, no national offices or officers. Each congregation has its own set of leaders, its own specific missions and programs, its own budget and by-laws.

·         They rejected infant sprinkling and practiced immersion of adult believers as the only scriptural baptism they could find in the New Testament.

·         They saw in the New Testament church the practice of weekly communion and believed communion was central to their identity as the New Testament church.

·         They also saw no evidence of instrumental music in the New Testament church and believed

a cappella music was the scriptural mode of singing in the church.

What is interesting to me is that in those earliest years of the movement, they accepted all Christians as brothers in Christ, and while they disagreed over doctrines and practices, they allowed no doctrine to become a cause for division.  As they sought to establish unity on the basis of the Bible they did so with this principle:  “In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; in all things, love.”

As these various groups converged into one unified movement, one of their speakers – Raccoon John Smith spoke and said, “Let us, then, my brethren, be no longer Campbellites or Stoneites, New Lights or Old Lights, or any other kind of lights, but let us come to the Bible and to the Bible alone, as the only book in the world that can give us all the light we need.”

As the movement passed into the second and third generations, certainly doctrine turned into dogma and practices solidified into non-negotiables.  Controversies arose and the movement divided and what began as a unity movement splintered into parties and factions.  Out of that Restoration movement came three groups:  the Churches of Christ, the Christian Church and the Disciples of Christ. 

But at the heart of that movement was a dedication to the word of God and a desire to be the simple and pure church which Christ died for.

From those same spiritual roots, we strive to be a people of the book – believing that the Bible is the inspired word of God and complete for everything we need to know in order to be the New Testament church and live faithful lives as Christians.

We believe we can be simply Christians and strive to be simply the church of Jesus Christ, but that God’s kingdom is much bigger than just us.  In the early days of the movement, they had another slogan:  “We are Christians only, but not the only Christians.”

We believe that one becomes a Christian by believing that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; repenting of our sins; confessing that Jesus Christ is our Lord; and being baptized into Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We also believe that living the life of a Christian involves our whole life, not just an hour on Sunday in the church building.  We must commit ourselves to living for Jesus wherever we are and allowing Jesus to live through us. 

We believe the church is the body of Christ and the family of God and that we are connected with each other in close, intimate relationships where we care for each other and help each other and serve together in God’s kingdom.

As I said, we strive to be simply the church which Jesus died for.  We’re not perfect, but our Savior is, and he is the one we seek to imitate and follow in everything we do.