By Kevin Cauley

This past Wednesday night in the high school class, one of our astute and observant high school students asked me why some are calling us a cult. After the death of Matthew Winkler, there were several in the media who were seeking to “analyze” the situation. One Nancy Grace on CNN invited a Baptist “pastor” to come and answer some questions. During this interview, the “pastor” said that the church of Christ was a cult like religion. While he didn’t come out and call us an outright cult, there are others who do. Why do some refer to the churches of Christ as a cult?

First, there has been some confusion between the churches of Christ and the International Churches of Christ which is the former Boston Movement, a.k.a. Crossroads Movement. While the ICOC had its origins among churches of Christ, their practices were not consistent with what we practice and they rapidly became identified as a separate religions group. Some of their practices included a one man leader type system in a hierarchical pyramid style organization. They also held to the practice of “prayer partners” where one would confess sins to a “higher” Christian. These confessions would then be used to manipulate the “lower” Christian into the “correct” behavior. With such mind manipulation techniques and a single charismatic leader many correctly identified them as a cult. Unfortunately, the distinction between the ICOC and the “mainline” churches of Christ was not so clear in the minds of observers. One government document in the 90s identified the “Church of Christ” as the most rapidly growing cult in the United States. In that same document there was a footnote that identified “churches of Christ” as the ICOC or Boston Movement, but this was not commonly understood. This failure to understand the difference between these two bodies has contributed largely to the confusion that many today have.

Second, many in the denominational world consider us a cult because of our teaching regarding the one nature of the church. The Bible clearly teaches that there is one body (Ephesians 4:4) and that that one body is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). The denominational world identifies this body as all of the denominations. However, this is not how the Bible identifies Christ’s body. 


The Bible teaches that the one body of Christ isn’t divided into denominations (1 Corinthians 1:10-13), but united under a single doctrine (Ephesians 4:1-6) and that Christ expects his church to have unity based upon this doctrine (John 17:20-23). That’s not the picture of the church that we find in the denominational world today. Denominationalism teaches that one may believe any of various different doctrines so long as one doesn’t condemn any other denomination. Such a picture of the church is foreign to the teaching of scripture which demands like-mindedness in doctrinal matters (Philippians 2:2). Thus, because churches of Christ teach that denominationalism is sinful, divisive, and aberrant to the New Testament’s teaching regarding the nature of the church, denominationalists can only respond with the accusation that we must be a cult regardless of what our practices are. In essence, what they have done is defined the word “cult” to mean anything other than acceptance of the denominational world, a definition of convenience at best.

Finally, because the churches of Christ teach the necessity of baptism prior to salvation, denominationalists level the accusation of “cult” against us. It doesn’t matter to them that the Bible itself teaches the necessity of baptism prior to salvation in such passages as Mark 16:15, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Romans 6:1-11, Galatians 3:27-29, Colossians 2:11-13 and 1 Peter 3:21. So in essence, this is the classical logical fallacy of argumentum ad hominem (attack the man or in this case, the church). In essence the argument is, “Don’t believe that baptism is necessary for salvation because they are a cult and cults can’t be believed!” There is no effort to deal with the actual issue of what the Bible plainly teaches. In essence, they label us a cult because they can’t refute what is plainly taught in the scriptures and what we believe.

It is sad that denominational leaders and people outside of the church will blindly accept such accusations and criticisms without investigation, but that is exactly what occurs. The Lord’s church has experienced such criticism since its inception (Acts 24:5, 28:22). Even Jesus was accused unjustly (Matthew 9:34). We, however, as the church, ought not to let such unwarranted criticisms move us away from the truth of the scriptures; we have truth and it sets us free from the shackles of denominational teaching and practices, which practices are rapidly leading the denominations into the acceptance of immorality in our day and age. The church of Christ is not a cult regardless what others say. Let us continue to hold fast to the truths of scripture regarding the nature of the church, the plan of salvation, and religious practices that are pleasing to God and not man (Galatians 1:10).

By Mike Riley

Personal or public sin is never easy to confess because of pride or ego — but it is necessary in order to get our lives right with God (Isaiah 59:1-15). The following are some aspects of confession that we may or may not have thought of:

Confessing sin necessarily constitutes personal action — It’s not difficult to say, “We all sin” or “he sinned” — the hard part is when we personally must say, “I have sinned” (1 Samuel 15:24; Psalm 51:4). When the known sin pertains to the individual, personal confession is demanded. Notice David’s confession in Psalm 51 when he says, “my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1 NKJV), “my iniquity” (Psalm 51:2), “my sin” (Psalm 51:2-3).

Confession of sin is specific — To say, “If I have done anything” is easy — but it simply is not confession of specific sin. An individual who is unsure whether he has sinned or not, should find out. Until he knows and admits his sin, he can make no real confession. Any “if” confessions are a farce. The one confessing must say, “I have sinned” — no doubt about it. David was definite — “my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3) — and he knew what specific sin it was that needed confessing.

Confession names sin — Often sin is renamed; and the crime reduced. This is a common practice in civil law. The criminal is allowed to admit a misdemeanor rather than the felony he actually committed. However, this tactic is not allowed in God’s court. We cannot confess to “hurting someone’s feelings” when we have actually slandered a man. The idea of “accidentally” misrepresenting the facts or “exaggerating” will not be adequate when in fact we lied. Confession names sin (1 Samuel 15:24-25).

Confession addresses the one who has been sinned against — Acceptable confession occurs when the individual who lies, goes to the man he injured and says, “I lied about you” — that is true confession. A dozen times down the church aisle would be easier, but it is not acceptable. Confessing to the church will not replace it.

David knew this principle when he stated to God, “Against You, You only, have I sinned,    and done this evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:4). If an individual has sinned against God; he must confess to God. He may need to confess his sin to the church, but not before he confesses it to God.

If an individual sins a public sin against the congregation where he is a member, and he moves to another congregation, he cannot properly confess his sin at the new congregation. He must return to his former congregation where the sin took place, and ask for the forgiveness of that sin.

Confession of sin anticipates a plea for forgiveness — A man may admit his meanness — in fact, he may even be proud of it. This is not the Bible brand of confession. A man who seeks no pardon is not confessing sin. Again, notice the confession of David — “Have mercy upon me, O God …. Blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1).

Confession is good for the soul — Because eternity is in view (Matthew 16:24-27), but for many, true confession becomes extremely difficult because of pride and ego.

When we willingly confess our sins before the Lord, He is always eager and ready to forgive us of our sins (Psalm 32:5; Psalm 86:5; Proverbs 28:13; cf. Luke 15:11-24; 1 John 1:9).

By Mike Riley

This writer enjoys bulletin articles that motivates the reader to “think” about his or her spiritual condition (cf. Luke 15:17; 2 Chronicles 33:12). The following article written by Brother Walter Swain of Cloudcroft, New Mexico, is just such an article:

While driving down the highway recently, for no reason at all, a thought suddenly popped into my mind: “One second from now I could be dead!” I reasoned that something could happen to the car, I could have a wreck, or some other happening could take me from this life at any time, and one second from now, this life could be over.

At this particular time, the thought seemed to be impressed upon me with a greater reality than ever before, and I began to think, “This is really true!” “One second from now my life could be over, and what then?” It is a sobering thing to stop and consider this fact.

One Second From Now, I could be in eternity — I could be living in the existence that has no end. That goes on forever and ever. And in that existence, I will be in a state that never can be changed. My eternal fate could be determined and sealed forever …. one second from now.

One Second From Now, all that I possess in this life could be nothing at all to me — Everything material, which seems so important now, could be left behind forever. The very things that motivate most of our lives, and the things we are most concerned about, will have no importance whatsoever. Everything I possess in this life, except my soul, could belong to someone else …. one second from now.

One Second From Now, I could be seeing my Lord face to face — This is the most glorious thought! Paul says, “Absent in the body, present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). If I should die, my first awareness will be that being present with Jesus Christ. In Paradise I will be with the Lord, even as He promised the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43). Yes, I could be with Jesus my Lord ….one second from now.

One Second From Now, I could be in eternal torment— The Christian knows at death he will be able to see Christ and begin an eternal existence with Him. But to those out of Christ, death will place them in the torments of hades (Luke 16:22-24). They too will begin an eternal existence, but it will be an existence that brings eternal torment and travail. At the judgment day, they will be cast into the final abode of hell (Revelation 20:11-15; cf. Matthew 25:31-46). To those out of Christ, death will bring eternal torment and it could all begin ….one second from now.

It is indeed sobering to think what could be true of our existence one second from now, if we should pass from this life. Yet, is it not true that any or all of us could be dead one second from now? Life is uncertain to all (Hebrews 9:27).”For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

Where will you be one second from now? 

By Mike Riley

Looking back upon the lives of God’s “heroes” in (Hebrews 11) will make a person think of his own life. “Have I accomplished anything worthwhile?” That question has been reflected in the literature of man for centuries. That death is the appointment all must anticipate at some time is an obvious truth (Hebrews 9:27). We cannot escape it. But how should we face that truth?

How Paul Faced Death

Paul faced death with expectation, neither fearful nor seeking it [see Philippians 1:20-24]. Some have taken their own life for various reasons, but that is not a real solution.

It was Moses himself who wrote the following words:

All our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:9-10).

Visiting the Local Cemetery

In our short lives, we have been to the cemetery too often, haven’t we? Loved ones are gone and they will sorely be missed. Many of you who read these words have more years behind you than ahead of you.

May I make a suggestion? Take an hour or two and go through your local cemetery. Do so without the association of a funeral. Look at the names, the dates, the families and the epitaphs. If that seems a bit morbid, think again. Some occasions on which we visit the local cemetery are sad, but they can be thought provoking.

Death Awaits Us All

It makes no difference how rich or powerful a person may be, death awaits us all unless the Lord returns first. Job said death is “the house appointed for all living” (Job 30:23). Look at all the famous statesmen, heroes, athletes and leaders of the past.

Just as we read in the Bible, “….and he died” are the words that describe the end of each and all of them. Even the “miracle” of modern medicine has its limits. Since that is true, rational people will prepare for that time. I’m not talking about prearranged funerals, but preparing our soul for eternity, for that’s where we are headed.

We Will Leave It All Behind

In a Massachusetts cemetery lies the body of a man who lived 103 years and was the patriarch of his county, ruling the most acreage and producing the most wealth. He died in 1912, leaving it all to his sons, who in turn lost it all due to bad business decisions. None of them were able to stash any of their wealth in their burial clothes. All their wealth was left behind. In the aftermath of the sinking of the ill-fated Titanic, reports noted that eleven millionaires had been among the hundreds on board who went to a watery grave in April 1912.  Their combined wealth totaled nearly two hundred million dollars. Yet if these millionaires could have sent a message to the living about the most important things in life, not one would have mentioned money.  

Solomon, wealthy as he was, said:

 “As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand” (Ecclesiastes 5:15).

Our wealth, our fishing boat, our business, our bank account, our golf clubs — all will be left behind!

The World Will Keep Going

It’s easy to become obsessed with our own importance, thinking we are “necessary” to the survival of civilization. How can my family, my business, etc., survive without me? But they can, and they will.

I don’t wish to belittle the significance of anyone’s life, but the world has been able to get along without Elvis, Lincoln, Babe Ruth, Roosevelt, Henry VIII and Julius Caesar. And it will have to learn to get along without us, too.

Some Die “Before Their Time”

We need not go to a cemetery to learn that no one has been given a guarantee of any number of years. Several years ago I viewed the graves of more than fifty small children who died as a result of an influenza plague in 1895.

Their gravestones reflected the grief of family and friends. The inscriptions indicated the shock felt by their community. No one had wanted those precious children to die at such a young age, but those things happen.

Is that not reason enough for us think more personally about the fragile, temporary nature of life on this earth? An hour or two in our local cemetery might help us think about life and its brevity.

Many Die Daily Without Hope

While those children were safe, there were thousands in that lonely graveyard who were not safe, having died, as the Holy Spirit declared:  ….having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).


Isn’t it sobering to consider that thousands that go into eternity every day without obeying the gospel of Christ? (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). If that won’t sober our thoughts, our heart needs some work.

How about you, dear reader? Why not take a walk through your local cemetery some time. It will make you “think” — and it may change your life —forever (Romans 2:6-7 KJV). 

By Mike Riley

A few years ago, this writer was an employee of a major gas transmission company. Located in every department of that company were two large binders containing its “Manual of Standard Operating Procedures” (MOSOP). Contained in this MOSOP were the rules and regulations with regard to all operating procedures and functions of the company (company policies and procedures). These rules and regulations were set up by the “authorities” of that company. In order to fully understand an MOSOP, we must first define the word, “standard”. A standard is that which is set up by authority as the criterion or test or as a source.

Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Third Edition, Page 1306, in regard to moral standards, gives us this definition: “the type, model, or example commonly or generally accepted or adhered to; criterion set for usages or practices [moral standards]”.

The Bible is our spiritual Manual Of Standard Operating Procedures (MOSOP) that contains the spiritual operating procedures and functions governing the church over which Christ governs (our governing “authority” – Matthew 16:18-19; Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-23; Ephesians 4:23-24; Colossians 1:18). For the Lord’s church to function properly, every member (Ephesians 5:30) should have a copy of this spiritual MOSOP not only readily available and accessible but also read, studied and adhered to on a daily basis (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:14-17). Understanding the Bible as our spiritual MOSOP is absolutely crucial to properly answering questions which pertain to man’s salvation from sin. Men do not need merely answers to religious questions; they need the right answers!

Jesus did not come into the world merely to make men religious. Men were religious long before Christ came into the world, but He came that men might be right religiously (Matthew 7:21-23). Being right religiously involves a recognition of and submission to the proper “standard”, that is, the will of God.

There are some standards adhered to by man which are not true standards spiritually speaking. Consider the following false standards men adhere to in the religious world:

1) Some people use their own “feelings” as their spiritual standard. They answer such questions as, “Why are you convinced that you are saved?” by answering, “Because I feel it right here” (while pointing to their fleshly heart). The Bible makes it clear that, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov 16:25). It is clear that it is possible for one to “feel” entirely satisfied about one’s spiritual condition and yet be lost (Matthew 7:21-23). thus, it is the case that “feelings” simply are not the true “standard” by which to govern one’s spiritual life, even though, if a person is right with God, he or she will have good “feelings” about it (Acts 8:26-40).

2) Some people regard their own “consciences” as the true objective spiritual standard. The conscience is that God-given faculty within each individual which urges him to act in harmony with what he believes to be right. There are no occasions in which it is right for one ever to violate his own conscience.

Paul stated, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). This means that whatever we cannot do with the conviction that it is acceptable to God, is sinful for us to do. This is the case even if the action “per se” is right. Conscience does not tell us what the truth is. One must learn the truth from God’s revelation to man. The Bible make it clear that one can live “in all good conscience” (Acts 23:1) and yet be “the chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15) while so doing. Conscience is not the true objective standard.