by Cecil Hook
Unless you make Rip Van Winkle appear to be an early riser by comparison, you are aware that our religious world is in an exciting state of reform. You may not be too aware, however, that the Church of Christ is in a time of re-evaluation also. We should have led in reform, but our changes have been made with much reluctance, and they continue to meet rigid resistance.
This is a message of reappraisal, correction, and reform. Those both in and out of the Church of Christ may be pleased to learn that there is some recognition of our misdirection and that sincere effort is being made to correct it. If, however, you are frightened, shaken, or agitated by the suggestion that we in the Churches of Christ may not have all the neat answers as we have supposed, this book is not for you. It is for you who are still asking questions, searching, and trying to be disciples in the fuller sense of life-long learners.
It requires a great deal of audacity to assume the role of teacher and corrector of others, especially when the would-be instructor has no more academic qualifications than I. Please do not let my foolhardiness turn you off. I am willing to make myself vulnerable in this effort to spare other sincere searchers some of the agony that I have experienced in my long effort to reconcile our simplistic orthodox interpretations with the Scriptures. I depended upon learning “here a little, there a little” in fitting the puzzling picture together, but I have the high ambition of making this a sort of course of indoctrination to lead one from our divisive, legalistic and exclusive doctrine-centered religion into the exciting acceptance and freedom in Christ. Maybe I am not out of the woods altogether yet, but I have gained enough of the freedom in Christ to know that it is worth sharing.
My message is intended for the pew people rather than the scholars. I respect scholarship but claim none for myself. And I am intimidated and sensitive concerning originality. I have had very poor study habits. Throughout my ministry, none of my lessons were written out before delivery. So I have not kept footnotes and proper credits for points learned from others. Thoughts of others have become a part of my thinking. That is a part of learning, whether it be ideas received from Early Arceneaux, Charles H. Roberson, or Homer Hailey in my youth, or from Wes Reagan, Carl Ketcherside, or Leroy Garrett in more recent years. Since the last three have been on the cutting edge of the reform, I give them much credit for influencing my thinking. So, if any point made in this material seems to be taken from them or anyone else, I plead guilty with no contest. I offer this as an explanation, not an excuse.
God has worked in numerous ways recently to convince me that He wants this to be my ministry in my time of retirement from congregational ministry. Private study groups have discussed these essays and numerous preachers have read them. These have given me strong encouragement to publish them and have convinced me that the time is ripe for this book.
The publication and free distribution of the first printing of 3,000 copies of this book were made possible by others endowed with the beautiful gift of giving. The cost was paid by Charley Elrod, a disciple in New Braunfels, Texas. Jim and Ruth Ash, of Dallas, Texas, provided the postage for mailing them. You and I and thousands of others have been blessed by their concern and generosity.
Upon my full retirement after ten years of ministry with the church here, the congregation gave my wife, Lea, and me a life estate of the residence here. How blessed we are! So this will be our address until the Lord sees fit to make us change. We have little retirement other than Social Security, so we contracted the janitorial work of the church as a supplement. Yes, this book is the work of a janitor! (I also give you good straight lines!) Lea shares as an equal partner in all of our life’s work together and in what good or ill may come from this writing. We invite you to share in our ministry by helping to put it into the hands of persons who long for unity, acceptance, and freedom in Christ.
May we share the glorious freedom that is in Christ both now and forever.
Cecil Hook, New Braunfels, Texas, October 1, 1984