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Letter to Memphis Area Churches

[When Gary Ealy and I planned to plant a church in Cordova, TN, we informed the Memphis area Churches of Christ through a letter. Since this church has been the subject of some controversy, I have provided the text of this letter for the public.]

From: Gary Ealy and John Mark Hicks

To: Memphis Area Churches of Christ.

Date: December 19, 1997

Dear Brothers and Fellow-Servants,

We all recognize that the kingdom of God grows when churches grow and when churches multiply. Churches of Christ experienced their greatest growth in the 1940s and 1950s when numerous churches were planted throughout the south and around the world. For several years there have been discussions about churches relocating, planting new churches (Downtown church, Raleigh Community church and the Hispanic church, for example), and revitalizing our present churches.

As part of this movement in our city to strengthen the kingdom, we have been praying and talking with interested individuals about the possibility of a new church plant in Cordova, Tennessee. This idea first arose in the church planting committee that is sponsored by the Highland Street Church of Christ, and recently we (Gary Ealy and John Mark Hicks) have been planning to bring it to fruition. Please regard this letter as our formal announcement that we intend to plant a church of Christ in Cordova, and that the first public, formal meeting of this new church will be on April 12, 1998.

We intend to associate ourselves with churches of Christ in our city and unite with them in common goals and works (Agape, MACS, area-wides, etc.). Theologically, we believe that our common restoration heritage is biblical, viable and practical. Because some false rumors are already circulating, let us be specific about some of the beliefs and practices that we will affirm in this new church planting.

1. Baptism is the immersion of believers in water for the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

2. The Lord's Supper is celebrated every first day of the week when the saints gather to worship God.

3. The local body is led by male spiritual shepherds (elders or bishops) and taught by appointed male evangelists (the public proclaimers of the Word of God to the assembled church).

4. The musical worship of this new church plant is exclusively a cappella (without instrumental music).

5. Each local church is an autonomous unit.

6. God no longer distributes miraculous gifts among his people today (e.g., gifts of healing or tongues).

In order for you to clearly understand our goals and the purpose of this new church plant, we offer the following specifics:

1. This new church plant will target its evangelism toward the unchurched of the younger generation of Baby-Boomers ( born 1955-61) and the whole of "Generation X" known as the Baby-Busters (born 1962-82). This is the first "Post-Christian" generation. They have experienced the breakdown of their homes, corruption in government, and a materialistic society. Cordova is populated by this generation and they are mainly married couples with young children.

2. This new church plant intends to build a community of Christians who care for the poor. It will seek to use its material wealth in the service of the poor and the weak of the city. While this church planting is located miles away from the inner city, it will have a heart and passion to follow Jesus in showing mercy to the poor and eliminating racial and social prejudice.

3. This new church plant will emphasize training, teaching and support for the Christian family. Many families of "Generation X" have concluded that they do not want their children to experience the pain of divorce. This new church plant will support these young families in building strong Christian homes.

4. This new church plant will emphasize the equipping of Christians for ministry. Through its small groups and other structured programs, this church will equip its members for ministry through the full use of its God-given gifts.

5. This new church plant will become a church-planting body. It will seek to reproduce itself through additional church plantings in Shelby County and in surrounding areas.

Our goal is to glorify God through evangelism and ministry to the poor as well as building a community of believers who serve each other and their neighbors. We have no interest in doing something "different" for the sake of change or being "different." Rather, our goal, and our motto, is to become all things to all people so that by all possible means we might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22).

As elders and leaders of God's people in this city, if you would like to meet with us either as group or as individuals to discuss our goals and purposes, we would be happy to meet with you. We want to make ourselves available for whatever discussions you might think are profitable. You may reach either of us at home by phone: [this personal information is omitted].

Please pray for us, and pray for God's kingdom in Shelby County. We seek only to serve his kingdom and to magnify his glory through this church plant. May God bless all the efforts of his church in this city!

In Christ,

Gary Ealy
John Mark Hicks


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