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Report written February 26, 2010

A brother in Eastern Cuba writes,

I ask many prayers for churches of Christ in Cuba, because times are becoming increasingly difficult for us. Because of the influence of church leaders, many known congregations are joining up with the denominational world, putting in danger the purity of the doctrine of Christ. The influence of the State has had an impact on all of this through certain legal measures that make it unlawful to have worship services in homes…

Although we do not participate in any way in any of this, sometimes we don’t know how to respond to some leaders that are involved. Is it Biblical to break off relations with them? Should we denounce these things in our congregations? The problem is that these are congregations with whom we have historically had ties and they are only a few kilometers from us. These are difficult decisions.

I receive letters like this from Cuba from time to time in response to our bimonthly paper, "Creced." We send over 500 copies into Cuba every two months. There is a large national "Church of Christ" organization in Cuba that is associated with the government. Sometimes it appears that individuals associated with it use their leverage with the authorities to harass those independent brethren who refuse to submit to it. It is illegal in Cuba to assemble with any substantial group (over 15 I believe) without the sanction of an approved national organization. The official "Church of Christ" organization in Cuba is quite ecumenical, promoting ties with similar Protestant associations. Thankfully there are a growing number of brethren who see through the errors of the system, but don’t know exactly how to respond. In brief, I advised the brother to lovingly speak out against the oppressive church organization. He must do so discreetly.

I fear that a growing number of young Christians raised in "noninstitutional" congregations see institutionalism as no big deal, merely involving a slightly different hermeneutic. They don’t see the monstrous national and regional church organizations created in places like Cuba, El Salvador, Nigeria and other countries where foreign promoters have taken the principles used to defend institutionalism in America to their logical conclusions, forming bloated, church supported organizations that demand submission or else! The same thing happened in the apostasy that resulted in Roman Catholicism. I pray that young Christians (and some older ones as well) can open their eyes and see that institutionalism is no inconsequential, harmless indulgence, but rather a dangerous heresy that distorts the Biblical concept of God’s church, takes focus off of Christ, redirecting it to the traditions of the church network and even results in oppression in some countries.

Misc. Items

My little sermon above leaves little space for other news but will bullet some items of interest.

* I enjoyed trips to Long Beach, California for a meeting and Tampa, Florida to attend lectures and visit the Plant City congregation that is now helping in my support. Look forward to a meeting at Skyview, north of Nashville, April 8-11.

* Upper Manhattan’s building sale fell through, so we are stuck for the time being with our old, cramped building. We desperately need another place.

* We had 67 young Christians who stayed overnight for a weekend series of Bible studies on Zephaniah, Haggai and Malachi. Most are pictured above. Several more came during the day on Saturday. I am always thrilled to see the godly influence that the Christians between 18-25 have on those that are younger.

* We have a number of studies during the week with different individuals and groups. I may focus on a few that are particularly encouraging in my next report.

* Someone copied an article I wrote on my web page about "applause in worship," and placed it on a popular evangelical web page, where it stirred up a multitude of comments. I need to update my webpage and pay more attention to it, but find myself spending time with things I feel more competent doing.