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There are many who have walked the path of legalism, but few know its depths, deception and destruction more than Kevin Pendergrass.
Pendergrass, a graduate of a preacher training school in East Tennessee, served in Oklahoma as a minister for Churches of Christ. He was a formal debater and a co-host of a gospel television and radio program.
At the same time, “I was a Christian living in spiritual bondage without realizing it,” he writes in “A Different Kind of Poison: How Legalism Destroys Grace.” “I made so many mistakes and robbed myself of spiritual peace, joy and freedom. I unintentionally hurt myself and others in the name of Jesus.”
Pendergrass shares his story of transition from legalism to trusting in the grace of God. He has remained active in Churches of Christ, which I think makes his story even more appealing and helpful for our brotherhood. His book is written in such as way that it does not condemn our heritage, but rather he identifies his own shortcomings because of his former legalistic views.
Pendergrass slowly strips away the covers of legalism and shares his own struggle with reconciling the teachings of Jesus with his long-entrenched convictions.
As a man who was raised on legalism and preached it for years, I can attest to the reality of the destruction it causes. I have seen close families torn apart, churches full of people claiming to follow Jesus fracture and never recover, the closest of friends alienated from each other, and people who quit Jesus altogether because of legalism. I have personally experienced many of these in my own life.
The damage is real, and the people are real. Those who are hurt by their own legalism or that of others are left scarred for years — and in some cases forever.
BRANDON JOHNSON is pulpit minister for the Northridge Church of Christ in Shawnee, Okla. He authored the foreword for Pendergrass’ book.
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