What Kind Of Church Is This?
Believe it or not, all churches are not the same. If your idea has been that "a church is a church is a church" then you need to investigate more closely. Some churches are different in their organizational arrangement. Some churches are different in their goals and purposes for existence. Some churches are different in their doctrines and traditions which they practice.
Perhaps you are looking for a church which is striving to be like the one you read about in the New Testament - nothing more nor less than just a church. That is what we are trying to be - simply a group of Christians banded together who follow no creed but the Bible and who sincerely strive to speak where the Bible speaks and to be silent where the Bible is silent. "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11).
NOT A SOCIAL CLUB
It is true that our building does not have a kitchen, banquet hall, or gymnasium. This church sponsors no ball teams, concerts, or secular activities. Wholesome social and secular activities are important in the life of a Christian, but God made a distinction between the responsibilities of the home and the church. "What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God and shame them that have not?" (1 Cor. 11:22,34). You see, we specialize in being a church, and we encourage parents to specialize in building good homes. Parents should provide the secular and recreational needs of their family just like they supervise the economic and political needs.
We do wish to draw all men to the Lord, and we seek to hold our young people. But we make no pretense of being something other than what Christ ordained a church to be. Jesus purchased the church by His own blood, and it was thereby established for spiritual purposes (cf. Eph. 5:25-27;1 Pet. 2:5). The gospel is God's power to draw men (cf.Rom. 1:16; John 6:44-45), and whether young or old, all who sincerely seek to please God will be held by good spiritual food.
A CHURCH LIKE CHRIST BUILT
Is This Possible In The 20th Century? Yes, since seed always reproduces after its own kind, the church can exist today just like the one of the first century. The word of God is the spiritual seed (cf. Luke 8:11; 1 Pet. 1:23), and when it is obeyed without addition or subtraction then the characteristics of New Testament Christianity will be reproduced. That is why we make the appeal, "if we are doing something for which we have no authority, show us by the Bible and we will stop doing it; or if you show us something in the Bible that we are not practicing we will start doing it." Other churches will not say that! This attitude toward Bible authority is what makes us unique in the religious world today. We believe it makes a difference with God what we do because Jesus said, "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21).
What Is Our Organizational Structure? What Is Our Organizational Structure? Other local congregations just like this one exist throughout the world, but there are no headquarters on earth. Each local church is independent and self-governing. Christ is our only head (Eph. 1:22-23), and the Bible is our only creed (Gal. 1:6-8; 2 John 1:9). Within the framework of each congregation men are appointed to serve as "elders" (I Tim. 3; Titus 1). They are also called "pastors" and "bishops". Their authority is only to teach and administer the word of Christ, and their allegiance is solely to Him. The church at this place is free from inter-congregational ties or any kind of centralized oversight from without. Neither do our elders oversee the work of another congregation nor any "brotherhood work". They oversee only the work of the flock of God "among them" (1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28). We do cooperate in assisting sister congregations when they have need, but we do so in a manner that respects the autonomy of each local church (2 Cor. 8:9).
What Is Our Goal Or Purpose For Existence? We are motivated by a sincere love for God to worship and serve Him. You will find that in our assemblies we emphasize the reading and studying of God's word, the Bible. Our primary mission is to preach the good news of salvation by grace through faith. If God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, then the least we can do is to make known this love to our fellow man by bringing lost souls to the Christ and by encouraging one another to live faithfully unto death. Our purpose for existence is therefore spiritual in nature. "Ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5). Being a spiritual house, we meet to worship God just as Christians did in the New Testament days. We are careful to do as they did, namely to sing and pray; and on the first day of the week we partake of the Lord's supper and give as God has prospered us (cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:15; 1 Cor. 16:2). We try to be equally careful not to add anything to our worship that He has not authorized lest we worship in "vain" (Matt. 15:7-9).
How Can One Become A Member Of This Church?Become just a Christian! When one is saved, he is added by the Lord to the church. "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). Sinners were told, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38). Therefore we accept into our fellowship all who willingly confess their belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and will repent and be baptized (immersed) for the forgiveness of their sins. Obeying these commandments makes a person just a Christian. We wear no other name than Christ's and seek to be no other kind of church than the one described in the New Testament. Wouldn't you like to be just a Christian?
ARE THERE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CHURCHES OF CHRIST?
Yes, divisions have occurred just like they did among some of the churches in the first century (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10-13; Gal. 1:6-7). We are saddened by this division just as God must be (1 Cor. 14:33), and we continue to work that the unity for which Jesus prayed may exist (cf. John 17:20-23). However, the Bible predicted that some would "depart from the faith" (1 Tim. 4:1) and would "not endure sound doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2-4).
Different attitudes toward Bible authority is the basic cause for all religious division. "Let us speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent" is to some only a slogan and not a commitment. When people cease demanding Bible authority for all that they do religiously, they will soon depart from the faith and will adopt ways that please themselves (cf. 2 John 1:9; Matt. 7:21-23; Matt. 15:7-9).
The most easily recognized difference is that:
- Some "churches of Christ" play an instrument of music in their worship. We reject instrumental music because the Bible is silent about any use of them when Christians worshipped. Singing is the only kind of music authorized by the New Testament (cf. Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
- We are also different from some churches which make a plea for "grace" and "unity" but who in reality seek compromise. Many of the words they use sound Biblical, but the message they preach is non-distinctive. "Union" - not "unity" - is the result of this spirit of open fellowship of all kinds of different doctrines. Unity must be based on doing God's will in God's way, not just on pleasing the majority (cf. Eph. 4:3-7; Luke 6:46). Christians must be of "one mind" striving for "the faith of the gospel" (Phil. 1:27; 1 Cor. 1:10).
- This church is also different from some who talk about "total commitment" but who in their zeal to bring sinners to the "crossroads" of decision have persuaded newcomers to be committed to "prayer partners" more than to Jesus Christ. We repudiate this system whereby the "partners" gain control over new converts by insisting that they confess everything to them and then with cultish fervor motivate adherents to follow their advice. This kind of "total commitment" is perpetrated by a feeling of guilt rather than by the joy of forgiveness (Gal. 2:20).
- Likewise we reject the practice found only among modern churches of promoting and subsidizing human institutions to do a good work in the name of the church (e.g., colleges, hospitals, benevolent institutions). Some have shifted the work of the church to a different "who" and have relegated the church to the role of being fund raisers to subsidize these self-governed institutions. While charitable and educational businesses may do much good, they are an unscriptural addition to God's arrangement when they become an extension to the Lord's church. God designed the church and made it sufficient to accomplish its own work in evangelism, edification, and benevolence (cf. Acts 6:1-7; 1 Peter 5:2-3).
What must one do since there are these differences?No headquarters exist on earth to tell us where to work and worship as a Christian. Nor is there an official council to enforce its creed or withdraw from and expel a congregation. Therefore individual Christians need foremost to search the scriptures for themselves to learn God's pattern for the Lord's church (1 John 4:1). Then they need to search until they find a church whose leadership is committed to following a "thus saith the Lord."
COME WORK WITH US
We sincerely believe this church is just like the one you read about in the new Testament - nothing more nor less than just a church purchased by and governed by the Lord Jesus Christ. We invite you to come join with us in living for Christ. If you would like more information, please feel free to inquire.
-- by Robert Harkrider