Having grown up in the heritage of the churches of Christ, I have spent a lot of time explaining misconceptions that are regularly expressed by those who are unfamiliar with our fellowship (and many who should be).
- The church of Christ is not a denomination. While we wear the name of Christ and we acknowledge that the church is the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27), we do recognized that there are many descriptive terms for the church in the New Testament: church of God (Acts 20:28), household of God (1 Timothy 3:15), church of the firstborn (Hebrews 12:23), body of Christ (Col. 1:24), and several other descriptive terms. We wear Christ’ name as means of paying allegiance and showing the headship of the church. Despite what some might think about our “creeds”, there are no written creeds, doctrines, or established belief systems beyond what we read and apply from the Holy Scriptures.
- Our “creed” is settled in heaven. I am so tired of hearing statements like, “the churches of Christ believe this, or believe that.” We are Bible believing Christians who make our final appeal in all matters of faith and practice to the Holy Scriptures. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). That can create confusion for some people because those “beliefs” may vary from individual church to individual church. That confusion is understandable, discouraging, and encouraging all at the same time. I will expound on this more in the next point, but each individual church must determine, based on the Bible, how to apply what they teach, believe, and practice.
- Leadership is local and our final authority is in heaven. We often use the word autonomy to describe the oversight within churches of Christ. This is not a biblical term but it describes our view of oversight and authority within each individual congregation. “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). Within that context of Jesus being our final authority, leadership was to be established in each local church (Titus 1:5) and these men must give an account for the souls of the men and women they lead (Hebrews 13:17). There is great wisdom in this system of oversight. First, each local church is accountable for their leaders and their leaders are accountable to that church. If a single congregation of the churches of Christ goes into apostasy, teaches false doctrine, or simply wigs out in some strange way, it doesn’t have to affect the work, teachings or practices of any other congregation (though there are always sheep ready to follow some hair-brained shepherd).
- Our preacher isn’t anything special. Now I don’t speak for every church and I am sure there are a few out there who might argue with me, but we don’t have an ecclesiastical hierarchy, neither should we practice “evangelistic authority” (i.e. preacher rule). Preaching is a blessing and a responsibility, but any man who wants to take the time to study, prepare, and faithfully present God’s word can preach (and probably should). Some of the memorable preachers in our fellowship didn’t have as much as a high school education – but they were men of the book.
- We encourage you to study, test, and evaluate what is taught in our churches. Preachers are fallible, teachers are fallible, and we make mistakes from time to time. Just last week I quoted a line from the movie Wayne’s World and attributed it to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Some of my brethren were quick to set me straight on that egregious error. I am thankful for the brothers and sisters that correct the little things like a movie quote, or the bigger matters that pertain to rightly dividing God’s word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). We encourage you to study the Scriptures and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:2).
If you still have questions about the churches of Christ then I encourage you to contact a local congregation and arrange a time to discuss your questions, or you are welcome to contact me and I will do my best to share my limited understanding with you.