History of Churches of Christ
Churches of Christ – Who are we?
Who are these people?
Perhaps you have heard of the Churches of Christ and wondered, “Who are these people?”
Here, in brief, are some answers to those questions
Toward the end of the 18th century, several men of different denominations, in various geographical locations, studying independently of each other, began asking:
- Why not go back to the pattern of the first-century church, prior to the emergence of denominationalism?
- Why not adhere to the Bible only, and commit to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.)
- Why not plant the same seed, the Word of God (Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God), that first-century Christians planted, and be Christians only as they were?
They began encouraging people to relinquish human creeds, abandon denominationalism, and follow only the Bible. They asserted that such action would not establish another denomination, but would be a return to the original church. They insisted that nothing should be required of people other than what is taught in the scriptures.
Churches of Christ are in agreement with the movement those men began; sometimes called the Restoration Movement. With the Bible as our only guide, we seek to discover what the original church was like, and be like that. We feel that we have no right to ask people to pledge their allegiance to a human organization, but only the right to ask them to follow God’s Word.
In 1967, Dr. Hans Kung, a well-known European theologian, published a book entitled The Church. Dr. Kung claimed, and lamented, that the modern-day church had lost its way; had become bogged down with tradition; had failed to be what Christ intended it to be. The only remedy, he said, was to go back to the scriptures to see what the church was in the beginning, and to recover in our day the essence of the original church.
This is what Churches of Christ are committed to. We do not subscribe to man-made creeds, only to the New Testament pattern. We do not consider ourselves a denomination – but simply members of the church Jesus established, buying it with his blood (Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.). That is why we identify ourselves as Churches of Christ – not used as a denominational designation, but as a descriptive term, indicating that the church belongs to Christ.
Because all authority has been given to Christ (Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.), and because he alone has been designated as God’s spokesman in this age (Hebrews 1:1-2 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;), it is our conviction that he alone has the right to say what the church is and what we should teach. We believe that teaching the Bible without modification is the only right way to lead people to become Christians.
We are saddened by religious division. Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:20-23 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.). And the apostle Paul appealed for unity among those who were divided (I Corinthians 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.). We believe the only way to achieve unity is to follow the same blueprint – the Bible; that no individual or organization has the right to draw up a set of rules by which people are religiously governed. Compromise cannot bring unity, but following the same book can. It is safe and right to appeal for religious unity on this basis. To subscribe to any human-authored creed is to promote division.
Jesus said, “…But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24
John 17:17b “…thy word is truth.”
We are careful not to exclude any item in our worship that is found in his Word, and equally careful not to include any item in our worship that is not found in his Word.
When we assemble for worship each Sunday our service usually consists of five elements, which were observed by the first-century church: singing, praying, preaching, giving, and commemorating the Lord’s Supper (communion).
One of the things people frequently notice about Churches of Christ is that our singing is a cappella – that is, without instrumental accompaniment.
Here’s why. We are seeking to worship according to New Testament instruction. Since the New Testament doesn’t mention instrumental music in worship, we believe it is best to exclude it. In the Christian age, instrumental music in church worship did not appear until the sixth century A.D.
There are nine verses in the New Testament that mention music:
Matthew 26:30 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
Acts 16:25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
Romans 15:9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.
Romans 15:11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.
1 Corinthians 14:15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Hebrews 2:12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
James 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
How Many Individual Churches of Christ are there?
The most recent dependable estimate lists more than 15,000 individual churches of Christ. The “Christian Herald,” a general religious publication which presents statistics concerning all the churches, estimates that the total membership of the churches of Christ is now 2,000,000. There are more than 7000 men who preach publicly. Membership of the church is heaviest in the southern states of the United States, particularly Tennessee and Texas, though congregations exist in each of the fifty states and in more than eighty foreign countries. Missionary expansion has been most extensive since the second World War in Europe, Asia and Africa. More than 450 full time workers are supported in foreign countries. The churches of Christ now have five times as many members as were reported in the U.S. Religious Census of 1936.
How are the churches organizationally connected?
Churches of Christ have none of the trappings of modern-day organizational bureaucracy. There are no district, regional, national, or international governing boards – no earthly headquarters, and no humanly-designed organization.
Each congregation is autonomous (self-ruled) and is independent of every other congregation. Their common faith in the Bible and adherence to its teachings are the chief ties which bind them together.
Congregations do cooperate voluntarily in supporting the orphans and the aged, in preaching the gospel in new fields, and in other similar works. Members of the church of Christ conduct forty colleges and secondary schools, as well as seventy-five orphanages and homes for the aged. There are approximately 40 magazines and other periodicals published by individual members of the church. A nationwide radio and television program, known as “The Herald of Truth” is sponsored by the Highland Avenue church in Abilene, Texas. Much of its annual budget is contributed on a free-will basis by other churches of Christ. The radio program is currently heard on more than 800 radio stations, while the television program is now appearing on more than 150 stations. Another extensive radio effort known as “World Radio” owns a network of 28 stations in Brazil alone, and is operating effectively in the United States and a number of other foreign countries, and is being produced in 14 languages.
How are the churches of Christ governed?
In each congregation, which has existed long enough to become fully organized, there is a plurality of elders or presbyters who serve as the governing body. These men are selected by the local congregations on the basis of qualifications set down in the scriptures.
1 Timothy 3:1-8
- This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
- A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
- Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
- One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
- (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
- Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
- Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
- Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
What does the church of Christ believe about the Bible?
The original autographs of the sixty six books which make up the Bible are considered to have been divinely inspired, by which it is meant that they are infallible and authoritative. Reference to the scriptures is made in settling every religious question. A pronouncement from the scripture is considered the final word. The basic textbook of the church and the basis for all preaching is the Bible.
Do members of the churches of Christ believe in the virgin birth?
Yes. The statement in Isaiah 7:14 is taken as a prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ. New Testament passages such as Matthew 1:20, 25, are accepted at face value as declarations of the virgin birth. Christ is accepted as the only begotten Son of God, uniting in his person perfect divinity and perfect manhood.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Matthew 1:20, 25
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.
Why does the church of Christ baptize only by immersion?
The word baptize comes from the Greek word “baptizo” and literally means, “to dip, to immerse, to plunge.” In addition to the literal meaning of the word, immersion is practiced because it was the practice of the church in apostolic times. Still further, only immersion conforms to the description of baptisms as given by the apostle Paul in Romans 6:3-5 where he speaks of it as a burial and resurrection.
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.
Is infant baptism practiced?
No. Only those who have reached the “age of accountability” are accepted for baptisms. It is pointed out that the examples given in the New Testament are always of those who have heard the gospel preached and have believed it. Faith must always precede baptism, so only those old enough to understand and believe the gospel are considered fit subjects for baptism.
Do ministers of the church hear confession?
No. Ministers or evangelists of the church have no special prerogatives. They do not wear the titles, but are addressed simply as are all other men of the church. Along with elders and others they do provide counsel and advise those seeking help.
Are prayers addressed to the saints?
No. God the Father is considered the only one to whom the prayers may be addressed. It is further understood that Christ stands in a mediatorial position between God and man (Hebrews 7:25). All prayers are therefore offered through Christ, or in the name of Christ (John 16:23-26).
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.
Does the church of Christ believe in heaven and hell?
Yes. The statement of Christ in Matthew 25, and elsewhere, are taken at face value. It is believed that after death each man must come before God in judgment and that he will be judged according to the deeds done while he lived (Hebrews 9:27). After judgment is pronounced he will spend eternity either in heaven or hell.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment
What kind of music is used in the worship?
As a result of the distinctive plea of the church – a return to New Testament Faith and practice – a cappella singing is the only music used in the worship. This singing, unaccompanied by mechanical instruments of music, conforms to the music used in the apostolic church and for several centuries thereafter (Ephesians 5:19). It is felt that there is no authority for engaging in acts of worship not found in the New Testament. This principle eliminates the use of instrumental music, along with the use of candles, incense, and other similar elements.
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
Does the church of Christ believe in purgatory?
No. The absence of any reference in the scriptures to the temporary place of punishment from which the soul will eventually be released into heaven prevents the acceptance of the doctrine of purgatory.
By what means does the church secure financial support?
Each first day of the week the members of the church “lay by in store as they have been prospered” (1 Corinthians 16:2). The amount of any individual gift is generally known only to the one who gave it and to the Lord. This free-will offering is the only call which the church makes. NO assessments or other levies are made. NO money-making activities, such as bazaars or suppers, are engaged in. A total if approximately $200,000,000 is given on this basis each year.
I Corinthians 16:2:
Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
Does the church of Christ have a creed?
No. At least, there is no creed in the usual sense of the word. The belief of the church is stated fully and completely in the Bible. There is no other manual or discipline to which the members of the church of Christ give their allegiance. The Bible is considered as the only infallible guide to heaven.
How does one become a member of the church of Christ?
In the salvation of man’s soul there are 2 necessary parts: God’s part and man’s part. God’s part is the big part, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift if God; not of works, that no man should glory” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The love which God felt for man led him to send Christ into the world to redeem man. The life and teaching of Jesus, the sacrifice on the cross, and the proclaiming of the gospel to men constitute God’s part in salvation.
Though God’s part is the big part, man’s part is also necessary if man is to reach heaven. Man must comply with the conditions of pardon which the Lord has announced. Man’s part can clearly set forth in the following steps:
- HEAR THE GOSPEL. “How shall they call on him whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).
- BELIEVE. “And without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him” (Hebrews 11:6).
- REPENT OF PAST SINS. “The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent” (Acts 17:30).
- CONFESS JESUS AS LORD. “Behold here is water; What doth hinder me to be baptized ? And Philip said, if thou believeth with all thy heart thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:36-37).
- BE BAPTIZED FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS. “And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
And then live a Christian life. “Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Jesus died for the sins of the whole world; the invitation to experience his saving grace is open to all. We encourage you to accept the salvation he offers – to come to him in obedient faith and become part of his church.