Who are the churches of Christ? What do we believe in?
It is primarily a plea for religious unity based upon the Bible. In a divided religious world it is believed that the Bible is the only possible common denominator upon which most, if not all, of the God-fearing people of the land can unite. This is an appeal to go back to the Bible. It is a plea to speak where the Bible speak and to remain silent where the Bible is silent in all matters that pertain to religion. It further emphasizes that in everything religious there must be a “Thus saith the Lord” for all that is done. The objective is religious unity of all believers in Christ. The basis is the New Testament. The method is the restoration of New Testament Christianity.
1st and 2nd centuries. The Apostles themselves and their disciples spread the church throughout Asia, Africa, Russia, and Europe.
3rd century. The church remained the same as it had been in the first century according to the Catholic Encyclopaedia.
4th century. Goths from Russia got the Bible in their own language, then spread to France and Spain. As the church of Christ, they rejected that the Lord’s Supper became the actual body and blood of Jesus.
5th century. Christ’s church in Scotland and Ireland rejected Roman Catholic pressures to set up a papal diocese in their countries.
6th century. During the Dark Ages, the Lindisfarne Gospels thrived with the Celt Christians in N. Europe. The church of Christ in Syria refused to bow down to paintings & statues of Jesus, Mary, Apostles, etc.
7th century. Christ’s church in Britain continued to reject celibacy of clergy, purgatory, confession to priests, etc. Killien went to Germany to preach and converted the governor in Wurtzburg.
8th century. In Britain when the pope quoted Matthew 16:19 (the keys of the kingdom were only given to Peter), Christians reminded him of Matthew 18:18 (the keys of the kingdom were given to all the apostles).
9th century. The Bible was translated into German. In Moravia the Bible was translated and called the “Old Church Slavonic Bible” for people to read for themselves. The church continued worshipping the N.T. way.
10th century. The Encyclopedia Britannica said there were many non-Catholics during the Middle Ages. Christ’s church in southern Europe (nicknamed Waldenses) wrote later that they had always existed.
11th century. Berengarius of France preached that the Lord’s Supper was not literal and only the Bible, not church rules & traditions, was to be followed. Peter de Bruys separated his congregation from Rome and insisted the Lord’s Supper was only a memorial, ministers should marry, & infant baptism or holding mass for the dead were not in the Scriptures.
12th century. The church of Christ in Toulouse and other French towns declared Christians could do nothing except that which came directly from the Scriptures. Peter Valdo and congregations he preached for openly opposed Rome and went only by the Bible. In northern Italy, Arnold of Brescia preached simple New Testament Christianity.
13th century. Waldens Christians in Italy continued to declare all Christians priests, and the Roman Church’s elaborate organization and worship not in the Bible. Persecuted, they fled to the Alps and Germany.
14th century. In Britain, John Wycliffe, Philip Repingdon, William Swinderby, John Purvey preached that ordaining priests was not scriptural, clerical celibacy was unnatural, declaring the bread & wine were Jesus’ actual body and blood was idolatry, hallowing altars and vestments was witchcraft. They condemned prayers for the dead, offerings to images, confession to priests. Chastity of nuns led to abortion & child murder. All should have free access to the Scriptures in their own language. In Bohemia Johan Milic preached the simplicity of the first-century church.
15th century. The church of Christ, many of whose members were nicknamed Lollards in much of Europe, had no official creed and no headquarters. They said the church was the community of the faithful, not people who answered to a priest in a building. They encouraged Bible reading, and emphasized scriptures rather than rituals in worship.
16th century. In 1523 in Switzerland, Huldreich Zwingli began a movement for simple Christians to remove all images, suppress organs, replace mass with a simple communion service, declare baptism for adults only, and introduce Bible reading into the Sunday service. Later believers were called Brethren in much of Europe. They remained conservative, following only the pattern of the New Testament for several decades.
17th century: Eventually, many groups who started out following only the New Testament church, began to fall into developing creeds and having a clergy hierarchy and world headquarters. The church of Christ would now thrive through men who pled for unity by getting rid of the creeds and headquarters. For example, in Scotland, John Drury traveled tirelessly begging denominations to unite.
18th century: In 1728 John Glas and later Robert Sandeman led independent congregations, emphasizing immersion of adult believers. They were nicknamed Glassites by outsiders, but were in reality just the church. In 1749 John Erskinbe emphasized celebrating the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. Dr. John Mason agreed, and was sent as a missionary to America in 1761. At that same time, David Dale’s congregation became independent, adopted weekly communion, and appointed elders.
Around 1793 in Scotland, the Haldane brothers became lay preachers and eventually organized the Society for Propagating the Gospel. They kept the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, congregations appointed their own elders, they ceased baptizing children, and began preaching immersion of believing adults. Other great preachers followed this example, thus continuing the existence of the church of Christ.
In North Carolina, America, in 1790, Presbyterian James McGready began preaching congregations should be independent and should have only the Bible as its creed. In 1793 in North Carolina and Virginia, Methodist James O’Kelly tried in vain to convince his episcopate that congregations should be independent, and the New Testament their only creed, so his congregation became independent. At first known as Republican Methodists, they later resolved to be known as Christians only with no head but Christ and no creed but the Bible.
19th century: Not knowing about these movements, in Vermont Baptist Abner Jones pleaded that sectarian names and creeds be abolished. His congregation became independent in 1800. In 1803 a similar group of the church of Christ formed in New Hampshire.
About the same time, not knowing about the others, Baptist Elias Smith of New Hampshire influenced his congregation to become independent. The church spread all over New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Canada. They, too, went only by the name Christian.
Not knowing about them, down in Kentucky Presbyterian Barton W. Stone, who had earlier been a Methodist and a Baptist, preached the same thing to over 20,000 people in a camp meeting. Presbyterians McNamar, Thompson, Dunlavy, Marshall and David Purviance in Kentucky declared their congregations independent of any denomination. Some people called them the “Christian Connection.”
In 1808 Presbyterian Thomas Campbell arrived in Pennsylvania preaching that denominational creeds should be discarded in order to bring people of all faiths together. Later his son Alexander preached the same thing.
By 1860 it was estimated that there were some half million people in North America declaring themselves to be Christians only, with no creed but the Bible, and no head but Christ.
20th century: By the mid-20th century, there were estimated to be around 3,000,000 Christians only. However, an accurate count is impossible because churches of Christ as set up by Christ and his apostles do not have a world headquarters, their only headquarters being in heaven.
Missionaries have found the church of Christ among people in India, Africa and other places of the world. They had copies of the scriptures and do not know how they got them because they’d “always had them.” They baptized adult believers by immersion and kept the Communion every Sunday. The Apostles of Jesus Christ went throughout the world. Perhaps that is who they got the scriptures from. Congregations do not have to know about other congregations in order to be the true church that Christ founded. All they have to know is the Bible and have a desire to follow it alone.
And thus we see that the church of Christ, the church that has only Christ as its head and in its name, has always existed.
The most recent dependable estimate lists more than 15,000 individual churches of Christ in the United States. 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 7,000 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.
Following the plan of organization found in the New Testament, churches of Christ are autonomous. Their common faith in the Bible and adherence to its teachings are the chief ties which bind them together. There is no central headquarters of the church, and no organization superior to the elders of each local congregation. 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 churches of Christ in United States conduct forty colleges and secondary schools, as well as seventy-five orphanges 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 of $1,200,000 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. An extensive advertising program in leading national magazines began in November 1955. There are no conventions, annual meetings, or official publications. The “tie that binds” is a common loyalty to the principles of the restoration of New Testament Christianity.
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). Serving under the elders are deacons, teachers, and evangelists or ministers. The latter do not have the authority equal to or superior to the elders. The elders are shepherds or overseers who serve under the headship of Christ according to the New Testament, which is a kind of constitution. There is no earthly authority superior to the elders of the local church.
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.
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.
Only in the sense that God predestines the righteous to be eternally saved and the unrighteous to be eternally lost. The statement of the apostle Peter, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is acceptable unto him”(Acts 10:34-35.) is taken as an evidence that God did not predestine individuals to be eternally saved or lost, but that each man determines his own destiny.
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.
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.
No. Ministers or evangelists of the church have no special perogatives. They do not wear the title of Reverand or Father, but are addressed simply by the term Brother as are all other men of the church. Along with elders and others they do counsel and advise those seeking help.
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).
It is expected that every member of the church will assemble for worship on each Lord’s day. A central part of the worship is the eating of the Lord’s supper (Acts 20:7). Unless providentially hindered, each member considers this weekly appointment as binding. In many instances, as in the case of illness, the Lord’s supper is carried to those who are hindered from attending the worship.
As a result of the distinctive plea of the church – a return to New Testament Faith and practice – acapella 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.
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 judgement and that he will be judged according to the deeds done while he lived (Hebrews 9:27). After judgement is pronounced he will spend eternity either in heaven or hell.
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.
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.
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.
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). 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).
OPEN INVITATION Now that you are aware of a church in the 21st century which is built according to the blue prints of Christ’s original church, why not become a member of it? In becoming a member of it, you will be called upon to do nothing which you cannot read in the New Testament. You will then live and worship just as the apostle-guided Christians of the first century did. Not only is this return to New Testament Christianity a wonderful basis upon which all believers in Christ can unite, it is absolutely solid ground. If we do just what our Lord commanded we know that our salvation is certain. Come with us as we go back to the Bible, back to Christ and his church!