1. What Is The Objective Of The Church Of Christ?
2. What Is The Restoration Movement?
3. Are Churches Organically Connected?
4. How Are Churches of Christ Governed?
5. What Does The Church Of Christ Believe About The Bible?
6. Why Does The Church Of Christ Baptize Only By Immersion?
7. Is Infant Baptism Practiced?
8. Do Ministers Of The Church Hear Confessions?
9. How Often Is The Lord's Supper Taken?
10. What Kind Of Music Is Used In Worship?
11. How Is The Church Supported Financially?
12. How Does One Become A Member of The Church Of Christ?
A very reasonable question is that which heads this treatise, "What Is The Church of Christ?" Any organization of any kind -- be it an educational institution, a social structure of some kind, or even a service company -- has an obligation to inform the public as to its purpose for existence.
If that statement be correct, then certainly a church must feel an obligation to inform those who are interested concerning its purpose for existence, its beliefs, its plea, and its background. Indeed, the apostle Peter said: "But sanctify the Lord God in your heats: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (I Peter 3:15 KJV).
One very real problem connected with this obligation is the fact that by the very nature of the organization of the church of Christ, it is not possible for this author, or anyone else, to speak officially for the churches of Christ throughout the world. This exposition, therefore, must necessarily be the work of its author, and he makes no claim for speaking on behalf of all churches of Christ. It is his persuasion, however, that these comments express the basic beliefs and convictions of most members of the churches of Christ.
The format of this paper will be that of questions and answers. The questions asked are those questions which we believe most people want answered. If further explanation is needed or desired, we would welcome your enquiries.
It is primarily a call for religious unity based upon the Bible. In a divided religious world it is our conviction that the Bible is the only possible standard upon which all God-fearing people can unite. This then is an appeal to go back to the Bible. It is a plea for all religious belief to be based on a "Thus saith the Lord." It is our conviction that we can truly restore first century Christianity.
In the late 1700's James O'Kelly of the Methodist Episcopal Church withdrew from the Baltimore conference of his church and called upon others to join him in taking the Bible as the only creed. In 1802, just nine years later, a similar movement among the Baptists in New England was led by Abner Jones and Elias Smith. They were concerned about "denominational names and creeds" and decided to wear only the name Christian, taking the Bible as their only guide.
In 1804 Barton Stone and several other Presbyterian preachers took similar action, declaring that they would take the Bible as the "only sure guide to heaven." Thomas Campbell, took similar steps in 1809. It was their contention that nothing should be bound upon Christians as a matter of doctrine which is not as old as the New Testament. These different movements were completely independent in their beginnings, but they eventually became on strong restoration movement because of their common purpose and plea. They did not advocate the beginning of a new church, but rather, they advocated a return to Christ's church as described in the Bible.
Members of the church of Christ do not conceive of themselves as a church started near the beginning of the nineteenth century. Rather, they consider themselves as members of a church which began on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, some time around 30 AD Their every belief, relative to the church, is based upon a conviction that the New Testament church believed and practiced those matters. They believe in "speaking where the Bible speaks," and in "being silent where the Bible is silent."
In keeping with the plan of organization found in the New Testament, all churches of Christ are autonomous (self-governed). There is no central headquarters, no hierarchical structure, no organization higher than the elders of each local congregation. Their common faith in the Bible becomes the chief tie which binds them together. They voluntarily cooperate in various endeavors, but no one church, regardless of its size, is superior to any other church.
In each congregation which has existed long enough to become fully organized, there is a plurality of elders who serve as the governing body. These men are selected by the local congregation on the basis of qualifications given in the Scriptures ( I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5- 9). These men govern the affairs of the local congregation, though they can never change doctrines which are given in the Bible.
Serving under the elders are deacons, teachers, and evangelists (or ministers). The ministers do not have authority equal to, nor superior to, the elders of the local church.
It is our belief that the original manuscripts of the sixty-six books which constitute the Bible were divinely inspired, by which it is meant that they are infallible and authoritative. We are not suggesting that any one version of the Bible is inspired ( though some versions are more reliable than others), but rather that the original manuscripts were truly the words of God. Every religious question is settled by the word of God, and it is the basic textbook of the church, the basis for all its preaching.
The word "baptize" comes the Greek word "baptizo" and literally means, "to dip, to immerse, to plunge." Not only so, but immersion was the practice of the church in New Testament days. Still further, immersion conforms to the description of baptism in Romans 6:3-5 where Paul speaks of it as a burial and a resurrection.
No. Only those who have reached the "age of accountability" are accepted for baptism. New Testament examples of baptism are always of those who have heard the gospel, believed it, and are capable of making a personal acknowledgment of their faith. Faith must always precede baptism (Mark 16:16) and only those who are old enough to understand and believe the gospel are considered to be fit subjects for baptism.
Members of the churches of Christ assemble every first day of the week (every Sunday) for worship. A central part of that worship (every week) is the Lord's Supper ( Acts 20:7 ) The elements on the Lord's Table in the New Testament days were bread ( in remembrance of His broken body) and fruit of the vine (in remembrance of His shed blood). New Testament Christians remembered the Lord's death in this manner every week. Even so, we practice it in the same manner.
In keeping with the primary objective of the church, a return to New Testament faith and practice, a capella singing is the only music used in the church. This practice is one of the most "unusual" practices of the church, that is, singing unaccompanied by mechanical instruments of music, but it conforms to the music used in the apostolic church and for several centuries thereafter (Ephesians 5:19). It is felt that because no authority (scriptural authority) can be given for the use of instrumental music in worship, such usage, along with the use of candles, incense, and other similar elements, is prohibited.
Each first day of the week the members of the church make their voluntary contributions according to their prosperity ( I Corinthians 16:2 ). This offering is the only call which the church makes. No assessments or other levies are made. No moneymaking activities, such as bazaars or suppers, are engaged in for the support of the church.
In the salvation of man's soul , two elements must necessarily come together -- God's gift and man's response. It is stated in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (KJV) This does not suggest, however, that man has nothing to do. Salvation is a gift, but man must accept the gift. Acceptance is demonstrated in the following steps:
We invite you to consider the church of Christ. It is our conviction that Christ built His church for all time, and we believe that we can be members of the church which He built nearly 2000 years ago.
If we can help you to a better understanding of the church of Christ and Gods will for your life, please call upon us. We shall be happy to serve you.
(c) 1997 The Fishinger & Kenny Roads Church of Christ,
Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.
Mail your comments to: WebServant@BiblicalStudies.org