From time to time, I have tried to provide some basic information on a religious group, denomination, or independent church. I have tried to be fair and accurate. The aim has been to provide information to you which may be helpful when evangelizing, and when conversing with your neighbor or friend about spiritual matters.
At some point, I will write on the church of Christ. The plan is to cover such things as: “What is the church of Christ?” “Must one be a member of the church of Christ to be saved?” Do you believe that you are the only ones saved?”
However, at this time I want to consider what another has said about the church of Christ. Inaccurate and misleading information is pervasive on the internet. It is easy to defeat a strawman. However, I recently came across two sites which sought to accurately represent the facts. One was an article on Christianity.com by Brannon Deibert entitled: Churches of Christ – 10 Things to Know About Their History and Beliefs. The other was a Ready to Harvest YouTube video entitled: What is the Church of Christ? It is the article by Brannon Deibert we consider. Here are his 10 points:
1. “The Churches of Christ arose from the Restoration Movement.”
B.H. – I do not believe that this is completely accurate. It is true that many churches of Christ in America have historical connection with the Restoration Movement. However, it does not depend on it. The Bible teaches that the Lord adds to His church those who obey His plan for salvation (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2). David Roper has written, “Anywhere that is a Bible, there is always the possibility that people will read it and obey it just as it reads – and when that happens, God adds them to the church” (Voices Crying in the Wilderness, p. 94).
He adds, “Despite being influenced by the Restoration Movement, individuals of the Church of Christ do not consider themselves as a new Church originating near the beginning of the 19th century. Rather, the whole movement is designed to represent in modern times the church first established on Pentecost, A.D. 30.”
2. “The founders believed in adhering solely to the Bible.”
B.H. – By “founders” he seems to be referring to men like Barton W. Stone and Thomas and Alexander Campbell. The true founder is Jesus Christ (cf. Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20).
He adds, “Churches of Christ seek to follow the teachings on the Bible being the only source to find doctrine (known abroad as Sola Scriptura).” B.H. – All should.
3. “The Churches of Christ are autonomous congregations.”
He adds, “There is no primary headquarters of the Church, and no organization superior to the elders of each local congregation.” B.H. – This is how it should be.
4. “There are over 15,000 individual Churches of Christ.”
He adds, “the total fellowship of the Churches of Christ is now 2,000,000. There are over 7,000 men who preach (full-time) publicly. Membership of the Church is largest in the southern states of the United States, especially in Tennessee and Texas, though there are congregations located in each of the 50 states and in over 80 countries.”
B.H. – His figures seem to be based on U.S.A. figures. His figures seem too high. “Attendance in churches of Christ peaked (in U.S.A. – B.H.) about 1985 and has been in decline since about 1990. As of 2010, Churches of Christ had 1.6 million adherents… and 12,584 congregations… Tim Woodroof and Stan Granberg wrote that Churches of Christ have lost more than 2,000 people and nine congregations a month since 2015” (Non-instrumental Churches of Christ Facing Uncertain Future by Kent Fillinger, Oct. 13, 2021, christianstandard.com; Churches of Christ …New Study Reveals Drastic Decline by Tim Woodroff & Stan Granberg).
B.H. – It is not possible to be exact on these numbers. Remember there is no hierarchy or earthly headquarters.
B.H – Most congregations in the U.S.A. are small. 91% of all attendees are found in churches of fewer than 250. The smallest 55% of congregations average 34 people (Churches of Christ … New Study Reveals Drastic Decline by Tim Woodroff & Stan Granberg).
5. “Churches of Christ are governed by a plurality of elders.”
He adds, “In each congregation, which has… become… organized, there is a group of elders or pastors who serve as governing authority. These men are chosen by the local congregations on the foundation of qualifications established in the scriptures (1 Timothy 3:1-8). Serving under the elders are ministers, teachers, and (foreign) evangelists or missionaries. (They) do not have authority equal to or exceeding that of elders.” B.H. – So, it should be.
6. “Churches of Christ believe in a process of salvation.”
He adds, “The process of salvation… One must be properly taught, and hear (Romans 10:14-17); One must believe or have faith (Hebrews 11:6; Mark 16:16); One must repent… (Acts 17:30); One must confess belief that Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 8:36-37); One must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38); and One must live faithfully as a Christian (1 Peter 2:9).”
7. “Churches of Christ baptize by immersion only.”
B.H. – This is what the original word means. Moreover, it is described as a burial (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12).
8. “‘A Capella’ singing is the only music used in worship.”
He adds, “It is believed that there is no jurisdiction for involving acts of worship not found in the New Testament.”
B.H. – Alas, it is not always this way in every church of Christ. However, it should be.
9. “Churches of Christ have a distinctive plea.”
He adds, “The Churches of Christ have a distinctive plea for spiritual unity based upon the Bible. In a segregated religious world, they believe that the Bible is the only plausible commonality upon which Christians can unite. The objective of their plea is religious unity of all believers in Christ following the basis of the New Testament…”
10. “Most members of Churches of Christ live outside the United States.”
He adds, “There are more than 1,000,000 members of the Churches of Christ in Africa, roughly 1,000,000 in India, and 50,000 in Central and South America.
B.H. – These numbers may be under-estimated. The church is experiencing rapid growth in Africa and India (faster than one can keep up with statistically). If we do not get busy, they will need to evangelize us one day. Further, the numbers in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean likely exceed 100,000 (the global status of Churches of Christ by Bob Waldron, missiodeijournal.com).
B.H. – It is not possible to be exact on these numbers. Remember that there is no hierarchy or earthly headquarters. Some congregations are very small, meeting in houses.