Who Are the Churches of Christ?
- Churches of Christ are one of the largest religious groups in the United States
- Have more than 13,000 congregations across the United States with more than 1.6 million members
- Have no central body or organization above the local congregation
- Each congregation is self-governing with its own leaders called “Shepherds” or “Elders”
- Churches of Christ do not have a statement of faith, creed, or book of doctrine outside the Bible. Yet, most share fairly common views regarding the person of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, the inerrancy of the original texts of Scripture, and the role of repentance and baptism.
- Most have congregational singing without the accompaniment of instruments, and share the Lord’s Supper (sometimes called communion) each Sunday.
Churches of Christ grew out of the Restoration Movement of the 18th and 19th centuries. This movement occurred in the United States as well as in Scotland and England. (However, mission efforts have brought Churches of Christ to many nations by present day). The Restoration Movement refers to the desire to restore Christianity to the simplicity and pattern found in the New Testament. Leaders of the Restoration Movement during this period were not interested in reforming either Catholic traditions or Protestant doctrines. Instead the pioneers this movement sought to replicate the principles found in the 1st Century A.D. churches of the New Testament. One phrase that is often cited to describe the thinking of these leaders is “Speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.”
Based on this example, worship in Churches of Christ is simple. The teachings you are likely to hear are centered in the text of the Bible with application for daily living. We want to practice Christianity as purely as we can without the interference of human creeds, statements of faith, or denominational conventions. If you are looking for a place to simply worship without distractions then we invite you to join and grow with us.
Are Churches of Christ a Denomination?
Most congregations of the Churches of Christ teach that we are not a denomination. When used in religious discussions, this term suggests that a religious group considers itself to be just one part of a larger whole. Its unique doctrine or organization distinguishes it from others.
Most denominations have a statement of faith which articulates these unique differences. Most have a national, regional, or state organization or convention to which the local congregation belongs. Most denominations have a national headquarters that implements the policies for that denomination.
Churches of Christ do not have these features. Churches of Christ, as mentioned earlier, are self-governing and seek to apply the New Testament patterns on a congregational basis. Each congregation selects its own leaders (Elders) as well as ministry staff. Most ministers are trained by universities or preaching schools which share beliefs in common with many of the congregations. Yet these schools are independently operated and funded.
Because of the Restoration ideal, we do not strive to be just one part or denomination among many, but rather to be “just Christian.” Churches of Christ carry the name “Church of Christ” not as a denominational title, but as a reference to Jesus Christ’s role as the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22).
How Does Someone Join a Church of Christ?
Most Churches of Christ teach that you do not "join" the church. Rather, when a person becomes a Christian, God adds him or her to the church as a whole (Acts 2:47). When a Christian comes to a congregation of the Church of Christ and asks to “place membership” he or she is not “joining” that congregation like you might join a club. Instead what he is doing is making it known to the Elders and other members of that congregation that he wants to be a part of that church’s work while following the leadership of their Elders.
While the phrase “place membership” is commonly used it is not found in scripture. At the Benbrook Church of Christ we want to help Christians grow in their service to God by actively involving them in the work of the church. Anyone who desires to be a part of our service to God is invited to let us know they would like to be a part of our work.
What Do Churches of Christ Teach Regarding How a Person Becomes a Christian?
Most in the Churches of Christ believe and teach that immersion in water is the point at which a person becomes a Christian. However baptism alone is not the only thing necessary for a person to become a Christian. Jesus told His Apostles to make disciples of every nation “baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all I have taught you…” (Matthew 28:18-20). In Acts 11:26 we read “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch…” So, a Christian is a disciple of Christ. To be a disciple one chooses to pattern his or her life after Jesus. Jesus said you do this by being baptized and following Him.
As we read further in the New Testament, we also find that it is at the point of baptism that our “body of sin is done away with” as we “crucify” our old “body of sin” with Jesus (Romans 6:1-12). Paul says we become united with Jesus in the likeness of His death, burial, and resurrection. We also read that it is at the point of baptism that we receive both the forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit which is a deposit of the eternal life we have in Jesus (Acts 2:38, Ephesians 1:13-14).
Obviously, if a person is to be united with Jesus in his death, burial, and resurrection, that person must believe in Jesus. He or she must believe that Jesus is God the Son, and also God the Father and the Holy Spirit. And, based on Acts 2:38 and Romans 6, he or she must repent – that is – to “turn around” or “change one’s mind” to follow God rather than self in his or her daily behavior.
Why Is It Most Churches of Christ Do Not Use Instruments in Worship?
Most Churches of Christ do not use instruments in worship because the only two passages in the New Testament which discuss musical worship in detail (Ephesians 5:18-21 and Colossians 3:16-19) merely ask the church to sing. The word for sing in these passages is similar to our word ode. It was understood in the 1st Century to mean simply “sing”. The purpose of the singing in these passages is for the congregation to teach one another through the singing and also to give thanks to God. In both passages the notion of “making music” (Ephesians 5:19, NIV) or “with gratitude” (Colossians 3:16, NIV) is tied to doing so “in the heart.” Never in these passages is a reference made to the use of musical instruments.
In the rest of the New Testament when the worship of the church is discussed, there are no examples of the use of instruments. So, as Churches of Christ seek to practice Christianity in the simplicity of the New Testament, we refrain from using instruments. Churches of Christ then worship a cappella because that is the example we have in the early church. We seek Biblical authority for our practices in worship. We feel we can trust God to tell us what pleases Him in worship.