have probably heard of churches of Christ. And perhaps you've asked,
"Who are these people? What--if anything--distinguishes them from the
hundreds of other churches in the world?
You may have wondered:
"What is their historical background?"
"How many members do they have?"
"What is their message?"
"How are they governed?"
"How do they worship?"
"What do they believe about the Bible?"
How Many Members?
Worldwide there are some 20,000 congregations of churches of Christ
with a total of 21/2 to 3 million individual members. There are small
congregations, consisting of just a few members--and large ones made up
of several thousand members.
The greatest concentration of numerical strength in churches of
Christ is in the southern United States where, for instance, there are
about 40,000 members in some 135 congregations in Nashville, Tennessee.
Or, in Dallas, Texas, where there are approximately 36,000 members in 69
congregations. In such states as Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama,
Kentucky--and others--there is a church of Christ in practically every
town, no matter how large or small.
While the number of congregations and members is not so numerous in
other places, there are churches of Christ in every state in the United
States and in 109 other countries.
People of Restoration Spirit
Members of churches of Christ are a people of restoration
spirit--wanting to restore in our time the original New Testament
Dr. Hans Kung, a well-known European theologian, published a book a
few years ago entitled The Church. Dr. Kung lamented the fact that the
established church has lost its way; has become burdened down with
tradition; has failed to be what Christ planned it should be.
The only answer, according to Dr. Kung, is to go back to the
scriptures to see what the church was in its beginning, and then to
recover in the twentieth century the essence of the original church.
This is what churches of Christ are seeking to do.
In the latter part of the 18th century, men of different
denominations, studying independently of each other, in various parts of
the world, began to ask:
-Why not go back beyond denominationalism to the simplicity and purity of the first-century church?
-Why not take the Bible alone and once again continue "steadfastly in the apostles' teaching..." (Acts 2:42)?
-Why not plant the same seed (the Word of God, Luke 8:11), that first
century Christians planted, and be Christians only, as they were?
They were pleading with everyone to throw off denominationalism, to throw away human creeds, and to follow only the Bible.
They taught that nothing should be required of people as acts of faith except that which is evident in the scriptures.
They emphasized that going back to the Bible does not mean the
establishment of another denomination, but rather a return to the
Members of churches of Christ are enthusiastic about this approach.
With the Bible as our only guide we seek to find what the original
church was like and restore it exactly.
We do not see this as arrogance, but the very opposite. We are
saving that we do not have the right to ask for men's allegiance to a
human organization-but only the right to call upon men to follow God's
Not A Denomination
For this reason, we are not interested in man-made creeds, but
simply in the New Testament pattern. We do not conceive of ourselves as
being a denomination --nor as Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish -- but
simply as members of the church which Jesus established and for which he
And that, incidentally, is why we wear his name. The term "church of
Christ" is not used as a denominational designation, but rather as a
descriptive term indicating that the church belongs to Christ.
We recognize our own personal shortcomings and weaknesses--and this
is all the more reason for wanting to carefully follow the
all-sufficient and perfect plan God has for the church.
Unity Based Upon The Bible
Since God has vested "all authority" in Christ (Matthew 28:18), and
since he serves as God's spokesman today (Hebrews 1:1,2), it is our
conviction that only Christ has the authority to say what the church is
and what we should teach.
And since only the New Testament sets forth Christ's instructions to
his disciples, it alone must serve as the basis for all religious
teaching and practice. This is fundamental with members of churches of
Christ. We believe that teaching the New Testament without modification
is the only way to lead men and women to become Christians.
We believe religious division is bad. Jesus prayed for unity (John
17). And later, the apostle Paul begged those who were divided to unite
in Christ (1 Corinthians 1).
We believe the only way to achieve unity is by a return to the
Bible. Compromise cannot bring unity. And surely no person, nor group of
persons, has the right to draw up a set of rules by which everyone must
abide. But it is altogether proper to say, "Let's unite by just
following the Bible." This is fair. This is safe. This is right.
So churches of Christ plead for religious unity based upon the
Bible. We believe that to subscribe to any creed other than the New
Testament, to refuse to obey any New Testament command, or to follow any
practice not sustained by the New Testament is to add to or take away
from the teachings of God. And both additions and subtractions are
condemned in the Bible (Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22:18,19).
This is the reason the New Testament is the only rule of faith and practice we have in churches of Christ.
Each Congregation Self-Governed
Churches of Christ have none of the trappings of modern-day
organizational bureaucracy. There are no governing boards--neither
district, regional, national nor international--no earthly headquarters
and no man-designed organization.
Each congregation is autonomous (self- ruled) and is independent of
every other congregation. The only tie which binds the many
congregations together is a common allegiance to Christ and the Bible.
There are no conventions, annual meetings, nor official
publications. Congregations do cooperate in supporting children's homes,
homes for the elderly, mission work, etc. However, participation is
strictly voluntary on the part of each congregation and no person nor
group issues policies or makes decisions for other congregations.
Each congregation is governed locally by a plurality of elders
selected from among the members. These are men who meet the specific
qualifications for this office given in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
There are also deacons in each congregation. These must meet the biblical qualifications of 1 Timothy 3. I
Items of Worship
Worship in churches of Christ centers in five items, the same as in
the first-century church. We believe the pattern is important. Jesus
said, "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit
and truth" (John 4:24). From this statement we learn three things:
1) Our worship must be directed to the right object ... God;
2) It must be prompted by the right spirit;
3) It must be according to truth.
To worship God according to truth is to worship him according to his
Word, because his Word is truth (John 17:17). Therefore, we must not
exclude any item found in his Word, and we must not include any item not
found in his Word.
In matters of religion we are to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Since faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17), anything
not authorized by the Bible cannot be done by faith ... and whatever is
not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
The five items of worship observed by the first-century church were
singing, praying, preaching, giving, and eating the Lord's Supper.
If you are acquainted with churches of Christ you are probably aware
that in two of these items our practice is different from that of most
religious groups. So permit me to focus on these two, and state our
reasons for what we do.
A Cappella Singing
One of the things people most frequently notice about churches of
Christ is that we sing without the use of mechanical instruments of
music -- a cappella singing is the only music used in our worship.
Simply stated, here is the reason: we are seeking to worship
according to the instructions of the New Testament. The New Testament
leaves instrumental music out, therefore, we believe it right and safe
to leave it out, too. If we used the mechanical instrument we would have
to do so without New Testament authority.
There are only 8 verses in the New Testament on the subject of music in worship. Here they are:
"And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives" (Matthew 26:30).
" about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God ..."(Acts 16:25).
"Therefore I will praise Thee among the Gentiles, and sing to thy name" (Romans 15:9).
". . . I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also" (1 Corinthians 14:15).
". . . be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms
and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord
with all your heart" (Ephesians 5:18,19).
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and
admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and
spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Colossians
"I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee" (Hebrews 2:12).
"Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise" (James 5:13).
The mechanical instrument of music is conspicuously absent in these passages.
Historically, the first appearance of instrumental music in church
worship was not until the sixth century A.D., and there was no general
practicing of it until after the eighth century.
Instrumental music was strongly opposed by such religious leaders as
John Calvin, John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon because of its absence in
the New Testament.
Weekly Observance of The Lord's Supper
Another place where you may have noticed a difference between
churches of Christ and other religious groups is in the Lord's Supper.
This memorial supper was inaugurated by Jesus on the night of his
betrayal (Matthew 26:26-28). It is observed by Christians in memory of
the Lord's death (1 Corinthians 11:24,25). The emblems - unleavened
bread and fruit of the vine - symbolize the body and blood of Jesus (1
Churches of Christ are different from many in that we observe the
Lord's Supper on the first day of every week. Again, our reason centers
in our determination to follow the teaching of the New Testament. It
says, describing the practice of the first-century church, "And upon the
first day of the week . . . the disciples came together to break bread
..." (Acts 20:7).
Some have objected that the text does not specify the first day of
every week. This is true--just as the command to observe the Sabbath did
not specify every Sabbath. The command was simply, "remember the
Sabbath day to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8). The Jews understood that to
mean every Sabbath. It seems to us that by the same reasoning "the first
day of the week" means the first day of every week.
Again, we know from such respected historians as Neander and
Eusebius that Christians in those early centuries took the Lord's Supper
Terms of Membership
Perhaps you are wondering, "How does one become a member of the church of Christ?" What are the terms of membership?
Churches of Christ do not speak of membership in terms of some
formula which must be followed for approved acceptance into the church.
The New Testament gives certain steps which were taken by people in that
day to become Christians. When a person became a Christian he
automatically was a member of the church.
The same is true of churches of Christ today. There is no separate
set of rules or ceremonies which one must follow to be inducted into the
church. When one becomes a Christian he, at the same time, becomes a
member of the church. No further steps are required to qualify for
On the first day of the church's existence those who repented and
were baptized were saved (Acts 2:38). And from that day forward all
those who were saved were added to the church (Acts 2:47). According to
this verse (Acts 2:47) it was God who did the adding. Therefore, in
seeking to follow this pattern, we neither vote people into the church
nor force them through a required series of studies. We have no right to
demand anything beyond their obedient submission to the Savior.
The conditions of pardon which are taught in the New Testament are:
1) One must hear the gospel, for "faith comes by hearing the word of God" (Romans 10:17).
2) One must believe, for "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6).
3) One must repent of past sins, for God "commands all men, every- where to repent" (Acts 17:30).
4) One must confess Jesus as Lord, for he said, "He that confesses
me before men, him will I also confess before my father who is in
heaven" (Matthew 10:32).
5) And one must be baptized for the remission of sins, for Peter
said, "Repent, and be baptized every- one of you in the name of Jesus
Christ for the remission of your sins ..." (Acts 2:38).
Emphasis on Baptism
Churches of Christ have a reputation for placing much stress on the
need for baptism. However, we do not emphasize baptism as a "church
ordinance," but as a command of Christ. The New Testament teaches
baptism as an act which is essential to salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts
2:38; Acts 22:16).
We do not practice infant baptism because New Testament baptism is
only for sinners who turn to the Lord in belief and penitence. An infant
has no sin to repent of, and cannot qualify as a believer.
The only form of baptism we practice in churches of Christ is
immersion. The Greek word from which the word baptize comes means "to
dip, to immerse, to sub- merge, to plunge." And the Scriptures always
point to baptism as a burial (Acts 8:35-39; Romans 6:3,4; Colossians
Baptism is extremely important because the New Testament sets forth the following purposes for it:
1) It is to enter the kingdom (John 3:5).
2) It is to contact Christ's blood (Romans 6:3,4).
3) It is to get into Christ (Galatians 3:27).
4) It is for salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21).
5) It is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
6) It is to wash away sins (Acts 22:16).
7) It is to get into the church (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:23).
Since Christ died for the sins of the whole world and the invitation
to share in his saving grace is open to everyone (Acts 10:34,35;
Revelation 22:17), we do not believe that anyone is predestined for
salvation or condemnation. Some will choose to come to Christ in faith
and obedience and will be saved. Others will reject his plea and be
condemned (Mark 16:16). These will not be lost because they were marked
for condemnation, but because that's the path they chose.
Wherever you are at this moment, we hope you will decide to accept
the salvation offered by Christ - that you will offer yourself in
obedient faith and become a member of his church.
Mountain View Church of Christ, 1818 Miramonte Avenue, Mountain View, CA 94040