Churches of Christ, in a modern context, developed during the early 1800s and beyond. We are part of what is known as the American Restoration Movement. Our goal was to serve as a place of unity, inviting Christians from all denominations to join together as one, so that we could have a unified witness to the world that Jesus is Lord.
It was our belief that the best possible source of unity, upon which all Christians could agree, would have to be the words of Scripture. The New Testament in particular describes what Christ imagined his Church would be like, and so we have sought to practice a simple form of non-denominational Christianity that relies on teachings, examples, and patterns in the New Testament as the highest authority for what we believe and practice within our church.
our goal is to be nothing more and nothing less than what Jesus imagined his church would be
Though many traditions are well-intentioned, we choose for the sake of simplicity and unity to bind on ourselves only what we find in the New Testament. Though we are imperfect in our implementation, our goal is to be nothing more and nothing less than what Jesus imagined his church would be in order to fulfill God’s mission to redeem what is lost and broken in the world. As a result of how we approach Scripture, we have developed several practices that we believe to be aligned well with the practices and teachings of the earliest Christians.
We believe that Jesus Christ was and is who he claimed to be.
John’s Gospel teaches that Jesus is co-eternal with God the Father and God the Spirit, and that all things that have been created, were created through Christ. It is also through Christ that we become a new Creation when we are born again. We believe that Jesus Christ was God’s only son, and that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered and died through crucifixion, and on the third day he rose from the dead. Later, he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God. One day he’ll return so that all those who are dead in Christ can follow in his footsteps, experiencing the resurrection of the righteous, and joining God in Heaven.
We make time each week to focus on Jesus specifically.
Jesus’ own suggestion for how the church would do this is by taking communion, or the Lord’s Supper. Those of us who have committed our lives to Jesus in baptism will take time during our worship service together to eat a piece of bread that represents Jesus’ body, and drink grape juice that represents Jesus’ blood. We remember his sacrifice, and it is a time of solemn appreciation, but also joy.
Jesus sets us free from our sins and limitations through his power over death. In fact, Jesus is Lord of all; even over the things in our lives that frighten or intimidate us. We take communion each week on Sunday, because from the time of the earliest Christians, Sunday has been called “the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10), and has been set aside for celebrating the communion meal in honor of our Savior. Jesus is so important, we wouldn’t want to start our week without pausing to honor his life.
We practice baptism for the remission of sins.
Because we try to pattern our teachings and behaviors based on what the New Testament indicates the early Christians did, we see a clear pattern that when a person is old enough to understand their need for God, and they are sorry for their past mistakes, they are able to put their faith in Christ by confessing he is the Lord, and by being immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins.
Baptism is important because Jesus is important.
Baptism is not a work, because it’s not something you do. It’s something that God does to you and for you. When someone lowers you down into the water, God’s holy spirit comes to dwell within you and begin forming you into a new creation in Christ.
It isn’t the water that saves you. It’s the grace of God that saves you when you come in contact with the blood of Jesus through the commitment you are making to be baptized into Jesus, and therefore to clothe yourself with Jesus as one of his people. Baptism is important because Jesus is important.
We practice non-denomionational Christianity.
We are not “Church of Christers” nor will we claim to be “Church of Christ-Christians.” Paul teaches very strongly against the practice of denomionationalism in the first three chapters of I Corinthians, and says that division in the body of Christ is a sign of immaturity. Jesus’ prayer for his church in John 17 is that all Christians would be “one.”
Jesus didn’t want there to be types of Christians, he just wanted there to be Christians. It is our sincere desire to simply be Christians, in the sense that the New Testament uses the term. It is not our place or desire to judge other groups of Christians and their standing with God. It is our desire to make sure that everyone who is a part of us is growing closer to Jesus, and honoring the name that they bear when they say, “I am a Christian.”
In the New Testament, Paul directed that elders be appointed in every town to oversee the churches. Based on this, the highest level of authority that exists in churches of Christ are the elders at the local congregation. We have several elders who are shepherds of our flock. Their role is to look after the souls of our members, and to help guide the direction of our teaching and preaching, ensuring that we are staying true to Scripture. Because we are non-denominational, there is no higher church board or structure to whom we appeal. Christ is the head of the Church, and we try to uphold him above all else.
We value beautiful, a cappella singing.
When we worship, God is the audience, and we are the performers
Paul encourages Christians in every place to sing to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. From the earliest days of the church until the modern time, singing has been a precious thing in the worship of God’s church. Some songs we sing to God, expressing love, thanks, and renewed devotion. Other songs have lyrics directed to our fellow Christians, encouraging each other to follow God with greater dedication. When we worship, God is the audience, and we are the performers.
We believe that a cappella singing remains the best way to keep all participants in the worship active in praising God, and to help keep the focus on the contents of the words we are singing. Even though a cappella singing has been the most widely practiced form of worship since the beginning of the church, with very few exceptions until after the Protestant Reformation, it is not practiced in many denominations today, and many who have not grown up with the practice find it fascinating how different the experience can be. It is a special part of our history, and we love doing it.
We believe that every Christian is an equally valued part of God’s family.
We do not use special titles for our ministers, because we believe that the highest title any person can hold is to wear the name of Christ as a Christ-ian. People in the church have a variety of gifts, and our desire is to be a church where everyone’s gifts are cultivated and shared, though different gifts may be used most effectively in different settings.
Scripture is not one person’s property. Scripture belongs to the whole community of faith, and all of us are stronger when we share together in learning and understanding what God invites us to do through his word. We are all children of God, and therefore have much to learn from each other.