THE CHURCH OF CHRIST: WHAT I LOVE AND WHY I’M STILL A MEMBER
I’ve written 2 articles in the last 6 weeks or so that have given me a little trouble. The first was the last of a 4-article series I wrote on change. It was meant to apply what we had previously talked about in earlier sections. It was entitled “Church of Christ: Some thoughts on Change.” The other article was labeled “A Letter of Apology to Christians Outside of the Churches of Christ.” I want to say a few things from the very beginning for the sake of clarification. I knew that I would have some pushback from those articles, so they did not come without long prayer, much study, lots of rewriting, and counsel from others. I also want to say that I knew from the beginning that said articles would not go without cost for me. I knew that as soon as I made them public I would be labeled and lose any weight I had in most churches of Christ.
In both articles, I wanted to do 2 things. First, I wanted to teach what I believe from Scripture to be true. Second, I wanted to do so in love, fairness, and in respect. I did not want to compromise either of these. There were probably times I was not gracious enough, and there were probably other times where I stepped on eggshells a little too much for the sake of love and respect. But my goal was to carefully choose my words so that neither truth nor love were compromised. I tried to make it very clear in both articles that I was only speaking for myself and through my own personal experiences. While, in my experience, most churches of Christ are fundamentally the same, I realize that not every congregation (or individual) within the churches of Christ works or thinks the same way. I implied these things in several ways, several times, in both articles.
I have, however, received some useful feedback. Many who have been hurt by churches or individuals within the churches of Christ have seen this as a sign of unity. Many who grew up in the churches of Christ and were discouraged and stopped participating with any church have seen this as a sign of hope. Comparatively speaking, there has surprisingly been very little negative criticism. Most of the criticism I have gotten has been emotionally based, and I understand that. I’m questioning something held most important in the heart. But some of the criticism has been fair, and that is what I want to write about in this article. The only good criticism I’ve gotten was from people asking, “why are you still in the churches of Christ?” I plan to use the rest of this article to list some reasons I am still in the churches of Christ and some reasons I love my heritage. This is not meant to be exhaustive, and it is not intended to be a study sheet full of verses to support every view. It is only a personal list of reasons I haven’t deviated from my heritage.
1) I love that the churches of Christ (generally speaking, of course) are some the most biblically literate people of any Christian institution I know of.
2) I love the fact that acappella worship is not only beautiful, but it is also pure and unifying. I’ve noticed (again, in my experience) more sing in this setting than in an instrumental environment.
3) I love the commitment to the Bible as our only authority as opposed to church tradition, creeds, or scholars. The churches of Christ respect scholarship and study church history, but the Bible is the authority.
4) I love that the family environment in the churches of Christ tends to be more evident than MOST other fellowships I’ve participated with. They take care of their own in remarkable ways.
5) I love that the churches of Christ take the Lord’s supper (communion) every week to remember His coming as well as to remember that we are His body as the church.
6) I love the commitment to what they understand as true even if that means someone they love will be offended.
7) I love that, generally speaking, they try to teach what they believe to be true in love because their hearts hurt for those they believe to be lost.
8) I love the sacrifices and resources the churches of Christ put forward towards evangelism.
9) I love the emphasis and urgency placed on water immersion.
10) I love that they tend to teach the Trinity.
11) I love that they teach Jesus’ life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
12) I love that they tend to teach that we are not born with sin, but instead, the inclination and environment of sin.
13) I love that they tend to teach that while salvation is by grace, there are different degrees of punishment and reward.
14) I love what they tend to teach concerning the book of Revelation.
15) I love how the churches of Christ tend to make a distinction between old and new covenants without disregarding the old covenant altogether.
16) I love how, even if I disagree with some of the conclusions, the churches of Christ tend to make Christ the head and not man, no matter the cost.
17) I love that they tend to have a plurality of elders who oversee the local congregation instead of a preacher controlling the church.
18) I love the autonomy of each congregation. No outside eldership or congregation tells another congregation what to think or do. The local congregation and the leadership study for themselves.
19) I love the Restoration Movement and its foundational principles, from which churches of Christ were formalized (although I am uncertain that, in my experience, those principles are generally maintained).
20) I love the desire for nondenominational Christianity.
21) I love the Restoration desire for Christian unity, although we differ on how to go about said unity.
22) I love the widely forgotten phrase in our movement, “Christians only, but not the only Christians.”
23) I love another widely forgotten phrase, “In essentials, unity; in opinions, liberty; in all things love.”
24) I love one more widely forgotten phrase, “No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, no law but love, no name but the divine.”
25) I love that the churches of Christ hold the Lord as Messiah in its name.
26) I love that they tend to teach that one is saved by grace but can also “fall from grace.”
27) I love that they tend to teach that relationship with God is a choice, not a forced action.
28) I love that they tend to teach (although differently than I) that Christ saves, not the church.
29) I love that almost all in the churches of Christ (in my experience) are people who study, love God, and have good intentions.
30) Last, I am still part of the churches of Christ because I love my heritage, my family, my friends, even if they aren’t sure how they feel about me. They are my people!
I think it is fair to ask me why I am still with the churches of Christ. I look at the movement from which we came (The Restoration Movement), and I am proud of those principles. I am proud because I believe they are biblical principles that happen to be the best framework I know of for nondenominational Christianity. I personally believe that we, generally speaking, have unfortunately become sectarian in many ways. If I am wrong about some of my views, then said sectarianism is justified. But if I am right, it is not justified. Either way, I love my movement! I love my church of Christ family dearly, but I love the true church as a whole as well. I love the universal, spiritual body of Christ. I believe we have great potential in the churches of Christ. That is why I love this movement. That is why I am a member of the churches of Christ. – Jesse