Sound like a familiar argument?
Im sure it REALLY does if you grew up in many of the mainline Churches of Christ. But the CofC aren’t the only ones to say things like this. The Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and apparently even some the Baptists have been holding that presupposition of being “the one true church” for hundreds of years! The same presupposition some of CofC enjoys making when someone has reminded them that the Restoration Movement leaders would be considered “liberal” in our movement today.
I posted two (unscientific) FB polls on several CofC groups. When there was an instance of the same person voting on multiple groups I disregarded the extra votes. And if there was a vote from someone I knew for certain wasn’t from the cofc I disregarded it as well. I collected data from both polls at 350 participants. Both polls were concerning the question of the Church of Christ being the only ones going to heaven.
The first poll was designed to see if CofC members heard it taught from their churches in the past. As far as I could tell, ages ranged from 16 to 84. Over 350 answered, which is a solid sample.
All but 7 said that they have heard a Church of Christ they were affiliated with say “the CofC are the one and only true church,” with the implication that the only ones with a chance for heaven are those therein (with the unlikely exception by God in mind on judgement day).
That means that roughly 98% of those from the Church of Christ (at least in this sample) have heard the above quote, or a variation of it, taught in a church they attended.
The second poll asked if participants believe the statement now, once believed it (but believe it no longer), or never believed it. There were 350 responses when I last checked the data.
7% still believed the statement to be true.
67% once believed the statement, but no longer do.
26% never believed the statement.
Collectively, that means that 74% believed the statement to be true at some point in their lives (whether now or in the past).
CONCLUSION AND SOME ANECDOTAL ASSUMPTIONS-
So this means that, based on a random sample of 350 CofC participants in an unscientific FB POLL (lol), 98% of CofC participants have heard the statement taught and 74% have believed it (even if they no longer believe it).
To be clear, this isn’t meant to be a bashing. There are plenty of other groups, even Christian groups, that claim to be the only way or the only true church. But it is worth noting where our collective understanding has been.
That said, I believe there is likely a shift in the last decade or so. This is anecdotal, but I would guess that most Church of Christ congregations still believe and teach a variation of the quote above, but that the vast majority of Church of Christ members do not.
I think the majority of members are grace-centered CofC if I loosely define “grace-centered CofC” as an individual who:
1) may or may not hold to traditional CofC views but still claims the heritage
2) does not believe the CofC are the only Christians
3) are willing to reexamine views (even if they end up keeping the view they had)
4) Christ/grace-focused instead of legalisticly focused.
5) non-judgmental regarding the certainty of another’s eternity
Also, I wonder what implications this might have regarding things like evangelism, organizational health, and personal mental/spiritual health?
*”WE ARE THE ONE AND ONLY TRUE CHURCH OF CHRIST!!!”*
Anyone can make this claim. The truth is, on one hand, none of these institutions are right. Most people instinctively realize this. And on the other hand, these institutions are all part of the one true church even though they aren’t the one true church in and of themselves. Because the one true church is a spiritual universal church made up of every believer who has ever lived, regardless of the sign outside of a building. Actually, the institutions themselves have little to no influence on the individual and his/her specific relationship with God. They are just physical manifestations of the spiritual reality. We can say we are the only true church all day long, but the Lord knows who belongs to him. Take down the walls and build up the family of God! – Jesse