The Future of the Churches of Christ: Depend Greatly on Accepting the Present Reality

At the risk of being tarred and feathered, or kicked out of the club, I am going to admit something that many people struggle with. The Church of Christ is not the church of Christ, or the church of God, or the Way, or any of the other scriptural names that describe the bride of Christ. The Church of Christ is . . . well, the Church of Christ. It’s a distinct religious group with the greater body of Christendom in the United States. Well, at least that’s what it has become. But I don’t think it started out that way.

Now this doesn’t mean that some individual congregations that identify themselves as Church of Christ aren’t churches of Christ. I worship at one myself. You might too. So what’s the point? The point is that the longer we go without realizing and living within this reality the more we increase our insignificance in the greater Christian community and the more we limit our influence among our neighbors.

I can just hear some folks now. “Oh, that’s liberalism at work.” Or worse yet, “Blasphemy! He’s marked. He’ll never preach at one of our Gospel Meetings.” Okay fine, whatever you say. But let me ask you a couple of questions. First, why is that you would refuse to recognize Smalltown Community Church or First Street Family of God as a church of Christ? Even though they teach and practice immersion for the forgiveness of sins, have a plurality of Elders/Shepherds, have male ministers and share communion each Sunday. Aren’t those the distinctive marks of the church of Christ? Have an answer?

The fact is, if a congregation doesn’t use the name Church of Christ, then they aren’t allowed in the group (or the denomination); because truthfully, the name really is important. By the way, doesn’t the word denomination mean “something named?” Here’s another question (actually a few questions): why do all of “our” colleges require their employees to be members of a Church of Christ (just like the Christian Church colleges do)? Why do many of our churches only use curriculum from “our” publishing companies, especially when there are so many that are a lot better? Why do we have “brotherhood” publications that are produced and written only by members of Churches of Christ? Why doesn’t your congregation receive one of the other hundred publications out there that would be edifying to the members? I think that’s enough questions, you get the point.

The fact that we have, over the past few three generations, turned into a denomination is disappointing. But the fact that so many of us refuse to accept and address this is alarming—because it’s slowly killing the Church of Christ. The good news is that story is still being written. Your congregation has an opportunity to make a difference and write a better ending.

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