The apostle Peter once wrote, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (I Peter 3:15). Christians are admonished to be ready at all times to give a reason for the faith which they hold.
By the very nature of the Church’s situation, it is not possible for me, or anyone else, to speak officially for the churches of Christ throughout the world. The answers to the questions which follow are, not to be bound on any autonomous Church of Christ congregation. They do however, express the general beliefs and convictions of most members of the Churches of Christ.
[Please keep in mind that this was written in 1962 therefore some figures may be out of date. Where possible, I have tried to find and use as current figures as possible - Mitch Watkins]
WHAT IS THE
PLEASE OF THE
CHURCH OF CHRIST?
It is primarily a plea for religious unity based upon the Bible. In a divided religious world, it is believed that the Bible is the only possible common denominator upon which most, if not all, of the God-fearing people of the land can unite. This is an appeal to go back to the Bible; It is a plea to speak where the Bible speaks and to remain silent where the Bible is silent in all matters that pertain to religion. It further emphasizes that in everything religious there must be a “Thus says the Lord” for all that is done. The objective is religious unity of all believers in Christ. The basis is the New Testament. The method is the restoration of New Testament Christianity.
WHAT IS THE
One of the earliest advocates of the return to New Testament Christianity, as a means of achieving unity of all believers in Christ, was James O’Kelly of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1793 he withdrew from the Baltimore conference of his church and called upon others to join him in taking the Bible as the only creed. His influence was largely felt in Virginia and North Carolina where history records that some seven thousand communicants followed his leadership toward a return to primitive New Testament Christianity.
In 1802 a similar movement among the Baptists in New England was led by Abner Jones and Elias Smith. They were concerned about “denominational names and creeds” and decided to wear only the name Christian, taking the Bible as their only guide. In 1804, in the western frontier state of Kentucky, Barton Stone and several other Presbyterian preachers took similar action declaring that they would take the Bible as the “only sure guide to heaven.” Thomas Campbell, and his more illustrious son, Alexander Campbell, took similar steps in the year 1809 in what is now the state of West Virginia. They contended that nothing should be bound upon Christians as a matter of doctrine which is not as old as the New Testament. Although these four movements were completely independent in their beginnings eventually they became one strong restoration movement because of their common purpose and plea. These men did not advocate the starting of a new church, but rather a return to Christ’s church as described in the Bible.
Members of the church of Christ do not conceive of themselves as a new church started near the beginning of the nineteenth century. Rather, the whole movement is designed to reproduce in contemporary times the church originally established on Pentecost, A. D. 30. The strength of the appeal lies in the restoration of Christ’s original church.
CHURCHES OF CHRIST
The most recent dependable estimate lists more than fifteen thousand individual churches of Christ. The “Christian Herald,” a general religious publication which presents statistics concerning all the churches estimates that the total membership of the churches of Christ is now 2,000,000. There are more than 7,000 men who preach publicly. Membership of the church is heaviest in the southern states, particularly Tennessee and Texas, though congregations exist in each of the fifty states and in more than eighty foreign countries. Missionary expansion has been most extensive since the second World War in Europe, Asia and Africa. More than 450 full-time workers are supported in foreign countries. The churches of Christ now have five times as many members as were reported in the U. S. Religious Census of 1936.
These churches comprise about 2,000,000 members in over 44,333 individual congregations worldwide. There are approximately 14,116 congregations in the United States. Overall U.S. membership was approximately 1,115,932 in 2018. Estimates of the proportion of the US adult population associated with the Churches of Christ vary from 0.8% to 1.5%. Roughly 1,240 congregations, with 172,000 members, are predominantly African-American. 240 congregations with 10,000 members are Spanish-speaking. The average congregation size is approximately 100 members. In 2000, the Churches of Christ were the 12th largest religious group in the U.S. based on number of members, but the 4th largest in number of congregations.
Within the U.S., membership in the Churches of Christ has declined by approximately 12% over the period from 1980 through 2007. The current retention rate of young adults graduating from high school appears to be approximately 60%. The percentage of members attending services appears to be high relative to that of other Christian groups. Membership is concentrated, with 70% of the U.S. membership in 13 states. Churches of Christ had a presence in 2,429 counties, placing them fifth behind the United Methodist Church, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Southern Baptist Convention and Assemblies of God – but the average number of adherents per county was low at 677. The divorce rate is 6.9%, much lower than national averages. Many congregations of the Churches of Christ teach strongly against divorce, resulting in many divorcing individuals leaving the Churches of Christ. This keeps the apparent divorce statistics lower than the number of members who divorce.
Information taken from Wikipedia at (May 1 2020)
Following the plan of organization found in the New Testament, churches of Christ are autonomous. Their common faith in the Bible and adherence to its teaching are the chief ties which bind them together. There is no central headquarters of the church and no organization superior to the elders of each local congregation. Congregations do cooperate voluntarily in supporting the orphans and the aged, in preaching the gospel in new fields, and in other similar works.
Members of the church of Christ conduct forty colleges and secondary schools, as well as seventy-five orphanages and homes for the aged. There are approximately forty magazines and other periodicals published by individual members of the church. A nationwide radio and television program, known as “The Herald of Truth” is sponsored by the Highland Avenue church in Abilene, Texas. Much of its annual budget of $1,200,000 [1962 dollars] Adjusted To 2020 dollars this is $10,256,225.17 (https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/) is contributed on a free-will basis by other churches of Christ. The radio program is currently heard on more than 800 radio stations, while the television program is now appearing on more than 150 stations. Another extensive radio effort known as “World Radio” owns a network of 28 stations in Brazil alone, is operating effectively in the United States and a number of foreign nations, and is being produced in fourteen languages. An extensive advertising program in leading national magazines began in November, 1955. [There is no current advertising program]
There are no conventions, annual meetings, or official publications. The “tie that binds” is a common loyalty to the principles of the restoration of New Testament Christianity.
HOW ARE THE
In each congregation which has existed long enough to become fully organized, there is a plurality of elders or presbyters [pastors] who serve as the governing body. These men are selected by the local congregation on the basis of qualifications set down in the Scriptures (II Timothy 3:1-8). Serving under the elders are deacons, teachers, and evangelists or ministers. The latter do not have authority equal to or superior to the elders. The elders are shepherds or overseers who serve under the headship of Christ according to the New Testament, which is a kind of constitution.
There is no earthly authority superior to the elders of the local church.
WHAT DOES THE
CHURCH OF CHRIST
The original autographs of the sixty-six books which make up the Bible are considered to have been divinely inspired, by which it is meant that they are infallible and authoritative. Reference to the scriptures is made in settling every religious question. A pronouncement from the scriptures is considered the final word. The basic textbook of the church and the basis for all preaching is the Bible.
CHURCH OF CHIST
Yes. The statement in Isaiah 7:14 is taken as a prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ. New Testament passages such as Matthew 1:20, 25, are accepted at face value as declarations of the virgin birth. Christ is accepted as the only begotten Son of God, uniting in his person perfect divinity and perfect manhood.
CHURCH OF CHRIST
Only in the sense that God predestines the righteous to be eternally saved and the unrighteous to be eternally lost. The statement of the apostle Peter, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34-35). is taken as an evidence that God did not predestine individuals to be eternally saved or lost, but that each man determines his own destiny.
WHY DOES THE
CHURCH OF CHRIST
ONLY BAPTIZE BY
The word baptize comes from the Greek word “baptizo” and literally means, “to dip, to immerse, to plunge.” In addition to the literal meaning of the word, immersion is practiced because it was the practice of the church in apostolic times. Still further, only immersion conforms to the description of baptism as given by the apostle Paul in Romans 6:3-5 where he speaks of it as a burial and a resurrection.
No. Only those who have reached the “age of accountability” are accepted for baptisms. It is pointed out that the examples given in the New Testament are always of those who have heard the gospel preached and have believed it. Faith must always precede baptism, so only those old enough to understand and believe the gospel are considered fit subjects for baptism.
OF THE CHRUCH
No. Ministers or evangelists of the church have no special prerogatives. They do not wear the title of Reverend or Father, but are addressed simply by the term Brother as are all other men of the church. Along with elders and others, they do counsel and advise those seeking help.
No. God the Father is considered the only one to whom prayers may be addressed. It is further understood that Christ stands in a mediatorial position between God and man (Hebrews 7:25). All prayers are therefore offered through Christ, or in the name of Christ (John 16:23-26).
HOW OFTEN IS THE
It is expected that every member of the church will assemble for worship on each Lord’s day. A central part of the worship is the eating of the Lord’s supper (Acts 20:7). Unless providentially hindered, each member considers this weekly appointment as binding. In many instances, as in the case of illness, the Lord’s supper is carried to those who are hindered from attending the worship.
IS USED IN
As a result of the distinctive plea of the church – a return to New Testament faith and practice – a cappella singing is the only music used in the worship. This singing, unaccompanied by mechanical [or electronic] instruments of music, conforms to the music used in the apostolic church and for several centuries thereafter (Ephesians 5:19). It is felt that there is no authority for engaging in acts of worship not found in the New Testament. This principle eliminates the use of instrumental music, along with the use of candles, incense, and other similar elements.
CHURCH OF CHRIST
HEAVEN & HELL?
Yes. The statements of Christ in Matthew 25, and elsewhere, are taken at face value. It is believed that after death each man must come before God in judgment and that he will be judged according to the deeds done while he lived (Hebrews 9:27). After judgment is pronounced he will spend eternity either in heaven or hell.
CHURCH OF CHRIST
No. The absence of any reference in the scriptures to a temporary place of punishment from which the soul will eventually be released into heaven prevents the acceptance of the doctrine of purgatory.
Each first day of the week the members of the church “set aside a sum of money in keeping with ... [their] ... income” (1 Corinthians 16:2). The amount of any individual gift is generally known only to the one who gave it and to the Lord. This free-will offering is the only call which the church makes. NO assessments or other levies are made. No money-making activities, such as bazaars or suppers, are engaged in. A total of approximately $200,000,000 [1962 dollars] is given on this basis each year. Adjusted To 2020 dollars this would be equivalent to $1,709,370,860.93 (https://www.usinflationcalculator.com!).
WHAT IS THE
BELIEF OF THE
CHURCH OF CHRIST
Because of the statements made by Christ in Matthew 19:3-9, and elsewhere, it is believed that marriage is binding until death. The only exception is in the case of adultery on the part of one of the parties to the marriage. In such cases it is believed that the innocent marriage partner is no longer bound by the marriage ties. Divorces, for [all] the myriad causes known to modern society, are not recognized as scriptural.
CHURCH OF CHRIST
HAVE A CREED?
No. at least, there is no creed in the usually accepted meaning of that term. The belief of the church is stated fully and completely in the Bible. There is no other manual or discipline to which the members of the church of Christ give their allegiance. The Bible is considered as the only infallible guide to heaven.
ONE BECOME A
In the salvation of man’s soul there are two necessary parts: God’s part and man’s part. God’s part is the big part, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The love which God felt for man led him to send Christ into the world to redeem man. The life and teaching of Jesus, the sacrifice on the cross, and the proclaiming of the gospel to men constitute God’s part in salvation.
Though God’s part is the big part, man’s part is also necessary if man is to reach heaven. Man must comply with the conditions of pardon which the Lord has announced. Man’s part can be clearly set forth in the following steps:
1. Hear the Gospel. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14).
2. Believe. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
3. Repent of past sins. “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
4. Confess Jesus as Lord. “As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?’ Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ The eunuch answered, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God'” (Acts 8:36-37).
5. Be baptized for the remission of sins. “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'” (Acts 2:38).
Written by Batsell Barrett Baxter (1916-1985) in 1962
Text updated to reflect the N.I.V. translation of the Bible. Monetary amounts adjusted to 2020 dollars. - Mitch Watkins
This text is available in its original printed tract form from Haun Publishing Company – 713.472.8475.
Reprinted by permission.