Wednesday, December 08, 2004

About The Church Of Christ

Who are the churches of Christ

and what do they believe in?



By: Batsell Barrett Baxter




How
are the churches of Christ governed?



What
does the church of Christ believe about the Bible?



Do
members of the churches of Christ believe in virgin birth?



Does
the church of Christ believe in predestination?



Why
does the church of Christ baptize only by immersion?



Is
infant baptism practiced?




Do
ministers of the church hear confession?



Are
prayers addressed to the saints?



How
often is the Lord's supper eaten?



What
kind of music is used in the worship?



Does
the church of Christ believe in heaven and hell?



Does
the church of Christ believe in purgatory?




By
what means does the church secure financial support?



Does
the church of Christ have a creed?



How
does one become a member of the church of Christ?



What is the distinctive plea 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 speak 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 saith 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.






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The Historical background of the Restoration Movement



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 Bible as their only guide. In 1804, in the
western frontier state of Kentucky, Barton W. 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
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 19th
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.





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How many churches of Christ are there?



The most recent dependable estimate lists
more than 15,000 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 7000 men who preach
publicly. Membership of the church is heaviest in the southern states of the
United 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.






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How are the churches organizationally connected?



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 teachings 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 40 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 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, and is operating effectively in the United States and
a number of other foreign countries, and is being produced in 14 languages. An
extensive advertising program in leading national magazines began in November
1955.



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.






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How are the churches of Christ governed?



In each congregation, which has existed
long enough to become fully organized, there is a plurality of elders or
presbyters who serve as the governing body. These men are selected by the local
congregations on the basis of qualifications set down in the scriptures (1
Timothy 3:1-8). Serving under the elders are deacons, teachers, and evangelists
or ministers. The latter do not have the 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.





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What does the church of Christ believe about the
Bible?




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 scripture is considered the final word. The basic textbook of the church
and the basis for all preaching is the Bible.





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Do members of the churches of Christ believe in the
virgin birth?



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.





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Does the church of Christ believe in predestination?



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, "Of a truth I perceive
that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him and
worketh righteousness is acceptable unto him" (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.





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Why does the church of Christ baptize only by
immersion?



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 baptisms as given by the
apostle Paul in Romans 6:3-5 where he speaks of it as a burial and
resurrection.






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Is infant baptism practiced?



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.





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Do ministers of the church hear confession?



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.





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Are prayers addressed to the saints?



No. God the Father is considered the only
one to whom the 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).






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How often is the Lord's supper eaten?



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.





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What kind of music is used in the worship?



As a result of the distinctive plea of the
church - a return to New Testament Faith and practice - acappella singing is
the only music used in the worship. This singing, unaccompanied by mechanical
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.






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Does the church of Christ believe in heaven and hell?



Yes. The statement 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.





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Does the church of Christ believe in purgatory?




No. The absence of any reference in the
scriptures to the temporary place of punishment from which the soul will
eventually be released into heaven prevents the acceptance of the doctrine of
purgatory.





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By what means does the church secure financial
support?



Each first day of the week the members of
the church "lay by in store as they have been prospered" (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 if
approximately $200,000,000 is given on this basis each year.






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Does the church of Christ have a creed?



No. At least, there is no creed in the
usual sense of the word. 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.





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How does one become a member of the church of Christ?



In the salvation of man's soul there are
2 necessary parts: God's part and man's part. God's part is the big part,
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of
yourselves, it is the gift if God; not of works, that no man should glory"
(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 clearly set
forth in the following steps:



Hear the Gospel. "How shall they
call on him whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe him whom
they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans
10:14).



Believe. "And without faith it is
impossible to be well pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe
that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him"

(Hebrews 11:6).



Repent of past sins. "The times of
ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should
all everywhere repent" (Acts 17:30).



Confess Jesus as Lord. "Behold here
is water; What doth hinder me to be baptized ? And Philip said, if thou believeth
with all thy heart thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus
Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:36-37).



Be baptized for the remission of sins.
"And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized everyone of you in
the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins and ye shall receive
the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).




Live a Christian life. "Ye are an
elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own
possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out
of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).




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