How, then, shall we summarize what kind of church we are talking about? Perhaps the following terms will help.
- A Christian church
Our message is that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” We require no other creed. He alone is Lord and Savior.
- A church of Christ
The church belongs to Him. We have no authority to change the teachings, rewrite the rules, alter membership requirements, or usurp His place. The church is not a democracy.
- A church seeking unity
Like the Campbells and Stone, members of this church seek to be one in Christ with all others He calls His own.
- A church seeking to restore
As much as possible, we imitate the New Testament precedents. That is why our baptism is by immersion, our Communion is every Lord’s Day, our leaders are called elders, our preaching is about Christ, and our prayers are in Christ’s name. Even our church name is rooted in the earliest days, when disciples were called Christians and their congregations were often addressed as “churches of Christ.”
- An apostolic church
The church, Ephesians 2:20 states, is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Whatever we know about Christ and the church we learned from Jesus’ closest companions, the apostles.
- A thinking church
In the same Ephesian letter, Paul prays that God will give a “Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. . . .” Christian faith demands the best our minds can give, so we are a studying church, seeking to apply biblical truth intelligently.
- A feeling church
Ours is not a dryly intellectual approach to God, however. We rejoice and praise and pray and love and serve from the heart. We are unashamed of the gospel and not embarrassed to let our excitement be seen.
- A sharing church
We share our faith and love with as many as we can reach and our possessions as persons who know that everything we have belongs to God to be used for His purposes.
- A free church
We have no bishops or superintendents or national headquarters to determine local church policies. We elect our own leaders, call and support our own ministers, and decide where our mission money will go. We are not isolationists, though. Our congregations freely associate with one another to accomplish tasks too big for one church alone.
- A growing church
We want to grow, because we are under Christ’s commission to disciple the world. We haven’t completed the task yet, so Christian churches and churches of Christ are renewing our commitment to go unto the ends of the earth, preaching and baptizing and teaching, until the whole world knows the one Lord of all.
LeRoy Lawson is the recently retired president of Hope International University, Fullerton, California. Adapted from The Family of God (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing, 1980).
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