I have noticed throughout my tenure of preaching the gospel of Christ that some are offended of anyone criticizing the church in which they attend or are a member thereof. Church of Christ members are no exception to this rule. I suppose they are offended of anyone being critical of the decision they have made concerning their eternal soul. Perhaps the fact that their parents attended this particular church offends them most. Perhaps it is a matter of willful pride. No matter why, some can’t accept the fact that the church in which they attend are at odds with the Word of God.
In all my preaching, I have never once criticized the church of Christ which Christ bled and died for with his own blood (Acts 20:28). This church is perfect in every way. Jesus is its head (Col 1:18). It is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). It contains the manifold wisdom of God (Eph 3:10).
However, many local churches of Christ are not perfect in every way. Fallible elders are its head. Fallible members are its body. Some teach for doctrines the commandments of men (Mt 15:7-9). Some rely on the wisdom of men and are carried about with every wind of doctrine (Col 2:8 f; Eph 4:14).
Such were the churches of Asia in which John spoke of in the book of Revelation. Differences existed among local churches established by the apostles even while the New Testament was being written.
Ephesus was doing everything right but with a lack of love (Rev 2:4). Smyrna had a bad reputation among the Jews in town (Rev 2:9). Pergamos defended idolatry, approving the eating of meat sacrificed to them (Rev 2:14). In Thyatira, a woman in the church claimed to be a prophetess and was actually teaching and seducing the men to commit fornication (Rev 2:20). Sardis appeared to be a lively church but really were dead (Rev 3:1-2). Philadelphia was made up of good people, but relatively were small and with “little strength” (Rev 3:8). Laodicea appeared to be rich and self-sufficient, but on closer inspection were spiritually “wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked” (Rev 3:17).
Were all of these churches right because they claimed to be “the church of Christ”? Absolutely not! Two of them were threatened with total rejection by the Lord (Rev 2:5; 3:16) and three others were warned of dire consequences if they did not repent. Did the remaining congregations comprise the “one true church?” No! The one true church is not composed of congregations but of faithful individuals saved by the Lord (Acts 2:47). In spite of the false teaching and immorality in some of the churches there were still some who had “not defiled their garments.” The faithful remnant in these and other churches made up, and make up, the “one true church.”
Therefore, yes I do criticize and admonish the weaknesses of local churches of Christ who have erred from the faith to some degree. I am not critical of these to destroy them, but in hopes that they might repent and come back to the doctrine of Christ and his apostles. John wrote, “As many as I love I rebuke and Chasten: Be zealous therefore and repent” (Rev 3:19). We all must examine ourselves whether we be in the faith lest we too fall away (2 Cor 13:5). Any church of Christ which repents not of their misconduct must be disfellowshipped by faithful churches, and abandoned by faithful members lest they also fall away. Even so, the churches of Christ today need to get their house in order that they soon not fall the same way as did some of the churches of Asia.