Whether you know it or accept it as fact, all churches are not the same. Not even all local churches of Christ are the same. Some churches are different in their organizational arrangement. Some churches are different in their goals and purposes for existence. Some churches are different in their doctrines and traditions which they practice.
Perhaps you are looking for a church which is striving to be like the one you read about in the New Testament? If you are, then you need to seek a church which is speaking where the Bible speaks and is silent where the Bible is silent. “If any man speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11).
The Church Is NOT A Social Club
The Church building should not contain a kitchen, a banquet hall, or a gymnasium. This church should not sponsor ball teams, conduct concerts, or secular activities. Wholesome social and secular activities are important in the life of a Christian, but God made a distinction between the responsibilities of the home and the church. “What? have you not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise you the church of God and shame them that have not?” (1 Cor. 11:22,34). The church of Christ should specialize in being a church, and encourage parents to specialize in building good and moral homes.
Jesus purchased the church by His own blood, and it was thereby established for spiritual purposes (Eph. 5:25-27 f;1 Pet. 2:5). The gospel is God’s power to draw men (Rom. 1:16 f; Jn 6:44-45), and whether young or old, all who sincerely seek to please God will be held by good spiritual food.
A Church Like Christ Built
Is it Possible in the 21st century to have a church like Christ intended in the first century? Yes, since seed always reproduces after its own kind, the church can exist today just like the one of the first century. The word of God is the spiritual seed (Lk 8:11 f; 1 Pet. 1:23), and when it is obeyed without addition or subtraction, then the characteristics of New Testament Christianity will be reproduced. In other words, we have the blueprint which produced first-century churches of Christ, that is, the New Testament.
What Is Our Organizational Structure? Other local congregations just like this one exist throughout the world, but there is no headquarters on earth. Each local church is independent and self-governing. Christ is our only head (Eph. 1:22-23), and the Bible is our only creed (Gal. 1:6-8 f; 2 Jn 1:9). Within the framework of each congregation qualified men are appointed to serve as “elders” (1 Tim. 3 f; Titus 1). Their authority is only to teach and administer the Word of God, and their allegiance is only to Christ. Elders do not oversee the work of another congregation nor any “brotherhood work”. They oversee only the work of the flock of God “among them” (1 Pet 5:2 f; Acts 20:28).
What Is Our Goal Or Purpose For Existence? You should find that in the church reading and studying of God’s Word. The church’s primary mission is to preach the gospel by grace through faith. Our purpose for existence is therefore spiritual in nature. “You also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5). Being a spiritual house, we meet to worship God just as Christians did in the New Testament days. We are careful to do as they did, namely to sing, preach, and pray, and on the first day of the week we partake of the Lord’s supper and give as God has prospered us (Acts 20:7 ff; 1 Cor. 14:15; 1 Cor. 16:2; 1 Tim 2:8). We try to be equally careful not to add anything to our worship that He has not authorized lest we worship God in “vain” (Matt. 15:7-9).
How Can One Become A Member Of This Church? The answer is quite simple_just become a Christian as Christ commanded his disciples preach to the world (Matt 28:18-20 f; Mk 16:15,16)! When one is saved, he is added by the Lord to the church. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). Who should be saved? All those who believed and confessed that Jesus was the Christ, (Rom 10,9,10) and all who repented and were baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Obeying these commandments makes a person a Christian. We wear no other name than Christ’s and seek to be no other kind of church than the one described in the New Testament.
Differences Between Local Churches Of Christ
Yes, divisions have occurred just like they did among some of the churches in the first century (1 Cor. 1:10-13 f; Gal. 1:6-7). We are saddened by this division just as God must be (1 Cor. 14:33), and we continue to work that the unity for which Jesus prayed may exist (Jn 17:20-23). However, the Bible predicted that some would “depart from the faith” (1 Tim. 4:1) and would “not endure sound doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2-4).
Different attitudes toward Bible authority is the basic cause of all religious division. “Let us speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent” is to some only a slogan and not a commitment. When people cease demanding biblical authority for all that they say and do religiously, they will soon depart from the faith and will adopt ways that please the world and themselves (2 Jn 1:9 ff; Matt. 7:21-23; Matt. 15:7-9).
Some “churches of Christ” play an instrument of music in their worship. We reject instrumental music because the Bible is silent about any use of them when Christians worshipped. Singing is the only kind of music authorized by the New Testament (cf. Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
We are also different from some churches which make a plea for “grace” and “unity” but who in reality seek compromise. Many of the words they use sound Biblical, but the message they preach is non-distinctive. “Union” – not “unity” – is the result of this spirit of open fellowship of all kinds of different doctrines. Unity must be based on doing God’s will in God’s way, not just on pleasing the majority (Eph. 4:3-7 f; Lk 6:46). Christians must be of “one mind” striving for “the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27 f; 1 Cor. 1:10).
Likewise, we reject the practice found only among modern churches of promoting and subsidizing human institutions to do a good work in the name of the church (e.g., colleges, hospitals, benevolent institutions). Some have shifted the work of the church to a different “who” and have relegated the church to the role of being fundraisers to subsidize these self-governed institutions. While charitable and educational businesses may do much good, they are an unscriptural addition to God’s arrangement when they become an extension of the Lord’s church. God designed the church and made it sufficient to accomplish its own work in evangelism, edification, and benevolence (Acts 6:1-7 f; 1 Pet 5:2-3).
What must one do since there are these differences? No headquarters exist on earth to tell us where to work and worship as a Christian. Nor is there an official council to enforce its creed or withdraw from and expel a congregation. Therefore individual Christians need foremost to search the scriptures for themselves to learn God’s pattern of the Lord’s church (1 Jn 4:1). Then they need to search until they find a church whose leadership is committed to following a “thus saith the Lord.”