By Jeremiah Tatum — I bet by the title of this article you are at least reading the first sentence to see where this is going. Let me tell you first where this is not going. This is not going in the direction that is going to malign the church of our Lord. This is not going to be a rejection of the old paths. This is not going to be a 21st Century, “I am smarter and more enlightened than the people who lived 100 years ago,” type of article that I see being written by so many of our younger preachers today.
What this is going to be is honest. And honestly, the churches of Christ as a whole have really been making a huge mistake for a while now.
Here’s the mistake. We have turned into a denomination by the way we act and speak. I am not in a denomination. I do not believe that the Bible leaves any room for sectarianism. I have always understood that there is one true church and that church is the church that Jesus built that you can read about in your Bible. I consider myself, by simple adherence to the Word of God and chiefly by the grace of God to be a part of the church that belongs to Christ.
But the church of Christ is not doing a very good job at being non-denominational (or as we often say it, pre-denominational). And because of it we have missed out on a huge opportunity. You see, in my lifetime I have witnessed the community-church movement. What has happened in the last few decades is there has been a general shift of the masses away from denominationalism. There has at the same time been an increased desire to cast off labels. People don’t want to be called by the religious names of men and they don’t want to be put into categories. So they have embraced what they perceive as simpleChristianity. Simple Christianity! Hasn’t this always been our plea? Hasn’t it always been Christ’s plea?
I’m going to be bold now and put the majority of the blame on the common disciple. For the most part I don’t believe that preachers and missionaries who are in the trenches have contributed to the problem. In fact we have often had to run interference. Mostly it is the members of the Lord’s church, who have either not been listening or who have not taught themselves, who use language like “I’m a church of Christ.” Or who use phrases like, “You have to be a church of Christ.” Or even, “Well the church of Christ teaches…” Such Christians who misrepresent the kingdom are doing the church and the world’s population a disservice by turning the body of Jesus into a denomination that follows a creed.
I say we start shouting to the world again that if you want to be a Christian then come listen to the preaching of the gospel in a place where people simply follow the Bible! Let’s tell them that we have no creed, only Scripture! Let’s show them that there is no name to wear but “Christian!” Let’s help them to understand that the only church that exists in the mind of God is the church that Jesus built! Let’s HUMBLY seek to be a part of the church, as we organize ourselves, worship God, practice our faith, and teach the true plan of salvation according to the biblical pattern given to us through the Holy Spirit.
If we are, in fact, not a denomination, then let’s stop acting like we are! Let’s simply be the church of our Lord. There are many who are searching for the truth. So we need to speak the truth in a loving way (Eph. 4:15). Until we understand the true identity of the church, and until we understand the true mission of the church, we are not ever going to be equipped to properly represent God’s church to the world.
In the meantime we still have this great opportunity. I can see that there are droves of people in this generation who are not looking to be a part of a club, but who are searching for Christ and his church. Let’s emphasize non-denominational (pre-denominational) Christianity.
We can still be the church of Christ. And we can be the church our community is looking for without having to become the community church.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” Ephesians 3:20-21.
Jeremiah works with the Willow Ave. congregation in Cookeville TN. This article was published in the congregation’s bulletin.