AM I A MEMBER OF A DENOMINATION?
(Note: This week’s essay is pursuant to a sermon I preached this past Sunday morning, June 3, at the Mitchellville (TN) Church of Christ on the question, “Why Do You Say That The Church Of Christ Is Not A Denomination?”)
From time to time, I am told by various denominational people, as well as by various liberals among us, that as a member of the church of Christ, I am a member of a denomination—that the church of Christ is a denomination that arose out of the American Restoration Movement of the early 1800s.
It is acknowledged by both denominationalists and the liberals that the Lord’s church as set forth in the New Testament is not a denomination, but according to them it is not a distinctly identifiable group of people on earth today. Instead, I am told that Christ’s church, His spiritual body, is now dispersed among a multiplicity of Catholic and Protestant denominations and Community churches with their hundreds of human founders, different names, different times and places of origin (all this side of the New Testament and other than the city of Jerusalem), various forms of organization, different ways of worship, conflicting doctrines, and varied practices!
Never mind that before there was any such thing as the Catholic Church or a Protestant denomination, the Lord’s church—churches of Christ—existed (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:47; Romans 16:16; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4). But according to denominationalists and liberals, that situation cannot exist today! According to them, one cannot take the New Testament as a directive today and following it only, go back and be what people were in the first century—Christians only without denominational affiliation.
I am told that because the churches of Christ in America constitute an identifiable social group that makes them a denomination, as though churches of Christ were not an identifiable social group in New Testament times, e.g., the church at Jerusalem, the church in Antioch, the church at Corinth, the church in Philippi, the seven churches of Asia, et al. (cf. Romans 16:16).
I am told that because there is a heavy concentration of churches of Christ in the southern United States that makes them a denomination, never mind that there is a heavy concentration of churches of Christ in Nigeria, various other African nations, India, and that there are many churches of Christ in Central and South America, as well as other parts of the world. For the first several years of its existence, the church was heavily concentrated in the environs of Jerusalem and Judea, but that did not make it a denomination. According to Jesus, three-fourths of the ground on which the seed of the kingdom (the word of God) falls does not produce enduring results (Luke 8:11-15). The church will always be the strongest where the ground is the most fertile for the gospel, but geographical location has absolutely nothing to do with the undenominational nature of the Lord’s church!
I am told that because the churches of Christ may advertise their places and times of meeting in the yellow pages of the telephone book that makes them a denomination.
I am told that if a list is made and published (a directory) of known autonomous churches of Christ that makes them a denomination, as though making a list available to Christians to assist them in locating other known churches of the saints (I Corinthians 14:33) is denominational.
I am told that if someone compiles and publishes a list of known gospel preachers that makes the churches of Christ a denomination.
I am told that if we speak as the oracles of God and call Bible things by Bible names (referred to by the liberals as “insider” language) that makes us a denomination.
I am told that because “outsiders” see me as a member of a denomination that means I am a member of a denomination, as though that misperception and misrepresentation of the church did not exist in New Testament times (Acts 24:14).
I am told that to suggest that one person, ten persons, a hundred persons, or a thousand persons can be Christians without being members of a denomination is only hypothetical and not a reality today. But it is far from hypothetical and is, in fact, a historical reality.
I am told that to suggest that it is possible to have one autonomous congregation, ten autonomous congregations, a hundred autonomous congregations, or a thousand autonomous congregations who do not have denominational status is only hypothetical and not a reality today. Yet it is far from hypothetical but is a historical reality. (See paragraph 5 above).
According to denominationalists and liberals, one cannot plant just the pure word of God, the seed of the kingdom (Luke 8:11), and produce in the 21st century what that seed produced in the first century—churches that are simply of God/Christ and without denominational status (II Thessalonians 1:4; Romans 16:16).
With the old apostle “I marvel” at these baseless contentions made by those who are desperate to cast the churches of Christ as just another denomination (cf. Galatians 1:6). I marvel to think that according to denominationalists and liberals not one single person today can be a Christian without being a member of some denomination that originated with man and that not one single congregation can exist without being a part of a denomination!
The Christian Chronicle, a monthly publication which advertises itself as being “An international newspaper for Churches of Christ,” has been running a series of articles on “What is a Church of Christ?” The Chronicle and some of its readers seem to be struggling with trying to decide whether or not we are a denomination. Again, I marvel.
June 5, 2018
June 13: Shackle Island Church of Christ, Goodlettsville, TN, 7:00 P.M.