LEAVING THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
(Note: The following was posted on my FB page on September 12, 2019. I have expanded it and send it forth to a wider reading audience as this week’s edition of “Hugh’s News & Views.” It speaks to an extremely important issue, and is somewhat of a sequel to last week’s essay on “Why Do The Liberals Among Us Stay?” Read closely, carefully, prayerfully, and reflectively the following and let it sink in).
When a member of the church of Christ leaves it for a denominational body such as the Disciples of Christ, the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, the Catholic Church, etc., in their mind they are not abandoning the body (church) of Christ as they view it, nor or they abandoning Christianity. Rather, in their mind they are simply switching from one denomination to another. They see themselves as moving to another church—one that is more in keeping with their changed and/or changing religious views. But such a move on their part reflects that they had a fundamentally flawed concept of the church of Christ to begin with. They started out viewing it simply as a denomination—one of many—one from which they could switch and go to another if they so chose. They never viewed the church of Christ from its New Testament perspective as the exclusive body of Christ, composed of all who have obeyed the gospel of Christ by following the New Testament plan of salvation, and only those who have done so! They never understood it as being the one and only body of Christ to which the Lord adds all the saved (Ephesians 1:22-23; Ephesians 4:4; Acts 2:47).
Those who leave the church of Christ for a denomination do not understand that the entire system of denominationalism is contrary to the word of God and a glaring affront to the will of God and the purity of the one faith (John 17:20-21; I Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:5). They seem to have little understanding of false religious doctrines and false religious practices and the danger they pose to one’s soul (Matthew 15:8-9; Romans 16:17-18; I Corinthians 4:6; II John 9; et al).
Those who leave the church do not grasp the full impact of the fact that the church of Christ began in Acts 2, hundreds of years before the development of the Catholic Church or the establishment of any protestant denomination, the first of which was 1500 years after the beginning of the church of Christ in Acts 2. They do not understand that the church of Christ is pre-denominational, undenominational, and anti-denominational.
That is why it is so important to continue to emphasize the importance of sound doctrine—doctrine that is true to the word of God. That is why it is so important to emphasize the need for practicing only those things which Christ authorizes (Colossians 3:17).
That is why it is so important to set forth the distinctive identifying marks of the one spiritual body (church) of Christ as revealed in the New Testament. That is why it is so important for members of the church to have a clear, biblical concept of the church and to speak of it in biblical ways, rather than in denominational terms. That is why in my writing and preaching I continue to dedicate myself to emphasizing the importance of the church and its purity.
Some elders, preachers, professors, and self-styled theologians among us have contributed to the denominational concept that many now have of the church. They have read the writings of denominationalists and “bought in”—to varying degrees—to their false teaching. They have attended denominational schools, seminaries, and divinity schools. Some of them teach in such institutions. They have attended denominational and evangelical conferences and meetings, and in general have “run” with the so-called “scholars” of the denominational world to such an extent that many of them have capitulated to the denominational thinking and terminology characteristic of denominationalists. A number of them are now teaching in the Bible Departments of once faithful Christian universities. All of them, in one way or another, see themselves as the “saviors” of the church of Christ. Sadly, they fail to recognize what they have become and the danger they now pose to the cause of pure, apostolic, undenominational Christianity. But it all began with a fundamentally flawed concept of the church of Christ and thinking of it as simply another denomination (i.e., “our fellowship,” “our brotherhood,” “our heritage,” “our tribe,” “our tradition,” “our tributary,” “our little corner of the kingdom”).
Seeking the praise and craving the recognition of their peers in the denominational world, those who have become inebriated with “the wisdom of this world” (read and reflect deeply on I Corinthians 1:20-29) would like to see the church of Christ move to be more in step with the “larger Christian world”—a respectable denomination among “the other denominations.” Thank God for His infinite wisdom in setting up the church to exist as autonomous congregations! The fact that some members and some congregations apostatize does not mean that the whole church must apostatize! Strong, biblically qualified elders who take seriously their role as shepherds of the flock and faithful preachers of the gospel who take seriously their responsibility to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), to “hold fast the pattern of sound words” (II Timothy 1:13), and to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) will see to it that such apostasy does not take place in the congregations where they serve. Able editors will see to it that their publications are filled with biblically sound articles that set forth “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), that warn of wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15), and that put the brethren in remembrance of the foundation facts and the primary principles of the gospel (II Peter 3:1-2).
Yes, there are other matters that are extremely important and I applaud the efforts of those who direct their energies toward those efforts. I also devote time and attention to those matters. But I will continue to speak and write frequently and repetitiously about the one true church set forth in the New Testament, the importance of obeying the gospel of Christ in order to be a member of it, the fact that it is not a denomination, the utter folly of leaving it, and the horrifying and eternal fate that awaits those who do leave it for a church originating with some man or group of men.
(Note: For the record, I am not opposed to genuine Bible scholarship. I am opposed to “scholarship” that denigrates and compromises Bible truth and exalts the “doctrines and commandments of men.” Further, I deeply regret it when anyone leaves the church of the Lord for a denomination of men. But, those who have a denominational view of the church and who are bent on corrupting the faith of others do themselves and the rest of us a real favor by leaving and going elsewhere. After all, in their mind and according to their doctrine, they are still a member of the body of Christ, so why should they object to leaving? As I said last week, I have a great deal more respect for those who do than I do for those who do not).
Hugh Fulford, September 24, 2019
- September 29: Mission Church of Christ, Smyrna, TN