Note: Though Hugh has his own blog now, we share this email from him to ask you how you might have answered the lady’s question.
It happened again just recently. My wife and I were inter-facing with a woman regarding a business matter. Early in our conversation the lady asked what kind of work I did. I suppose I should have felt flattered since I would think that most folks would assume that I am retired. I responded, "I am a semi-retired minister." She immediately asked, "What denomination?" Given the setting we were in at the moment the best answer I could give was: "I am a member of the church of Christ."
It always bothers me to know that such an answer is extremely inadequate. While she heard my words she really did not understand what I said. When I said, "I am a member of the church of Christ," I had in mind the spiritual body of Christ. But she heard me saying that I am a member of a denomination called the Church of Christ. She said, "My grandfather was a member of the Church of Christ." (Here I wrote "church" as she intended it, with an upper case "C," as the proper name of a denomination; not as I intended it, with a lower case "c," simply a descriptive of the spiritual body of Christ. To the person who has studied the matter thoughtfully, there is a huge difference.)
I deeply regret that—given our religious climate today—it is virtually impossible to communicate to people a religious position that is undenominational. Not only do people not comprehend one’s words, most of them will not sit still long enough to hear—really hear—a simple, biblical explanation for one’s position as an undenominational Christian. It is assumed by nearly everyone that if a person is a Christian, he/she must also be a member of some denomination. It is virtually impossible to get people to think in terms of undenominational Christianity.
The New Testament reveals that "the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch" (Acts 11:26). What kind of Christians? No kind! Just Christians! Can one be just a Christian today? If not, why not? In Romans 16:16, the apostle Paul said, "The churches of Christ greet you." Were those churches of Christ a denomination? It is admitted by all that they were not. Can we have undenominational churches of Christ today? If not, why not?
Jesus said, "The seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:11). In New Testament times, the word of God produced undenominational Christians and undenominational churches. Seed always reproduce after their kind. A peach tree always produces peaches—never pears, plums, or pomegranates. If the word of God—unmixed with the religious doctrines and traditions that have arisen this side of the New Testament—is "planted" today in the hearts of people, it will produce today exactly what it produced at the beginning of Christianity—undenominational Christians and undenominational churches of Christ.
It is to being simply a Christian and a member of the New Testament church that I am committed. After all, if I am going to be religious, why should I not be just a Christian as were people in New Testament times? If I am going to be a member of a church, why should I not be just a member of the undenominational church of which I can read in the New Testament?
When I tell you that I am a member of the church of Christ, please try to hear what I am saying—and what I am not saying. After all, some effort is required of a hearer and/or reader to understand what a speaker and/or writer is saying. (Incidentally, what kind of preacher am I? Just a preacher of the simple, beautiful, and life-changing gospel of Christ.)
hugh’s news & Views
January 24, 2012