Can you have a church without it being a denomination? Yes! By following the Gospel pattern Jesus and His apostles taught, we can duplicate today the dynamic church found in the Book of Acts. The world had never heard of a denomination at that time.

A little investigation into the New Testament shows that the First Century churches were nothing like today’s monstrous man-originated denominations. When Jesus promised, “…I will build my church…” (Matthew 16:13-18), He did not have in mind a group divided into small parts, teaching different doctrines and opposing each other. We know this because He prayed that all His followers would be “one” (John 17:20,21) and added all those saved to one church (Acts 2:47). He sent the Holy Spirit to further instruct that there would be “one body” (Ephesians 4:4), and reprimanded those who introduced divisive doctrines and practices (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Jesus proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth and the life…” (John 14:6). When we follow Jesus by imitating His love and obeying His commandments, there is no need for membership in any religious group founded and directed by mere men. What is the Lord’s way? Jesus taught lost sinners to:

  • Hear and believe His Gospel (John 6:44-45; Romans 10:17).
  • Repent from all sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30).
  • Confess Him before others (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:10).
  • Be baptized in water for forgiveness of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 10:48; 1 Peter 3:21; John 3:5; Titus 3:5).

Those who became disciples were simply called “Christians” (Isaiah 62:2; Acts 11:26). They were neither “ites,” “ics,”not “its,” nor “Brand A, B, and C” Christians. They were added to the Lord’s body, His church (Acts 2:40-47), and no one “voted on their membership.” Such practices are foreign to the New Testament.

The New Testament church has no organization on earth larger than local congregations. Each was led by elders, served by deacons, preachers, and teachers. There was no governing body to hand down doctrine or to take dues. Jesus is “…the head of his body, the church…” (Ephesians 1:22,23; Colossians 1:18). The headquarters of the Lord’s church are in Heaven, where He resides at God’s right hand (1 Peter 3:22), not in Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Salt Lake City, Nashville, Memphis, nor Cleveland, Tennessee.

The churches of Christ have no creed but Christ, and no guidebook but the Bible. We plead for unity based on conformity to identical teaching. This unity is not simply an agreement to disagree, but a genuine willingness to “…speak as the oracles of God…” (1 Peter 4:11). We seek to “speak where the Bible speaks, to be silent where it is silent; to do Bible things in the Bible way, and to call Bible things by Bible names.”

It will never work, you say? Come and see. The church of Christ welcomes your visits and investigation.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I appreciate the sentiment in which this article is written. I have been affiliated with the Churches of Christ most of my life. However, I have worked with and grown to love many brothers and sisters from numerous other groups in which your article designates as denominations. That word is fine.
    If you use the book of Acts to tell us the gospel all of the churches were unified around, it was the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. All of the church planters placed the emphasis on Jesus and what He did for our salvation.
    In fact this simple message was the only consistent message they were told. These churches survived on this simple message for 20- 30 years before the first letter was written.
    It’s been my experience that most “denominations” today also center their belief in this same gospel.
    Every person I have had the privilege of working with in the body of Christ, including CofC, center their faith on the same gospel as taught in Acts.
    Of course, the body of Christ will look different throughout cultures, times and traditions. But these variations in doctrine are not a part of the saving gospel as taught in Acts.
    Even the divisions the article referred to in 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul still called everyone of these people in v. 2 ” the church of God in Corinth, those sanctified in Christ and called to be holy”.
    Even in their imperfect understanding of grouping themselves with the leader they wanted to be identified with, Paul points them back to Christ.
    But still considers them faithful followers.
    No denomination (including churches of Christ) has perfectly obeyed all that Christ intended for His body.
    But thank you Jesus, my salvation is secured in your perfect sacrifice and not how accurately I perform.
    That’s what unifies the body of Christ!

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