I Don't Want to Be a 'Church of Christ' Christian
by Jeremy Diestelkamp

Which of the following statements are true about the congregation of which you are a part ?

a.  We are a church of God
b.  We are a church of Christ
c. We are a church of God in Christ

If you said that all three of these statements are true, then you’d be correct. In 1 Corinthians 1:2, Paul wrote to the Corinthian brethren and­—when he did so—he addressed “the church of God” which was at Corinth. Likewise, Paul closed the letter to the Roman Christians by saying that other “churches of Christ,” saluted them (Rom. 16:16). There were “churches of Christ,” implying that each individual congregation could be called a “church of Christ.” Finally, in 1 Thessalonians 2:14, Paul observes that the brethren in Thessalonica were “imitators of the churches of God…in Christ Jesus.” These are all correct descriptions for churches of the New Testament.

In the same regard, which of the following statements are true?

a.  I am church of Christ
b. Church of Christ doctrine teaches a cappella singing
c.  This is a church of Christ church

If you said that none of these statements is true, then you’d be correct again. The reason for this is because the Bible never uses “church of Christ” in these ways. A single person cannot be a church. We are disciples (Ac. 9:10), saints (Eph. 1:1), and Christians (1 Pet. 4:16). The term “church of Christ” is not the name of an organization. There is not a “church of Christ” church. Rather the phrase is a description of the church itself and names the person to whom we belong and—as such—there is no such thing as a “church of Christ” doctrine. There is only Christ’s doctrine (Matt. 15:9, Heb. 6:1).

Some might ask, “Why is it important that we talk about these things?” It is important because from time to time we need to remind ourselves of who we are and who we are not. Perhaps there are some new Christians who have been converted from the world. How are they to know the truth if we refuse to teach it? Perhaps there are some people we would like to teach. How are we to know the verses to use if we refuse to study them? And perhaps we are facing the temptation to be more accepting of sin. How are we going to be able to thwart the devil’s attempts if we refuse to remind ourselves about the truth of the gospel?

So what is the “church of Christ”? The word church is translated from the Greek word ekklesia meaning a group of people called out for a special purpose. The word is a collective noun, as are the words club, herd and flock. In Acts 8:1, Luke states that the church was scattered abroad. Who was scattered according to this verse? “They” were scattered, meaning more than one person. When we add “of Christ” after the word church, we modify the noun stating to whom the church belongs. Not all churches which exist today belong to Christ. The Lutheran church belongs to Luther, the Mormon church belongs to Joseph Smith, and the church of England belongs to the country of England. By stating that we are a “church of Christ” (as Paul stated in Romans 16:16), we are saying that we are Christ’s church. However, the only way for this to be true is if we are following the word of God completely (Matt. 7:21).

What lessons can we learn from all this? First, since being a Christian means belonging to Christ, one ought to be part of a local group of people who belong to Christ—a “church of Christ.” Again, this is not being a member of a sectarian religious organization but being a member of a collection of Christians who belong to Christ (Ac. 9:26). We need to be active members in a church, assembling regularly (Heb. 10:25), growing in our knowledge of the scriptures (Ac. 17:11), and attempting to bring others to Christ (Heb. 5:12).

Second, we find that the descriptive phrase “church of Christ” is not the official name of the Lord’s church (Eph. 1:22-23). We find many descriptive phrases in scripture that could be used to identify a local church. If as a local church we were to use any of those descriptions, we would still be as much a “church of Christ” as if we had used the term “church of Christ.” Many congregations claiming to be New Testament churches identify themselves as “churches of Christ” to distinguish themselves from denominations that have used these other scriptural terms but which fail to follow the scriptures as revealed by the Holy Spirit. Yet, we must be careful not to use the term “church of Christ” in a sectarian way; for when we do, we violate Paul’s commands that there be no divisions among us (1 Cor. 1:10).

Finally, we learn that we must use scriptural terminology. The churches of Christ do not constitute a denomination. They are churches that strive to serve Christ apart from denominationalism. When we use the term “church of Christ” incorrectly, we become no better than the denominations that we preach against. I don’t want to be a “church of Christ” Christian, and neither should you. I want to be a Christian, a follower of Christ, and part of the church He established (Matt. 16:18). For I know that if I am this, that I am promised a home in glory when Christ comes again (2 Tim. 1:12).


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e-mail: jeremy.diestelkamp@gmail.com