My entire life I have met in church buildings with signs out front that said something along the lines of, “The church of Christ meets here” or “First Street church of Christ.” There are thousands of these buildings spread throughout this country (and the world) and the groups of people meeting in them are collectively known as the “churches of Christ.” There is a lot of confusion about the identity of this group. Many outside and inside of this group wonder, “Is the church of Christ a denomination?”
What is a Denomination?
A denomination is a religious organization who considers themselves to be a “branch of the Christian Church” (source). In other words, and to be more specific, the Baptist Church considers itself to be a “branch” of the “Christian Church,” or the church of the Bible. No true denomination considers itself to be the church of the Bible, only to be one division or part of the true church. Equally, each denomination must acknowledge the fact that some (if not all) other denominations are also divisions of the true church.
Therefore, what makes a man a Methodist does not make him a Christian; and what makes a man a Christian does not make him a Methodist. This is not said to be derogatory. It is simply said to point out the fact that the Methodist Church, and all other denominations teach that becoming a member of their denomination is done separately from becoming a Christian, since they agree that one can be a Christian without being a member of their denomination.
Is the “Church of Christ” a Denomination?
This brings us back to the original question, “Is the ‘church of Christ’ a denomination?” And the answer is “no.” A man becomes a member of the church of Christ as soon as he becomes a Christian. He becomes a member of the church of Christ because the Lord adds Him to His church (Acts 2:47)! In other words, the church of Christ is not a group you decide to “join” after you become a Christian. You cannot join the church of Christ. If you are a Christian, you are already a member of the church of Christ!
The Only Ones Going to Heaven?
The accusation is frequently thrown about, “the church of Christ thinks they’re the only ones going to heaven.” So, is that true? Is it the position of those in the churches of Christ that they are the only ones who are heaven-bound? I would not presume to know what every member of the church believes on any matter, but I will tell you what I, and every member of the church that I have ever spoken to about this, believe.
- Only those who are Christians are going to heaven (John 14:6).
- When one becomes a Christian he is at that point added by the Lord to the church of Christ (Acts 2:47).
- If Christians remain faithful, they will spend eternity in heaven (1 John 1:7; Revelation 2:10).
Certainly, the building in which Christians meet does not have to be labeled, “Church of Christ” for the group meeting in it to be Christians. Nor does the fact that the building says, “Church of Christ” guarantee that the group meeting there is actually following God’s word. Whether or not a believer (or a group of believers) is a member of the church of Christ is determined, not by the sign above the door, but by whether or not there is submission to Christ and His word.
I am not, nor is anyone I know, perfectly following Christ and His word. I am just thankful to be washed in His blood and receiving His grace and mercy. That is why I will not wear the name of a man or the name of a religious idea! I will simply wear the name of Christ. He is the one who died for me and purchased me with His blood. That is why I will simply be a Christian and simply belong to His church.
Most of those who proudly write upon their meeting house signs, “The church of Christ meets here” are simply proclaiming, “Those who are just Christians meet here!” We are not a cult. We are those who have met together, all over the world, for centuries. We are those who are refusing to wear the names, or adopt the doctrines, of men. We are those who just want to be, and plead with others to be, Christians–followers of Jesus Christ!
The church of Christ is “non-denominational” in the truest sense of the term. In fact, we were nondenominational before it was cool to be nondenominational. Denominationalism condones, and even celebrates, division. That is not Christ’s goal for His church (1 Corinthians 3). Christ has but ONE body (Ephesians 4:4) and it is to be unified (Ephesians 4:3). If we are to do away with the divisiveness of denominationalism, we must lay down our man-made traditions, titles, and creeds and be Christians only! That, no matter what you may have been told, is what the true church of Christ stands for.
I love you and God loves you!
P.S. You may want to also read the article, “What is the Church?“