The most distinctive thing about Christian Churches
There is a distinctive, beautifully scriptural touch to how things work in a Christian Church that is being faithful to its heritage. On the one hand, we insist uncompromisingly on the simple, Biblical fundamentals of the original gospel message, specifically:
- Beliefs: That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who died for our sins and was raised again to live and reign forever
- Instructions: That henceforth, all who publicly acknowledge that they believe these things, repent, and are baptized
- Promises: Will be granted forgiveness of their sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and eternal life.
Yet we tolerate a wide range of opinions about doctrine and practices. We feel free to disagree with one another, to explore other options, on even major differences in theology and personal practices, without pressure to conform, without embracing relativism, and without any loss of love, unity, and togetherness in the Spirit.
The background idea
Christian Church/Disciples of Christ/Church of Christ congregations grew out of a reformation movement launched nearly 200 years ago by leaders from different denominational backgrounds. These leaders were impressed by how the New Testament church attained oneness in essentials while permitting wide latitude for differences on other matters, even fairly important matters. They saw that the New Testament does not treat Christian unity as resting on human creeds, theologizing, negotiation, or compromise. On the contrary, our unity rests on God’s acceptance of a person, not ours, and the New Testament shows that God accepts all those who have believed and obeyed the simple Gospel message, however ignorant or mistaken they may be on countless other matters. Since denominationalism rests on thinking that others have to agree with our opinions, we do not see ourselves as another denomination, but as an alternative to denominations.
Consequent principles and practices
Accordingly, we aim to base our pronouncements about everything Christian on Biblical rather than merely human authority. This is reflected in six principles that are historically and presently closely associated with our movement.
· “In essentials, unity; in opinions, liberty; in all things, love.” (Quoting St. Augustine)
- “No creed but Christ.”
- “Where the Bible speaks, we speak; and where it is silent, we are silent.”
- “For every rule of faith and practice, we require a ‘Thus says the Lord’.”
- “Fellowship does not imply agreement.”
- “We are not the only Christians, but we are Christians only.”
Likewise, we aim to model our practices on Biblical commandments and precedents. These five practices are especially familiar to those who have been part of Christian Churches and most noticeable about them to others.
- We baptize “by immersion” rather than sprinkling
- We only baptize believers, not infants
- We practice weekly communion
- We are strongly Bible-centered in our preaching and teaching
- We adhere to local, congregational governance; not regional synods, bishops, etc.
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