Church? What is it to you?
I ask these questions and challenge our thinking in the context of the churches of Christ, a fellowship I have enjoyed for almost a decade now. I have come to know and appreciate some of the most dedicated, humble servants of Jesus Christ I have known anywhere, and as in every group, some folks not so desirable.
It is common to hear someone say to another of a mutual acquaintance “He is a member of the church” or “She was not a member of the church”. This is not uncommon phrases but it takes on a different meaning than if spoken by a Baptist or a Methodist. In the circles in which I travel it almost always means not the body of Christ but more narrowly, the Church of Christ. And to make things more complicated many CoC people believe the body of Christ and the Church of Christ are one and the same.
Many of our folks will add the words “The Lord’s…” before church. This way of conveying the same thought makes it more definite what is intended, at least to other CoC people.
The inevitable end of this line of logic is that every other group on earth who claim to be followers of Jesus are not a part of “The Lord’s church” or the “True church” and are something other than genuine Christians.
Ideas about what others who claim to be Christians are ranges from “false prophets”, “lost sinners” to a kinder and gentler “in error” and “seekers”. And, there is the rather odd and completely unscriptural idea that some people are sort of saved, but not completely. You can never get anyone to say it this clearly but it is certainly what is implied. The truth is, one either has eternal life or he doesn’t. You know, either Becky is pregnant or she isn’t. Or a better illustration is either Uncle John is dead or he is alive, there is no in between.
Followers of Jesus are called in the Bible “disciples”, “the way”, “believers”, and as a group “the church”, “the church of God”, “the assembly of God”, “the church of the firstborn, “the body of Christ”, and “the Bride of Christ”. These terms all are descriptions of the sum total of all believers in most cases.
There are also references to the earthly representations of the one body, local churches. They are mentioned as being tied to geographical areas or cities. Then there are those identified by the person who owned the house where they met.
I think it would be good if we (Church of Christ people) agreed on these facts.
Church of Christ, and other Restoration Movement groups are not the only ones saved. Remember the old phrase “We are only Christians but not the only Christians“? The RM fathers ideal was to unify ALL believers into one church. How could that have been a worthy goal if all the others were lost?
Every member of every Church of Christ is not saved. EVERY member of EVERY church would need to be saved for some of our outrageous statements to be true. I recently read a blog where the author was trying to make the case that only Church of Christ members are saved. That is a tough assignment!
The “church”, the universal body of Christ which includes all redeemed people from every age, is not the same as the local churches. The exact reason is that there are tares growing with the wheat. There are impostors who are no more than actors. Only believers are in the body of Christ, not make believers!
Perhaps the most odd, and the most compelling, evidence that people who embrace the sectarian idea that only their group is saved comes to us courtesy of many of our most “conservative” Church of Christ preachers.
They will quickly tell you that only those in “the Lord’s Church”, (the churches of Christ) are going to heaven. These same men will then insist that so and so Church of Christ is lost because they have musical instruments accompany singing on Sunday morning. And, there are perhaps dozens of other sins that will send a whole congregation of “The Lord’s Church” to hell, like raising your hands in worship, women speaking in church, serving communion from the rear of the auditorium rather than the front, having a kitchen, and teaching anything that brother Holier-than-thou disagrees with.
How can Church of Christ people be the only ones saved and at the same time some of them be lost? It is rather confusing isn’t it. The glaring problem for the people who teach such nonsense is that it cannot be defended in any coherent way.
What so you think?